Science Fiction News & Recent
Science Review for the
Autumn 2018

This SF & science news page builds on the
seasonal science fiction news previously posted.

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

Autumn 2018

Editorial Comment & Staff Stuff

 

EDITORIAL COMMENT

The new European data protection rules cause a little upset.  Last season's editorial comment opined that the SF community was in a number of places unprepared for the new regulations despite having had two years in which to do so.  And now the regulations (known as GDPR) are in force.  Already there have been some non-SF casualties and for example, some high-profile US news websites are temporarily unavailable in Europe after new EU data protection rules came into effect.  And even some big players, who'd you may have thought had the resources and motive to be better prepared, have been caught out including Google and Facebook being accused of breaking European GDPR laws (as if some of them have not already got their own data protection problems in the US you'd have thought they'd have got their act together).  There are lessons from GDPR of which some in our SF community (especially event organisers) not yet quite up to speed arguably may want to take note.  +++ Related news in the seasonal news page below: The state has rights to your facial data for facial recognition says Big Brother governmental Minister.  And European Union shoots its own internet foot.  +++ Google multi-billion fine.

 

STAFF STUFF

The summer saw two of SF² Concatenation's founding editors (Graham and Jonathan along with a number associated with BECCON (it was at BECCON's Eastercon in 1987 that SF² Concatenation was launched) gather.  This followed last year's 30th anniversary reunion which went sufficiently well that we did it again (and looks like we might also do next year).  As with last year we met in a pleasant, rural pub with a huge garden a few seconds walk from a SE Midlands rail station.

BECCON Concatenation
SF² Concatenation at the 2018 BECCON 1987 reunion. Caroline Mullan (edition promotion
on Facebook), Jane O'Reilly (book reviewer), Jonathan Cowie (founding co-editor),
and Peter Tyers (convention reporter and book reviewer),
Caroline and Jonathan were also part of the BECCON '87 Eastercon committee.
Roger, Arthur, Brian, Kathy and Mike of the BECCON '87 committee,
as well as SF² Concatenation co-founding editor Graham Connor
(who also was a film projectionist at the 1987 BECCON Eastercon)
were also at the reunion gathering.

          Fan Activity Achievement (FAAn) Awards for 2018, presented at Corflu in Toronto.  First a little history as we are not N. American, which is where most of the Corflu cons are held.  The original print SF2 Concatenation began in 1987 with support of a couple of members (Chuck and Harry of the MaD SF group (Manchester and District SF which is not to be confused with the former, neighbouring BaD [Bolton] SF Group). Some associated with MaD SF in the past have moved and one such, Bill Burns, all the way to the US. But he is still very much involved in SF and returns to Brit Cit each year for the annual British natcon (the British Eastercon), while in the US he overseas the excellent e-Fanzines assemblage of online fanzines.  And now this last has been recognised by the North American Fan Activity Achievement (FAAn) Awards with Bill's eFanzines winning the Award in the on-line activity category.  Congratulations Bill.

          Talking of origins, October 2018 sees the 40th anniversary of Hatfield PSIFA which was founded in the first term of the 1978/9 academic year, at Hatfield Polytechnic as was, to provide a focus to 'encourage the enjoyment of SF and fantasy in all its forms' among that college's students.
          PSIFA was arguably reasonably successful with its first two years seeing: regular Wednesday meetings of talks; quizzes; video and (celluloid) film screenings; Saturday SF/fantasy game playing; fortnightly writers workshop; and even a weekly radio show on the campus station.  It went on to run an annual Shoestringcon SF conventions for at least its first decade.  There were also field trips to Novacons, Eastercons and UK Worldcons.  By the time Hatfield Polytechnic became Hertfordshire University, the university's two longest running, active student clubs/societies were the Rugby Club and PSIFA.
          The PSIFA connection with SF² Concatenation is that two of SF² Concatenation's three founding editors (G. and J.) were first generation PSIFAns.  In recent years, these two, plus two other first generation PSIFAns, have had an annual reunion in a pleasant, Bedfordshire rural pub near a rail station a few stations north of Hatfield.  These four had wondered, to mark PSIFA's 40th anniversary, whether to open this reunion up to other Old Age PSIFAns and even the current generation (though their interest in SF has waned having succumbed to the Dark Side and table top gaming).  Our four first-generation PSIFAns, being old fogies, belong to that half of the UK population who are not on Facebook which seems to be the preferred means of contact for PSIFAns the past decade.  However one of SF² Concatenation's younger team members (P.) did try to reach out to PSIFA on both its current and an old PSIFA Facebook page.  From this we received an e-mail from an observant visitor to one of those pages informing that there was talk of a Hatfield PSIFA 40th anniversary reunion.  Sadly, nobody officially connected with these Facebook pages has been in touch despite an attempt to follow-up. (Them's the breaks, and it's all part of growing up and being British.)
          Back in 2008 there were two PSIFA 30th anniversary events.  It is probably too late to organise anything this year (2018) for a true 40th celebration, given how people's diaries fill up months in advance.  However, it may be possible to organise a late event next year? (After all the founding academic year was 1998/9 so the 40th academic year is 2018/9 and indeed PSIFA's first convention – Shoestringcon 1: Polycon '79 – was held in the autumn of 1979.)  The four first-generation, Old Age PSIFAns, would be happy to share their Bedfordshire rural pub reunion a few rail stations north of Hatfield. (This venue is preferred as one of the PSIFA first generation members has major health issues preventing further travel.) Having said that, if there is an event organised by the current students at the college then that would be really welcome.
          You can help – yes, your good self can help – spending just half a minute of your time in helping spread the word through fandom to reach long lost PSIFAns.  If you know of any PSIFAns past or present, or have an SF blog, social media then perhaps you could kindly share this link to this news item and requrest any PSIFAns reading your online message to contact SF² Concatenation's putting 'PSIFA somewhere in the subject line. Their e-mail will then get forwarded to the appropriate folk.
          Thank you. (Your reward will be in silicon heaven.)
          And that's it.

Elsewhere this issue…
Aside from this seasonal news page, elsewhere this issue (vol. 28 (5) Autumn 2018) we have stand-alone items on:-
          My Top Ten Scientists – Sam Peters (mathematician and SF author)
          Follycon - The 2018 British Eastercon – Peter Tyers
          Conclave III - New Zealand's 2018 national convention – Lee Murray (with an assist from Simon Litten)
          Plus well over two score (40+) SF/F/H standalone fiction book reviews as well as an additional few non-fiction SF and popular science book reviews.  Hopefully something here for every science type who is into SF in this our 30th plus 1 year. For full details of the latest contents see our What's New page.

 

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

Autumn 2018

Key SF News & SF Awards

 

This season's major award news includes:-

The 2018 Hugo Awards were announced at this year's Worldcon.  Looking at the longer-term trend, the numbers voting on the Hugo short-list (the finalists) are roughly three times greater than at the end of the 2000s but down to around a half that from peak short-list voting in 2015.  This year saw 1,813 valid nominating ballots (1,795 electronic and 18 paper, though not everyone nominated for all categories) and 2,828 voting on the resulting shortlist (again not everyone voted for all categories).  We continue (from last year) to define the Hugo 'principal categories' as those that had over a thousand nominating in that category (down from two thousand as our definition in 2016 as the numbers involved in Hugo nominating have declined since 2016).  The 1,813 number nominating was down on last year's number (2,464) (the second year of decline).  The 2,828, voting on the final shortlist was down on the 3,319 voting in 2017 which in turn was marginally up on the number voting in 2016 (3,130)
          So not surprisingly, the principal Hugo categories (those categories with over one thousand nominating) were markedly fewer than last year. Indeed, for the first time in many years we are not counting the 'Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form' as principal category (it only saw 819 nominating ballots and just a paltry 87 nominating the programme that went on to win).  The principal category Hugo wins this year therefore were:-
          Best Novel: The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin (fantasy) which back in January (2018) we cited as one of the 'best books' of 2017. This is the third consecutive win for 'best novel' for Jemisin something that has never happened before in this category.
          Best Novella: All Systems Red by Martha Wells
          Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form: Wonder Woman (Trailer here) which back in January (2018) we cited as one of the best SF/F/H films of 2017.
          Other category (win information) (those categories with less than 1,000 nominating the works) can be found at thehugoawards.org.

The 2018 Nebula Award presentation (for 2017 works) has taken place at the SFWA’s (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) Annual Nebula Awards weekend in Pittsburgh Marriott City Center in Pennsylvania, USA. The principal category wins, as voted by SF Writers of America, were:-
          Novel: The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin
          Novella: All Systems Red by Martha Wells
          Novelette: 'A Human Stain' by Kelly Robson
Also presented was the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation the winner was Get Out (trailer here)
This year's nebula for 'Best Novel' was a title we selected at the beginning of the year as one of the best SF/F novels of 2017.  Details of all the category wins can be found at www.sfwa.org.  This year's full short list we reported last season.  Last year's principal win Nebulas here.

The 2018 British Fantasy Awards have been voted on my members of the British Fantasy Society and the category shortlists announced.  The shortlist for each category was decided upon by nominations submitted by British Fantasy Society members.  This year's principal category shortlists are:-
          Best Fantasy Novel (the Robert Holdstock Award):-
                    Age of Assassins by R. J. Barker
                    The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark
                    The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams
                    Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeanette Ng
          Best Horror Novel (the August Derleth Award):-
                    Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
                    The Boy on the Bridge by M. R. Carey
                    The Changeling by Victor LaValle
                    The Court of Broken Knives by Anna Smith Spark
                    The Crow Garden by Alison Littlewood
                    Relics by Tim Lebbon
          Best Anthology:-
                    2084 edited by George Sandison
                    Dark Satanic Mills: Great British Horror Book 2 edited by Steve Shaw
                    Imposter Syndrome edited by James Everington & Dan Howarth
                    New Fears edited by Mark Morris
                    Pacific Monsters edited by Margret Helgadottir
          Best Film / Television Production:-
                    Black Mirror, Series 4 by Charlie Brooker
                    Get Out by Jordan Peele
                    The Good Place, Season 1 by Michael Schur
                    Twin Peaks: the Return by Mark Frost & David Lynch
                    Wonder Woman by Zack Snyder
The winners are to be decided upon by a different jury for each category and the winners announced at this year's FantasyCon in October.. +++ Last year's winners are here.  Meanwhile there is a review of last year's British Fantasycon here.

The 2018 Arthur C. Clarke Award has been announced.  The Award was instigated and initially sponsored by the late author Arthur C. Clarke (with the first presentation coincidentally taking place at the 1987 Eastercon at which the first print edition of SF² Concatenation was launched). It is a juried award for the best SF novel published the previous year in Britain.  This year's shortlist consisted of:-
          Sea of Rust – C. Robert Cargill
          Dreams Before the Start of Time – Anne Charnock
          American War – Omar El Akkad (Picador)
          Spaceman of Bohemia – Jaroslav Kalfar
          Gather the Daughters – Jennie Melamed
          Borne – Jeff VanderMeer
And the winner was Dreams Before the Start of Time by Anne Charnock. It is a family saga episodically told, concerning Millie and Toni. Their children and grandchildren embrace new ways of having kids. When infertility is a thing of the past, a man can create a child without a woman, a woman can create a child without a man, and artificial wombs eliminate the struggles of pregnancy. In this world, what does it mean to be a parent? A child? A family?

Russia’s Aelita Awards for 2018 have been presented.  The awards were announced at the 35th Aelita convention in Ekaterinburg.
          The Aelita: Vadim Panov
          The Aelita - New author: Nikolai Chepurin for The Legacy of the God of War
          The Aelita: V. Bugrova (contribution to SF): Alexander Gritsenko
          The Aelita - I. Khalimbaji Knight of Fiction (sort of equivalent to Knight of St. Fantony): Dmitry Baikalov, Oleg Kolesnikov and Sasha Krugosvetov.

The Locus Award winners have been announced.  The Locus Awards are run by the US Locus magazine and determined by a survey of readers in an open online poll.  The principal category wins for 2018 were:-
          Best SF Novel: The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi (Tor)
          Best Horror: The Changeling by Victor LaValle (Spiegel & Grau)
          Best Fantasy: The Stone Sky  by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit)
          'Young Adult': Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor (Viking)
          Best Collection: Ursula K. Le Guin: The Hainish Novels and Stories by Ursula K. Le Guin (Library of America)
For details of all the many categories (always worth a look) check out the Locus on-line website www.locusmag.com.

Poland's 2018 Janusz A. Zajdel Award Awards have been announced at Polcon:-
          Best Novel:Rafal Kosik for Rózaniec (Rosary)
          Best Short Story: Marta Kisiel for 'Szalawila' ('Imp')

Japan's 2018 Seiun Awards were announced at the 57th Japanese national SF convention. The principal category wins were:-
          Best Novel: Becoming a Field Following Yamatonadeshiko by Yusuke Miyauchi
          Best Foreign Novel: Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel (Sequel summary here)
          Best Translated Short Story: 'Folding Beijing' by Jingfang Hao
          Best Dramatic Presentation: Kemono Friends (Trailer here)
          Best Non-Fiction: Locke the Superman: The 50th Anniversary Tribute Project (Locke the Superman is a Manga series by Yuki Hijiri)
Notes: The award is voted on by the convention's registrants.

 

Other SF news includes:-

Comic-Con copyright court case arguably flawed lawyers' comment suggests.  As previously reported, San Diego Comic-Con ownership of the 'Comic-Con' trademark has been affirmed.  Then last season we noted that Salt Lake were concerned as to the propriety of some of the court's proceedings: Salt Lake runs another 'Comic Con'.  Since then, the April 2018 edition of Orange County Lawyer has an article by those working for the Salt Lake side of the case (vol. 60: 4, pages 34-36).  Noting that some former trademarks – including, 'aspirin', 'cellophane', 'escalator', and 'linoleum' – are now in common parlance (and not solely used to relate to products from a specific manufacturer), the article cuts to the quick of the matter. The legal test for 'genericness': a generic term says what a thing is as commonly used by many people, but a trademark says who (or whose) it is. So here the question becomes, does 'comic con' refer to the San Diego event, or does it refer to a type of event organised by different people, a comic convention?  However, the article points out, the jury did not hear from an expert on linguistics for the defence and nor did they hear about the origin of the term 'comic con'. (For example, it was in use by 1963 among comic aficionados who, one year later, organized the New York Comic Con.)  The article also notes that jury did not hear of The Oxford English Dictionary entry for the term 'con', and so we (SF² Concatenation) suspect also did not hear of the Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction whose entries are more advantageous in that they include source citations. Here Brave New Words informs that the term 'con' in citable written form dates at least from 1940.  The Orange County Lawyer article helpfully points out for us not versed in US legal matters, that a ‘generic’ term. . . cannot become a trademark under any circumstances. (Actually this is similar to the position here in Great Britain.)  So if 'comic con' started out as the generic term for a comic convention, then it cannot thereafter be used as a trademark. Conversely, the Orange County Lawyer article notes that the jury was only allowed to hear evidence of usage dating back to 1970 when the San Diego event began. Yet, San Diego only submitted 'Comic-Con' (note the hyphen) as a trademark in 2005. This application was, it is said, initially rejected by the trademark examiner as it was too descriptive a term in a generic sense. San Diego apparently got around this by filing a sworn declaration that it was substantially the only user of the mark (i.e. that it was not in generic use). This last, some in fandom might well say, is more than a little debatable.  (So, following the court's ruling, the Salt Lake event this year is now being called the 'Salt Lake Comic Convention'.)  Though SF² Concatenation has no formal view, and nor do many of us like seeing SF community matters being taken to court, having come this far we suspect that a number in the community will wish this matter to be settled properly.
          The current position was determined late August (2018) when California U.S. District Court Judge Anthony Battaglia has affirmed the previous court ruling that effectively San Diego owned the term 'Comic-Con' and that nobody else without San Diego's permission can use that term or 'ComicCon' or similar sounding terms such as 'Komic Kon'. But it is possible to use 'Comic Convention'… And so it goes.

Fortnite is being sued for potential copying by its rival PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG). Both online games have been very popular and have broken records for the number of players simultaneously online of 3.3 and 3.4 respectively.  Both games have a Hunger Games type scenario in which up to 100 players land on an island and fight till there is only one last player left.  PUBG has reportedly generated sales of up to £980 million (US$1.3 billion) while Fortnite (which is free to download but you pay for extras) apparently generates around £154 million (US$200m) a month.

Manchester’s (UK) MaD SF moves from the Crown & Anchor after four decades.  MaD SF is one of Britain's longstanding regional SF groups: MaD SF (Manchester & District) not to be confused with BaD SF (Bolton & District) down the Devil's highway (A666).  Some of its members have been on the committee for a couple of 1970s Eastercons.  The Crown & Anchor had been a long-term haunt for Manchester SF fans (a block from Manchester's main Piccadilly Station) but new management saw it become noisy and not conducive to conversation.  MaD SF has therefore moved to the Bank pub off the other side of Piccadilly Gardens.  MaD meets every 2nd and 4th Thursday evening. All welcome.

Northumberland Heath SF (SE London) has entered its second year.  The group is still small with half a dozen making most meetings (but has the potential for double figures if everyone turns up).  Its 2nd Thursday of the month meetings from 22.00 for informal, convivial chat has been supplemented by occasional free, new SF/F book giveaways from a sponsor and outings to the local cinema.  Bus routes connect to Barnehurst (Station), Belvedere, Bexley, Erith, Slade Green and Welling.  Details here or on Facebook. Postcode for GoogleMap = DA8 1JD.  Help spreading the word (if you have SF friends based in London) on social media of this new group would be welcome.

TitanCon 2018 cancelled; TitanCon 2019 Eurocon still continuing.  Normally we don't cover smaller, fantasy conventions but it has been pointed out to us that this news will be of interest to European con-going SF fans.  This year's Game of Thrones convention, TitanCon 2018, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, has been cancelled. This is due to a combination of committee personal difficulties (unconnected with the convention) and the last of its guests of honour having to withdraw due to contractual other engagements.
          TitanCon next year is due to be the 2019 Eurocon, the European Science Fiction Convention.  This is currently still going ahead on the weekend after the Dublin Worldcon (see below) south of the border.  It is a little unusual (if not a first) for a convention with a firm fantasy focus being the SF Eurocon, and so this event will appeal to those whose SF tastes also straddle fantasy and especially the Game of Thrones TV show.  Alternatively, for those SF fans with little to no interest in fantasy but who are going to the SF Worldcon the previous weekend, then the 2019 Eurocon could be considered as a post-Worldcon relaxacon. Let's hope there is a good café and bar area.

Trump's travel ban prompts calls that the US is not fit to host a Worldcon.  US President Trump's ban on citizens from certain nations to travel to the US has caused a few in the SF community to wonder whether the US is fit to host an SF Worldcon if some of the world is prevented from attending.  US citizen Patrick Nielsen Hayden opined "This year’s Worldcon in San Jose should be the last US Worldcon until this changes."  Non-US science fiction authors, Brits, Paul Cornell and Adam Roberts concurred.  The 2019 Worldcon is slated to be Ireland and 2020 New Zealand. The next Worldcon site selection vote will be next year (at the Irish Worldcon) for 2021. It will be interesting to see whether there will be any non-US bids for 2021 or whether the current US bid will defer. (Don't hold your breath.)  Meanwhile future non-US Worldcon bids include France for 2023 and Britain for 2024.

The San Jose Worldcon has been held.  There were programme issues in advance of the convention and these were largely resolved. At it the Hugo Awards were presented, see news above.
          The convention has informed us that 5,440 physically attended and 7,864 registered (who were therefore able to vote for the Hugos and who received the four six-monthly advance convention Progress Reports.
          Science programme.  This year the Worldcon was not in Europe which meant, true to recent years' form, a diminished science programme. This is not a derogatory comment: what it is, is emphatically an empirical observation (see the following links)!  Further, even allowing for this year's Worldcon being in the States, the science programme was smaller than other recent US Worldcons.  It was roughly: a third smaller than the Helsinki 2017 Worldcon, just a little smaller than the 2016 Kansas Worldcon, smaller than the 2015 Spokane Worldcon, and miniscule compared to the 2014 London Worldcon even notwithstanding that year's science programme's astronomy bloat.  Indeed, the 2014 Worldcon's largest ever science programme demonstrated the popularity of science at Worldcons: virtually all London 2014's science programme in the breakout lecture rooms were filled to capacity with some unable to get in, and the science items held in the larger halls were substantially filled.  Yes, we are the Science Fact & Science Fiction Concatenation, and so arguably are biased, but the data speaks for itself!  Worldcon programme managers might perhaps do well to note.
          The science topics covered in this year's Worldcon science programme were: 'Science: The Core of SF's Sense of Wonder',  'Dude, Where's My Ray Gun?',  'Movement and Motion in a Rotating Space Habitat',  'Opioid Crisis -- Fact and Fiction',  'The Myth of the Astronaut - Who Are the Space Cadets of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow?',  'Cadavers, Bench Science... in Frankenstein',  'Hubble Space Telescope: Humanity's Most Important Tool Ever Invented?',  'Practical Telepathy: the Science and Engineering of Mind-to-Mind Communication',  '911 in Freefall: Handling Medical Emergencies in Space',  'What's New from SETI?',  'Why Pluto Was Kicked Out of the Planet Club and What We Are Learning About It Today',  Old Space vs. New Space: The Future of Spaceflight',  'Houston, We Have a Problem...',  'Really Weird Science: An Introduction to Quantum Computing',  'Psychological and Psychiatric Aspects of a Manned Mission to Mars',  'Games for Science!',  'Women in Science and Space Exploration: Are Women Finding Equity?',  and 'The Coming Plague'.
          Other news. We hope to have a standalone con report our next seasonal edition (January 2019) but, in addition to all the usual Worldcon things one might expect, there was some sort of politically ideological demonstration outside the front of the venue plus a counter demo. Only a few score were involved, there was a small police presence and some shouting and swearing between the two rival camps whom we understand for the most part did not involve Worldcon attendees.  There was barely any impact from this on activities within the Worldcon. (There are a couple of YouTube videos on this if you are really interested of which just one linked below.)
          Big Heart Award.  From now on The Big Heart Award (recognising long-term fan service in Worldcon fandom) will be known as the David A. Kyle Big Heart Award. Its winner this year was File770 fanzine (also online) creator Mike Glyer.
          The Guinness Book of World Records awarded the World SF Society (the body under whose auspices the Worldcon is held) with a second consecutive award for the longest running science fiction award: the Hugo Award.
          Short YouTube vids on the Worldcon:-
          N. K. Jemisin's 2018 Hugo Award Best Novel acceptance speech
          Worldcon – What it means?
          Worldcon Walkabout - 2018
          WorldCon76 and a book haul
          Weird protest outside Worldcon
          Worldcon 76 Recap 2018
          Claire Rousseau Vlog report
          First-timer, young person's review
          Separate blog reports:-
          charondunntheblog.blogspot.com/2018/08/worldcon-report-by-charon-and-tb-kahuna.html
          examinedworlds.blogspot.com/2018/08/worldcon-76-report.html
          jamescambias.com/blog/2018/08/worldcon-76-report-day-4.html
          bookviewcafe.com/blog/2018/08/25/convention-report-2-worldcon-76
          bookriot.com/2018/08/22/worldcon-76-report-hugo-awards-lodestars-and-maga-hats/
          androidsandassets.ca/worldcon-76-trip-report/
          File770.com/worldcon-76-roundup/
This list of links is not exhaustive so feel free to search engine for more.

The Dublin 2019 Worldcon - early accommodation news.  News from the con has been light but apparently the hotel accommodation is significantly more expensive than previous Worldcons such as the Loncon 3 in London 2013.  The convention has yet to officially open its accommodation booking service.  Those going on a budget might want to check out cheaper options now rather than wait for the rush. Alternatively, those going for the five days of the convention plus a night either side and staying in a hotel might want to budget for somewhere around 1,000 Euro/US$ extra.  The good news is that restaurant and bar bills will be similar to those at the recent London Worldcon and not as costly as the 2017 Helsinki Worldcon.
          The Republic of Ireland's president Michael D. Higgins has written to the con committee saying: "Ireland is a land which celebrates stories and imagination, and our Irish heritage has always been imaginatively interwoven with new cultures and new traditions." And: "Speculative fiction plays a seminal role in helping us to question received versions of the contemporary world, and to dream of new worlds and new ways of thinking. It affords us a licence to look beyond the immediate and utilitarian, to engage in a long form of thinking which places no limits on our curiosity."
          Just prior to this seasonal news page the Dublin 2019 Worldcon increased its membership rates. Worldcons gradually increase their rates from two years in advance (when they win the bid) to the event. This is to encourage early registration so provide funds to prepare for the Worldcon as well as to encourage numbers who can then participate in Hugo nominating (usually the February and March before the convention) and short-list Hugo voting (late April, May and June). In addition to a lower registration rate, early registrants also get mailed to them four 6-monthly Progress Reports over the two years prior to the event.  The rate changes are as follows:-
- Full Adult Attending membership rates rise to €210 from €180
- First Worldcon rates, for adults attending their first Worldcon, rise to €130 from €110
- Young Adult Attending (meaning under 26 at time of con) membership rates rise to €130 from €110
- Child Attending rates rise to €70 from €65 (under 13 at time of con)
- Supporting membership (voting rights and pre-event publications only) is unchanged at €40.
- The rate for an Infant, born after 16 August 2013 (under 6 at time of con), remains unchanged at €5.
As part of the convention's policy to encourage families and children to attend Dublin 2019, discounts of up to 10% for Adult-Child families of three or more members are available. Families should register as Supporting members and fill out a Family Membership request form on their website to have the balance calculated.
+++ We also have a snippet below on the Republic of Ireland's publishing sector in this seasonal news page's 'Publishing News' section  +++ Dublin Worldcon science GoH has been awarded a special Breakthrough Prize.

The 2020 Worldcon will be held in Wellington, New Zealand and called CoNZealand.  This news follows the site selection vote at this year's Worldcon.  New Zealand was a very interesting bid to host the Worldcon as NZ has never before held a Worldcon and NZ is simply a fascinating country not to mention that its capital Wellington (the proposed Worldcon venue) has much to offer.  We have covered this bid's details before.  Wellington NZ was the only serious (as opposed to the customary 'joke') bid on the ballot and so not surprisingly it won.  However, the reason that it was the only serious bid for 2020 is a reflection of the Worldcon community wanting to give NZ its chance and that it is believed if everyone pulls together that this could be a good debut Worldcon for this nation.  Some of us SF² Concatenation are supportive having been there at the bid's inception at Au Contraire (2010) and we even hope that a few of us will attend. (Given that some Worldcons don't even see us physically represented, our have a few attending is a little special for our home camp.)
          The NZ bid has only had one significant problem, this late in the day, but has overcome it.  The convention has had to move forward its dates by a fortnight to Wednesday, 29 July through Sunday, 2 August 2020, we have been told due to the unavailability of one of the main facilities.  Apparently a major event organiser with a longstanding relationship with Wellington booked the main exhibit hall part of the venue.  This rival organiser has booked this venue for 8 weeks starting with the week originally provisionally reserved by the Worldcon bid.  Understandably anyone that can book such a facility for 8 weeks is a BIG player and so the NZ Worldcon bid felt that it could not compete.  We are given to understand that this was not the convention bid's fault as they had negotiated with the venue buildings in good faith.  It seems as if those managing these facilities were also unaware of the big organiser's intentions as the rival organiser has a relationship with Wellington's city corporate body and not the individual facilities.  This date change makes the 2020 Worldcon the second to be held earliest in the year.  The only other implication for fans going is that July is winter in New Zealand.  So expect the maximum daily temperature in Wellington to be around 11°C. This is the same as: London or Glasgow in April and October; New York in April and November. No big issue though do pack a vest and a jumper.  Also do expect some occasional rain.  Here, the good news is that Wellington as a city is fairly compact and those used to walking will probably do that rather than use the buses for city centre tourism.
          CoNZealand has a promotional video on YouTube.  This video sees a welcoming statement from NZ's Prime Minister! (We've never had Great Britain's PM providing Worldcon video endorsement, nor the US President for that matter.) And also in the video we learn that George R. R. Martin will be the con's Toastmaster, so expect many locals to register.
          This last is not a trivial point. Given the small venue size, George R. R. Martin being Toastmaster is likely to make CoNZealand more popular than Australia's Worldcon in 2010 (despite that convention having one of the best ever film programmes at a Worldcon.  The advice surely must be to register for CoNZealand early. Indeed, even if you end up by 2020 not having saved up enough finance to go, an attending membership will both get you Hugo nominating and final shortlist voting rights as well as the convention's publications (including up to four – assuming you register soon – six-monthly pre-convention Progress Reports. But if you can get to CoNZealand in 2020 then the betting will be that a couple of hundred other SF fans from beyond that country will be there a few days before and after that event for tourism. Indeed if a few of us on the SF² Concatenation team can encourage some of the local New Zealand SF groups to have events before and after the convention then CoNZealand could be the centre piece for a European's or N American's holiday of a lifetime.
          Finally, we'd like to congratulate CoNZealand for continuing the return, following Dublin 2019, to the practice of having an individual name for their Worldcon.  The past couple of years has seen a simple numbering of Worldcons for their title: such as 'Worldcon 75' and 'Worldcon 76'. Good on NZ, this recent 'just numbering name' trend is to be deplored. Who but the most die hard Worldcon fans can remember which number is this year's Worldcon?  So if the Worldcon community really wants to encourage greater inclusivity – especially those years it is outside N. America – individual branding for individual Worldcons is needed in addition to the generic 'Worldcon' brand.
          To date the 2020 NZ bid organisers have been communicative. Presuming this continues, and that as this Worldcon – if not the biggest – could be something of a special experience we'll do our best to give good seasonal coverage over the next two years in the run-up to this event.
          Finally… A comment has come our way that the NZ 2020 Worldcon will find itself in the middle of the 2020 Olympics, Tokyo, Japan (24th July – 9th August, 2020).  We have looked at what happened with the 2012 Olympics here in BritCit. That event did see air fares increase for flights into London.  The two other inter-continental airport hubs nearby (Amsterdam and Paris) let alone others in western Europe, were less affected and airports elsewhere were completely unaffected.  Assuming a similar picture holds for Tokyo 2020, this means that only those planning on going to the 2020 CoNZealand Wellington Worldcon from Europe who use Hong Kong and Singapore as stopover points are likely to be affected by a slight price rise.  Having said that there is also the new non-stop Heathrow London to Perth Australia route that then carries on to Melbourne from which a flight to Wellington can be made. This is possibly an option for those wishing to do some western Australian tourism   Those coming from N. America will be unaffected.

The 2021 Worldcon.  There's currently one bid and that's for Washington DC (US). (Dallas, US, withdrew in 2016 and Boston, US, withdrew in 2017.)

The 2022 Worldcon.  There's currently one bid and that's for Chicago (US).

There are now three bids for the 2023 Worldcon: France and New Orleans plus a new one from China.  The French bid is, as we previously reported, for Nice.  That there is a serious US rival bid possibly suggests that there is room for competition and that confidence in the French bid is not what it might be. This last is possibly due to the French bid keeping a rather low profile. This is something they can correct but they need to do so soon before New Orleans builds up momentum.
          A new bid by China for 2023 was also announced at this year's Worldcon.  The proposed venue city is Chendgu. Chengdu (which if you know about China's past SF history, recent SF history let alone China's post-millennial development of SF you will realise) is home of the magazine SF World.
          The Worldcon occasionally does see some interesting bids burst in unexpectedly on the Worldcon community but – it has to be said – these often do not come to much.  This is not a derogatory comment on this new bid but an observation of the past Worldcon bid record. If a Worldcon bid stands a chance to succeed then the proposed bidding team usually researches matters well in advance with those within the Worldcon scene and so some inkling of intent circulates among the community in advance of the announcement. This has not happened with this new bid.  Having said that, China's SF community, spearheaded by those connected with SF World, have for a few years now been keen to integrate more with the global SF community as indicated by their writing two of the afore linked articles in SF² Concatenation and their inviting western SF authors to their annual Chengdu SF con such as in 2007.  China is of course known for strict State control (and associated cronyism etc) within which enterprise has to function. Back in 2010 SF World suffered a bit of a hiatus due to such cronyism but matters have since settled.  What this all means for the new proposed bid we will see as the bid raises its profile (or not) over the next couple of years.

The 2024 Worldcon.  There's currently one bid and that's for Great Britain.  Britain has a reasonable reputation for Worldcons having held over half a dozen from the 1960s and last in 2014.  Some news further to previous as to the potential venue cities being considered.  The venue problem those running Britain's bid is that whichever city they go for there is an issue: Britain simply does not have a decent conference venue for something like a Worldcon or even major international science conferences as even the Council for Science & Technology Institutions (now rebranded as the Science Council) noted way back in the 1990s (and something that's truly embarrassing for us to admit about SF² Concatenation's home nation).
          The news this season is that Liverpool is no longer being considered as the hosting city.  This really is welcome news for many reasons which need not be recounted here.  This leaves the bid runners considering London (BritCit) and Glasgow (CalHab).
          London has the hotel space near to the ExCel Conference Centre and would attract a few thousand extra registrants from those living in the populous SE England who can commute in, but all the venue's small break-out session rooms (where much of the programme would be held) together only cater for a couple of thousand (something we noted before the 2014 event itself). It might be possible to restrict numbers attending, but such are the venue hire costs that the registration price for a smaller event would be prohibitive (for example hardly any local students without accommodation or overseas travel costs would likely come unless they were given very special rates).
            Conversely, Glasgow has most of the hotel beds a taxi ride away (but one of the cheapest taxi rides in Great Britain).  Also, like London, Glasgow has its own conference break-out room problems for the programme even if a greater proportion of the convention could attend those items given that a Worldcon in Glasgow would be smaller than London (fewer would commute in locally as there is less of a local population serviced by a comprehensive regional transport system).
            And if you are old enough and thinking of Brighton as an option (the venue for the 1979 Worldcon) then Worldcon has simply outgrown the facilities there. (Anyway, the bid runners aren't considering that as an option.)
            It therefore is all a bit of a Hobson's choice for those managing the bid. However, you can be assured that the 2024 Worldcon bid runners will give it a lot of thought and whatever they decide there will be reasons.

There are currently two Worldcon bids for 2025: Seattle, USA, and Perth, Australia.  To be honest Australia's 2025 bid is going to have to work very hard to both convince folk that they are capable of running a half-decent Worldcon and attract physically attending members, such was the shambles of the 2010 Australian Worldcon. 2010's only saving graces were the excellent venue and superb triple film streams: the abortive programme, hotel room party contract debacle, the pre-con climate change 'academic' symposium failures (see the link for a review) cannot be forgotten in a hurry.  Any Worldcon – to take one example – that tells you to ditch the entire programme schedule booklet on arrival, as a new programme was being developed on day one, cannot in any way be described as a success.  Australia 2025 may get a sympathy vote, or support as an out-of-N. America Worldcon, but if it does it may not get many overseas warm body attendance other than the absolutely die-hard Worldcon regulars.  This is not to say that Australia 2025 cannot turn things around but they are going to have to work extremely hard on their bidding profile which needs to demonstrate clearly that they have genuinely learned lessons from 2010. (That begins with recognising them.)  Having said that, if they can demonstrate that they have got their act together, for those of us in NW Europe, 2025 would be a lot easier to get to now that there are direct, non-stop flights from London to Perth.

And finally….

Free SF Art to spur interest in SF Art. FreeArt.com offers free, gallery-quality 8x10 art prints and a wide variety of wall art and decor. Their idea is to give away the 8x10 prints free of charge (shipping/handling not included), with the hope that people may be interested in our other pieces. They currently have over 22,000 pieces of sci-fi art,  See Free Sci-Fi Art Prints.

Now is the time to check out Judge Dredd and the world of 2000AD!  If you have ever wondered what all the fuss was about with Judge Dredd then now (from 19th September 2018) is arguably a good time to check Dredd out as the monthly Judge Dredd Megazine sees its 400th edition.  The advantage for those wanting a taste is that this Judge Dredd Megazine issue sees all new adventures: newcomers will not jump into the middle of a graphic strip story.  Also, to mark the 400th edition, this edition will be 100 pages and perfect bound.  It will feature strips on:  Judge Anderson: Psi Division (radiation from the nuclear war has created mutants, some of whom have telepathic abilities and are used by the Justice Department);  Devlin Waugh (a tough, playboy vampire employed by the Vatican in the Dredd universe);  Lawless (an off-world settlement of Dredd's Mega-City One, isolated by Munce Incorporated due to industrial irregularities: a futuristic wild west version of judging);  and, of course, old stony face himself, Judge Dredd, plus others. All at the price of a paperback (£7.99) and available in most newsagents while stocks last through to the end of the month, possibly longer in specialist SF bookshops.  Scrotnig.

Locus magazine is 50 years old.  Locus is effectively the literary SF trade magazine for N. America but does touch upon written SF elsewhere. It can also be found in a more limited form online at LocusMag.com (the online film reviews are particularly good).  Our best wishes for Locus' second half-century.

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

Autumn 2018

Film News

 

The summer's SF/F/H films appearing within the top five of the weekly box office top ten charts (which of course also include other non-genre offerings which we ignore) were, in the British Isles (Great Britain, NI and Irish Republic), in order of their appearance:-
          Avengers: Infinity War (Trailer here)
          Star Wars: Solo (Trailer here)
          Jurassic World (Trailer here)
          A Quiet Place (Trailer here)
          Deadpool 2 (Trailer here)
          Incredibles 2 (Trailer here)
          Ant-Man and the Wasp (Trailer here)
          Mission: Impossible - Fallout (Trailer here)
          The Meg (Trailer here)
          Christopher Robin (Trailer here)

Incredible 2 becomes the first animated feature film to take US$600 million (£455m) in US.  So we can expect Disney to ask for another be made.

Inception's ending clarified by co-star Michael Caine.  Back at the beginning of 2011 we cited Inception as one of our selection of the best SF films of 2010 and then it went on to win a Hugo Award.  But the ending was ambiguous. Was the totem real? (That is to say, was the protagonist in the real world and reunited with his family, or was he trapped in a dream world? A small spinning object was used by the protagonist as in the dream world it would spin for an unfeasibly long time. At the film's ending we never saw the spinning object for long and so do not know if the end of the film was meant to be in the real or a dream world.)  Michael Caine provided an answer when recently introducing the film at a screening in London's Somerset House.  The actor confessed he was puzzled when he read the script and so asked whether or not when he was acting was he meant to be in the real world or a dream one? Apparently director Christopher Nolan replied that whenever Caine was in a scene it was the real world.  So the ending is real.  (Or is it?  Of course Nolan could have just said that to Michael Caine to get him to act in a particular way…)
          A couple of weeks later, in another interview, Michael Caine shared another discussion he had with the director (presumably after shooting) in which Caine asked what the ending meant. Apparently, we (the film's viewers) are all in the dream world of the film. Make that of what you wish: Caine himself confessed confusion at that explanation.

William Gibson's unused script for Alien3 is to become a comic series  Cyberpunk author William Gibson is best known for Neuromancer (1984) but he also was asked to write a putative script for Alien3.  In the actual film, all the survivors from Aliens with the exception of Ripley, were killed off and Ripley crashes into a penal colony along with (unknowingly) an alien.  Conversely, the Gibson script has it that after Aliens, Ripley, Hicks, Newt, and Bishop are hibernating their journey through space when they are intercepted by a ship from the Union of Progressive Peoples. This leads to a race between two national-military complexes to weaponise the alien in a cold war type thriller horror.  The comic series will be produced by Dark Horse and comes out in November (2018).

The Blade Runner films are to be expanded into a series of books and comics.  Alcon Media Group (the production company behind Blade Runner 2049) and Titan (the British company with a commercial eye) have come to an arrangement that Titan will publish a series of Blade Runner non-fiction books and comics.  The non-fiction books will include things like artwork and stills from the films. The comics will fill in the Blade Runner universe.  This is not the first time such spin-off commercialisation has taken place.  Previously, Boom! Studios published both a graphic novel adaptation of Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep in 2009 and a prequel, Dust to Dust, in 2010.  And then there was a run of novels by K. W. Jeter in the second half of the 1990s.

Mars Attacks is to become a comic.  Dynamite Entertainment is to publish the comics which will be written by Kyle Starks and drawn by Chris Schweizer. This builds on the 1996 film adaptation by Tim Burton of the 1950s trading cards. The first editions will be released in October (2018).

RoboCop is back in what could well be the first proper sequel..  The original 1987 RoboCop film, directed by Paul Verhoeven, was written by Ed Neumeier and Michael Miner. These co-creators of the character were not involved in any of the RoboCop sequels or the 2014 reboot.  However, back in the 1980s they did write a sequel that was never used: Paul Verhoeven was not interested in a follow-up and the there was the Hollywood writers strike.  Which brings us to today and Ed Neumeier and Michael Miner are up for bringing their original sequel to the big screen.  This screenplay is being polished and updated by Justin Rhodes (who has just written the next Terminator screenplay).  MGM are keen and one of its execs apparently thinks that its plot, of a reality TV star becoming President, sort of chimes with the times.  Ed Neumeier and Michael Miner are to be producer and executive producer respectively.  It may well be that Neill (District 9 & Elysium) Blomkamp will direct once he has completed a disaster film, Greenland.

George R. R. Martin's The Ice Dragon is to be a film.  Martin's children's book has been picked up by Warners, and Martin is apparently to co-produce; whether or not he will have a hand scripting remains to be seen.  The film will be an animation.

Chicken Run follow-up is to be made.  18 years after the original and Chicken Run 2 is in development from Aardman (the folk who did Wallace and Gromit).

Stephen King's new Firestarter film gets a director  King's 1980 novel was previously made into a film in 1984.  Blumhouse Productions has now got Fatih Akin (the German director who did the revenge film In The Fade) to direct the new Firestarter film. The novel is a science fantasy. The result of drug trials enables a little girl to start fires with her mind.  There was also a two-part TV movie sequel, Firestarter: Rekindled, in 2002.

From a Buick 8 is the next Stephen King novel possibly to be adapted to the big screen.  Hyde Park Entertainment has picked up the rights to Stephen King’s 2002 novel From a Buick 8.  William Brent Bell is slated to write and direct. Given that a writer and director is slated means that the studio is serious about making the film reasonably soon.  However, this is the second attempt to bring the novel to the big screen.

Two Star Trek films are in pre-production, Paramount Chief Exec confirms.  Jim Gianopulos informed an audience at this year's Paramount Pictures CinemaCon.  One of the films may well be the Quentin Tarantino project previously reported (this last is likely to be a few years away until Tanatino completes Once Upon a Time in Hollywood).  Skydance is reportedly involved in both the Trek film ventures: Skydance Productions partnered with Paramount on the last two Trek films: Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) and Star Trek Beyond (2016).

Danny (28 Days Later & Sunshine) Boyle's next film is to have an SF/fantasy riff.  It will be a comedy co-written with Richard (Black Adder) Curtis. The plot has not yet officially been released but is thought to concern a man who wakes one day to discover he is the only person in the world aware of The Beatles.  IMDB says that the working title is All You Need is Love which could be revealing.  The tentative release date is currently September 2019.

The late Carrie Fisher to appear in the forthcoming Star Wars: Episode IX.  The actress played Princess/General Leia in the original three and last two Star Wars films. She died in 2016 but there are enough unused clips from the last two productions, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi , for her to appear in the J. J. Abrams-directed sequel, Star Wars: Episode IX currently slated for a December 2019 release. Notably, they have decided not to CGI her face onto another actor as happened with Peter Cushing in (Star Wars:) Rogue One.  Mark Hamill will also reprise his role: presumably as a 'ghost' in the Force.  Filming has already commenced at Pinewood Studios, London.

The next James Bond to be directed by Danny Boyle.  Stop Press: No it wont!  Bond's SF connections are due to the franchise being both a technothriller and frequently employing SF tropes be they global decimation by chemical weapons, hijacking space craft, or using orbital space weapons such as giant lasers.  Danny Bayle himself no stranger to SF with films like 28 Days Later or Sunshine. Danny Boyle even has already done a mini-Bond with the opening of the 2012 Olympics.  So all was set for what could be a really innovative next Bond film. Sadly over the summer artistic difference between Boyle and the franchise's producers (Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli) led to Boyle resigning: apparently there was a difference of opinion as to who should be cast as the lead villain.  The good news is that the new director will not have much time to make huge changes and so a fair bit of Boyle's vision is likely to make it to the final version (even if it is covered by the producers' veneer) if the film is to make its slated 2019 release: filming was due to commence at Pinewood in December (2018).  On the other hand, if there are to be screen-story changes then production will be delayed as will its likely release, currently proposed for November 2019.

James Bond: MGM and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment lose court case.  When MGM and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment produced the James Bond box set of films they never thought they'd get taken to court, but they did.  They used the promotional line “All the Bond films gathered together for the first time”.  This to die hard film fans could be potentially a red rag to a bull; indeed, it was.  Don't forget there is the 1960s David Niven starring Casino Royale and the Sean Connery reprise Never Say Never Again. Indeed, apparently David Niven was Ian Fleming's choice to play Bond. These were missing from the set as MGM had nothing to do with them. U.S. District Court judge Ricardo Martinez agreed with the complainant saying, "At this time, the Court will Live and Let Die," and "The Court finds the questions of how a reasonable person would interpret 'all' and 'every' and what qualifies as a James Bond film remain for the trier of fact to decide. These terms are not unequivocally puffery as a matter of law."

Andy Serkis is directing a performance-capture film version of George Orwell's Animal Farm.  Andy Serkis is best known for his performance-capture role of Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy as well as in the recent Planet of the Apes reboot.  The film is being produced by Serkis' film company The Imaginarium.  Matt Reeves, who directed Serkis in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes, will be one of the film's producers. Netflix will be streaming the film.

The four Avatar sequels will look at other cultures on Pandora.  As many of you know, James Cameron's Avatar is to have four sequels produced by Jon Landau.  Landau has now revealed that all four sequels will be based on the planet of Pandora but will not focus on the with one tribe and one location on a vast planet. Having said that,expect some back story revelations concerning the first film's characters and possibly their offspring.

James Gunn, director of Guardians of the Galaxy: vol. 3, has been dismissed by Disney.  His misogynous Tweets from a decade ago resurfaced to some publicity.  Gunn said: "My words of nearly a decade ago were, at the time, totally failed and unfortunate efforts to be provocative. I have regretted them for many years since — not just because they were stupid, not at all funny, wildly insensitive, and certainly not provocative like I had hoped, but also because they don’t reflect the person I am today or have been for some time."  And, "Regardless of how much time has passed, I understand and accept the business decisions taken today. Even these many years later, I take full responsibility for the way I conducted myself then. All I can do now, beyond offering my sincere and heartfelt regret, is to be the best human being I can be: accepting, understanding, committed to equality, and far more thoughtful about my public statements and my obligations to our public discourse. To everyone inside my industry and beyond, I again offer my deepest apologies."
          However then on the plot thickens and the fans rally.  Now, before we go any further let us say that the original tweets are very risqué and really not the sort of thing you want to hear or see (if you really want to you can search for them yourself).  Having said that James Gunn has moved on in the intervening decade and his humour style has changed from his purposefully provocateur days.  And that's the point: back then everyone knew of his provocateur, black humour and his professional work clearly reflected that. Indeed, Disney must almost certainly known of his past when they originally hired him: it was effectively, if not explicitly, part of his CV.  So why the firing now?  Well, not only has James Gunn moved on, so has the world and today those decade old tweets simply are not acceptable in today's western socio climate.
          And here it is where the plot thickens.  According to some sources, the reason that these old tweets got their present publicity was – it is alleged – in retaliation by supporters (including those at The Daily Caller) of Donald Trump have taken offense, hence retaliated, against some of Gunn's recent observations as to the current (2018) US President.  For these Trump-supporter reasons, Gunn's fan base quickly leapt into action and within a couple of days of Disney firing Gunn they set up a 're-hire James Gunn' petition on Change.org.  A week later the petition boasted over 60,000 signatures: after 10 days the number reached over 350,000.  All of Guardians of the Galaxy franchise’s principal cast have also been supportive of Gunn. They signed an open letter of support a Tweet of which gathered a million 'likes' in half a day.

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

Film clip download tip!: The History of the Art of SF Book Covers.  A five-minute, potted-history of SF book cover art.  You can see it here.

Film clip download tip!: LGBTQAI SF/F book recommendations.  Riley Marie bemoans the lack of SF/F LGBT+ recommendations compared to the comparatively plentiful ‘contemporary' (mundane genre) recommendations.  See her choices here.

Film clip download tip!: Forrest J. Ackerman – lost television programme.  A lost half-hour programme thoughtfully preserved and uploaded to YouTube. This is the Forrest (4E) Ackerman doing what he does best: talk about SF films and here the early cinematic offerings.  (OK, well this is a US perspective as revealed by the comment of The Far Side of the Sun as actually Gerry Anderson’s productions had good SF model work long before 2001).  You can see this 1970 outreach programme from the University of Kansas here.

Film clip download tip!: Puzzled by the ending of Solo?  You can find out all the intricacies here.

Film clip download tip!: Black Panther gets the 'Honest Trailer' treatment.  You can see the 'Honest Trailer' here.

Film clip download tip!: The Incredibles gets the 'Honest Trailer' treatment.  You can see the 'Honest Trailer' here.

Film clip download tip!: Hover was released in the US at the end of June (2018), but we've yet to see it elsewhere. Nonetheless, it should be available as a DVD in Europe fairly soon.  It is set in the near future, where environmental stress has caused global food shortages. Technology provides a narrow path forward, with agricultural drones maximizing the yield from what land remains. Two compassionate care providers, Claudia (Coleman) and her mentor John (Craig Grant), work to assist sick farmland inhabitants in ending their lives. After John dies under mysterious circumstances, a group of locals helps Claudia to uncover a deadly connection between the health of her clients and the technology they are using.  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: How It Ends was released in the US mid July (2018).  A desperate father tries to return home to his pregnant wife after a mysterious apocalyptic event turns everything to chaos.   You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Alien Code is a new film.  After deciphering a message found in a satellite, brilliant cryptographer Alex Jacobs finds himself being stalked by government agents and otherworldly beings…  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: I Still See You Trailer is a forthcoming film out in October.  It is set nine years after an apocalyptic event that killed millions and left the world inhabited by ghosts.  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Venom third trailer out.  The film is coming out next month (October) and is a Marvel Comics film.  Now, before you groan 'not yet another', this is a rather more SFnal character as Venom is an alien symbiote.  You can see the third trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Battle Angel Alita trailer now out.  The Robert Rodriguez directed and James Cameron & Jon Landau produced film comes out 21st December (2018) having slipped from its originally slated July release.  The film is based on the Japanese graphic novel Gunnm (1990) set in a dystopic future of the Scrapyard city that thrives on the waste from Tiphares above. A cybermedic discovers an old robot who he begins to repair. The robot, Alita, has lost much of her memory but does have a martial art skill…  You can see the trailer here. +++ N.B. Not to be confused with the Russian film Aelita (1924) and related SF Award.

Film clip download tip!: Cold Heart is a short SF film from Danny Darko.  Clara is a woman without prejudices who lives in a world where human and synthetics beings live together peacefully. She decided to have a new cybernetic heart to stop suffering. Corporations like Cybersurgery are ready to satisfy her desire, as organ transplants have become increasingly popular. Some individuals, though, see this as a threat to species' purity...  You can see the 7-minute film here.

Film clip download tip!: The Roma Project is a short SF film that came out back in 2015 but only now (2018) is freely available to view on YouTube.  The official intro provides added detail not revealed in the film:-
          In the summer of 1978, a thought-abandoned military research facility vanished without a trace. The details of these events, which led to the unsolved disappearances of over a dozen civilians and government officials have never been disclosed.... until now.
          After waking up in a sinister hospital, a teenage boy is told he was involved in a major car accident that took the life of his mother. An apocalyptic, recurring nightmare and another patient’s shattered memory may hold the key to unlocking the secret’s behind The Roma Project…  You can see the 16-minute film here.

Film clip download tip!: The Cosmic Dope: A Plant Experience is a short SF film of quirky appeal to those SF fan hippies in the SF&DA.  And for other fans, note the Gerry Anderson theme.  Alan Jones and Eric Bobson get together once again on the 4th Episode of The Cosmic Dope- A Plant Experience.  This time's lysergic experiment recounts with Nancy, the episode's guest, and an unknown orchid species.  A short film based on TV shows from the 60's, about plants and lysergic experiments.  You can see the 4-minute film here.

Film clip download tip!: Hyperlight is a short SF film.  Two elite astronauts wake up in the abyss of space; they return to their stranded ship and discover the surprising reason behind their mission's catastrophic failure.  You can see the 16-minute film here.

Film clip download tip!: Can You Name a Book? ANY Book???.  According to a recent study from the Pew Research Center, almost one in four US Americans has not read a book in the past year. So to find out if that is true, a US chat-show programme sent a team to the street to ask passersby to name a book, and here are the very sad results.

Film clip download tip!: 5th Passenger sees Star Trek cast members reunite.  5th Passenger is set in the aftermath of an oppressive class war.  Miller, a pregnant officer aboard an escape pod must struggle to survive with her remaining crew when a mysterious and vicious life form attacks, determined to become the dominant species.  Five former Star Trek cast are involved: Doug Jones (Commander Saru from ST: Discovery),  Tim Russ (Commander Tuvok from ST: Voyager) Marina Sirtis (Cllr. Troy from ST: The Next Generation) and Armin Shimerman (Quark fromST: Deep Space Nine and various Ferengi in other series).  5th Passenger has had a delayed release. The trailer is here.

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

For a reminder of the top films in 2017/8 (and earlier years) then check out our top Science Fiction Films annual chart. This page is based on the weekly UK box office ratings over the past year up to Easter. You can use this page if you are stuck for ideas hiring a DVD for the weekend.

For a forward look as to film releases of 2018 see our film release diary.

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

Autumn 2018

Television News

 

The Last Ship's last season began a few days before this seasonal news page was posted.  The fifth and final season sees the crew of the destroyer U.S.S. Nathan James journey through a world finally recovering from the deadly virus that devastated the population, but global political unrest remains…  The series is based upon a novel by William Brinkley.  You can see the season 5 trailer here.

The First is a new series launched just as we post this seasonal news page.  Mundane SF, The First follows the first manned mission to Mars.  Under the direction of visionary aerospace magnate Laz Ingram (Natascha McElhone), the crew contends with peril and personal sacrifice as they undertake the greatest pioneering feat in human history.  The series is produced by Britain's Channel 4 along with the US Hulu streaming service.  You can see the trailer here.

The new season of The Walking Dead will premiere next month: 7th October, 2018.  Season 9 of the post-apocalyptic zombie horror will premiere on AMC mid-October.  There will be a mid-season break mid-December before it resumes February next year (2019).  However as is now commonly known, the show's lead, Andrew Lincoln (Rick), will be leaving mid-season much to a number of the show's fans' concerns.  (The Brit actor is apparently leaving the show after a decade so as to spend time with his children in his home country as they are at an age when school regularity means that they cannot spend so much time overseas.)  Other news is that it rumoured that Jon Bernthal (Shane) will reappear in one episode, possibly as a flashback or a hallucination.  There is also a rumour that the season will see a time jump forward, skipping a few years, as happened in the comic series on which the show is based. If this happens it will take us to a future in which materials that had been scavenged – such as petrol (gas) and bullets – come into short supply and the infrastructure (bridges and so forth) has increasingly broken down.
          The Walking Dead season 9 also sees a new character from the original comics.  The character Alpha, from the Robert Kirkman comics, will appear in the new season.  She'll be played by Samantha (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Minority Report) Morton.  Alpha is the leader of a large survivor group known as the Whisperers.
          Meanwhile, Andrew Lincoln (Rick) has lamented that news of his leaving the show has leaked. "I still regret that the story broke, because I believe in story," he said. "It’s gonna be a great season, but it would have been greater if it was not spoiled to a degree."  It is not known how the leak happened but it is possible that it was deliberate given the season 6 cliff-hanging finalé in which it was known that one of two – but not which – main characters was going to die.  The tension was too much for some fans and there was some negative (and even heated) online debate.  You can see the season 9 trailer here.

Doctor Who re-boot season 11 premieres Sunday 7th October 2018.  And that's all there is to say really other than it features the second woman ever to play the good Doctor. (The first, of course, being Joanna Lumley towards the end of a two-part adventure, 'The Curse of Fatal Death', for Comic Relief in 1999 (it is on YouTube). That's a piece of trivia for you if ever you are organising an SF quiz.)

New series, Origin, premieres shortly on YouTube Premium.  A colony ship crewed by folk who want to leave their past behind sees some of the passengers awake mid-flight with the rest of the passengers and crew mysteriously gone.  Trailer here.

Lore season 2 due out shortly, October (2018).  Lore is a horror anthology series based on Aaron Mahnke's podcast of the same name.  Season 2 trailer here.

New War of the Worlds mini-series to be broadcast by BBC this autumn.  We first reported on this new series back in 2016 but thought a reminder now for you to keep an eye out would be timely.  There have been various visual versions of H. G. Wells seminal novel (1898) but only one, not very good, production actually set – as was the original novel – in Victorian times.  This new version is similarly set.  The three-part mini-series comes from mammoth productions in association with the BBC.  It centres around George (Rafe – Prometheus & Life of Pi – Spall) and Amy (Eleanor Tomlinson), a couple defying the prejudices of society as they attempt to start a life together, but now amidst the chaos of an alien invasion.  Filming took place earlier this year (short 'on set' visual here).  Promotional short video here.

New series, The Crossing, has been cancelled after one 11-episode season.  The Crossing sees 500 washed up on the NW coast of the US but though most are drowned 47 survive.  Long story short, they are refugees from 180 years in the future and a war with superhumans called the Apex.  First airing on ABC in April, the first season ended in June.  It was, however, cancelled early in May after viewing figures fell from 5.4 million plus 3 million streaming, to 3.6 million plus 2.1 million streaming.  For those wishing to catch this then be assured that the principal story thread is concluded within the season (though there remains a clear potential to take another thread further).

Star Trek: Discovery season 2 is to see Spock and a new commander.  Christopher Pike (the captain who commanded the Enterprise before Captain Kirk) is to appear in Season 2. As is Mr Spock who seems somehow connected to signals from deep space.  Season 2 airs in January (2019) on CBS in the US, and there will be four short films this autumn to bridge the season gap.  Season 2 trailer here.

New actor to play Spock – Gregory Peck's grandson. Ethan Peck will be playing Spock in Star Trek: Discovery when it returns for its second season next year.

Star Trek: The Next Generation is to return. And Patrick Stewart will reprise his role as Jean-Luc Picard.  Sir Patrick made the announcement himself at Trek con. He himself could hardly believe it when he was asked as it has been two decades since the last television episode in 1994 and Sir Patrick is now aged 78.  The last time he played the role was Star Trek: Nemesis (2002).  So how come this has happened?  Well, early indications were that Star Trek: Discovery had helped CBS All Access boost its subscribers and this has now been confirmed. So to build on this success CBS All Access has commissioned a new season of Next Gen'. Some of those working on Discovery will be helping with the new Next Gen' episodes' production.  Roddenberry Entertainment President Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry (son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry) is also involved.

Nichelle Nichols has sadly been diagnosed with dementia.  Nichelle, 85, is known for playing the Communications Officer on the original Star Trek television series and films. She is one of the three extant members of the six-strong, lead cast.  This announcement follows a dispute between her son and her manager earlier in the summer that went legal. It was reported that her son wanted care for Nichelle while her manager wanted her to continue to work.  So far only her short term memory is principally affected; her long-term memory and ability to converse remain largely intact.  The term being used for her condition is 'moderate progressive dementia'.  +++ We hope she is continuing to enjoy life.

The Good Place season 3: Spoilers ahead warning:  Given the heaven-based comedic fantasy show's Hugo Award nomination appeal, we thought we'd share some of the show's news.  The cast chatted to a reporter at this year's SD ComicCon.  The NBC's show's season 3 will see a number of story arcs each resolved quite quickly, almost episodically.  Not long into the season all four humans will be in the same room.  Finally, the cast are frequently thanked by parents for the show giving them a way to swear in front of their young offspring.  The interview can be seen on YouTube.

The Orville to return with season 2.  The Star Trek spoof (think the Hugo Award-winning Galaxy Quest) series has, as previously reported, been renewed for a second season. The launch date has now been confirmed as 30th December (2018).  The gossip has it that Robert Picardo (who played the holographic doctor on Star Trek: Voyager) will be reprising his role as Alara's father.  Also the season is likely to explore more SF tropes than the first season due to the first season's individual episode response from the show's fans and viewing figures.  You can see the season trailer here.

Stranger Things season 3 has been delayed.  Season 3 was originally slated for this autumn (2018) but Netflix has now postponed it until next summer (2019).  The science-fantasy horror series is set in a fictional town in Indiana, during the early 1980s.  Stranger Things concerns the abduction (and then the consequences) of a 12 year old boy by a creature from an alternate dimension; the government has a research facility that have created a portal to this dimension.  The series has a high (90%+) Rotten Tomatoes rating and season one was in 2017 nominated to the Hugo Award short-list for Best Dramatic Presentation.  For those without Netflix, season one and two are available as DVD box sets.  You can see the previous season 2 trailer here.

The Big Bang Theory is to have a 12th season but a 13th no longer seems possible.  Yes, we have been here before as back in 2014, it was mooted that the show would end with season 10 in 2017.  Well now, over this summer (2018) the creators and cast have been giving their usual promo interviews and the question of the show's future has inevitably come up with an apparent decision last month.  Piecing together the 'don't' knows' and 'we'll have to sees', this appears to be the situation.  As we know, season 11 ended with Amy and Sheldon tying the knot.  First up, in case you had not heard, there will be -- as previously reported -- a season 12.  Second up, season 12 begins with the Shamy honeymoon. Third up, season 12 will see crossover reference to other characters from the Young Sheldon series that itself has completed its first season.
          Finally, as for a possible season 13, the cast are all contracted to a provisional further season. Most of the cast and the shows scriptwriters are up for a season 13 (and with the principal cast earning what they do, no real surprises there). However, late in August it was announced that there will not be a season 13!  Apparently, it has been reported that Jim (Sheldon Cooper) Parsons wanted to be free to pursue his theatre and cinematic career.  It therefore looks like that after 12 seasons and 279 episodes The Big Bang theory will end?  Or will it? There is nearly a year to go before the supposed final episode will be broadcast. It is therefore not beyond the realms of possibility for some sort of deal to be struck, be it a break before a possible season 13, or even the slating of some specials. Certainly the money is there, and the rest of the cast are reportedly willing.  So, who knows?

Big Bang Theory Howard Walowitz's space suit has been auctioned for US$12,000 (£9,000).  The space suit was closely modelled on a real, contemporary Russian space suit by the costume company Global Effects.  Though not as heavy as the real space suits, the Big Bang Theory replicas did need fan assisted ventilation: they were that good.  Authentic Soyuz spacesuits worn by astronauts on the ISS have been auctioned for as much as US$50,000.

Z Nation spin-off series, Black Summer, to come to Netflix.  We previously reported Z Nation's renewal for a 5th season of the zombie action comedy show.  SyFy's Z Nation's season 4 ended with the release of the Black Rainbow (that threatens both humans and zombies alike).  Could this be related to Black Summer?  What we do know is that Netflix is producing eight episodes of this spin-off series.  Apparently, it will not have a comedic dimension, as has Z Nation, but will be more a straightforward zombie series.  Also, the eight 'episodes' are not going to be episodic but part of a single adventure more akin to eight parts of a very long film.

Wynonna Earp is to be renewed for a fourth season.  The western-style, gun-toting fantasy show is set in the present day with Wyatt Earp's great-great-granddaughter coping with a family curse. Season four will see 12 episodes next year (2019).  To get a flavour of the show, see the season 3 trailer here.

Colony has been cancelled.  The alien invasion show had a great premise but not much story progression.  The USA Network series has not been renewed for a fourth season.   To get a flavour of the show (as said, neat premise) see the season 3 trailer here.

Tales From The Loop is to be a new series based on the wonderful SF art pictures of Simon Stalenhag.  The Swedish artist Simon Stalenhag produces some striking SF art and his pictures have inspired this series. The series will explore the town and people who live above 'The Loop', a machine built to unlock and explore the mysteries of the universe.  The Swedish production and management company Indio and Fox 21 Television Studios will be co-producing the project. Amazon Studios has placed an eight-episode straight-to-series order.  'Tales From The Loop' was originally the title of a two-volume book set of Simon Stalenhag's artwork that which blends pastoral scenes with wild robotics and futuristic machinery. The background explanation is that a group of teenagers, in the late 1980s, live near a Swedish particle accelerator known as the Loop. When it malfunctions strange things to happen in their backyard.  See also the 4-minute news video on YouTube to see some of the inspiring artwork.

Brian Ralph’s post-apocalyptic graphic novel Daybreak to be a Netflix series.  The comedy drama sees Josh, a 17-year-old high school outcast, searching for his missing girlfriend Sam in post-apocalyptic Glendale, California.  Zombie 'ghoulies' and Mad Max style gangs could yet stop him.  Netflix has ordered 10 episodes.

Star Trek 4 writers to oversee new Lord of the Rings television series.  J. D. Payne and Patrick McKay will helm the forthcoming Amazon television series that is expected to air in 2020 or 2021.

Joss (Buffy) Whedon is to write and direct The Nevers.  The series concerns a gang of Victorian women who find themselves with unusual abilities, relentless enemies, and a mission that might change the world. The series will be shown on HBO and this venture marks Whedon's move from major network television to premium cable. (A sign of today's changing television scene.)  ‘The Nevers’ are people who should never be like this, who should never have existed. People who people are not of the natural order.

The Expanse television series was axed and then resurrected!  Based on the two writer pseudonymous author James S. A. Corey series of novels (that includes Abaddon's Gate) the space opera series was cancelled by Syfy in May (2018). As it happens, the novels are apparently a favourite of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos and, whether or not this is significant, Amazon has picked up the series.  Amazon Prime is to stream and this may mean variable-length episodes.  Expect season 4 next summer (2019).

Ghosted has been cancelled after one series.  It was a sort of X-Files comedy spoof from the US company Fox.  Fox is not known for its comedy and now has no live action comedies at all.  If you want to see what you missed here's the show's intro trailer.

Timeless has been cancelled yet again. And, yet again, revived.  The time travel show concerns a research agency fighting to prevent renegades editing Earth's history (for which read US history of the past 150 years) to create a better future. (Season 2 trailer here.) This is the second time the Sony Pictures Television show has been axed after its first season but NBC then decided to air another following fan action.  Sadly, after season 2 (which ended at the start of the summer) NBC declined to pick it up for a third series.  For the show's fans this meant that it ended on a mid-action point: our protagonists' duplicates turned up from the future(?) promising to save the day.  Shawn Ryan, the show's creator, wants to make a for-TV film to wrap up the overarching plot. It now looks like this may happen as a two-hour finale has officially been approved by NBC and Sony Television. It could just possibly be ready for a December (2018) screening.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars series is to return.  See the preliminary teaser trailer here.

Batwoman to become a television series. Vampire Diaries writer/producer Caroline Dries is to write and produce. Debuting in a 1956 edition of Detective Comics, Batwoman was Kathy Kane, a rich Gotham socialite and former circus performer who uses her money and skills to fight crime. However all that changed with the DC Comics universe Infinite Crisis' of the mid-1980s when she became Kate Kane, a Jewish LBGTQ character, one of the first-openly gay characters in the DC universe.  So who knows which version they'll use but the smart money appears to be on Kate Kane.  (Not to be confused with Batgirl who originally was Commissioner Gordon's daughter, Barbara, and which is currently to be brought to the big screen by Joss Whedon).  The Australian actress Ruby Rose is to play the lead.  The show is expected to air either in late 2019 or early 2020.

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

Autumn 2018

Publishing & Book Trade News

 

The British Book Awards (the 'Nibbies') have been presented.  The presentation took place at Grosvenor House, London. The genre related wins were:-
            Best Author: Philip Pullman
            Publisher of the Year: Harper Collins (whose genre imprint is Harper Voyager)

Authors' income continues to decline and sparks vigorous dialogue between publishers and authors' bodies..  5,500+ members of Britain's Authors Licensing and Collectors Society responded to an income survey.  Only 13.7% claimed that they managed to live solely on their author royalties earning in 2017 a median £10,437 a year (this is below the £17k estimated poverty line).  The survey also showed that, compared to previous surveys, British authors' book income has fallen in real terms by 15% compared to 2013.
          Then came news that publishers' royalty fees to mass consumer authors(not textbook authors nor some very small presses) were down to £161 million the past financial year yet publisher profits had increased.  This promoted another body, the Society of Authors, to call upon publishers to open their books to reveal how much they pay authors.  Fantasy author Phillip Pullman has opined that this whole author income debate is more than about pay but how the profits of publishing are distributed.
          But the Publishers Association disagrees, their Chief Executive has reportedly said that 'these figures are unrecognisable to the majority of publishers.' And that we need a sounder evidence base.
          Late summer news came that the £161 million royalty figure (though technically correct) misrepresented the position.  Yes, UK mass market consumer publishers had paid authors £161 million in royalties but 'royalties' only form part of mass market consumer authors' income. Mass consumer authors income comprises of two components: 'royalties' and an 'advance'. Here 'advances on royalties' can, for some authors, be greater than the royalties they go on to receive.  Taking 'advances' into account and the money paid by publishers to authors increased from £161m to £350m.
          This correction is unlikely to calm the debate. The fact remains that publishing has changed over the past third of a century with developments including electronic typesetting and a range of new reprographic technologies not to mention non-paper e-books. This has meant that smaller runs for titles are now commercially possible.  Today, more titles are published each year in the UK than they were back in the 1990s: we have more authors each on average selling fewer copies. Simultaneously, there has been retailer pressure from large chains, supermarkets and especially on-line giants demanding bigger discounts from publishers.  +++ Previous related newsTop British SF/F authors did not do as well in 2017 compared to 2016Mid-list authors drive 2017 growth in British book sectorTop authors sold more in 2016 but bottom authors -- given there are more of them -- each earn less even than in 2015The top-selling SF/F/H genre authors in Britain remain the same in 2015The top 5% of 2014/5 authors earned 42% of all income received by professional writers and a consequence is that publishing may reach a 'breaking point';  and Bad news for authors – Author royalties squeeze continues.

British publishing grew in the year 2017/8.  Publisher receipts grew by 5% to £5.7 billion. (Note: that is publisher receipts and not the price paid by consumers in shops or online third party retailers.)  Print fiction continued to grow (so confounding views of some in recent years that print would wither in the face of e-books).  UK publisher exports were also strong due to the weak pound in the run-up to UK Brexit from the European Union. Exports grew by 8% to £3.4 billion.  +++ Previous related news: The 2016 Great Britain and N. Ireland publishing industry data has been releasedPhysical book sales saw continued growth in 2016 according to preliminary figuresThe 2015 Great Britain and N. Ireland publishing industry data has been releasedThe state of the British (UK) book market in 2013.

Amazon's UK tax paid substantially down despite a great profit increase.  Amazon UK Services tax bill this year was £4.6m, down from £7.4m a year ago and the amount paid was even less due to a tax deferment of £2.9m.  Yet Amazon's pre-tax profits leapt from £24.3m to £72.3m. Amazon has said it has paid all the taxes required by UK law. Meanwhile Amazon Web Services (which is separate from Amazon UK Services) accounts show that its taxes fell to £155,000 from £404,000 even though profits were up from £2.7m to £5m.  +++ Previous related news: Amazon must pay its tax, says European CommissionAmazon tax wrong says UK Booksellers Association110,000 submit Amazon tax petition to Downing StreetAmazon and Google have been lambasted by the Chair of House of Commons Public Accounts Committee;  and Amazon UK avoiding substantial tax says an analysis reported in The Bookseller (30th March 2012).

The Republic of Ireland's publishing sector was strong in 2017/8.  The Republic's publishing sector saw the number of books sold through the equivalent of BookScan up 6% to 4,328,537 with a value of €49.18 million, up 7%.  Adult fiction was particularly strong with 8.9% growth in volume books sold and 10.1% growth in value.  Conversely, children's books together with juvenile/young adult fiction, though growing by 1.8% in volume, fell by 1% in value.  2019 will see the Republic host the Worldcon.

Gollancz, one of the top British SF/F book imprints, has held its 2018 SF webmaster and blogger day.  Despite our intrepid rep being injured due to the gravitational force of an entire planet acting on his foot, we were able to get a summary of Gollancz's seasonal offerings…
          Among the highlights is Hank green's debut novel An Absolutely Remarkable Thing.  Now, you are probably going to have one of two reactions to this news: 'gosh' and 'wow', or 'Hank Green, who he?'  Which of these is likely to depend on your age.  If you didn't know, Hank Green and his brother John are the Vlogbrothers on YouTube and have a young adult following (under 30).  An Absolutely Remarkable Thing concerns someone's response to the appearance of a giant robot and that individual's rise to fame as the de facto expert on the apparitions around the world.  The book will be launched 25th September, a week or so after this news page is posted.
          Catrina (Little Eve) and Ed (Blackwing) McDonald were present.  Both spoke jointly about what it is like to have to write a second novel as well as how they engage in creative writing: apparently they both make it up as they go along. Ed said he was inspired by Joe Abercrombie.
          The Girl King by Mimi Yu is Gollancz's big fantasy release of the autumn.
          Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruchio is Gollancz's BIG read of the autumn: and that's not a joke at some 800 pages. It is widescreen space opera with a fantasy riff: think of a cross between Star Wars and The Book of the New Sun.
          The Books of Earthsea is the first time that all the stories of the recently late Ursula Le Guin’s classic saga appear in a single lavish volume. Long overdue given it is the 50th anniversary of the first novel, A Wizard of Earthsea (1968). This has to be the SF/F book collectors' must buy of the season.
          Skyward is fantasy and science-fantasy author, Brandon Sanderson's, most SFnal novel to date.
          Other highlights include a very welcome Ellen Kushner reprint from 1987 (which coincidentally is SF² Concatenation's founding year). It is a classic fantasy featuring a unisex protagonist.
++++ For other Gollancz and Orion SF and F titles due out this autumn, see the 'forthcoming books' sections below.

Man Booker Prize: Graphic novel nominated for the first time.  Sabrina, by Nick Drnaso, tells the story of a girl who goes missing, leaving behind a videotape with clues about her disappearance.  It is on the Booker shortlist for the 2018 prize worth £50,000 (US$65,000) prize and which will be presented on 16th October (2018).

The Artemis Fowl books re-issued with new covers in advance of next year's film. There are eight Artemis Fowl books by Eoin Colfer in the fantasy comedy adventure series that began in 2001. The film is out next year (2019) from Disney.

Science publishing to be open access (free) from 2020 onwards.  Western European research funders call..  Research fuunders, from 8 EU nations who dispense some £6.6 billion (€7.6 b, US$8.8b), have proposed Plan S ('s' for speed and science) to make all journals open access.  The argument goes that governmentally funded research is actually tax-payer funded research and tax-payers should have free access to the research they have paid for. Also, that open access research can only help other researchers hence science overall.  If the research funders include an open access requirement as a condition of their dispensing funding then this could be a significant move.  Already subscription only journals have declined from49.2% of internationally recognised, peer reviewed journals in 2012 to 37.7% in 2016.  Purely open access (free online) journals have commensurately increased from 12.4% to 15.2%. (The remaining journals have a mix of free and pay-wall content.)  Two problems stand in the way. First, what will determine the author's fees to pay for the journals to peer-review, edit and publish? These are likely to be in the range of a few hundred pounds/dollars.  And second, many of the leading journals – such as Britain's Nature and the US's Science – rely on reader subscriptions and pay wall access. So this move, if it happened, would represent a big change in science publishing for the top journals who also have large science news reporting and science analysis/review costs to cover.

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

Autumn 2018

Forthcoming SF Books

 

The Soldier by Neal Asher, Tor, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-509-83624-1.
A woman and an AI try to keep an alien technology contained…

Doctor Who: TARDIS Type Forty Instruction Manual by Richard Atkinson & Mike Tucker, BBC Books, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-785-94377-5.
The guide as to how to use the TARDIS. Fully illustrated with floor plans etc.

The Stone Clock by Andrew Bannister, Bantam, £16.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-593-07652-1.
At some point in the far future mankind has come across a most unusual sector in space; whereas most stars are, literally, astronomical distances apart, the area which they name the Spin is only thirty light-days across yet contains twenty-one stars with about ninety planets. It is also artificial, though they have absolutely no idea of who created it or how (or why), only that it is hundreds of millions of years old. Naturally mankind has moved into the area and populated it and, whilst each planet is different (some modern, some medieval), groups and alliances have formed and, over the millennia, changed and changed again. It is a hundred millennia after Iron Gods. The Spin is at the end of its life and its diminished inhabitants are divided between those who live unknowingly in the relative paradise of one of hundreds of Virtual Realities - 'vrealities' - and those who scrape a living in what remains of the real world. But running the increasingly huge servers needed to maintain the vrealities is draining the last resources of the Spin, leading to conflict between those who tend the servers and those who believe they should simply be switched off, and so killing millions. There is one individual who divides his time between the real and the vrealities, finds himself caught up in this escalating and seemingly futile war. Meanwhile, in a remote star system, an ancient insectoid called Skarbo the Horologist observes The Spin. He has been doing so for several lifetimes. But now he notes the accelerating signs of decline in what he unfashionably considers to be a giant complex clock. And Skarbo too is about to die for the very last time. He had resigned himself to never visiting the object of his studies, but decides to make a last journey - travelling across a war-torn galaxy to what will be his final destination: the Spin. There he will learn of the artificial system's past - and its future…  This is part of a series of standalone stories the writing of which (though very distinct from) has a vague feel of Banks' 'Culture' novels. See previous The Creation Machine and Iron Gods.  Elsewhere on this site Andrew Bannister is also a scientist and has given his thoughts on the 20th century scientists that have inspired him.

Xeelee: Redemption by Stephen Baxter, Gollancz, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21721-8.
The Xeelee are back for the last time . . . Michael Poole finds himself in a strange landscape – the centre of the Galaxy where the Xeelee have built an immense structure. The Belt has a radius ten thousand times Earth’s orbital distance. It’s a light year in circumference and rotates at near lightspeed. The purpose of the Belt is to preserve a community of Xeelee into the very far future, when they will be able to tap dark energy, a universe-spanning antigravity field, for their own purposes. But it has attracted populations of lesser species. And Poole, at last, finds the Xeelee who led the destruction of Earth . . .  This follows on from Xeelee: Vengeance .

America City by Chris Beckett, Corvus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-786-49154-1.
America, one century on: droughts, floods and hurricanes compel populations to trek north. Tensions are mounting. The charismatic Senator Slaymaker is on a mission to keep America united. Can he bring America together – or has he set the country on a new, but equally devastating, path?  This novel comes from the author of the Clarke (book) Award-winning novel Dark Eden.

Places in the Darkness by Chris Brookmyre, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-756-5067-2.
A space station is home for construction workers who are building the colony ship that will one day take humanity to the stars. Alice Blake is the newly appointed head of security from Earth, on her way to the station that will be her new home. And her first case will be a murder…  Click on the title link for a standalone review of the hardback.

Semiosis by Sue Burke, Harper Voyager, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-008-30077-7.
A first contact novel as a colony ship escaping conflict on Earth settles on a planet. However it may have its own indigenous intelligence…

XX by Angela Chadwick, Dialogue Books, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-349-70024-3.
What happens when IVF treatment enables two women to have child? Jules and Rosie take part in the first O-O fertilisation trial. When it is leaked to the media they find themselves at the centre of a storm and they are forced to question how important DNA is to them…

Record of a Space-Born Few by Becky Chambers, Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-64760-2.
Space opera and the third in a series that began with The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet.  And the news is that Becky Chambers is beginning to establish her own dedicated fans.  Record of a Space-Born Few sees the far future where hundreds of years ago, the last humans left Earth. After centuries wandering empty space, humanity was welcomed – mostly – by the species that govern the Milky Way, and their generational journey came to an end. But this is old history. Today, the Exodus Fleet is a living relic, a place many are from but few outsiders have seen. And when a disaster rocks this already fragile community, those Exodans who have not yet left for alien cities struggle to find the answers to their question: What is the purpose of a ship that has reached its destination?

Splintered Suns by Michael Cobley, Orbit, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50965-5.
Action-orientated space opera with a spaceship crewed with rogues and scoundrels, billed as perfect for fans of Star Wars, Firefly or Farscape.

Pandemic by Robin Cook, Macmillan, hrdbk, £20, ISBN 978-1-509-89293-8.
In New York City, 28-year-old Cynthia Ferguson is struck down by a respiratory attack as she heads home on the subway. By the time she arrives in Manhattan, she’s dead. She ends up on forensic pathologist Jack Stapleton’s autopsy table, which reveals curious findings about the cause of death.  Fearing that Cynthia’s case could be the first in a severe outbreak of a deadly airborne disease, Jack works in overdrive for a diagnosis. As the inconclusive tests come back, Jack sounds the alarm at the mayor’s office, concerned that more cases may follow.  When further cases do occur around the capital, and then in Los Angeles, London and Rome, Jack must discover the link that connects all the victims before it’s too late

Tiamat’s Wrath by James S. A .Corey, Orbit, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51035-4.
The 8th book in the space opera series that began with Abaddon’s Gate which is now a rather successful Netflix TV series.

Mirage by Somaiya Daud, Hodder, hrdbk, £14.99, ISBN 978-1-473-67262-8.
In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, sixteen-year-old Amani dreams of what life was like before the occupation. She dreams of one day travelling beyond her isolated moon. When adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects. She is kidnapped by the government and taken to the royal palace to discover that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The hated princess requires a body double to appear in public, someone ready to die in her place. Amani can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty, but one wrong move could lead to her death.

Doctor Who: The Women Who Lived: Goodnight Stories from the Whoniverse by Christel Dee and Simon Guerrier, BBC Books, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-785-94359-1.
Meet the women who run the Whoniverse. From Sarah Jane Smith to Bill Potts, from Susan Foreman to the Thirteenth Doctor, women are the beating heart of Doctor Who. Whether they’re facing down Daleks or thwarting a Nestene invasion, these women don’t hang around waiting to be rescued – they roll their sleeves up and get stuck in. Scientists and soldiers, queens and canteen workers, they don’t let anything hold them back. Featuring historical women such as Agatha Christie and Queen Victoria alongside fan favourites like Rose Tyler and Missy, The Women Who Lived tells the stories of women throughout space and time. Beautifully illustrated by a team of all-female artists, this collection of inspirational tales celebrates the power of women to change the universe.

One of Us by Craig DiLouie, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51097-2.
Dilouie is best know for his horror writing and this is his first dip into SF.  A boy has an extreme genetic mutation. He is one of a generation who are part of what they call ‘the plague’. They call them freaks. They might be right.

Bright Light by Ian Douglas, Harper Voyager, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-008-12112-9.
Humanity is in danger of being wiped out by a highly advanced alien race whose technology is such that there is little hope. But Konstantin, the super Artificial Intelligence, has a plan…

Rejoice by Steven Erikson, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22380-6.
An alien AI has been sent to the solar system. Its mission is to save the Earth’s ecosystem – and the biggest threat to that is humanity. But we are also part of the system, so the AI must make a choice. Should it save mankind or wipe it out? Are we worth it? It sets up some conditions. Violence is now impossible. Large-scale destruction of natural resources is impossible. Food and water will be provided for those who really, truly need them. You can't even bully someone on the internet any more. The old way of doing things is gone.

Early Riser by Jasper Fforde, Hodder, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-65022-0.
Imagine a world where all humans must hibernate through a brutally cold winter, their bodies close to death, while the Winter Consuls watch over the vulnerable sleeping citizens. Charlie Worthing is a novice, chosen from the academy by a Winter Consul to accompany him to remote Wales to investigate a dream which is going viral, causing paranoia, hallucinations and psychotic episodes as it spreads. Though trained to stay alive through the bleakest of winters, Charlie is in no way prepared for what awaits in Sector Twelve.

Star Wars -- The Last Jedi: Expanded Edition by Jason Fry, Arrow, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-787-46024-9.
Written with input from director Rian Johnson, this official adaptation of Star Wars: The Last Jedi expands on the film to include scenes from alternate versions.  Where the action of Star Wars: The Force Awakens ended, Star Wars: The Last Jedi begins, as the battle between light and dark climbs to new heights.  This features an 8-page colour photo insert of thrilling images from the film.

Salvation by Peter F. Hamilton, Macmillan, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-447-28131-3.
This is the first in a trilogy.  AD 2204 An alien shipwreck is discovered on a planet at the very limits of human expansion – so Security Director Feriton Kayne selects a team to investigate. The ship’s sinister cargo not only raises bewildering questions, but could also foreshadow humanity’s extinction. It will be up to the team to bring back answers, and the consequences of this voyage will change everything.  Back on Earth, we can now make deserts bloom and extend lifespans indefinitely, so humanity seems invulnerable. We therefore welcomed the Olyix to Earth when they contacted us. They needed fuel for their pilgrimage across the galaxy – and in exchange they helped us advance our technology. But were the Olyix a blessing or a curse?  AD 50,000. Many light years from Earth, Dellian and his clan of genetically engineered soldiers are raised with one goal. They must confront and destroy their ancient adversary. The enemy caused mankind to flee across the galaxy and they hunt us still. If they aren’t stopped, we will be wiped out – and we’re running out of time.

Gnomon by Nick Harkaway, Windmill, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-786-09009-6.
Set in a near-future Britain, in which surveillance is everywhere, and a refusnik largely living off the grid dies in custody… Near-future Britain is a state in which citizens are constantly observed and democracy has reached a pinnacle of 'transparency.' Every action is seen, every word is recorded and the System has access to thoughts and memories. When suspected dissident Diana Hunter dies in custody, it marks the first time a citizen has been killed during an interrogation. Mielikki Neith, a trusted state inspector, is assigned to find out what went wrong. Immersing herself in neural recordings of the interrogation, what she finds isn't Hunter but rather a panorama of characters within Hunter's psyche. Embedded in the memories of these impossible lives lies a code which Neith must decipher to find out what Hunter is hiding. The staggering consequences of what she finds will reverberate throughout the world.

Pulse by Michael Harvey, Bloomsbury, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-408-89536-8.
This is billed as Stranger Things meets The Departed and concerns a teenager who discovers that he has powers…  Apparently New Line Cinema have optioned as a film.

Suicide Club by Rachel Heng, Sceptre, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-67290-1.
Sceptre is pushing this one.  Set in a near-future New York, life expectancy averages 300 years and the pursuit of immortality has become all-consuming, except for the Suicide Club…

Absolute Proof by Peter James, Macmillan, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-230-77218-2.
OK, so this is really a thriller from a well-known crime writer, but it does have an SF/Fnal riff.  Investigative reporter Ross Hunter nearly didn’t answer the phone call that would change his life – and possibly the world – for ever.  ‘I’d just like to assure you I’m not a nutcase, Mr Hunter. My name is Dr Harry F. Cook. I know this is going to sound strange, but I’ve recently been given absolute proof of God’s existence – and I’ve been advised there is a writer, a respected journalist called Ross Hunter, who could help me to get taken seriously.’  What would it take to prove the existence of God? And what would be the consequences?  This question and its answer lie at the heart of Absolute Proof.  The false faith of a billionaire evangelist, the life’s work of a famous atheist, and the credibility of each of the world’s major religions are all under threat. If Ross Hunter can survive long enough to present the evidence . . .

The Minds of Billy Milligan by Daniel Keyes, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-409-16390-9.
OK, this is not SF but this true story is SFnal and Daniel Keyes is well known for his Flowers for Algernon.  This is the first UK publication of an American classic: the true story of Billy Milligan.  Billy Milligan was tormented by twenty-four personalities battling for supremacy over his body – a battle that culminated when he awoke in jail, arrested for the rape of three women. Among the twenty-four were Philip, a petty criminal; Adalana, the affection-starved lesbian who ‘used’ Billy’s body in the rapes; David, the ‘keeper of the pain’; and the Teacher, Billy’s alter egos fused into one. In this gripping account, Keyes examines the landmark trial in which Billy was acquitted of his crimes by reason of insanity, bringing to light the most remarkable and harrowing case of multiple personality ever recorded.  We thought you would want to know this was out.

Provenance by Anne Leckie, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-56698-2.
This is set in the same universe as her multi-award-winning 'Ancillary' trilogy but (seemingly) quite separate to it.  Ingray is a young girl determined to prove her political worth to her adopted mother in a last-ditch attempt to be appointed successor rather than her brother. She arranges to get the son of a political opponent out of Compassionate Removal, which is a kind of jail, from which nobody returns. When she is finally in possession of the young man she realises she has no way of knowing who he really is or of proving it to others, nor can she guarantee that the young man, whoever he really is, is willing to play the political game she wanted.

Ball Lightning by Cixin Liu, Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-786-69468-3.
A new standalone science fiction novel from Cixin Liu, the award-winning author of The Three-Body Problem. When Chen’s parents are incinerated before his eyes by a blast of ball lightning, he devotes his life to cracking the secret of mysterious natural phenomenon. His search takes him to stormy mountaintops, an experimental military weapons lab, and an old Soviet science station. The more he learns, the more he comes to realize that ball lightning is just the tip of an entirely new frontier in particle physics. Although Chen’s quest provides a purpose for his lonely life, his reasons for chasing his elusive quarry come into conflict with soldiers and scientists who have motives of their own: a beautiful army major with an obsession with dangerous weaponry, and a physicist who has no place for ethical considerations in his single-minded pursuit of knowledge.

Noumenon Infinity by Marina Loestetter, Harper Voyager, £14.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-008-22340-3.
Space opera that follows on from Noumenon.  Convoy Seven has returned from a journey to a distant star.

Starfield: Science Fiction by Scottish Writers edited by Duncan Lunan, Shoreline of Infinity, £11.95, pbk, ISBN 978-1-999-70022-5.
In a field which spans the whole of space and time and alternative universes beyond, the voice of Scottish science fiction writers is a distinctive one. It blends together the national reputation for science and technology with the mystical Celtic background and the traditional art of the story-teller.  Originally published in limited edition in 1989, Shoreline of Infinity has re-released it for a new generation of science fiction readers in Scotland and worldwide.

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas, Head of Zeus, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-788-54010-0.
1967: Four female scientists invent a time-travel machine. They are on the cusp of fame: the pioneers who opened the world to new possibilities. But then one of them suffers a breakdown and puts the whole project in peril…  2017: Ruby knows her beloved Granny Bee was a pioneer, but they never talk about the past. Though time travel is now big business, Bee has never been part of it. Then they receive a message from the future – a newspaper clipping reporting the mysterious death of an elderly lady…  2018: When Odette discovered the body she went into shock. Blood everywhere, bullet wounds, flesh. But when the inquest fails to answer any of her questions, Odette is frustrated. Who is this dead woman that haunts her dreams? And why is everyone determined to cover up her murder?

Light Years by Kass Morgan, Hodder, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-66339-8.
Reeling from the latest attack, Quatra Fleet Academy is finally admitting students from every planet. Hotshot pilot Vesper dreams of becoming a captain – but when she loses her spot it makes her question everything. Growing up on toxic planet Deva, Cormak will do anything to join the Academy – even steal someone’s identity. Arran was always considered an outsider on Chetire and now he is looking for a place to belong, Orelia is hiding a dark secret. These cadets will have to become a team to defend their world – but the danger might be lurking closer to home than they think…

Thin Air by Richard Morgan, Gollancz, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-575-07514-6 .
A tale of corruption and abduction set on Mars, from the author of the Philip K. Dick Award-winning Altered Carbon that is now a series on Netflix.  In Thin Air an ex-corporate enforcer, Hakan Veil, is forced to bodyguard Madison Jegede, part of a colonial audit team investigating a disappeared lottery winner on Mars. But when Jegede is abducted, and Hakan nearly killed, the investigation takes him farther and deeper than he had ever expected. And soon Hakan discovers the heavy price he may have to pay to learn the truth.  This is Richard's first SF novel in eight years.

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor, Harper Voyager, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-008-28874-7.
From the author of The Book of Phoenix this is a tale set in post-apocalyptic Africa. Apparently this has been optioned by HBO.

North by Frank Owen, Corvus, £12.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-782-39900-1.
The USA has been ravaged by Civil War. In the thirty years since the first wind-borne viruses ended the war between North and South, the South has been devastated by disease; the North, victorious, is terrified of reprisals. Both remain at the mercy of the vicious Northern dictator, Renard. Two survivors, Dyce and Vida, journeyed deep into the Southern terrains in search of a cure for Renard’s chemical warfare. Now they find themselves scouring the Northern territories on a new and far deadlier pursuit; to eliminate Renard himself. Could Dyce and Vida unite a fractured America – and at what cost?

The Will to Battle by Ada Palmer, Head of Zeus, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-786-69958-9.
The third in the 'Terra Incognita' series that began with the Hugo short-listed Too Like the Lightening and John Campbell Memorial Award winner. It is set in 2454 and three centuries of peace have come to an end…

The Pandora Equation by Scott Reardon, Mulholland, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-62905-9.
SFnal techno-thriller vaguely in the vein of Michael Crichton.  Tom Reese is on the run, having made himself an enemy of the United States by stealing the identity of a CIA agent and exposing a stem cell experiment to enhance the human body. Miles away, off the Alaskan coast, a new Prometheus lab operates in secret. When the test subjects revolt, they crash the power grid and millions are thrown into chaos. As a nation collapses, Tom is offered a deal: bring in the men responsible, and he can come home. He agrees, but soon finds that it will force him to do things far darker than he ever imagined.

An American Story by Adam Roberts, Gollancz, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-20057-9.
A meditation on loss and memory seen through the prism of 9/11.  Ben Matson lost someone he loved in the 9/11 attacks. Or thinks he did – no body has been recovered, and she shouldn’t have been on that particular plane on that day. But he knows she was. The world has moved on from that terrible day. But a chance encounter nearly twenty years later rekindles Ben’s interest in the event, and its inconsistencies. Then the announcement of an unidentified plane crash site sets off a chain of events that will lead Ben to question everything he thought he knew.

The Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-147-322146-8.
Alma is a private detective in a near-future England, a country desperately trying to tempt people away from the delights of Shine, the immersive successor to the internet. But most people are happy to spend their lives plugged in, and the country is decaying… This is described as a fast-paced Hitchcockian thriller.  See also below.

By the Pricking of Her Thumbs by Adam Roberts, Gollancz, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22149-9.
The stunning follow up to The Real-Town Murders (see above).  Private Investigator Alma is caught up in another impossible murder. One of the world’s four richest people may be dead – but nobody is sure which one. Hired to discover the truth behind the increasingly bizarre behaviour of the ultra-rich, Alma must juggle treating her terminally ill lover with a case which may not have a victim.

Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson, Orbit, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50879-5.
Fred Frederickson, an American, is making his first trip to China's colony on the Moon. But he is soon caught up in a struggle for power over which he has no control–and driven by conflicts he can’t comprehend.

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21785-0.
Defeated, crushed, and driven almost to extinction, the remnants of the human race are trapped on a planet that is constantly attacked by mysterious alien starfighters.  Spensa, a teenage girl living among them, longs to be a pilot. When she discovers the wreckage of an ancient ship, she realizes this dream might be possible – assuming she can repair the ship, navigate flight school, and (perhaps most importantly), persuade the strange machine to help her.  Because this ship, uniquely, appears to have a soul.

The Eternity War: Exodus by Jamie Sawyer, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51006-4.
This is the next in the space opera that began with, and follows on from, Pariah.

The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi, Tor, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-509-83516-4.
The follow-up to the Hugo short-listed The Collapsing Empire – a space opera in a universe on the brink of destruction.  The Interdependency, humanity’s interstellar empire, is on the verge of collapse. The Flow, the extra-dimensional pathway between the stars, is disappearing, leaving planets stranded. Billions of lives will be lost – unless desperate measures can be taken.  Emperox Grayland II, the leader of the Interdependency, is ready to take those measures. But it’s not that easy. There are those who believe the collapse of the Flow is a myth – or an opportunity for them to ascend to power.  While Grayland prepares for disaster, others prepare for civil war. A war that will take place in the halls of power, the markets of business and the altars of worship as much as between spaceships. Nothing about this power struggle will be simple or easy . . . and all of human civilization is at stake.

The Labyrinth Index by Charles Stross, Orbit, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51108-5.
Science fantasy. The ninth in 'The Laundry' series (which includes The Fuller Memorandum) about the British espionage agency that deals with the supernatural. And it seems an elder god has taken residence in Downing Street and has disbanded the Laundry. Meanwhile, there’s something worse in Americ.  If you have not cottoned on, Stross tends to write novels that reflect fairly recent world events. And so Neptune's Brood could be seen as having been inspired by the 2007/8 financial crash and subsequently the problems with Greece's economy and the Euro.  In this light, could The Labyrinth Index be anything to do with the 2016 election of President Trump?

Dark Light by Jodi Taylor, Accent Press, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-786-15609-1.
This is the second 'Lightware' novel.

Rosewater by Tade Thompson, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51136-8.
This is a John W. Campbell Award finalist.  Rosewater is a town on the edge. A community formed around the edges of a mysterious alien biodome, Rosewater’s residents comprise the hopeful, the hungry and the helpless– people eager for a glimpse inside the dome or a taste of its rumoured healing powers.  Kaaro is a government agent with a criminal past. He has seen inside the biodome, and doesn’t care to again–but when something begins killing off others like himself, Kaaro must defy his masters to search for an answer...

Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente, Corsair, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-472-11507-2.
A century ago the sentience wars tore through the Galaxy. In the aftermath a tradition arose to bring the shattered worlds together: part concert, part beauty contest, part gladiatorial. Humanity touched the stars and instead of finding wormholes and councils of aliens, they found glitter, lipstick and electric guitars.

Artemis by Andy Weir, Del Rey, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-785-03025-3.
From the writer that gave us The Martian and this time we are on the Moon.  Its first city is Artemis, population 2,000: mostly tourists, some criminals.  Jazz Bashara is a disappointment to her father who is also on the Moon working as a much respected welder in his own construction shop. Jazz who, to all who knew her, showed so much potential, is a lowly porter barely getting by ferrying goods on her electric cart from one part of Artemis to another. She gets by living in a small capsule bunk and mainly eating the flavoured gunk (algae) grown in the settlement. To get on she needs to become qualified in EVA (extra vehicular activity). For this she has to have a decent spacesuit and not the second hand old one she owns, but new suits cost and so Jazz – with her connections on Earth and her position as a porter – undertakes a bit of smuggling of low-level contraband: tourists, let alone the locals, hanker for tastes of Earth to raise the money. But then someone offers to give her more if she'll do more…  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

H. G. Wells: The Collection by H. G. Wells, Prion, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-911-61019-9.
An omnibus edition of the grandfather of SF's key SF novels: The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, The Island of Doctor Moreau and The Invisible Man. If you are a young, but consider yourself a serious SF reader and have not read these classics then now's your chance.

Star Wars: Thrawn – Alliances by Timothy Zahn, Century, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-780-89866-7.
This follows on from Star Wars: Thrawn, which Allen liked.

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

Autumn 2018

Forthcoming Fantasy Books

 

Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch, Gollancz, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-20781-3.
The seventh PC Grant investigation is here, continuing the series of London adventures. Martin Chorley, aka the Faceless Man, wanted for multiple counts of murder, fraud and crimes against humanity, has been unmasked and is on the run. Peter Grant, Detective Constable and apprentice wizard, now plays a key role in an unprecedented joint operation to bring Chorley to justice. But even as the unwieldy might of the Metropolitan Police bears down on its foe, Peter uncovers clues that Chorley, far from being finished, is executing the final stages of a long term plan. A plan that has its roots in London’s two thousand bloody years of history, and could literally bring the city to its knees.

The Hod King by Josiah Bancroft, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN| 978-0-356-51084-2.
This is the third in the ‘Selin’ sequence that began with Selin Ascends.  On the orders of the mysterious Sphinx, Thomas Senlin and his crew have been forced to split up.  Posing as a noble lady and her handmaid, Voleta and Iren attempt to reach Marya. But their plan is threatened when Voleta attracts the unwanted attention of a powerful prince.  Senlin is sent to investigate a plot that has taken hold in the ringdom of Pelphia. He manages to infiltrate a bloody arena where hods do battle for the public’s entertainment but his investigation is quickly derailed by a gruesome crime and an unexpected reunion.

King of Assassins by R. J. Barker, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50858-0.
The King Is Dead, Long Live The King...  Many years of peace have passed in Maniyadoc, years of relative calm for the assassin Girton Club-Foot. Even the Forgetting Plague, which ravaged the rest of the kingdoms, seemed to pass them by. But now Rufraap Vthyr eyes the vacant High-King’s throne and will take his court to the capital….

The Memory of Fire by Callie Bates, Hodder & Stoughton, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-63880-8.
Jahan is the hero who saved the life of the crown prince in battle, helped win the revolution in Eren and earned the heart of Elanna, the legendary Wildegarde reborn. But Jahan is also broken; haunted by memories of the woman who experimented on him and his brothers as children. So when the empire threatens war in retribution for Elanna’s illegal sorcery, Jahan leaves Eren to negotiate with the emperor on Queen Sophy’s behalf. But the world he left has changed. And then the witch hunters arrive at court, bringing Elanna in chains.

Burning Ashes by James Bennett, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50667-8.
Mythology and the modern world collide in this action-packed Ben Garston adventure, from stellar new British talent. This follows the previous Raising Fire.

Heart on Fire by Amanda Bouchet, Piatkus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-394-41364-1.
Conclusion of the Kingmaker Chronicles. Fisa begins to understand the root of her exceptional power.

Treason of Hawks by Lila Bowen, Orbit, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50945-7.
The final in the ‘Shadow’ series.

Cold Iron by Miles Cameron, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21767-6.
Aranthur is a student. He showed a little magical talent, is studying at the local academy, and is nothing particularly special. Others are smarter. Others are more talented. Others are quicker to pick up techniques. But none of them are with him when he breaks his journey home for the holidays at an inn. None of them step in to help when a young woman is thrown off a passing stage coach into the deep snow at the side of the road. And none of them are drawn into a fight to protect her. One of the others might have realised she was manipulating him all along . . .

Someone Like Me by M. R. Carey, Orbit, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50946-4.
From the author of The Girl With All the Gifts.  She looks like me. She sounds like me. And now she's trying to take my place... Liz Kendall wouldn’t hurt a fly. She’s a gentlewoman devoted to bringing up her kids in a loving home, no matter how hard times get. But there’s another side to Liz, one that’s dark and malicious. Aversion of her that will do anything to get her way–no matter how extreme or violent. And when this other side of her takes control, the consequences are devastating. The only way Liz can save herself and her family is if she can find out where this new alter-ego has come from, and how she can stop it…

The Cloven by Brian Catling, Coronet, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-63642-2.
This is the third in the Vorrh trilogy that began with The Vorrh.

The Last Namasara by Kristen Ciccarelli, Gollancz, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21814-7.
Can the dragon slayer, Asha, avoid the cruel instruction of her father to marry? She might if she brings him the head of the most powerful dragon in the realm… Click on the title link for a standalone review. See also below.

The Caged Queen by Kristen Ciccarelli, Gollancz, £12.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21816-1.
Follows on from The Last Namasara (see above).  Roa married her greatest enemy in order to save her people – Dax, the heir to Firgaard’s throne. It is because of Dax that her sister died, trapping her soul in this world. But all of his promises to save her people from his father’s oppressive regime have come to naught, and her people still suffer. Then Roa is given the opportunity to save everything she holds dear. All it will take, is sacrificing the life of a king.

The Mortal Word by Genevieve Cogman, Pan, pbk, £7.99, ISBN 978-1-509-83072-5.
The fifth title in Genevieve Cogman’s ‘Invisible Library’ sequence, The Mortal Word is a sparkling bookish adventure.  Peace talks are always tricky, especially when a key diplomat gets stabbed. This rudely interrupts a top-secret summit between the warring dragons and Fae. As a neutral party, Librarian-spy Irene is summoned to investigate. She must head to a version of 1890s Paris, with her detective friend Vale, where these talks are fracturing. Here, she must get to the bottom of the attack – before either the peace negotiations or the city go up in flames.  Suspicions fly thick and fast and Irene soon finds herself in the seedy depths of the Parisian underworld. Luckily, she can call on her ex-assistant Kai for assistance. She’s on the trail of a notoriously warlike Fae, the Blood Countess. However, the evidence against the Countess is circumstantial. But could the killer really be a member of the Library itself?

Clockwork City by Paul Crilley, Hodder, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-2-478-63167-0.
Sequel to Poison City and can Gideon find his daughter's killer?

The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale, Ebury, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-785-03635-4.
It is 1917, and London has spent years in the shadow of the First World War. In the heart of Mayfair, though, there is a place of hope. A place where children’s dreams can come true, where the impossible becomes possible – that place is Papa Jack’s Toy Emporium. For years Papa Jack has created and sold his famous magical toys: hobby horses, patchwork dogs and bears that seem alive, toy boxes bigger on the inside than out, ‘instant trees’ that sprout from boxes, tin soldiers that can fight battles on their own. Now his sons, Kaspar and Emil, are just old enough to join the family trade. Into this family comes a young Cathy Wray – homeless and vulnerable. The Emporium takes her in, makes her one of its own. But Cathy is about to discover that while all toy shops are places of wonder, only one is truly magical...

The Book of Magic edited by Gardner Dozois, Harper Voyager, £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-008-29580-6.
Fantasy anthology by the established SF/F anthologist, the late Gardner Dozois.

Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978—0-356-50904-4.
Tam Hashford is tired of working at her local pub, slinging drinks for world-famous mercenaries and listening to the bards sing of adventure and glory in the world beyond her sleepy hometown. When the biggest mercenary band of all rolls into town, led by the infamous Bloody Rose, Tam jumps at the chance to sign on as their bard.

The Second Collected Tales of Bauchelain & Korbal Broach by Steven Erikson, Transworld, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-593-06396-5.
Three Short Novels of the Malazan Empire, tales of the enigmatic and ever-so-slightly evil necromancers Bauchelain and Korbal Broach collected together in a single volume. The necromancers Bauchelain and Korbal Broach - scourges of civilization, raisers of the dead, reapers of the souls of the living, devourers of hope, betrayers of faith, slayers of the innocent and modest personifications of evil - have a lot to answer for and answer they will, but first they must lie, murder and cheat their way through three more escapades in some of the deprived fringes and impoverished communities of the Malazan Empire. Much to the shame of their long-suffering general factotum, Emancipoor Reese... Here then - for readers' delectation and entertainment – are those escapades, namely the novellas The Wurms of Blearmouth, The Crack'd Pot Trail and The Fiends of Nightmaria.

Idle Hands by Tom Fletcher, Jo Fletcher Books, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-848-66259-9.
Can Wild Alan unite the Discard against the Pyramid’s tyranny? If Wild Alan can’t get inside the Black Pyramid to cure his son, an ancient disease will soon be stalking the Gleam. But his only ally has her own agenda, and danger lurks around every corner . . .

Stained Light by Naomi Foyle, Jo Fletcher Books, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-782-06927-0.
For ten years Astra Ordott has lived as a traitor. She relinquished her freedom to save those she loved, but now long-simmering conflicts are boiling over again as the wider world faces threats old and new. Non-Land and Is-Land are further from reunification than ever. Outside Astra’s homeland, an infertility crisis threatens the human race, while reliance on rare earth metals is infuriating the ancient spirits of the planet.

Fierce Fairytales: and Other Stories to Stir Your Soul by Nikita Gill, Trapeze, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-409-18159-0.
Feminist fairytales for the young and old from instagram poet Nikita Gill. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls meets The Fox and The Star.  Traditional fairytales are full of clichés and gender stereotypes. The beautiful sweet princesses, ugly jealous and bitter women, girls who need rescuing, men who take the glory, and their new brides being forever grateful and subservient. Good mothers, obliging lovers and pretty objects. Nikita Gill’s new prose and poetry collection rewrites the fairytale classics, reworking their old-fashioned tropes into new empowering and inspirational stories. Meet the grief-stricken Ursula, the troubled Wendy Darling, the wolf in the concrete jungle, and the courageous Gretel who can bring down monsters on her own.

Haunted by Charlaine Harris & Christopher Golden, Jo Fletcher Books, £16.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-848-66963-5.
Third ‘Cemetery Girl’ book.  Ever since Calexa Rose Dunhill, aka ‘Cemetery Girl’, was left for dead, she’s been hiding out, afraid to discover what really happened. But now she knows she was murdered – and came back to life, with the uncanny ability to absorb souls. As her worst fears come true and the killers find her trail, the next ghost to take up residence in Calexa’s soul will change everything.

The Blue Salt Road by Joanne M. Harris, Gollancz, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22221-2.
This is a modern fairytale of love, loss and revenge, against a powerful backdrop of adventure on the high seas, and drama on the land. The Blue Salt Road balances passion and loss, love and violence, drawing on nature and folklore to weave a stunning modern myth around a nameless, wild young man.  Passion drew him to a new world, and trickery has kept him there – without his memories, separated from his own people. But as he finds his way in this dangerous new way of life, so he learns that his notions of home, and your people, might not be as fixed as he believed. Beautifully illustrated by Bonnie Helen Hawkins.

City of Lies by Sam Hawke, Transworld, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-63012-3.
Debut novel set in a world of subterfuge, treachery and the poisoner's art, this epic fantasy debut introduces a new talent to the genre and possibly for fans of the like of Joe Abercrombie and Terry Brooks to Robin Hobb and Scott Lynch.  I was seven years old the first time my uncle poisoned me . . .  Only a handful of people in Silasta know Jovan’s real purpose in life. To most, he is just another son of the ruling class. The quiet, forgettable friend of the Chancellor’s charming, irresponsible heir. In reality, Jovan has been trained for most of his life to detect, concoct and withstand poisons in order to protect the ruling family. His sister Kalina is too frail to share in their secret family duty. While other women of the city hold positions of power and responsibility, her path is full of secrets and lies – some hidden even from her own brother. Until now, peace has reigned in Silasta for hundreds of years. But when the Chancellor succumbs to an unknown poison and an army storms the gates, the so-called Bright City is completely unprepared.

Strange Weather by Joe Hill, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-322119-2.
Four short horror novelettes which both Peter and David liked and which also recently won a Stoker Award.

Marked by Benedict Jacka, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-0721-7.
This is the ninth in the Alex versus urban fantasy sequence.

Horror Stories: Classic Tales from Hoffmann to Hodgson edited by Darryl Jones, Oxford University Press, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-19-968544-8.
This anthology brings together 29 of the greatest horror stories from the British, Irish, American, and European traditions through the nineteenth century. It ranges widely across diverse sub-genres such as the supernatural, psychological, and tales of the uncanny, and features established classics by M. R. James, Arthur Machen, Bram Stoker, Algernon Blackwood, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman as well as lesser-known works.  Click on the title link for a standalone review of the hardback.

Dragonsworn by Sherrilyn Keynon, Piatkus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-349-41329-7.
This is the latest Dark Hunter novel and the cursed dragon, Falcyn, sets out to wipe out humanity.

The Books of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin, Gollancz, £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22354-7.
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of A Wizard of Earthsea, a complete omnibus edition of the series, including over fifty brand new illustrations of the recently late Ursula Le Guin’s classic saga. This complete edition of The Wizard of Earthsea Chronicles includes a new introduction from Le Guin, as well as fifty illustrations by Charles Vess, specially commissioned by Le Guin to bring her vision to life. For the first time, readers can experience the fantastic Earthsea Chronicles in one volume – as well as Le Guin’s ‘Earthsea Revisioned’ Oxford lecture, and a new 'Earthsea' story, never before printed.

The Best of H. P. Lovecraft by H. P. Lovecraft, Prion, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-911-61620-5.
Mammoth collection of the nineteenth century fantasy horror writer's stories.

Vita Nostra by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko, Harper Voyager , £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-008-27285-2.
You could think of this as a slightly darker and little older version of Harry Potter, but if you did then you'd be doing Sergey and Marina a disservice, such is the distinctiveness of this work...  Sasha is a normal, straight-A high-school student; until, on a holiday with her mother, a strange man with dark glasses approaches her, and asks her to get up at 4am every morning and swim to a buoy on the beach. She tries to ignore him, but when she does so, time stops passing: the same day loops over and over, trapping her in a morass of impending dread. When she finally takes the man’s advice and swims, she finds herself vomiting gold coins on the beach and, before she knows it, finds herself onboard a train to a university in the middle of nowhere, where she will learn the Specialty…  As this site's regulars who pay attention to our foreign news will know, the authors are simply huge in their homeland Ukraine as well as Russia and most Russian Federation states. They have won virtually every SF/F award going in Ukraine and Russia including: Ukraine's Starbridge Award, Russia's Silver Arrow, Wanderer and Interpresscon awards.  This novel itself has won a Roskon Award. They even have a Eurocon Award – Best Author(s) category in 2005. This novel was first published in 2008 and now is coming out in English in Britain. This surely will be huge? Yes, obviously there is a question mark (no-one can see the future), but the only question really is likely to be whether it will be overnight huge, or huge over a number of years?

Priest of Bones by Peter McLean, Jo Fletcher Books, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-787-47348-5.
‘Sixty-five thousand battle-shocked, trained killers came home to no jobs, no food and the plague. What did Her Majesty think was going to happen?’ Tomas Piety takes his duties seriously: as a soldier, as a priest of Our Lady of Eternal Sorrows and as a leader of men. He has come home from the war to reclaim his family business, to provide for his men and to ensure the horrors of Abingon can never happen in Ellinburg. But things have changed: his crime empire has been stolen and the people of Ellinburg – his people – have run out of food and hope and places to hide. With his best friend Bloody Anne, his war-damaged brother Jochan and his new gang, the Pious Men, Tomas sets out to reclaim what was his.  This is the first in a series.

Strife's Bane by Evie Manieri, Jo Fletcher Books, £20, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-0-857-38950-3.
The Shatter Kingdom trilogy concludes with King Daryan facing treachery and plague as well as an ancient enemy with unimaginable powers.

Fire and Blood by George R. R. Martin, Harper Voyager, hrdbk, £25, ISBN 978-0-008-30773-8.
No, this is not the final Game of Thrones novel but the first of a two-part history of part of Westeros set 300 years before Game of Thrones. Expect this to fly out of the bookshops.

Ghost Virus by Graham Masterton, Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-788-54502-0.
A virus spreads through London, forcing those infected to commit horrific crimes. The first new horror novel from Graham Masterton in over three years.  Samira had been staring into her mirror all morning before she picked up the small bottle of sulphuric acid and poured it over her forehead. She was a young woman with her whole life ahead of her. What could have brought her to this?  DC Jerry Pardoe and DS Jamila Patel of Tooting Police suspect it’s suicide. But then a random outbreak of horrific crimes in London points to something more sinister. A deadly virus is spreading: something is infecting ordinary Londoners with an insatiable lust to murder. All of the killers were wearing secondhand clothes. Could these garments be possessed by some supernatural force?  The death count is multiplying rapidly. Now Jerry and Jamila must defeat the ghost virus, before they are all infected…

The City & The City by China Miéville, Picador, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-509-87058-5.
This is a welcome reprint following the recent television series.  Two cities entwined in the same area of land each city of whose citizens ignore citizens, streets and buildings from the other.  When the body of a murdered woman is found in the extraordinary, decaying city of Besźel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks like a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. But as he probes, the evidence begins to point to conspiracies far stranger, and more deadly, than anything he could have imagined. Soon his work puts him and those he cares for in danger. Borlú must travel to the only metropolis on Earth as strange as his own, across a border like no other.  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

The Outcasts of Time by Ian Mortimer, Simon & Schuster, £8.99, ISBN 978-1-471-14658-9.
It is the 14th century and two brothers have six days left to live as the Black Death sweeps the country. But they are given a chance to live out their six days with each day 99 years apart, and so travel across the centuries in a quest for salvation…

Wild Hunger by Chloe Neill, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22280-9.
As the only vampire child ever born, some believed Elisa Sullivan had all the luck. But the magic that helped bring her into the world left her with a dark secret. Shifter Connor Keene, the only son of North American Central Pack Apex Gabriel Keene, is the only one she trusts with it. Elisa and Connor must choose between love and family, between honour and obligation, before Chicago disappears forever.

Victorian Fairy Tales edited by Michael Newton, Oxford University Press, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-19-882579-1.
Authors central to the nineteenth-century canon such as W. M. Thackeray, Oscar Wilde, Ford Madox Ford, and Rudyard Kipling wrote fairy tales, and authors primarily famous for their work in the genre include George MacDonald, Juliana Ewing, Mary De Morgan, and Andrew Lang. This anthology brings together 14 of the best Victorian fairy tales, by major period writers as well as specialists in the genre, to show the vibrancy of the form and its ability to reflect our deepest concerns. From whimsy to satire, the stories reveal the preoccupations of the age and celebrate the value of the imagination. The volume includes reproductions of some of the original black and white illustrations by (among others) Arthur Hughes and Walter Crane.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik, Macmillan, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-509-89901-2.
This is a fresh take on the Rumplestiltskin fairy tale.  From the author of Temeraire.

Night Gaunts and other Tales of Suspense by Joyce Carol Oates, Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-788-54368-2.
Six horror shorts.

The Pit and the Pendulum and Other Tales by Edgar Allan Poe edited by David Van Leer, Oxford University Press, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-198-82729-0.
Classic stories reprinted. Indeed this collection is itself a new edition of the 1998 Oxford World Classics paperback. This is a beautiful hardback edition of 24 of Edgar Allan Poe’s extraordinary Gothic tales and other writings. Includes: ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’, ‘The Masque of the Red Death’, ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’, and ‘The Purloined Letter’. Excellent introduction, notes on text and a Poe chronology together with explanatory end notes makes this something for buffs whose interest in the genre borders on the academic.

Blood Communion: A Tale of Prince Lestat by Anne Rice, Vintage, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-78-74205-8
From his meticulously restored ancestral château high up in the mountains of France, Prince Lestat grapples to instil his new ideology of peace and harmony among the blood-drinking community. But one night he awakes to news of a ruthless attacks and learns of several new enemies who are intent on disrupting his reign… The Lestat stories are being made into a TV series by Hulu.

The Sister of Winter Wood by Renna Rossner, Orbit, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51143-6.
A magical tale of secrets, family ties and fairy tales weaving through history.  Raised in a small village surrounded by vast forests, Liba and Laya have lived a peaceful sheltered life–even if they've heard of troubling times for Jews elsewhere. When their parents travel to visit their dying grandfather, the sisters are left behind in their home in the woods.

The Empire of Ashes by Anthony Ryan, Orbit, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50644-9.
Sword & Sorcery.

Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson, Gollancz, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22503-9.
A brand-new, short novel from The Stormlight Archive.  Three years ago, Lift asked a goddess to stopher from growing older – a wish she believed was granted. Now, in Edgedancer, the barely teenage nascent Knight Radiant finds that time stands still for no one. Although the young Azish emperor granted her safe haven from an executioner she knows only as Darkness, court life is suffocating the free-spirited Lift, who can’t help heading to Yeddaw when she hears the relentless Darkness is there hunting people like her with budding powers. The downtrodden in Yeddaw have no champion, and Lift knows she must seize this awesome responsibility.

Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds by Brandon Sanderson, Gollancz, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473 22501-5.
Stephen Leeds is perfectly sane. It’s his hallucinations who are mad. A genius of unrivalled aptitude, Stephen can learn any new skill, vocation, or art in a matter of hours. However, to contain all of this, his mind creates hallucinatory people – Stephen calls them aspects – to hold and manifest the information. He uses them to solve problems . . . For a price. When a company hires him to recover stolen property – a camera that can allegedly take pictures of the past – Stephen finds himself in an adventure crossing oceans and fighting terrorists. What he discovers may upend the foundation of three major world religions – and, perhaps, give him a vital clue into the true nature of his aspects…  This is an omnibus collection that includes: Legion, Legion: Skin Deep and the brand-new Legion: Lies of the Beholder.

Dreadful Company by Vivian Shaw, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50889-4.
Greta Helsing, doctor to the undead, discovers that Paris is infested with vampires…

Archangel’s Prophecy by Nalini Singh, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-4732-245- 5.
Set in Singh's 'Guild Hunter' world, this sees the stakes become even higher as the struggle for power among the angels threatens to tear the world apart…

Restoration by Angela Slatter, Jo Fletcher Books, £13.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-784-29438-0.
The third in the Verity Fassbinder series.  Verity Fassbinder thought no boss could be worse than her perfectionist ex-boyfriend – until she grudgingly agreed to find two long-lost treasures for a psychotic fallen angel. She’s quit working for the Weyrd Council and sent her family away, for their own safety, but Inspector McIntyre won’t stop calling and, Angelic demands or not, this isn’t something she can walk away from. But the angel is impatient for results . . .

The Glass Breaks by A. J. Smith, Head of Zeus, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-786-69688-5.
This is the first volume in a new trilogy.  Seventeen-year-old Duncan Greenfire is alive. Three hours ago, he was chained to the rocks and submerged as the incoming tide washed over his head. Now the waters are receding and Duncan’s continued survival has completed his initiation as a Sea Wolf.  It is the 167th year of the Dark Age. The Sea Wolves and their Eastron kin can break the glass and step into the void, slipping from the real world and reappearing wherever they wish. Wielding their power, they conquered the native Pure Ones and established their own Kingdom.  The Sea Wolves glorify in piracy and slaughter. Their rule is absolute, but young Duncan Greenfire and duellist Adeline Brand will discover a conspiracy to end their dominion, a conspiracy to shatter the glass that separates the worlds of Form and Void and unleash a primeval chaos across the world.

Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J. D. Barker, Transworld, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-593-08010-8.
Gothic vampire story. Authorized by the Bram Stoker Estate, written by a direct descendant of Bram Stoker and a bestselling dark thriller writer, Dracul is the prequel to perhaps the most celebrated and terrifying horror story of them all, Dracula . . . It is 1868, and a 22-year-old Bram Stoker has locked himself inside an abbey's tower to face off against a vile and ungodly beast. He is armed with mirrors and crucifixes and holy water and a gun - and is kept company by a bottle of plum brandy. His fervent prayer is that he will survive this one night - a night that will prove to be the longest of his life. Desperate to leave a record of what he has witnessed, the young man scribbles out the events that brought him to this point - and tells an extraordinary tale of childhood illness, a mysterious nanny, and stories once thought to be fables now proven true…  The co-author Dacre Stoker is the great grand-nephew of Bram Stoker author of Dracula.

Dragula by Ma’am Stoker, Trapeze, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-409-18110-1.
Putting the vamp back into vampires! A classic story updated with comedic drag twists.  When Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to help Count Dragula purchase a London house, he makes some horrifying discoveries in his client’s local area. It’s about to get even weirder at the castle, where there’s a battle of wills going on between the mysterious Count and what he terms the ‘blood-sucking b*tches!’ in the village, led by the infamous van High-Heelsing. But who will prevail on the runway? As each kween sashays towards the jugular, the reader is taken on a journey to the ultimate lip sync for your life finale…

Blood Cruise by Mats Strandberg, Jo Fletcher Books, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-786-48780-3.
Horror. The 1,200 passengers of a booze cruise between Sweden and Finland find it goes horribly different… In the middle of the night the ferry is suddenly cut off from the outside world. There is nowhere to escape. There is no way to contact the mainland. And no one knows who they can trust.

Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri, Orbit, pbk, £8.99, ISBN 978-0-356-51200-6.
Mehr is a girl trapped between two cultures. Her father comes from the ruling classes of the empire but her mother’s people were outcasts, Amrithi nomads who worshipped the spirits of the sands.  Caught one night performing these forbidden rites, Mehr is brought to the attention of the Emperor’s most feared mystics, who force her into their service by way of an arranged marriage… This is the author’s debut novel.

The Vagrant’s Song by Samuel Sykes, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21823-9.
A young thief is being interrogated by her captors about a heist, but every answer she gives is half-truth and half-lie. Sykes delivers this tale in an engaging style, having also created the most satisfying and original magical system. These elements come together to create a story full of energy and attitude for the post-grimdark generation of readers.

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor, Hodder, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-444-78903-4.
Fantasy & Magical Realism. Follows Strange the Dreamer, which entered the Sunday Times bestseller list at number two on publication.

Hellcorps by Jonathan Whitelaw, Urbane, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-911-58372-1.
The devil wants to set up a company to take care of his dirty work while he takes a well earned holiday…

Empire of Grass by Tad Williams, Hodder, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-60328-8.
This follows on from The Witchwood Crown, and it continues the story of one of the best best-selling fantasy epics: Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, the inspiration for Christopher Paolini and George R. R. Martin.

The Ember Blade by Chris Wooding, Gollancz, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21484-2.
A land under occupation. a legendary sword. a young man’s journey to find his destiny. Aren has lived by the rules all his life: they’re just the way things are. But then his father is executed for treason, and he is thrown into a prison mine, doomed to work until he drops. But what lies beyond those walls is more terrifying still. Rescued by a man who hates him, and pursued by inhuman forces, Aren slowly accepts that everything he knew about his world was a lie. The rules do not protect his people, but enslave them. Revolution is brewing, and Aren is being drawn into it, whether he likes it or not. The key to it is the Ember Blade. Only with the Ember Blade can his people be inspired to rise up. . . but it’s locked in an impenetrable vault in the most heavily guarded fortress in the land. All he has to do is steal it . . .

The Girl King by Mimi Yu, Gollancz, £10.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22311-0.
Two sisters become unwitting rivals in a war to claim the title of Emperor, in this sweeping tale of ambition, sacrifice and betrayal. Lu is destined to become the dynasty’s first female ruler, while her sister Min will forever live in her shadow. But when their father declares a male cousin the heir instead, the sisters travel down very different paths. Furious, Lu goes in search of unlikely allies, while Min remains at court where a forbidden, deadly magic awakens within her. A magic that presents her with a choice: secure her cousin’s reign, or – in defiance of him, her father, and her sister – take the throne for herself.

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

Autumn 2018

Forthcoming Non-Fiction SF &
Popular Science Books

 

Do Robots Make Love? From AI to Immortality: Understanding Transhumanism in 12 Questions by Lauren Alexandra & Jean-Michel Resnier, Cassel £10, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-788-40070-1.
This covers topics from should we change the way we reproduce to should we become cyborgs.

Invasion of the Space Invaders: An addict's guide to battle tactics, big scores and the best machines by Martin Amis, Cape £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1787-33229-8.
A welcome reprint for serious retro gamers of Amis' guide to 1980s computer and 'video' games.

How to Slay the Buffy Way: Badass Buffy Attitude and Killer Life Advice by Anonymous, Ebury, £9.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-785-03876-1.
Empowering, inspiring and full of badass Buffy attitude, this little book is packed with the Chosen One’s awesome words of wisdom and killer advice. Whether you’re fighting vampires and saving the world, or not, life can get tough. And when it gets tough, you need to slay, the Buffy way.  So, whether you’re dealing with heartache or homework, family drama, bad bosses, anxiety over what to wear, unreliable BFFs or a full-on existential crisis, Buffy has it covered. She’ll guide you through the Hellmouth and out the other side. Because, she’s been there.

Quantum Space: Loop Quantum Gravity and the Search for the Structure of Space, Time, and the Universe by Jim Baggott, Oxford University Press, £20, hrdbk< ISBN 978-0-19-880911-1.
We are blessed with two extraordinarily successful theories of physics: the first is Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity; the second is quantum mechanics. But, while they are both highly successful, each leaves a lot of important questions unanswered. And, being based on two different interpretations of space and time, they are fundamentally incompatible. We have two theories but, as far as we know, we’ve only ever had one universe, so what we need is a ‘quantum theory of gravity’. There have been a number of attempts to formulate such a theory but they’ve all experienced problems. Jim Baggott describes a new and exciting approach which takes relativity as its starting point, and leads to a structure called Loop Quantum Gravity. Baggott tells the story through the careers and pioneering work of two of the theory’s most prominent contributors, Lee Smolin and Carlo Rovelli. Combining clear discussions of both quantum theory and general relativity, Baggott’s book is one of the first to explain this groundbreaking theory of space and time. He is the author of Origins: The Scientific Story of Creation .

Through a Glass Brightly: Using Science to See Our Species as We Really Are by David P. Barash, Oxford University Press, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-19-067371-0.
Human beings have long seen themselves as the centre of the universe, the apple of God’s eye, specially-created creatures who are somehow above and beyond the natural world. This book shows how science has, throughout time, cut humanity ‘down to size’, and how humanity has responded. As we finally look at humankind honestly and accurately, we can identify ourselves as wonderfully natural, inseparable from the universe and other living things.

Million Dollar Maths: The Secret Maths of Becoming Rich (or Poor) by Hugh Barker, Atlantic, £11.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-786-49322-4.
A fun and comprehensive guide to give you the knowledge and inspiration to use maths for your own financial gain. How can you turn US$1,000 into US$1 million? What is the best way to beat the lottery odds? When is the best time to take out a loan? How did one group of gamblers bet on hole-in-ones to win £500,000? What about proving the Goldbach Conjecture for $1 million? This is a guide to the straightforward and outlandish mathematical strategies that can make you rich. Learn techniques for growing your everyday finances, as well as common mistakes to avoid. This is the quintessential primer to the myriad ways maths and finance intersect.

Universal Life: An Inside Look Behind the Race to Discover Life Beyond Earth by Alan Boss, Oxford University Press, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-19-086405-7.
The Kepler space telescope spent four years looking for Earth-like planets in our galaxy. A revolution in thinking about our place in the universe resulted. Are Earths commonplace, or rare? Are we likely to be alone in the universe? Only Kepler could answer these questions. Author Alan Boss, the Chair of NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program Analysis Group, presents what the Kepler mission found.  Universal Life summarises the current state of exoEarth knowledge, and also reveals what will happen next in the post-Kepler world, namely the narrowing of the search for habitable worlds to the stars that are the closest to Earth, those that offer the best chances for future ground- and space-based telescopes to search for, and detect, possible signs of life in their atmospheres.

Black Mirror: The Inside Story by Charlie Brooker, Annabel Jones and Jason Arnopp, Ebury, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-10258-1.
Official illustrated behind-the-scenes tie-in published to accompany series five of the television anthology juggernaut, Black Mirror. Takes fans of the international-hit TV show inside creator Charlie Brooker’s head for the first time. What becomes of humanity when it’s fed into the jaws of a hungry new digital machine? Discover the world of Black Mirror. This first official book logs the entire Black Mirror journey, from its origins as a sinister twinkle in creator Charlie Brooker’s eye to its current status as one of the biggest cult TV shows to emerge from the UK. Alongside a collection of astonishing behind-the-scenes imagery, Brooker and producer Annabel Jones will detail the creative genesis, inspiration and thought process behind each film for the first time, while key actors, directors and other creative talents relive their own involvement.

The Art of Winnie the Pooh: How E. H. Shepard illustrated and icon by James Campbell, LOM Art, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-912-78501-8.
An examination of the relationship between A. A. Milne and E. H. Shepard.

Turned On: Science, seχ and robots by Kate Devlin, Bloomsbury, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-472-95089-5.
Given that other than for war, the first uses of new technology is often for entertainment/personal gratification, Kate Devlin addresses some fundamental questions as to our human relationship with the developing technology of robotic androids.

The Dad Lab by Dad Lab, Blink, 14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-788-70059-7.
From floating eggs to music from balloons. Stay-at-home, London-based dad, Sergei urban, has been entertaining his half-a-million Instagram and 94,000 YouTube followers with the wonders of science. This book contains his top 40 most popular science japes.

The Perils of Perception: Why We’re Wrong About Nearly Everything by Bobby Duffy, Atlantic Books, £11.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-786-49456-6.
An exploration of our ignorance – informed by several studies across over 40 countries. Do you eat too much sugar? Is violence in the world increasing or decreasing? What proportion of your country is Muslim? What does it cost to raise a child? How much do we need to save for retirement? How much tax do the rich pay? When we estimate the answers to these fundamental questions that directly affect our lives, we tend to be vastly wrong, irrespective of how educated we are. The author is the Managing Director of the Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute and Global Director of Ipsos Social Research Institute.

Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth by Adam Frank, Norton, £21, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-393-60901-1.
This US astrophysicist covers Carl Sagan and James Lovelock territory.

Columbus in Space by Julien Harrod and the European Space Agency, Century, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-780-89931-2.
In 2008 Europe’s first space laboratory was launched to the International Space Station. Ten years later the Columbus lab is still circling 400 km above our heads at 28 800 km/h and providing scientists a place to run out of-this-world experiments. To celebrate a decade of European science and technology in space this book recounts the story of the Columbus laboratory: from vision to mission and from daily operations to science. Richly illustrated with graphics and statistics of life and research in space, the book offers a glimpse into the cutting-edge of humanity’s exploration of our Universe.

I’m a Joke and So Are You: A Comedian’s Take on What Makes Us Human by Robin Ince, Atlantic, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-786-49258-6.
The popular comedian and science presenter blends memoir, wit and popular science to contemplate the human condition. As a connoisseur of comedy, Robin Ince has spent decades mining our eccentricities to create gags – and watching other strange individuals do the same. And for years on BBC Radio 4's science programme The Infinite Monkey Cage he has sought – sometimes in vain – to understand the world around us. In this book, he unites these pursuits to tackle some of the biggest questions that intrigue us all. Why do we make the choices we do in life? Where does anxiety come from? Why are we like we are? Do our parents f*&k us up? Are we more than our brains? Informed by interviews with a bevy of A-list comedians from Jo Brand and Tim Minchin to Ricky Gervais – as well as neuroscientists, psychologists and doctors – this is a funny and often profound primer to the mind.

Cyberwar: How Russia helped Elect Trump by Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Oxford University Press, hrdbk, £16.99, ISBN 978-0-19-091581-0.
The question of how Donald Trump won the 2016 election looms over all of the many controversies that continue to swirl around him to this day. Most importantly, was his victory the result of Russian meddling in our political system, or did he win it fair and square? In Cyberwar, the eminent politics scholar Kathleen Hall Jamieson has sifted through a vast amount election data and concludes with a reasonable degree of certainty that Russian help was indeed crucial in Trump’s victory. By changing the behaviour of key players and altering the focus and content of mainstream news, Russian hackers reshaped the 2016 electoral dynamic. Drawing on decades of research on the role of media in American elections, Jamieson forensically traces both the ebbs and flows of Trump’s polling support throughout the campaign and the shifting emphases of the media. While it is impossible to prove with absolute certainty that the Russians handed the election to Trump, the lessons of a half-century of research on the effects of media-framing in elections strongly suggest that many voters’ opinions were altered by Russia’s coordinated campaign. Combining scholarly rigor with a bracing argument, Cyberwar shows why we can now be reasonably confident that Russian efforts helped put Trump in the White House.

Sleeping with the Lights On: The Unsettling Story of Horror by Darryl Jones, Oxford University Press, £10.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-19-882648-4.
Fear is one of the most primal human emotions, and one of the hardest to reason with and dispel.  So why do we love to scare ourselves? Why are there thousands of books, films, games, and other forms of entertainment designed to do exactly that?  From vampires, ghosts, and werewolves to mad scientists, Satanists, and deranged serial killers, the cathartic release of fear has made its appearance in everything from Shakespearean tragedies to internet memes. Exploring the key tropes of the genre, including its monsters, its psychological chills, and its love affair with the macabre, Darryl Jones discusses why horror stories disturb us, and how society responds to literary and film representations of the gruesome and taboo. Analysing the way in which horror manifests multiple personalities, and has been used throughout history to articulate the fears and taboos of the current generation, Jones considers the continuing evolution of the genre today. As horror is mass marketed to mainstream society in the form of romantic vampires and blockbuster hits, it also continues to maintain its former shadowy presence on the edges of respectability, as banned films and violent internet phenomena push us to question both our own preconceptions and the terrifying capacity of human nature.  Darryl Jones is the editor of M. R. James: Collected Ghost Stories.
          This analysis is not as long as it might be, but it is both engaging, thoughtful and informative. As such it is likely that even seasoned fantasy horror collectors will learn something new, or find a fresh perspective, that they will find interesting. Also there is a chapter on science and horror that includes some SF.

How to Fix the Future: Staying Human in the Digital Age by Andrew Keen, Atlantic, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-78-649168-8.
A worldwide search for ways in which humanity can protect itself from the dark side of the digital future. Internet entrepreneur Andrew Keen combines his experiences in Silicon Valley with extensive interviews and analysis to identify the strategies we need in order to tackle the huge challenges of this digital century.

Infinite Wonder: An Astronaut's Photographs from a Year in Space by Scott Kelly, Transworld/Doubleday, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-857-52477-5.
Scott Kelly has seen the world in ways most of us never will. During his record-breaking 340 consecutive days as commander on board the ISS, Scott Kelly circled the Earth 5,440 times, witnessing 10,944 sunrises and sunsets – that’s 16 a day. In all this time, he posted just 713 photos on Instagram.

The Re-Origins of Species by Torill Konfeldt, Scribe, £14.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-911-61722-8.
What does a mammoth smell like? Do aurochs moo like a cow? We may soon know if we can resurrect ancient species something a bit like Jurassic Park.

The History of Space Exploration by Roger D. Launius, Thames & Hudson, £24.95, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-500-02202-3.
The author is the former Chief Historian as NASA.

The Science of Sin: Why we do things we should not by Jack Lewis, Sigma, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-472-93614-1.
This is by a neurobiologist who apparently explains why we all eventually succumb.

Superminds: The Surprising Power of People and Computers Thinking Together by Thomas W. Malone, Oneworld, £14.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-786-07470-6.
People and computers are already together making key decisions…

Hallo Robot: Meet your new workmate by Bennie Mols & Nieske Vergunt, Canbury Press, 314.99, hrd, ISBN 978-1-912-45405-1.
Robotics has developed to the point when it could be about to potentially, dramatically improve our lives. Illustrated.

The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth and Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine by Thomas Morris, Transworld, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-593-08032-0.
* a mid-nineteenth-century German boy who ended up with the larynx of a goose stuck down his throat – and who honked accordingly;
* a young woman from Providence, Rhode Island whose unfortunate ailment resulted in her producing urine from every orifice – her ears, nose, eyes, navel;
* the eighteenth-century man with a fork stuck up his bottom, which was later ‘drawn out through the buttock’;
* the young chemistry student who arrived at a hospital in New York with his penis inextricably trapped inside a glass bottle; and of course,
* the clergyman who, in 1817, suffered from excruciating toothache, but found instant relief when his teeth suddenly, and quite inexplicably, exploded.
Based on his popular blog.

How to Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveller by Ryan North, Ebury, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-753-55256-8.
What would you do if you had a time machine that took you hundreds or thousands of years into the past... and then broke? How would you survive? Could you rebuild civilization faster than it took us the first time? And how hard would it be to domesticate a giant wombat? In How to Invent Everything, bestselling author and time-travel enthusiast Ryan North answers all these questions so you don't have to. This guide contains all the science, engineering, mathematics, art, music, philosophy, facts, and figures required for even the most clueless stranded time traveller to build a civilization from the ground up. It will be one in which humanity matured quickly and efficiently, instead of spending 200,000 years stumbling around in the dark without language, not knowing that tying a rock to a string would unlock navigating the entire world, and thinking disease was caused by weird smells. Both fascinating and hilarious, How To Invent Everything is a deeply researched history of the key technologies that made each stage of human civilization possible (from writing and farming to buttons and birth control), but it's as entertaining as a good time-travel novel.

Does it Fart 2? by Dani Rabaiotti & Nick Caruso, Quercus, £9.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-47591-5.
More myths, misconceptions and manure about animals in the follow-up to the successful Does it Fart?.  An illustrated compendium of animals facts and falsehoods, the more repulsive the better. Do komodo dragons have toxic slobber? What exactly is urohidrosis (from the Greek for “urine sweat”? Is it true that a scorpion that sheds its tail dies of constipation? How far actually are you from the nearest rat? Can you get high from licking toads, or is that…fake newts?

The Book of Humans: The Story of How We Became Us by Adam Rutherford, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-297-60940-7.
A new examination of what sets us apart in the animal kingdom, by the popular science broadcaster of BBC Radio 4's Inside Science and author of A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived.  Around 45,000 years ago a mutation occurred. The ‘cognitive revolution’ gave us a sense that we are special, separate from nature. Yet we are apes, wedded to the rest of creation by genes, anatomy and physiology, rooted in a shared evolution. All species are unique, but are we more unique than other animals?  The Book of Humans is a guide to what sets us apart from nature, but also places us within it. Looking at the behaviours we once thought just belonged to us, Adam Rutherford reveals how we occupy an exceptional place within the animal kingdom, and enriches our understanding of what it means to be human.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, Picador, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-509-87702-7.
This is a welcome reprint. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is the true story behind the HBO film starring Oprah Winfrey and Rose Byrne.  Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists of course know her as HeLa. Born a poor black tobacco farmer, her cancer cells – taken without her knowledge – became a multimillion-dollar industry and one of the most important tools in medicine. Yet Henrietta’s family did not learn of her ‘immortality’ until more than twenty years after her death, with devastating consequences . . .

Future Politics: Living Together in a World Transformed by Tech by Jamie Susskind, Oxford University Press, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-19-882561-6.
The great political debate of the twenty-first century will be how far our lives should be directed and controlled by powerful digital systems - and on what terms. So argues Jamie Susskind, who contends that rapid and relentless innovation in a range of technologies - from artificial intelligence to virtual reality - will transform the way we live together. Calling for a fundamental change in how we think about politics, Susskind describes a world in which certain technologies and platforms, and those who control them, will come to hold great power over us. Some will gather data about our lives; others will filter our perception of the world, choosing what we know, shaping what we think, affecting how we feel, guiding how we act, and forcing us to behave in certain ways. Those who control these technologies - usually big tech firms and the state - will increasingly control us. They will decide the future of democracy, causing it to flourish or decay. A groundbreaking work of political analysis, Future Politics challenges readers to rethink what it means to be free or equal, have power or property, and live in justice and democracy. He proposes ways in which we can - and must - regain control of our future.

Turning the Tide on Plastic: How Humanity (And You) Can Make Our Globe Clean Again by Lucy Siegle, Trapeze, £12.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-409-18298-6.
Environmental journalist Lucy Siegle presents a call to arms to end the plastic pandemic, sharing the tools you need to make a change.  Enough plastic is thrown away every year to circle the world four times. Turning the Tide on Plastic is a powerful rallying cry to end the plastic pandemic, giving us the facts on how our relationship with plastic is costing the Earth – and the tools we need to stop this. Journalist Lucy Siegle shows us how to navigate the minefield that is plastic recycling, and how to make sensible changes and challenge the status quo.

Ten Women who Changed Science and the World by Catherine Whitlock and Rhodre Evans, Robinson, £13.99, pbk, ISBN 978-472-13743-2.

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

Autumn 2018

General Science News

 

The year’s Fields Medal for maths have been announced by the International Union of Mathematics.  The Fields Medals are awarded every four years to the most promising mathematicians under the age of 40.  The winners are: Akshay Venkatesh (specialising in number theory), Peter Scholze (a German specialising in number theory), Alessio Figalli (specialising in network-analysis) and Caucher Birkar (an Iranian Kurdish refugee living in Britain and specialising in algebraic varieties / geometric objects).  Each winner receives a Can$15,000 (£8,800, US$11,500;) cash prize.
          Caucher Birkar had his gold Fields Medal stolen minutes after it was awarded him. The presentation took place at the International Congress of the International Mathematical Union this year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  He left the medal along with his wallet and phone in a briefcase on a table at the convention centre where the awards ceremony was taking place. The case was later found, but the medal and wallet were gone.

Jocelyn Bell – discoverer of pulsars – has been awarded a special Breakthrough Prize (worth US$3 million / £2.3m / €2.5m).  Jocelyn Bell (now Bell-Burnell) discovered pulsars a little over 50 years ago in 1961: pulsars being the collapsed remains of old stars that rotate very fast emitting pulsating radio signals with each rotation.  Back then Jocelyn Bell was tipped to win a Nobel and some feel that her not garnering one was gender discrimination.  The Breakthrough Prizes were launched in 2012 and are funded by entrepreneurs including Google co-founder Sergey Brin and Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg. Normally they are awarded in fundamental physics, life sciences and mathematics categories and usually are announced in December. But the selection committee can decide to make special awards, bypassing the standard nomination procedure, to those they deem particularly deserving. As such some may consider Jocelyn Bell-Burnell being awarded a special Breakthrough is to rectify the Nobel Committee failing to recognise her achievement.  +++ Jocelyn Bell-Burnell is the science GoH at the 2019 Worldcon.

Gravitational constant now measured to 11.6 parts per million.  The previous accuracy was 13.7 parts per million.  The gravitational constant is the constant of proportionality that is used to multiply the multiplication of two masses. This calculation gives the gravitational attractive force between the two masses divided by the distance squared between the said masses.  The new measurement was conducted by the same team twice using two different methods.  The research was conducted by a Chinese team.  One method measured the timing of an oscillating plate with masses in two different positions. In the second it was the attraction of two masses on a torsion balance.  Up to now there have been a range of measurements. These latest seem (subject to independent verification) to be the most accurate yet: they are reasonably close together and somewhat in the middle of the spread of previous results. . (See Li, Q. et al (2018) Measurements of the gravitational constant using two independent methods. Nature, vol. 560, p582-8. Also a comment piece by Stephan Schlamminger (2018) Gravity measured with record precision. Nature, vol. 560, p562-3 as well as an editorial: Gravity check. Nature, vol. 560, p527.)

Stephen Hawking's final paper has been published.  Submitted prior to Hawking's passing, it was co-authored with Thomas Hertog of the University of Leuven, Belgium and appears in the Journal of High-Energy Physics.  Titled 'A smooth exit from eternal inflation?' it examines the nature of the multiverse.  'Multiverses' come in various forms (many of which the SF author Stephen Baxter has explored in his stories) including that our Universe is but one universe of many in a Multiverse but with each universe having different laws of physics.  In their paper, Hawking and Hertog look at the notion of inflation (the period of time in the Universe's first fraction of a second that saw faster than light expansion (note: Einstein lovers that space was expanding faster than light not particles travelling through space)).  But there are problems with this theory.  In trying to find a theoretical solution to one of the main issues (eternal inflation), Hawking and Hertog conclude that other universe will not have drastically different laws of physics to our own but be fairly similar.  +++ See also The Big Bang Theory tribute to Hawking scene in the Science & Science Fiction Interface below.  +++ Also below, Hawking's memorial service made provision for time travellers.

Europe plans to spend €100 billion on science between 2012 and 2017.  The expenditure is at the heart of the European Union's (EU) Horizon Europe programme to boost EU science in addition to its EU member nations' own science budgets. The €100 billion equates to around £88 billion or US$75 billion.  Are Europe's researchers happy? Well this does represent a marked six-fold increase on an analogous EU science budget for the years 1998 – 2002. However such is the way European science has developed the past one-and-a-half decades that researchers had wanted €160 billion but because the UK is leaving the EU, this is not going to happen.

New electron microscope breaks resolution record.  Electron microscopes work due to the wavelike nature of high energy electrons moving through space focussed by a magnetic field lens. The moving electrons have a higher frequency than visible light and so a higher resolution: they can resolve smaller objects.  Up till now, the best electron microscopes have a resolution of around 1.2 ångströms (Å); for comparison, atoms are around 2- 4Å in diameter.  The new microscope, developed by a team at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA, is an electron microscope but it works differently and their prototype has a resolution of 0.39Å.  It works through 'ptychography' (the ‘p’ is silent).  It has long been known that by firing particles through the object to be imaged you get a two-dimensional diffraction pattern. Do this many times and you get many diffraction patterns. Almost 50 years ago the physicist Walter Hoppe hypothesised that there should be enough information in sufficient diffraction data to work back so as to produce an image of the diffracting object. However only now do we have the computer power to do the number crunching effectively, quickly and cheaply. And this is what the researchers have done. The researchers used low energy electrons so there is the possibility of getting higher resolutions in the future.  The technique also has potential for limited 3-D scanning: remember that DNA's double helix structure was deduced through diffraction techniques over half a century ago.  The resolution level is such that this microscope is good for measuring atomic bond lengths and so will be of value to chemists.  (See Jiang, Y., Chen, Z., Han, Y. et al, 2018, Electron ptychography of 2D materials to deep sub-ångström resolution. Nature vol. 559, pp343-9. Also a review article by John Rodenburg, 2018, A record-breaking microscope. Nature vol. 559, pp334-5.)

Global warming is forecast to intensify more than usual between 2018-2022AD.  A French group including a Dutch researcher working at Southampton University, Great Britain, have newly applied a statistical analytical method to climate change.  In essence – greatly simplifying matters – it looks at global warming variability.  If current pattern of year-to-year climate variability is similar to that of a past period then look at that past period and see what happens next and that will tell you what is likely to happen next now. (The method is based on transfer operators.)  The researchers tested their technique on the past warming record and it successfully predicted the likelihood of the global warming hiatus of 1998 – 2013 when the warming trend temporarily halted.  Regarding the present, they predict slightly warmer (very roughly half a tenth of a °C) warming above the long-term warming trend for 2018 – 2020. This may not seem much but the researchers expect that within that there will be fewer extreme cold events (like the 2018 Beast from the East in western Europe) and more hot extreme events such as the 2018 heatwaves in western Europe, eastern Europe, the US and Japan.  Another added benefit of this technique is that it does not need a supercomputer to run their model but only a laptop.  (See Sévellec, F. & Drijfhout, S. S. (2018) A novel probabilistic forecast system predicting anomalously warm 2018-2022 reinforcing the long-term global warming trend. Nature Communications , 3024. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-05442-8.)  +++ Previous news includes Global warming could be warmer according to a new analysis and With global warming, the Earth is likely to see the thermal equator migrate northwards.

Tropical cyclones (hurricanes) are now moving slower, so dumping more water on an area.  James Kossin, from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has looked at how the way hurricanes move and has discovered that they are now travelling slower: they have slowed by about 10% between 1949 and 2016.  It is already known that in a climate-changed, warmer world there is more evaporation from the oceans and additionally that warmer air holds more water:  Together these factors mean that larger downpours of rain are possible in a warmer world: rainfall can increase roughly by about 10% for every °C rise.  What James Kossin has shown is that because hurricanes are now moving slower, they stay over one point for longer and so heavy hurricane downpours at that spot last longer and have to deal with more water. He also makes reference to the 'stall' of Hurricane Harvey in 2017. (See Kossin, J., 2018, Nature, vol. 558, p104-7, a science summary the same issue by Patricola, C. M., p36-7 and a journalistic piece by Guglielmi, G., p15-6.)  +++ Related news in previous SF² Concatenation seasonal news pages includes:  Climate change induced sea-level rise from Antarctica needs to be revised upwardsUN Climate Change Panel (IPCC) releases 2014 impact assessment;  and IPCC releases 2013 science assessment (AR5).  +++ Previous related news includes Hurricanes the 2017 late summer have badly hit the Caribbean and the US, as well as most significantly (though under-reported) Asia. This begs the question as to whether climate change global warming) is the cause.

Marine heatwaves forecast to be 41 times more likely by 2100AD under current warming trends, so likely 'pushing marine organisms and ecosystems to the limits of their resilience and even beyond, which could cause irreversible changes'.  Marine heatwaves are periods of extreme warm sea surface temperature that persist for days to months and can extend up to thousands of kilometres.  Three Swiss researchers used satellite observations and a suite of Earth system model simulations to show that marine heatwaves have already become longer-lasting and more frequent, extensive and intense in the past few decades, and that this trend will accelerate under further global warming.  Current UN-based national policies for the reduction of global carbon emissions are predicted to result in global warming of about 3.5°C by 2100AD. Under this scenario the researchers predict that marine heatwaves will be 41 times more likely and cover an area 21 times larger than they do for today.  (See Frolicher, T. L., Fischer, E.M. & Gruber, N. (2018) Marine heatwaves under global warming. Nature vol. 560, p360-4.)

Keeping to the strict 1.5°C warming target as opposed to 2°C will save a quarter of a billion from being displaced from sea-level rise but the savings will only be by the year 2300AD.  An analysis in the journal Earth’s Future.  The UN Paris Accord has a weak target of 2.0°C rise by 2100AD and a strong target of only 1.5°C rise.  The Accord makes no provision as to what warming happens after 2100AD but suppose we could permanently halt warming at those temperatures by 2100AD at 1.5°C warming, what would happen?  (Admittedly this is very ambitious and greenhouse gas emission would have to all but cease by the middle of the century to realise this goal, such is the inertia in the Earth system.)  The analysis reveals that there would be little difference in sea-level rise between capping warming at 1.5°C warming by 2100AD and carrying on emitting greenhouse gases as we are doing now (such is the inertia in the Earth system) but a great difference by 2300AD.  Capping warming at 1.5°C sees sea-level rise of 0.4 metres by 2100AD and of 1m by 2300AD.  Conversely, carrying on as we are now (business-as-usual) sees sea-level rise of 0.8 metres by 2100AD and of 4.5m by 2300AD.  Assuming a 1% chance of an extreme event (like hurricane Katrina (2005) in coastal zones per year -- or an almost guaranteed Katrina in coastal zones once per century – then currently some 540,000 square kilometres is already at risk of 1-in-100-yearcoastal flooding events.  With a cap at 1.5°C warming this rises to 620,000 km² by 2100AD, and to 702,000 km² by 2300AD.  Under business-as-usual, by 2100 some 708,000 km² is at risk and 1,630,000 km² by 2300AD (which is three times the area at risk today).  Assuming the global population remains as it is currently distributed, then If global warming is kept to 1.5 °C, the analysis concludes that 1.5 - 2.1% of the global population will be exposed to a 1-in-100-year coastal flooding by 2100AD, compared with 4.3 - 5.4% of the global population in the non-mitigation scenario.  In other words, more than half of the potential population exposure can be avoided by 2100AD if global warming is capped and (assuming a roughly 10 billion global population by 2300AD then that is a quarter of a billion saved from displacement.  (See Brown, S. et al., 2018, Earth’s Future, vol. 6, p583–600.)  Note: the above uses IPCC sea-level forecasts and ignores future long-term feedbacks – such as ice sheet response – that are currently unobservable.  See also next item.

Antarctic ice melt increases.  The UN IPCC forecasts ignore long-term feedbacks (such as ice sheet melt) as we cannot see into the future how some aspects of the Earth system will respond in the long term.  Current IPCC forecasts for sea-level rise are based on a combination of current observations and computer models.  The latest news comes from the ESA–NASA Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise.  In brief, it has found that the rate of Antarctic melt has more than tripled between 1992 and 2017!  This is not offset by greater ocean evaporation in our warming world freezing as ice on East Antarctica.  (See The IMBIE team (2018) Mass balance of the Antarctic Ice Sheet from 1992 to 2017. Nature, vol. 558, p219-220.)  With reference to the previous item: if sea-level rise is greater than the IPCC currently predict under various scenarios, then the area of land flooded in the future due to climate-induced sea-level rise will increase.  +++ Previous related news includes Climate change induced sea-level rise from Antarctica needs to be revised upwards.

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

Autumn 2018

Natural Science News

 

The annual rate of tropical tree loss in 2017 was the second worse year on record.  This news comes from Global Forest Watch based in Washington DC, US.  Nearly 16 million hectares of tropical trees were lost.

All modern birds are descendants of ground birds, dinosaur impact study concludes.  A University of Bath, UK, led study with N. American researchers has looked at both recent molecular phylogenies (species genomics) and the fossil record back to the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T), or Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) in new nomenclature, dinosaur extinction. It looks like modern birds descended from a stem-group relatives species of the Neornithes.  Ancestral state reconstructions of neornithine ecology reveal that the oldest species have a strong bias toward non-tree living ecology.  It is known that the asteroid induced the end-Cretaceous mass extinction devastated forest habitats globally. This would have wiped out tree-living stem species of birds leaving only ground-dwelling species.  The conclusion is that the early ancestors of many modern tree-dwelling bird groups were ground-dwelling. (See Field, D. J. et al., (2018) Early Evolution of modern birds structured by global forest collapse at the end-Cretaceous mass extinction, Current Biology, vol. 28, doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2018.04.062.)

Human 'big brain' genes identified.  A cluster of genes have been identified by two teams. The genes could well be those responsible for humans' (hominids') large brains.  Frank Jacobs, David Haussler and colleagues note that these genes are not found in apes and they appear to have become manifest in hominids 3 – 4 million years ago. The genes belong to a group called NOTCH2NL and seem to be responsible for additional brain size.  Meanwhile, another team led by Pierre Vanderhaeghen have discovered that NOTCH2NL genes are active in progenitor cells that create neurons.  One NOTCH2NL gene also boosts the number of human stem cells that give rise to neurons in the cortex. This work is fundamental to understanding the subsequent evolution of anatomically modern humans. (Both the teams' papers are published one after the other in the same issue of the journal Cell, 2018, vol. 173, p1,356-1,369 and p1,3700-1,384.)  +++ Related stories in SF² Concatenation previous seasonal news pages includes: 175,000 year-old discovery confirms that Neanderthals were responsible for some of the earliest constructions made by homininsWhen did humans first eat cooked vegetables?Homo naledi is a new (cousin) species of early humanEarliest Homo sapiens found to date from between 254,000 - 350,000 years agoModern humans diverged from primitive humans between 350,000 and 260,000 years ago.

Early humans left Africa at least 400,000 years earlier than previously thought.  The remains of early humans' stone artefacts have been found in China dating to 2.12 million years ago, some 400,000 years earlier than previous evidence to date.  Early humans (as opposed to anatomically modern humans that originally left Africa 120 – 130 thousand years ago) include Homo erectus but the exact species of early human relating to these artefacts has yet to be ascertained. (See Zhu et al, 2018, Hominin occupation of the Chinese Loess Plateau since about 2.1 million years ago. Nature vol. 559, p608-612. Also a review piece the same issue of Nature by John Kappelman vol. 559, p480-481.)

Modern humans on Flores exhibit dwarfing genes.  Flores Island, Indonesia, was inhabited by the small-bodied hominin species Homo floresiensis, the so-called Hobbit humans as discovered in 2004.  Today the island has a pygmy population of anatomically modern humans. 32 present-day Flores residents individuals were examined for genetic variation and 10 had their genomes fully sequenced.  The genomes of the Flores pygmies reveal a complex history of admixture with Denisovans and Neanderthals but no evidence for gene flow with other archaic hominins. They also bear the signatures of recent positive selection encompassing a cluster of genes related to diminished stature. So restricted height is selected for on this island and has evolved independently at least twice in hominins. (Which is what you might expect from ecological theory, the so-called island effect, which holds that when food and predators are scarce, big animals shrink – to save food – and little ones grow – to outcompete competitors.)  (See Tucci et al, 2018, Evolutionary history and adaptation of a human pygmy population of Flores Island, Indonesia. Science vol. 361, p511-516.)

The creation of bread preceded the start of agriculture.  Amaia Arranz-Otaegui and largely British based archaeologists analysed 24 charred food remains from Shubayqa, a Natufian hunter-gatherer site located in north-eastern Jordan and dated to 14,600 – 11,600 years ago.  They found that the preparation and consumption of bread-like products predated the emergence of agriculture by at least 4,000 years.  Rather that using cereals (such as wheat) they found that these early makers of bread-like food, used of some of the “founder crops” of southwest Asian agriculture (e.g., Triticum boeoticum, wild einkorn) and root foods (e.g., Bolboschoenus glaucus, club-rush tubers).  It is most likely that cereal-based meals like bread become staples only when agriculture was firmly established. ( Arranz-Otaegui et al, 2018, Archaeobotanical evidence reveals the origins of bread 14,400 years ago in northeastern Jordan. PNAS, doi/10.1073/pnas.1801071115.)

Rice became a domesticated crop multiple times over 9,000 years ago.  Two genome studies – one of African rice and one of Asian rice – confirm that rice was domesticated at least twice: once in the Indo-China region which was quite separate to another, an African domestication likely in the in the Inner Niger Delta area with much early domestication taking place in Northern Mali.  Both these continental centres of rice domestication likely had their own multiple locales of domestication. One study looked at the genomes of over 3,000 Asian rice (Oryza sativa) and the other 246 genomes of African rice (Oryza glaberrima).  Genomic systematic and molecular clock analysis suggests that African wild rice declined from around 10,000 years ago with the initial drying of N. Africa as the world entered the current Holocene interglacial and that this decline likely coincided with the rise of African domesticated rice production.  Meanwhile Asian rice has been cultivated in both India and China for over 9,000 years.  It also seems that both the Asian and African domestication events independently facilitated the rise of the PROG1 gene that confers a strong upright posture for the plant: an example of human-induced convergent evolution. (See Cubry, P. et al, 2018, The Rise and Fall of African Rice Cultivation Revealed by Analysis of 246 New Genomes. Current Biology, vol. 28, doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2018.05.066. And also Wang. W. et al, 2018, Genomic variation in 3,010 diverse accessions of Asian cultivated rice. Nature doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0063-9.)

The earliest domesticators of the horse were descended from hunter-gatherers.  It was recently discovered that the domestication of the horse took place ~5,500 years ago at the time of the Eneolithic Botai culture of the Central Asian steppes.  Now a new analysis by an international team of researchers, led by a Danish and British based pair of biologists, have analysed the genomes of 74 ancient human genomes from across Inner Asia and Anatolia.  It shows that show that Botai people associated with the earliest horse husbandry derived from a hunter-gatherer population.  Further, that the Botai had previously diverged from the Yamnaya (who had been thought to be the people who first domesticated the horse).  The Yamnaya had a big genetic impact in Europe, but now it seems much less so in Asia.  (See de Barros Damgaard et al, 2018, The first horse herders and the impact of early Bronze Age steppe expansions into Asia. Science vol. 360)  +++ Previous related news coverage included the evolution of the modern horse took place 4.0 – 4.5 million years ago.

A new green revolution in agriculture may be dawning.  The early 20th century saw the development and use of artificial fertilisers. Then came pesticides and herbicide. In the middle of the 20th century we got high yield varieties (cultivars) of rice and wheat (GRVs – green revolution varieties).  New research now reveals a genome tweak that will drastically improve nitrogen use in agricultural crops.
          Long, somewhat complicated, story short.  DELA proteins inhibit growth.&nsp; GRVs have a problem n that they grow so well with fertiliser that they would be prone to wind and rain flattening if they grew tall and so these have more growth inhibiting proteins. What the researchers did was to breed plants that produced high levels of the OsGRF4 protein and this inhibits the production of growth inhibiting proteins and improves the efficiency of nitrogen use.  What this means is that such plants will grow the same with much less nitrogen fertiliser. This will both reduce farmer costs and lower the environmental impact from fertiliser run-off.  Globally, one out of nine people suffers from chronic hunger, and undernourishment is growing as is the global human population. (See Li. S. et al (2018) Modulating plant growth–metabolism coordination for sustainable agriculture. Nature, vol. 560, p595-600. Also a review by Fanmiao Wang and Makoto Matsuoka (2018) A new green revolution on the horizon. Nature, vol. 560, p563-4.)

Crop losses from insect pests could increase by 10 to 25% per degree Celsius of warming.  Such crop losses would be greatest in temperate zones such as the grain baskets of the US and Europe as well as the rice fields of China.  Insect pests substantially reduce yields of three staple grains – rice, maize, and wheat – and the researchers have now looked at what might happen with climate change.  Global yield losses of these grains are projected to increase by 10 to 25% per degree of global mean surface warming. Crop losses will be most acute in areas where warming increases both population growth and metabolic rates of insects. These conditions are centred primarily in temperate regions, where most grain is produced. Insects already consume 5 to 20% of major grain crops so this could see an increase in existing loss to 5.5% to 25% with a degree Celsius warming. Globally, one out of nine people suffers from chronic hunger, and undernourishment is growing as is the global human population. (See Deutch, C. A. et al (2018) Increase in crop losses to insect pests a warming climate. Science, vol. 361, p916-9 and a review by Markus Riegler (2018) Insect threats to food security. Science,vol. 361, p846.).

How old can humans live?  It has long been known that we humans are living longer but the rate of increase in the developed world is slowing due to diet and lack of exercise. To date the oldest person to live (with proven birth certificate) was the French Jeanne Calment who died in 1997 aged 122. New research now suggest that the upper limit on age may not be so firmly fixed: human longevity or life expectancy may have no natural limit!  This is the conclusion of a study of some 4,000 Italian super-elderly all aged over 105 years.  It is has been long established that the older you are the annual likelihood of death increases. So if you are in a developed nation and are aged 75 then you have only a 5% chance of dying the following year. This chance of dying the following year increases so that aged 85 years it is around 10% and at 95 years nearly 25%. However this latest survey seems to indicate that once you reach 105 years of age you have a 50% chance of dying the next year and that this probability does not increase further the older you are. So the chances of you reaching 115 are the same as that of tossing a coin 10 heads in a row! (See Barbi, E. et al, 2018, Science, vol. 360, p1,459-1,461.)  However others have criticised the study as the numbers surveyed are not great enough for statistical surety. Also neuron death continues as you get older. (Dolgin, E. (2018) Longevity data hint at no natural limit on lifespan. Nature, vol. 559, p14-5. Open Access.)

A little, regular alcohol staves off dementia. Abstinence or moderate alcohol consumption increases dementia risk.  This research is by French biomedics, which is a little odd as it is based on one of the best long-term biomedical studies in the world which is of 9,087 British civil servants aged 35-55 years at study inception (1985/88).  Over two decades on and the participants are now aged between 58 and 78 years.  Abstinence in midlife was associated with a higher risk of dementia (hazard ratio 1.47) compared with consumption of 1-14 units/week.  Among those drinking over 14 units/week, a 7 unit increase in alcohol consumption was associated with a 17% increase in risk of dementia. In several countries, guidelines define thresholds for harmful alcohol consumption much higher than 14 units/week. The present findings encourage the downward revision of such guidelines to promote cognitive health at older ages.  14 units a week is equivalent to a single pint of beer a day.  (See Sabia, S. et al, 2018, Alcohol consumption and risk of dementia: 23 year follow-up of Whitehall II cohort study. British Medical Journal, vol. 362, k2927.)

There's no healthy safe limit to alcohol consumption shouts new research grabbing the newspaper headlines  Using 694 individual or population studies along with 592 other studies a very large international team has assessed the global risk of alcohol consumption.  They found that the risk of all-cause mortality, and of cancers specifically, rises with increasing levels of consumption, and the level of consumption that minimises health loss is zero.  It has to be said that this is a meta-analysis and that meta-analysis suffer from non-like-for-like issues.  The research also indicates that unless you are suffering from another condition (such as heart problems) the health risk of one or two units (two units being a pint of beer or a small glass of wine) a day are small but there is a risk. (See GBD 2016 Alcohol Collaborators (2018) Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. The Lancet, dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(18)31310-2.)
          Taking this research in context of the previous research above suggests that if you are healthy a half a pint of beer a day probably will not do you much harm and may help stave of dementia. (But who regularly, if they drink, only has half a pint a day?)  Strangely, the actual research paper does not give an absolute risk figure, though the accompanying press release did (thanks to the press officer contacting the authors).  It states that the risk for 100,000 people drinking one unit a day for a year would see 4 get a life-threatening alcohol related disease. This, for example, might be throat cancer.  However, it has to be said that some would get throat cancer anyway, irrespective of whether or not they drank.  Also that this 4 in 100,000 (or 1 in 25,000) is not statistically significant.  It must be borne in mind that there is risk in all human activity, including crossing the road and nobody is suggesting that there be a ban on folk crossing roads.  A sense of proportion is required.

The origin of the fungi causing global amphibian declines has been elucidated  The chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis is causing amphibian populations to decline almost globally.  Now an international team led primarily by British molecular biologists, have analysed the genome of some 200 B. dendrobatidis strains.  They conclude that the pathogenic form of the chytrid fungus evolved quite recently in the early 20th century most likely in East Asia. The rise of the pathogenic form coincided with the global expansion of commercial trade in amphibians, and they also show that intercontinental transmission is on-going.  (See O’Hanlon et al, 2018, Recent Asian origin of chytrid fungi causing global amphibian declines. Science vol. 360, pp 621-627.)

Japan, US and Europe determine gene editing rules.  Gene editing differs from gene modification: the former concerns the removal of a gene(s) or even a single nucleotide, while the latter can involve the addition of novel genetic material to that species.  The past five years has seen the growth of powerful, precision gene-editing tools such as CRISPR-Cas9.  Nations have therefore had to decide whether or not gene edited species should be subject to the same stringent rules as genetic modification?  This summer Japan has joined the US in allowing gene modification without it being subject to gene modification (GM) rules. Good news for Japanese researchers as Japan does not currently grow commercial GM crops.  Conversely, the European Union has gone down the GM route for regulating gene editing.  This is likely to disadvantage EU developing gene edited cultivars.

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

Autumn 2018

Astronomy & Space Science News

 

NASA launches InSight to Mars.  InSight will hopefully, safely touchdown on the flat Elysium Planitia near Mars' equator in November 2018. It will detect seismic activity and use this to estimate the size of Mars' core.  InSight's seismometer is French built and its heat-flow probe German.

ESA launches British-built Aeolus satellite to measure wind speeds globally.  It has taken two decades to get here for the £420 million (€480 million, US$550 million) mission.  Aeolus will use LIDAR to measure wind speeds at various heights with its measured by the Atmospheric LAser Doppler INstrument (ALADIN) instrument.  Currently we use a plethora of ground as well as a weather balloon measurements to deduce the global pattern of wind speeds.  Aeolus will provide a far more comprehensive data set which will both improve forecasts and computer weather models. ESA first approved a mission goal to use a LIDAR satellite to measure wind speeds back in 1999. The problem back then was in developing a powerful enough ultraviolet laser for the LIDAR, hence the delay in realising this aspiration.  The LIDAR photons will bounce off atmospheric particles. The bounce-back time delay will provide the range hence height of the particle, and Doppler shift in frequency will provide relative velocity, hence wind speed.  The initial data from the mission will begin arriving in early 2019.

Galaxy bigger still than thought.  Go back a decade and most text books had it that our galaxy (the Galaxy or Milky Way) was around 100,000 light years across.  Then a Monoceros ring of stars further out from the Galaxy's centre than our Sun was detected. A little later, in 2015, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey revealed an additional arm component (the TriAndromeda ring) to the assemblage of spiral arms, that the Galaxy disk was more corrugated rather than flat, and that the Galactic disk was 150,000 light years across. This was thought to roughly double the number of stars in the Galaxy.  Now, the latest research, from a Spanish-China collaboration, puts the radius at nearly 26 kiloparsecs or a Galactic diameter just shy of 170,000 light years.  The researchers used the difference of the composition of stars (their 'metallicity', and remember for astronomers all elements above helium are considered metals as astronomers are weird like that) to distinguish between stars at the edge of the Galactic disk and those in the Galactic halo of older stars. (See López-Corredoira, M., Allende Prieto, C., Garzón, F., Wang, H., Liu, C. & Deng, L. (2018) Disk stars in the Milky Way detected beyond 25 kpc from its center. Astronomy & Astrophysics, vol. 612 (L8), p1-4.)

Universe's missing mass may have been found!  5% of the Universe's mass can be seen; the rest is a mix of missing mass (dark matter) and dark energy.  Now an international team of astronomers, led by Fabrizio Nicastro, think they may have found some of the missing mass!  They found a very bright light source known as a BL Lacertae (BL Lac) object some 7 billion light years away. (To put this into context, our neighbouring Andromeda galaxy is just 2 million light years or so away.) The Universe is sort of structured like an onion with shells (or sheets) of a web of galaxies with the web consisting of filaments. The galaxies are in these filaments but there is much space between these galaxies in the intergalactic medium.  The BL Lac object studied is so far away that there is an intervening filament. Using ESA's XMM-Newton X-ray Space Telescope, Fabrizio Nicastro and colleagues looked at the distant BL Lac for a very long time (about 20 days).  This was long enough for the absorption spectra of any intervening material to be discerned. What they found was that the intergalactic medium in the filaments of galaxies contains helium-like oxygen (oxygen ions that have only two bound electrons) at red-shifts of 0.43 and 0.36 (the red-shifts indicate the distance from the Earth to the filament). This helium-like oxygen could well be part of the baryonic missing mass; they account for 9–40% of the cosmic baryon density, suggesting that these features are a substantial reservoir of the missing baryons. (See Nicastro, F. et al, 2018, Observations of the missing baryons in the warm–hot intergalactic medium. Nature, vol. 558, pp406-9, and also a comment article by Taotao Fang, 2018, Missing matter found in the cosmic web. Nature, vol. 558, p375-6.)

The dune structures strikingly similar in look to Earth's desert sand dunes discovered on Pluto are now possibly explained.  Data from the New Horizons probe to the Pluto and Charon binary revealed dune-like structures, but Pluto is very, very, extremely cold with temperatures around -223 degrees C or 50°K above absolute zero.  The surface of such a world would be very different and so the dunes seen are unlikely to be anything like the desert sand dunes on Earth.  Traces of methane gas in the atmosphere show that methane is present.  Now, a team of European and N. American scientists have concluded that the dune structures are best explained as being composed of sand-sized (~200 to ~300 micrometer) particles of methane ice in moderate winds (<10 meters per second). At Pluto's ultra-cold temperatures, methane could exist in a rock-like form. (See Telfer, M. W. et al (2018) Dunes on Pluto. Science, vol. 360, pp992-7.)  +++ Related previous news SF auteurs as well as SF/F characters have features on Charon named after them.

Mars was habitable 100 million years (myr) before the Earth. European researchers with an Australian onboard have used isotopic analysis of Martian material (especially zircons which allow uranium but not lead to be included when they form) to estimate the date when the planet coalesced and then formed a solid surface from a planet-wide magma ocean. (As lead is not included in zircons when they form, any lead present must have come from the decay of uranium and so the ratio of lead to U-235 can provide an estimate of the age to the zircon formation.)  Their estimate suggests that Mars had clement conditions, and was possibly even hospitable to the formation of life, for as long as 100 myr before such conditions existed on Earth. This was due to the Earth being hit by Theia to form the Moon.  Mars had a head start on Earth in the planetary-evolution game. (See Bouvier et al, 2018, Evidence for extremely rapid magma ocean crystallization and crust formation on Mars. Nature vol. 558, p586-9. See also the same issue a short review piece: Linda T. Elkins-Tanton, 2018, Rapid formation of Mars. Nature vol. 558, p522-1.)  ++++ This ties in with last season's news Mars' big northern ocean formed earlier than thought.

It rained on Mongo Mars!  There are the remains of rivers on Mars but how were they formed?  Recent theory has it that they formed due to ground water percolating to the surface and then draining away to form rivers.  Researchers have now analysed the pattern of these Martian river remains.  The channels branch off at relatively narrow angles somewhat similar to those on Earth in arid areas such as the US southwest. More humid areas (such as tropical rainforests) see rivers branch off at wider angles.  This analysis therefore tends to support the idea that the rivers were formed by rainfall rather than percolation.  (Seybold, H. et al, 2018, Branching geometry of valley networks on Mars and Earth and its implications for early Martian climate. Science Advances, vol. 4, eaar6692.)

Organic matter preserved in 3-billion-year-old mudstones at Gale crater, Mars.  Organic compounds (chemicals containing carbon and hydrogen and often also including oxygen and nitrogen among other elements) are the stuff of life.  As such they can be indicators of life or past life, though they can also be produced in non-biological ways. In short, organic compounds on Mars do not prove that life was once on Mars but enticingly would be suggestive that it might have existed on Mars if they were detected.  The NASA Curiosity rover has already discovered the remains of ancient lakes.  Further, if ancient non-biological organic compounds have been preserved for billions of years, then it increases the likelihood that biological related compounds could also survive.  Exploration of the lowermost exposed sedimentary rocks at the base of Aeolis Mons in Gale crater by the Curiosity rover has led to the discovery of a finely laminated mudstone succession, the Murray formation, thought to be the remains of a 3-bilion year old lake bed. The researchers results suggest that it is likely that organic matter from various sources may be widely distributed in the Martian rock record. If life was not a key contributor, it is likely that this organic matter could possibly have come from meteoritic and igneous or hydrothermal sources.  However, the detection of organic matter at the Martian surface, where conditions are extreme, suggests that better-preserved molecular records may be present below the surface, where the effects of radiation are small, or in materials exposed only in the last several thousand years.  (See Eigenbrode, J. L. et al, 2018, Organic matter preserved in 3-billion-year-old mudstones at Gale crater, Mars. Science, vol. 360, p1,096–1,101.)

Seasonal methane confirmed in Mars' atmosphere.  Methane had been detected in the Martian atmosphere in 1999 by Earth-based spectral astronomy, but other than it was there, there was back then little other detail.  Then, in 2004, ESA's Mars Express space probe detected methane (CH4) in the Martian atmosphere from orbit and subsequently noted that it was seasonal.  Methane could be suggestive of life or can possibly be produced by non-life geological processes. That ESA's Mars Express detected what was thought to be seasonal methane emitted from somewhere around the equator in the atmosphere from orbit was intriguing.  What has happened now is that NASA's Curiosity rover has been measuring the atmosphere from the ground for five years.  It has now confirmed a strong, repeatable, seasonal methane signal.  The amplitude (size) of the seasonal cycle indicates that there remain unknown atmospheric or surface processes occurring in present-day Mars.  (See Webster, C. R., et al, 2018, Science. vol. 360, p1,093–1,096.)

A reservoir of water has been found on Mars beneath ice.  This is either a sub-ice lake or sub-ice fully saturated sediment.  The discovery was made using the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS) instrument on Europe's Mars Express spacecraft.  Mars Express previously detected water supersaturating Mars' atmosphere. This meant it was likely that there was more water near the surface than previously thought.  The lake is about 20 km across and located near Mars' South Pole under 1.5 km of ice. The temperature around there reaches as low as -68°C but the water is under pressure beneath the ice and is very, very salty, hence can be a liquid.  (See Orosei, R. et al, 2018, Radar evidence of subglacial liquid water on Mars. Science vol. 361, p490-493.  Also a review comment piece Diez, R., 2018, Liquid water on Mars. Science vol. 361, p448-449.)

Interplanetary grains have been analysed revealing organic compounds. The grains were collected by a NASA plane flying in the stratosphere. Inside the glassy grains were organic compounds (-OH, -CH2, -CH3, =CH, -CN, -CO, C=C, and NO2). This is surprising as it is presumed that any such interplanetary grains would have seen organic carbon decompose in the hot material surrounding the Sun that formed the planets. The survival of organics suggests that these particles formed in the cold reaches of space before the Solar System formed and therefore are grains of material from which the Solar System formed. (See Ishii, H.A., et al, 2018, Multiple generations of grain aggregation in different environments preceded solar system body formation. PNAS pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1720167115.)

Oumuamua looks like being a comet… (Or is it, Scully?).  This at least is the official assumption!  Oumuamua is first extra-solar object detected passing Earth orbit and has an odd, long, thin shape. The first detailed analysis took place a few weeks after it was detected.  Now, there has been a more detailed look at its trajectory. It seems as if it changed course just slightly as it passed through the inner Solar system. Astronomers consider this to be evidence that Oumuamua was venting material and so was a comet like object. (See Micheli et al (2018) Non-gravitational acceleration in the trajectory of 1I/2017 U1 (‘Oumuamua). Nature vol. 559, pp223-6. Doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0254-4.) – Perish the thought that the object was undergoing a minor course correction…. ;-)

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

Autumn 2018

Science & Science Fiction Interface

 

SF² Concatenation is seeking to contact scientists who are also SF authors. Or SF authors who have a science degree.  SF² Concatenation would like to contact as many SF authors (those who have had at least two SF novels commercially published, so not Amazon and self-published writers) who have a science, engineering, medical or maths degree. We hope that some of you, our regulars, can help. See here.

Stephen Hawking has been remembered by The Big Bang Theory.  We sadly lost Stephen Hawking last season.  In addition to his book, A Brief History of Time, he is, of course, famously known for the notion of black holes 'evaporating' emitting Hawking radiation: a concept Hawking came to in the absence of a Quantum Theory of Gravity (merging General Relativity with Quantum Theory) using a mathematical hack (the Bogoliubov transformation).  He is also known for his sense of fun which included appearing in the science & SFnal comedy The Big Bang Theory.  And so in the final episode (no. 24) of season 11 they shot an unused scene in which Stephen Hawking sends Sheldon a wedding present.  You can see the scene here.  +++ Hawking's final paper hints at the possible nature of the multiverse. See above in the general science subsectionHawking's memorial held at Westminster Abbey.  Benedict Cumberbatch, who played Hawking in a BBC drama, and astronaut Tim Peake were among those giving readings at the ceremony. The Astronomer Royal, and former President of the Royal Society, Professor Lord Martin Rees, and Prof Hawking's collaborator, the Nobel Prize winner, Kip Thorne, were among those who also spoke.  Meanwhile the European Space Agency beamed Stephen Hawking's voice towards the nearest black hole to Earth. The transmission, which was sent from a radio telescope in Spain, was backed by an original score from composer Vangelis.

Stephen Hawking's memorial service was open to time travellers.  Following the demise of Stephen Hawking there was considerable public interest in attending his Westminster Abbey memorial service where his ashes were interred.  So some places for the public were set aside and a ballot was held. Within 24 hours some 12,000 people from more than 50 countries had applied. Applicants needed to give their date of birth and this could have been any day up to 31st December 2038. The reason given for this, Prof Hawking's foundation said, was that the possibility of time travel had not been disproven and could not be excluded.  Professor Hawking once threw a party for time travellers, to see if any would turn up if he posted the invite after the party. None did, but it seems appropriate that the memorial website allowed people born in the future to attend the service.

'If the ocean dies, so do we,' says Margaret Atwood. The author of The Handmaid's Tale was talking at the Women in Art and Science of Climate Change conference at the British Library in London.  'Something has to be done about plastic going into the ocean and it has to be done pretty quick... That's where 60-80% of the oxygen than we breathe comes from,' she said.  The conference also heard that climate change disproportionally affects women especially those responsible for carrying the households water from often distant sources.  Margaret Atwood said: 'In a lot of the world women are in fact the food producers, and they're also the people who care for their families. The hotter it gets, the lower your harvest is going to be. If you have a flood, that's going to wipe you out.' The conference heard comments from others, including that there were not enough women at the climate change negotiation table.

Artificial intelligence correctly diagnoses eye-disorders with accuracy.  Researchers from London's Moorfields Eye Hospital have found that Google's DeepMind AI can be taught to read complex eye scans and detect more than 50 eye conditions.  14,884 scans were used to teach the AI. They then tested the AI on a thousand eye scans of patients whose conditions were known.  The scans were also shown to eight senior clinicians.  Each of whom was asked to make one of four decisions: were the cases urgent, semi-urgent, routine or appropriate for observation only?  The Artificial intelligence performed as well as two of the world's leading retina specialists, with an error rate of only 5.5%. Importantly, it did not miss a single urgent case! (See De Fauw, J., Ledsam, J. R. & Romera-Paredes, B. et al (2018) Clinically applicable deep learning for diagnosis and referral in retinal disease. Nature Medicine nature.com/articles/s41591-018-0107-6.)  You can expect the technology to be rolled out into operational use within two to three years.  Having said that, some are concerned that people's medical data has been shared with an AI or Google. Britain's information ombudsman has previously warned that the Royal Free Hospital in the past has not done enough to protect patients' data over other research with DeepMind.

Genetically modifying humans is not unethical says the Nuffield Foundation.  The Nuffield Foundation is a respected independent body that identifies and defines ethical questions raised by recent developments in biological and medical research that concern, or are likely to concern, the public interest so as to inform policy.  The have produced a report on Genome Editing and Human Reproduction.  As part of this, they address the question of directing human evolution and the possibility that genome editing may create significant inequalities or divisions among humans, or even lead to a divergence between those who have, and those who have not, been born following genome editing.  They conclude that none of the considerations they explored presents an ethical problem for heritable genome editing.  However they say that two things are required when researchers ethically consider a proposed human genome edit.  The first is that they contribute in their deliberations to the development of the international human rights framework. The second is sustaining a community of public interest around biomedical science/technology to understand and address concerns: that is to say their deliberations should be open and involve some element of consultation. (See www.nuffieldbioethics.org.)  +++ See also the book review Redesigning Humans: Choosing Our Children's Genes.  +++ Mitochondrial genetic disease measure.  +++ Human mitochondrial replacement is OK says US National Academies of Sciences.  +++ The US Food and Drug Administration has ordered a clinic to cease offering mitochondrial replacement treatment.  +++ Three parent humans are now possible with mitochondrial DNA transfer.

Has Google signalled the end for the Turing Test?  Google's I/O developer bot, which converses with life-like speech, is sufficiently fluent and is very convincing as a plausible human speaking.  The Turing Test was devised by the mathematician Alan Turing as a test to see whether an artificial intelligence (AI) had true intelligence: it works by someone interrogating both the intelligence and a human via a microphone and speaker.  If the tester is unable to distinguish through conversation whether or not they are talking to a human or a computer intelligence then the computer has passed the AI test.  A demonstration of Google's I/O developer bot was so convincing that Google promptly announced that it would ensure that those interacting with it would have the bot's artificial nature disclosed at the outset. This of course nullifies the purpose of the Turing Test. So it seems that AIs are now so advanced, and the voices they use sufficiently life-like, that it is possible that some will be Turing-test convinced that they are talking to a real person.  +++ Previous related news on this site includes: Artificial Intelligence passes Turing Test with commercial implications! and Computer program sort of passes Turing test in Royal Society stunt.

Google sells out and is producing a search engine that incorporates China's state censorship according to The Intercept.com. Google is reportedly developing 'Dragonfly'. If Google goes ahead then this will be a 'U'-turn following it removing its search engine from China in 2010. Apparently, the proposed new engine will not search on strings such as 'human rights' and 'religion'. It will also not cite websites blacklisted by the Chinese government such as the BBC, Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Europa has water plumes, echoing Arthur C. Clarke's 2010: Odyssey Two!  Analysis of data from the 1995 Galileo mission's closest encounter with the Jupiter moon Europa corroborate the idea of a water plume erupting through Europa's surface ice from a subsurface ocean. The prospects for some form of microbial life there are tantalising.  Of course the principal candidate for such life from recent missions to the gas giants is that for Saturn's Enceladus, but Arthur Clarke mused Europa as a home for primordial life in his 1982 novel 2010: Odyssey Two. In that novel's acknowledgements section Clarke credits the idea to Richard Hoagland in a January 1980 Star and Sky magazine article 'The Europa Enigma'.  (For details of the new Europa plume evidence see Jia et al, 2018, Evidence of a plume on Europa from Galileo magnetic and plasma wave signatures. Nature Astronomy, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-018-0450-z.)

Enceladus' water plumes contain organic compounds.  Since 2014 we have known that there is sub-surface water in Enceladus at least the volume of N. America's Lake Superior. Subsequently it has been speculated that this water could potentially harbour life  Since then, Cassini has flown through one of this Saturn moon's water plumes. Two mass spectrometers onboard the Cassini spacecraft, the Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA) and the Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer (INMS) detected macromolecular organic material with molecular masses above 200 atomic mass units. This is far bigger than the molecules previously detected that have an atomic mass of less than 50. This discovery arguably takes us a small step closer to the possibility of life there. (See Postberg et al (2018) Macromolecular organic compounds from the depths of Enceladus. Nature vol. 558, p564-7.)

Britain's first domestic spaceport announced!  Britain has never had a domestic space port. (Though it has had facilities elsewhere in the Commonwealth: notably Australia in the 1950s with the development of Blue Streak which later became one of the ESA Ariane launcher stages.)  The A'Mhoine Peninsula in Sutherland, northern Scotland will be the spaceport's site. Launches are expected in the 2020s. A British version of the Lockheed Electron launcher may use this site. Britain has not invested in launch vehicles since 1971 and Black Arrow, which launched the Prospero satellite. The spaceport also might see plane-launched rockets. Britain already has a thriving satellite construction industry but the window for developing an economically viable spaceport is closing given growing potential international competition.

The majority of US citizens support space activity says Pew poll. Which is a good thing given that space is a core SF trope.  The Pew Research Center surveyed 2,541 citizens which statistically is estimated to reflect the US citizenry as a whole to around plus or minus 2.7 percentage points (a range of 5.4%).  The headline results indicate that:  72% of US Americans say it is essential for U.S. to be a leader in space exploration;  80% the International Space Station was a good investment;  65% that NASA should continue its role;  only 11% said that climate monitoring from space was unimportant and 9% for monitoring near Earth asteroids;  yet 37% and 44% thought that sending astronauts to Mars or back to the Moon was unimportant;  and 58% felt it was essential that humans in space exploration was important.  (See Funk, C. & Strauss, M., 2018, Majority of Americans Believe It is Essential that the U.S. Remain a Global Leader in Space. Pew Research Center: US.)

Patas monkeys inspired Theodor ‘Dr Seuss’ Geisel's Lorax biologists contend.  Writing in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, bioscientists Nathaniel J. Dominy, Sandra Winters and James Higham with English literature academic Donald E. Pease had looked at the ecology of where Geisel was – Mount Kenya Safari Club – when he drafted his children's book The Lorax (1970). By 2010, the book had been translated into 15 languages with more than 1.6 million copies sold   The story concerns a fantasy creature, the Lorax, who “speaks for the trees”.  In 1989 it became the target of an unsuccessful 1989 book-banning campaign in the logging community of Laytonvile, California. (Presumably they did not like the book's subtext of being a polemic against unsustainable development.)  The researchers conclude that the whistling thorn acacia (Acacia drepanolobium) is the species of tree in the book. This tree is one on which the patas monkey (Erythrocebus patas) feed.  Indeed, the patas monkey and a pre-publication illustration Geisel drew of the Lorax for the book have some striking similarities. (A version of this drawing apears in the book.) Similarities include the patas monkey's occasional upright stance and white hair around the mouth that could pass for the Lomax's lighter yellow beard compared to darker tan body fur.  If the patas monkey is the Lomax the it changes litcrit's understanding of the book. The litcrit traditional view of the Lorax is of it being a sort of eco-policeman asserting authority.  Conversely, with patas monkeys feeding off the trees, it should be considered as a sustainable consumer.  While the features of other monkey species are present, the authors conclude that Geisel drew inspiration from a cercopithecine monkey and its ecology.  When put together with the fact that the book was written while on safari in Kenya, the coincidence seems striking.  (See Dominy, N. J., Winters, S., Pease, D. E. & Higham, J. P. (2018) Dr Seuss and the real Lorax. Nature Ecology & Evolutionvol. 2 p1,196 - 1,198.).

Iron man stolen!  The original Iron Man suit Robert Downey, Jr. wore in Jon Favreau’s 2008 film has been stolen from Movie Prop Storage in Pacoima, Los Angeles, US.  The suit is valued at US$325,000 (£200,000).

’Gaming disorder’ is official says World Heath Organisation.  Gaming disorder is defined in the draft 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as a pattern of gaming behaviour (“digital-gaming” or “video-gaming”) characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.  For gaming disorder to be diagnosed, the behaviour pattern must be of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning and would normally have been evident for at least 12 months.

Gamers prove quantum theory's spooky action at a distance.  Take a laser of polarised light (which consists of quantum entangled photons), split it into two, flip one photon and its counterpart photon in the other beam, in theory instantaneously, flips too.  This is quantum theory's spooky action at a distance and to date experimental evidence indicates that this is what happens.  Except there is wriggle room in the experiment.  One such get-out caveat is in the way the researchers choose to measure the flip in what is called a 'Bell Test': they could unwittingly be doing it in a way that biases the results to make it seem as if spooky action at a distance is taking place.  So what to do?  An international team of over a score of researchers, called the BIG Bell Test Collaboration, have outsourced the decision-making to around 100,000 computer gamers: the game's multiple, virtually random, choices determined the way the photons were analysed: over a 12-hour period the game players unwittingly determined how nearly 100 million photon analysis choices were made. The video-game enabled a rapid collection of human-generated randomness.  The results on experiments in 12 laboratories using entangled photons (as per our laser example earlier), entangled atoms, entangled clumps of atoms and photons in superconducting quibits, all showed that locality is violated: that affecting an entangled particle in one place will instantly affect its entangled counterpart in another place.  This is another piece of evidence in support of quantum theory that 'cause' does not necessarily have a local 'effect'. ( See The BIG Bell test Collaboration, 2018, Challenging local realism with human choices. Nature vol. 557, p212-216.)
          But does this mean that quantum theory rules?  Well no, there still is some wriggle room. For example, though the researchers' hidden biases may be ruled out, it could be that the rules of the universe are such that the gamers themselves were forced to make choices so to make it appear that quantum theory works. If that's the case, then it puts the notion of free will into doubt.  Quantum theory physics really does border with science fictional metaphysical philosophy.

The Earth's magnetic field may not be reversing.  Geo-magnetic reversals (where the Earth's North Pole becomes the South Pole) may not be about to reverse as had been thought.  Magnetic reversals have been used in SF, typically as the cause for some cataclysm (or example Faraday's Orphans).  They occur naturally every several thousand years and, though these events have no discernable ecological impact, it is possible that a reversal – with the temporary diminution of the protective Earth's magnetic field – may impact on our technological civilization's electronics.  Their frequency (noticeable, for example, from the spreading bands from the mid-Atlantic ridge) is such, and the current weakening (around 5% per century since 1840) suggests, that we are possibly overdue for a reversal.  Now researchers Maxwell Brown, Monika Korte and colleagues have modelled the past two geo-magnetic reversals -- the Laschamp and Mono Lake, centred at 41 and 34 kya (thousands of years ago), respectively – and compared the pattern over time of the magnetic flux then with that the past century.  Indeed the current pattern is similar to a time between changes around 49 kya and 46 kya.  The researchers therefore conclude that the Earth's magnetic field is not about to flip, even though we still are, though, long overdue for a flip.  (Brown et al, 2018, Earth’s magnetic field is probably not reversing. PNAS, doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1722110115.)

Brain death happens in a cascade of neuron depolarisation: Star Trek was right but that is no big deal.  German and US researchers led by Jens P. Dreier, have observed a rapid spreading of depolarised neurons that starts 2 to 5 minutes after heart failure. This cascade is due to oxygen failing to get to the brain: an observation previously only monitored in some non-human animals.  The research was conducted on five brain injury patients with a 'Do Not Resuscitate–Comfort Care' order and who were having their life support discontinued.  The SF link is that there has been a bit of unwarranted hype on the net citing similarities of this research to a description of Tasha Yar's death in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode 'Skin of Evil' .  Actually that episode merely sees Dr Crusher's medical aide note that neuron depolarization has already taken place; such a one-second clip is hardly noteworthy especially as neuron depolarization is a well-known phenomena from previous animal studies.  (The research paper is Dreier et al, 2018, Terminal Spreading Depolarization and Electrical Silence in Death of Human Cerebral Cortex, Annals of Neurology vol. 83 (2), p295-310.)

The state has the right to your facial recognition data says British Minister.  The all-party Science and Technology Committee of the House of Commons had expressed concerns about facial recognition technology’s oversight, its use at high profile events, and the retention and deletion of images for those not convicted.  To this the Minister of State for Countering Extremism, Baroness Williams of Trafford, has responded in advance of Britain's forthcoming Biometrics Strategy.  She says that while the Custody Image Review (published February 2017) allows those not convicted of an offence to request the deletion of their image from police databases, automated deletion when not convicted of the crime is not possible due to the systems used by police forces. The deletion of images of unconvicted people must be done manually, and doing so will, the Minister said, “have significant costs and be difficult to justify given the off-setting reductions [police] forces would be required to find in order to fund it”. Yes, the state has rights over your facial features.
          Norman Lamb MP, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee, in turn said: “The Government is unable to inform us of the number of cases in which images have been deleted, and they tell us that the systems that would be used to do so are not up to the task. It appears that the police are making-do with current systems and practices even if it results in images of innocent people being retained.  This leaves an unsatisfactory approach to the retention of facial images compared to the approach used for DNA and fingerprint records. The Government should urgently review its approach and put suitable processes and digital infrastructure in place.  There is also an issue about whether some individuals even know that their image is on police databases in the first place. We will address all these issue in greater detail in our upcoming report.”

Three and a half thousand Swedish citizens have had themselves chipped.  Eschewing The Prisoner mantra 'I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. My life is my own', these Swedes have had a personal identity chip inserted under their skin that can be scanned.  (For further information see theconversation.com/thousands-of-swedes-are-inserting-microchips-into-themselves-heres-why-97741.)

Google has been fined £3.9bn by the European Union.  The £3.9 billion (€4.34bn or US$5bn) fine concerns Google's Android pushing users to use the Google search engine over competing engines. The concerns against Google here include:-
1)  It required Android handset and tablet manufacturers to pre-install the Google Search app and its own web browser Chrome as a condition for allowing them to offer access to its Play app store.
2)  It made payments to large manufacturers and mobile network operators that agreed to exclusively pre-install the Google Search app on their devices.
3)  It prevented manufacturers from selling any smart devices powered by alternative "forked" versions of Android by threatening to refuse them permission to pre-install its apps.
However, the EU acknowledges that Google's version of Android does not prevent device owners downloading alternative web browsers or using other search engines.  Meanwhile there is another EU investigation into Google in process regarding Google's advert-placing business AdSense.

How are we engaging with new communications technology? The British governmental communications ombudsman reports.  Offcom has produced a Communications Marketing Report that reveals how Brits use the new communications technology. The data they gather shows how the increasing take-up of faster fixed and mobile data services is extending people’s choice over how, where and when Brits communicate with others, watch or listen to content services, seek information, shop and participate in the digital world.  The report's highlights include:-
          - 190GB consumed by an average fixed residential broadband line and 1.9GB via an average mobile subscription per month in 2017.
          - the number of call minutes originating on mobile phones declined for the first time.
          - subscription services now account for 18 minutes of Brits' daily viewing, YouTube 29 minutes, and all non-TV viewing a total of 89 minutes of our time every day.
          - nevertheless, despite more choice across more platforms, TV and radio broadcasters continue to account for the majority of Brits' viewing.
          - nine in ten people watched TV every week in 2017, for an average of 3 hours 23 minutes a day. This is nine minutes less than in 2016 and down across all age groups under the age of 65. Those aged 55+ accounted for more than half of all viewing in the UK.
          - nine in ten adults in the UK listen to the radio for an average of nearly 21 hours a week, and 75% of all audio listening is via live radio.
          - as communications move online, the letters market has fallen (volumes were 5% lower in 2017 than in 2016). But this decline has been offset by growth in the parcels market as people do more online shopping; 12% more parcels were sent in 2017 than in the previous year.
          - 5.2% of households’ spend was on communications services (£124.62 per month).
          - people claimed to spend a total of one day a week online (24 hours), more than twice as much as in 2011!
          - smartphones have become the most popular internet-connected device (78% of UK adults use one).
          - nine in ten people had access to the internet in the home in 2018. Notably 10% do not!
          - 16% of the adult population do not do online banking or online shopping. A third of UK adult citizens do not do online banking (online shopping is more popular).

Fake news: British democracy is at risk, and now is the time to act, to protect shared values and the integrity of democratic institutions, says all-party Parliamentary Select Committee.  The House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee – which includes representatives from all the major political parties – has published a report titled Disinformation and ‘fake news’: Interim Report.  They conclude, among other things, that: content standards for television and radio broadcasters;  research is needed to develop a potential website accuracy verification metric, so that people can see, at a glance, the level of verification of a site;  Britain's Information Commissioner Office needs to attract and retain more expert staff;  Britain's electoral law is not fit for purpose for the digital age, and needs to be amended;  Social media companies should not hide behind the claim of being merely a ‘platform’;  The operation of the advertising market on social media needs examination;  A professional global Code of Ethics should be developed by tech companies, in collaboration with this and other governments, academics, and interested parties, including the World Summit on Information Society, to set down in writing what is and what is not acceptable by users on social media, with possible liabilities for companies and for individuals working for those companies, including those technical engineers involved in creating the software for the companies;  Tech companies must also address the issue of shell corporations and other professional attempts to hide identity in advert purchasing, especially around election advertising;  A cross-government-departmental development of mechanisms to counter another country's impact on campaigning in Britain is needed;  and, finally, digital literacy should be the fourth pillar of education, alongside reading, writing and maths. (See House of Commons the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, 2018, Disinformation and ‘fake news’: Interim Report. HC363. House of Commons: London.)

The European has shot its own internet foot with Articles 11 and 13.  In trying to address the legitimate problem of internet platforms making money from, but not sharing it with, intellectual creators, the European Parliament has come up with Articles 11 and 13 of the proposed Copyright in the Digital Single Market directive, both of which were passed in a preliminary vote in June.  Article 11, requires online platforms to pay publishers a fee if they link to their news content.  Article 13 gets websites to enforce copyright and it could mean that every online platform that allows users to post text, sounds, code or images (such as Facebook, Amazon, Scribd or YouTube) will need some form of content-recognition system to review and potentially filter if deemed a copyright violation, all material that users upload.  SF author and cyber geek Cory Doctorow has opined that the proposed new laws require an impossible filter. He is reported as saying that, “No filter exists that can even approximate this. And the closest equivalents are mostly run by American companies, meaning that US big tech is going to get to spy on everything Europeans post and decide what gets censored and what doesn't."  Further, 70 tech leaders, including Vint Cerf and Tim Berners-Lee, signed a letter opposing Article 13, which they called "an imminent threat to the future" of the internet. It will hinder the sharing of code and could stifle small start-up companies in the EU and is likely to stifle investment in such start-ups: why in vest in a new start-up in a restrictive environment when you could invest in a similar venture in a less restrictive venture?  There are also freedom of expression and information issue.  However, there are those supporting the move including artists in the music sector who have seen their product endlessly freely copied.  This last is a legitimate issue. The question is whether Articles 11 and 13 are the best way to address it?

Dixons Carphone gets hacked and an estimated 10 million customers' details have been stolen.  The Brit company Dixons Carphone is behind The Carphone Warehouse and Currys PC World.  All customers have been contacted as to precautions they need to take. It is thought that this is the largest hack of a British company and a crime that just a couple of decades ago would literally have been science fiction.

And finally…

Dinosaur's genetic evolution outlined from modern descendent species' genomes.  Shades of Jurassic Park.  A team from mainly British institutions (with one US American in the mix) has analysed the genomes of a number of modern species including: the Caroline anole lizard (A. carolinensis), the red-eared slider (T. scripta), chicken (G. gallus), mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) and zebra finch (T. guttata). A grey short-tailed opossum (Monodelphis domestica) genome was also sequenced to see how an old mammal species compared.  19 ancestral regions of the a likely ancestral genome were identified.  It appears that the dinosaurs were genetically diverse and that this diversity explains the diversity of birds we see today as well as to how dinosaurs survived twmass extinction events before the end-Cretaceous asteroid impact did them in. (See O'Connor, R. E. et al (2018) Reconstruction of the diapsid ancestral genome permits chromosome evolution tracing in avian and non-avian dinosaurs. Nature Communications vol. 9, 1883. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-04267-9.)
          Does this research bring us close to recreating a dinosaur as in Jurassic Park?  The short answer is, sadly, no.  But it does help in that if we got preserved (say in amber as in the Jurassic Park novel) dinosaur DNA which would – due to age – likely be highly fragmented, then this work would help place the fragments in order.  Much more needs to be done, but we are a lot closer than we were even if we still have a long way to go.

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

Autumn 2018

Rest In Peace

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

 

Michael Anderson, the British film director, has died aged 98. His most famous film was the (technowar) The Dam Busters (1955, trailer here) that among other things whose theme music was the famous 'The Dam Busters March'.  His SFnal offerings began with Around the World in 80 Days (1956, trailer here) the adaptation of the Jules Verne 1873 novel, the first cinema adaptation of George Orwell's 1949 novel 1984 (1956) and famously included Logan's Run (1976, trailer here), which though expensive to produce was profitable.  His other SF films included Millennium (1989, trailer here) and the delightfully camp Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (1975) based on the novels by Kenneth Robeson (intro here).  For television, he made the mini-series The Martian Chronicles (1980, trailer here) based on Ray Bradbury's 1950 themed collection of shorts, and the TV film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1997) based on Verne's 1870 novel.  Indeed some of his other films had hints of fantastical elements, such as the drug sequence in the spy film The Quiller Memorandum (1966, trailer here).  On directing science-fiction films he said, "I'm totally fascinated by it and whenever I'm asked to do science-fiction I jump at it because it's something I really enjoy. You can use your own imagination more. It opens up visual aspects that are taboo or you don't get the opportunity to do in normal films. Where do you get the opportunity of doing a time tank? Or a holograph? Or somebody walking from the past into the future or the present? It's a fascinating spirit--something we all dream about."  He was awarded with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Directors Guild of Canada and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director.

John Bain, the British gaming commentator/critic better known as TotalBiscuit, The Cynical Brit and TotalHalibut, has died aged of bowel cancer 33. He had run (2005-2010) World of Warcraft Radio.  In 2010, following the 2007 financial crash, he was made redundant from his financial sector job and set up his own computer game comment channel on YouTube (which garnered him 2.2 million subscribers) and then began to have regular appearances also on other YouTube channels.  He was involved in the Gammergate controversy in that his comments on the subject caused debate.  In 2012 he was shortlisted for the Golden Joystick Award in category 'Greatest YouTube Gamer' as well as in 2014 wining a The Game Award in the Fans' Choice 'Trending Gamer' category.

Alan Bean, the US astronaut, has died aged 86.  In total he spent over 69 days in space. He is best known for the second Moon landing mission, Apollo 12 (1969).  The television picture of Apollo 11 had been in black and white, but Apollo 12 carried a colour camera. Unfortunately, on landing on the Moon, Bean pointed the camera at the Sun and burnt it out. He subsequently made up for this as an artist by drawing colour depictions of the Apollo 12 mission.  His second space journey was for the Skylab 3 mission in 1973.

Yvonne Blake, the British-born Spanish costume designer, has died aged 78. She worked in the filmmaking industry and won an Oscar and four Goya Awards as well as being nominated for the Emmy and BAFTA Awards. Her genre note is that she designed Christopher Reeve's Superman costume for the Hugo Award-winning film as well as costumes in Fahrenheit 451.

Paul Delos Boyer, the US biochemist, has died aged 99.  He is known for elucidating the enzymatic mechanism underlying the biosynthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) (ATP synthase). ATP is the molecule that releases energy to enable chemical reactions in cells: in effect it is the molecule that enables life to 'spend' energy.  For this he shared the 1997 Nobel Prize for Chemistry (with John E. Walker, and also for separate but related work Jens Christian Skou).  Boyer died just under a month short of his 100th birthday.

Steve Ditko, the US comics writer and artist, has died aged 90.  Though Stan Lee is best known by the public, Steve Ditko has garnered huge respect for his contribution to SF/F comics though himself never sought the public lime light.  His contributions include co-creating with Stan Lee the characters of Spiderman and Doctor Strange.  He also co-created Captain Atom.  He worked for Atlas (a forerunner of Marvel) as well as both Marvel and DC Comics plus also Charlton.  Steve Ditko's career was simply too huge – with so many small but important contributions to comics history – to condense into a short obituary. However, if you can, do seek out the 2007, 1-hour BBC documentary In Search of Steve Ditko with Jonathan Ross and Neil Gaiman.  Steve Ditko was simply a giant in his field.

Robert Dix, the US actor, has died aged 83.  His genre credits include: Forbidden Planet (1956), Frankenstein’s Daughter (1958) and The Last Frankenstein (2018).

Gardner Dozois, the US editor and author, has died of an infection aged 70.  He is best known for having been the editor of Asimov's Science Fiction magazine (1984–2004) as well as the annual The Year's Best Science Fiction (1984-2017) anthology of shorts (which happen to include a couple of SF² Concatenation's Best of Nature's Futures'). Each of these anthologies also contained a largely N. American and book-focussed summary of the previous year's SF developments. As a result of this work, he has won 15 'Best Professional Editor' Hugo Awards.  His editorial work prevented Dozois from his own writing career. Nonetheless, he won two Nebulas for the short stories 'The Peacemaker' (1984) and 'Morning Child' (1985).

Stan Dragoti, the US film director, has died aged 85.  His genre relevance is being the director of the vampire spoof Love at First Bite (1979).

Harlan Ellison, the US science fiction author and grandmaster, has died aged 84.  Harlan was a consummate short story as well as screen story writer.  He is known in SF circles for editing the anthologies Dangerous Visions (1967) and Again, Dangerous Visions (1972) that both won Worldcon Awards. A third volume in the series was worked on but never completed at the time of his demise.  More broadly he is known for the film adaptation of his short story 'A Boy and his Dog', scripting the Hugo winning Star Trek episode 'The City on the Edge of Forever' and being a consultant on the series Babylon 5 for which he also wrote an episode (and in another in which he had a brief cameo).  His scripting famously included two episodes of The Outer Limits: 'Demon with a Glass Hand' and Soldier'. The latter was similar in plot premise to The Terminator (1984): Harlan sued and won. This incident was the basis for Harlan's (voice and cartoon character spoof) appearance in the series The Simpsons in the episode 'Married to the Blob' (2014).  Harlan was known for his somewhat argumentative approach and he was not reluctant to go to court if he felt strongly and had a case. Sometimes he did not win such as when suing the makers of the film In Time.  He also sued over not being paid video and DVD dues for the Star Trek episode 'The City on the edge of Forever'.  He won eight Hugos, two special Worldcon Awards and four Nebulas.  The Hugo award ceremony to have attended to see Harlan receive the most accolades was the 1968 Worldcon – Baycon at which he won: a short story Hugo for 'I Have no Mouth, and I Must Scream'; a Hugo for 'dramatic presentation' Star Trek -'The City on the Edge of Forever'; and a Worldcon Award for Dangerous Visions.  He was a an SFWA (SF Writers of America) Grand Master and was a Prometheus Award Hall of Fame winner from the Libertarian Futurist Society for his 1965 story ''Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman'.  Harlan may have been controversial, sometimes hard to be with, but he was never dull and something of a genius storyteller.

Stanley Falkow FRS, the US microbiologist, has died aged 84.  He is sometimes known as the father of molecular microbial pathogenesis (how bacteria become infectious diseases). His early work looked at the genetics behind antibiotic resistance and discovered that some plasmids (circular ‘nucleic’ acid independent of chromosomes) had a genetic component that conferred some forms of antibiotic resistance.  he went on to show that a strain of E. coli could cause life-threatening diarrhoea.  Such was his standing he was elected a foreign Fellow of the Royal Society (UK).

Peter Firmin, the British artist, has died aged 89.  He was the founder of the television production company Smallfilms, with Oliver Postgate.  They created a number of popular children's TV programmes including the fantasies The Saga of Noggin the Nog, and Ivor the Engine as well as the SFnal Clangers.

Michael D. Ford, the British film art director, has died aged 90.  His cinematic sets included those in Man in the Moon (1960); The Empire Strikes Back (1980); Return of the Jedi (1983); and the J. G. Ballard young biopic Empire of the Sun (1987). He also assisted in set designs for the following James Bond films: The Living Daylights (1987), Licence to Kill (1989) and GoldenEye (1995).  He co-won an Oscar for his contributions as set decorator to Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). He also had Oscar nominations for The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983) and Empire of the Sun (1987).

Gary Friedrich, the US comics writer who co-created Marvel's The Ghost Rider, has died aged 75.

Livia Gollancz, the British publisher, has died aged 97.  The daughter of Victor Gollancz, who founded the family owned publishing house Gollancz in 1928, Livia joined the business in 1953 flowing the end of her music career as a horn player due to dental problems. In music Livia notably was the first female principal horn in a UK orchestra. She then inherited the business when Victor had a serious stroke in 1966. Though overall in charge of Gollancz (and one of the first women to head a British publishing house) she was specifically responsible for the thriller list, music books and the mountaineering and walking titles, the latter three being personal passions. Though not responsible for Gollancz's (excellent even back then) SF list, it was during her time that the SF hardbacks all had distinctive yellow spines which made them very easy to spot in the library as a whole generation of British SF readers are acutely aware. Retiring and without a familial heir, she Gollancz to Houghton Mifflin in 1989 and, as longstanding Gollancz staff member Malcolm Edwards noted, gave a share of the sale proceeds to the staff. She was also particularly pleased that no staff jobs were lost as part of the sale. Alas 1989 was close to the 5-year long hiatus in British publishing that saw many sales and mergers, and three years later it was again sold to Cassell along with Orion. It was subsequently acquired by Hachette in 1996 with Orion which became the publishing house with Gollancz its SF/F imprint, which brings us up-to-date.

David Goodall, the British-born, Australian botanical ecologist, has died aged 104.  He is noted for his significant development of statistical methods in ecology. His death was controversial (to some) in that it was through assisted suicide.

Frank Heart, the US computer scientist, had died aged 89.  He is best known for having built the first (what is now known a) router to transfer messages between computers that was used in ARPANET, the predecessor to the Internet.

Margot Kidder, the Canadian / US actress, has died aged 69.  SFnally she is noted for her role in the Hugo-winning film Superman (1978) - trailer here.  A coroner has ruled her death was sadly suicide as a result of a self-inflicted overdose. A joint statement from the coroner's office and her family urged "those suffering from mental illnesses, addiction and/or suicidal thoughts to seek appropriate counselling and treatment". Since 1996 Margot was open about her mental health issues.

Clive King, the British juvenile fiction author, has died aged 94.  His most famous novel is Stig of the Dump (1963) which concerns a young boy in southern England stumbling across a primitive caveman (Stig) living near a refuse dump.  It transpires that Stig can travel in time and takes the boy back to see the construction of some standing stone monoliths. The novel was twice adapted for television in 1981 and 2002 respectively.  King became a fulltime writer in 1973 and went on to write over a score of novels.  He is also known for The 22 Letters (1966). This novel was set in the 15th century BC eastern Mediterranean and concerns the three sons of a Phoenician master boat builder. During the course of the novel, they save their homeland from invasion and make discoveries including celestial navigation and alphabetic writing.

Richard H. Kline, the US cinematographer, has died aged 91.  His cinematic genre contributions include: Chamber of Horrors (1966), Camelot (1967) (for which he was short-listed for an Oscar), The Andromeda Strain (1971), Soylent Green (1973), Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973), King Kong (1976) (for which he was short-listed for an Oscar), Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), Howard the Duck (1986), My Stepmother is an Alien (1988).  He won a 'Lifetime Achievement Award' from the American Society of Cinematographers in 2006.

Deanna Lund , the US actress has died aged 81.  In SFnal terms her most prominent role was as Valerie Ames Scott in the show The Land of the Giants.  She also had roles in the techno-thriller spy spoof Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965), the time-travel, secret agent film Dimension 5 (1966), and the comedy horror spoof Transylvania Twist (1989).

Peter Mayer, the British-borne, US publisher, has died aged 82.  Moving from Britain to the US when he was just three with his family. After a time in the US Merchant Marine he returned to Britain in the early 1960s starting as an editorial assistant at Orion. A year later he moved to Avon Books for 14 years during which time he also founded his own publishing house Overlook Books: "a home for distinguished books that had been 'overlooked' by larger houses".  after a short stint at Simon & Schuster, he spent 18 years as head of Penguin Books with additional responsibility for its US, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, German, Netherlands, and Indian operations. During this time he published Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses (1988) and had a fatwa issued against him.  But it was his re-energising Penguin for which he is perhaps most credited. Here, his introduction of ‘vertical publishing’ played a part.  Up to then an author commonly went to one publisher for their book to appear in hardback and then another for the paperback edition. With Peter Mayer at Penguin, authors could stick with just one publisher and editor for their book whose various formats he marketed in a coordinated way. Following Penguin, he returned to focus on Overlook Press, which he had through his latter career been supervising in his spare time. He remained president of that publishing house up to his death. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the London Book Fayre in 2008.

Jacqueline Pearce, the British actress, has died aged 74.  To Festival of Fantastic Films buffs (of which she was a Guest of Honour in 2016) she is known for her roles in fantastical horror films such as Hammer's The Plague of the Zombies (1966) and The Reptile (1966) she also appeared in half a dozen non-genre cinematic offerings. On television her cult appearances included in Danger Man, The Avengers (the British original and not based on the Marvel comic strip), The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and not forgetting in the Doctor Who adventure 'The Two Doctors' as Chessene, a bloodthirsty alien.  However, it was here role as Servalan, a slinky and self-serving leader within the dictatorial oppressors, in Blake's 7 (1978 – '81) for which she will be fondly remembered (Servalan clip compilation here). She was diagnosed with lung cancer a few weeks before her death.  Farewell you divinely sensuous, svelte Machiavellian tyrant. You performed beautifully.

David Pines, the US physicist, has died aged 93.  With David Bohm he elucidated that electrons moving at high speeds behave as a wave. They also studied electrons moving within metals in clumps. This work was done in the 1940s.  Bohn was unfortunately caught up in US politics of the 1950s and was arrested for refusing to testify to a committee investigating communism. He was acquitted in 1951 but lost his job.  He then moved to the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. He went on to work on quantum liquids and superfluids. He was also active between the late 1960s and 1980s on US-Soviet physics cooperative programs. He was still writing science to the end.

Burton Richter, the US physicist, has died aged 87.  Specialising in particle physics he assisted the design of a ring –shaped particle collider at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. He then used it to discover a new particle (J/χ) which in turn confirmed the existence of the 'charm' quark.  For this, along with colleague Samuel Ting, the 1976 Nobel for Physics.

Michael Scott Rohan , the Scottish author, has died age 67.  He did write a little SF including his first novel Run to the Stars (1983) but is best known for his fantasy. Here his 'Winter of the World' sequence that began with The Anvil of Ice (1986) and his science-fantasy 'Spiral' series beginning with Chase the Morning (1990) are his two bodies of work.

Margit Sandemo, the Norwegian fantasy author, has died aged 94.  Her historical fantasy novels are hugely popular in Scandinavian countries. Her first novel was Tre Friare (Three Suitors); that novel had been rejected over a hundred times before being published following serialisation in a magazine.  She is probably best known for her 'Sagan om Isfolket' ('The Legend of the Ice People') series of 47 books that began with Spellbound (1982).  She has been translated into Danish, Finnish, German, Hungarian, Icelandic, Norwegian, Polish, Swedish and English (the latter published by The Tagman Press from 2008 onwards).  In her personal life she was happily married but in her childhood was assaulted on four separate occasions.  She was extremely well read both in terms of the literary classics such as Shakespeare, Fyodor Dostoevsky, J.R.R. Tolkien, Agatha Christie and Kjersti Scheen. She was also known to be fond of the original Star Wars films and the early X-Files though disdained later seasons. As such she could sympathise with the interests of those within the SF/F community.  She was a giant of northern European fantasy.

Claude Seignolle, the French author, has died aged 101. He also wrote under the pseudonyms 'Starcante', 'S. Claude' and 'Jean-Robert Dumoulin'.  Barely a handful of his supernatural and horror books have been translated into English including: The Accursed (1967), The Nightcharmer: And Other Tales (1983) Man with Seven Wolves (1992) and The Black Cupboard (2010).

Marie Severin, the US comics artist, has died aged 89.  She co-created Marvel's original Spider Woman character with Archie Goodwin; Marie Severin was responsible for the character's visual look.  The character also appeared in an animated television series. Other Marvel characters she drew included among others: The Hulk, Doctor Strange and the Sub-Mariner.  She also co-created Howard the Duck (the comics were better than the awful film).  of genre note she was the colourist for Marvel's 2001: A Space Odyssey 'Treasury Special' edition: the graphic novel of the film which also contained article extras . She won an Inkpot Award at the San Diego Comic Con in 1988 and inducted into the Will Eisner Comics Hall of Fame in 2001. She received the Comic-Con International's Icon Award in 2017.

Jens Christian Skou, the Danish biochemist, has died aged 99.  He developed an interest in anaesthetics early in his career in the 1950s. He discovered that many anaesthetics affected the opening of sodium channels in a cell's outer membrane and that this in turn was likely mediated by a protein embedded in the membrane.  Working with Robert Post whom he met at a symposium, he refined his ideas on sodium pumps.  In 1997 he received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (together with Paul D. Boyer and John E. Walker) for his discovery of Na+,K+-ATPase (Sodium/Potassium ion ATPase).

Verne Troyer, the US actor, has died aged 49.  He is most famous for playing mini-me in the two comedy technothriller, Austin Powers films (1999, and 2002) - Short video here.  He also appeared in Men in Black (1997) and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001).

Shelby Vick, the US science fiction fan, has died aged 89.  He was associated with the fanzines Comet, The Corflu Courier, Confusion's Conception, Countdown X-10, Embers, Planetary Stories and Pulp Spirit among others. He also was central to organising Corflu 16.  He was married to fellow fan Suzanne Vick.

Tom Wolfe, the US journalist and writer, has died aged 88.  He is credited for developing the (less dry) literary journalistic style.  SFnally he is noted for his non-fiction book The Right Stuff (1979) about the Mercury astronauts (which was turned into a film of the same name).

Lucy Zinkiewicz, the Australian SF fan, has died aged 50. Her fanzines include: Strawberry Filks Forever and ZinkieZine.

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

Autumn 2018

End Bits & Thanks

 

More science and SF news will be summarised in our Spring 2019 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: Ansible, Jan Butterworth, Anthony Heathcote, Marcin "Alqua" Klak, Charles Partington, Kel Sweeny, Peter Tyers and Peter Wyndham.  There's also an extra tip of the hat to Jan Butterworth for getting for us this edition's standalone review of the 2018 New Zealand national SFconvention.   Additional thanks for news coverage goes not least to the very many representatives of SF groups and professional companies' PR/marketing folk who sent in news. These last have their own ventures promoted on this page.   If you feel that your news, or SF news that interests you, should be here then you need to let us know (as we cannot report what we are not told). :-)

News for the next seasonal upload – that covers the Spring 2019 period – needs to be in before the 2nd week in December. 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.

Be positive – Help spread SF news to fellow enthusiasts -- Bookmark as appropriate below:

Or alternatively

Very many thanks. Meanwhile feel free to browse the rest of the site; key links at the bottom, below.

Want to be kept abreast of when we have something new?
Well, we have a regular schedule but in addition if you are on Twitter we do give some early news of posting @SF2Concat
but no chat just posting alerts so this may not be for you.
Alternatively, as many prefer, you can subscribe to our RSS feed.


[Up: Science Fiction News Index | Recent Site Additions | Author Index to Fiction & Non-Fiction Book Reviews | Home Page: Concatenation]

[ Year's Film & Convention Diary | One Page SF Futures Short Stories | SF Convention Reviews | SF Film Charts | Articles | Whimsy with Gaia ]

[Originally posted 18.9.15 | Contact | Copyright | Privacy Editorial | Site Origins/History]