Science Fiction News & Recent
Science Review for the
Autumn 2019

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

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 2019

Editorial Comment & Staff Stuff



This edition, as usual is packed with both science (fact), SF and some fantasy.  However, here in Blighty this summer and autumn it has sometimes been difficult to tell whether our political classes have been operating in the real world or some wayward fantasy land?  As such, we now share much with our cousins across the Pond.  Yet we take solace in that we hope that our site's visitors will easily be able to tell whether our coverage clearly relates to either the marvels of science fact or the entertaining speculations of science fiction.  If politicians can't tell the difference between reality and fantasy, then fortunately most SF fans and scientists into SF can.  Both  science and SF are packed with sense-of-wonder.  Enjoy.

Meanwhile this summer, here in the British Isles has seen much SF activity not least with the London and Dublin Comic-Cons, the Sci-Fi London film fest, the Dublin Worldcon and the Belfast venued Eurocon.  And there's the formal launch of the 2024 British Worldcon bid.  Fantastic stuff.



Summer is usually the quiet period for SF² Concatenation mission control staff as it is the longest gap in the year between seasonal editions.  However, this year we have a few articles that have taken time in the spring to research including 3 months reading all the 1979 – 1982 Judge Dredds including annuals to find three pictures, though only one was found and used to illustrate April's article on our Graham. This and other picture research for a forthcoming article on Hatfield (Hertfordshire university) PSIFA 40 years on, as well as other preparatory work, meant that a lot of chores usually done in the spring were held over, so the summer was fairly busy.  Hopefully, you'll see the benefit in the coming seasons.

Additionally, there were two gatherings of notePeter and Jonathan attended the third annual BECCON reunion.  Longstanding regulars of this site will recall SF² Concatenation began at the 1987 Eastercon BECCON, and the past couple of years a gathering of the BECCON '87 organisers has been held near SF² Concatenation's co-founder, Graham's, home: Graham had not been well for a few years and this was one way for him to have some physical link with fandom. This year's reunion had been arranged before our losing Graham and so went ahead.  As it happens the venue is near a rail station and not too difficult for most of the original BECCON team to get to, so we may well continue these annual shindigs.

The second gathering was in June and was a second wake for Graham: a celebration of the joy those of us had in knowing him.  Also present were Elaine and Simon as well as a few of Graham's work colleagues.  This event supplanted the 40th PSIFA anniversary event that was to have taken place.  That putative event had well over 100 expressing an interest in attending and indeed was threatening to become unwieldy. (Remember, over a thousand Hatfield students over the years have been PSIFA members: so over a hundred wanting to attend a reunion is not unrealistic.) Whether or not a replacement PSIFA reunion comes to pass remains to be seen. However we may possibly compile an article on PSIFA's early days to go with the one posted elsewhere this edition on how the first Shoestringcon came to be 40 years ago.  Meanwhile, Old Age PSIFAns interested in keeping in touch might 'follow' the PSIFA alumni (as opposed to the current PSIFA's) Facebook page.

Sadness as some of us said farewell to the biologist, writer (both SF and non-fiction) and SF fan Jack Cohen CBiol FIBiol. (We had hoped a last hurrah in the summer.)  A long life led joyously with bags of sensewonda.

One of our book reviewers, Duncan Lunan, has his own book out.  Launched in July, Duncan's From the Moon to the Stars (ISBN 978-1-077-29291-8) helps mark the half-century since the Apollo 11 Moon landing with some of Duncan's past SF stories and non-fiction articles. In addition there are a few illustrations by Sydney (Jeff Hawke) Jordan.  It is available from all good bookshops with a decent popular science and SF section.  (This is the second season in a row in which an SF² Concatenation team member has had a book published.  When it comes to writing, we appear to be fecund.)

Finally, many thanks to those inviting representatives of our team to various SF launches, promotions and receptions over the summer. Those promoting new books and films have their titles listed, reviewed or linked to trailers from this site.  However a special shout out to the Sci-Fi London (SFL) film fest.  Do check them out: we invariably list them when one is being run on our current convention diary page. Even if you cannot go, do check their programme out as each film on their schedule page links to a page of its own with a trailer; if you like the trailer then seek the film to stream or the DVD to buy and most will be available later in the year.  (And if you are in the SE of Britain then make a note for the next one next May.)  Meanwhile, we have links to trailers of four of this year's SFL offerings below.

The other shout out is to the publishers TOR who invited us to a bloggers brunch at the MCM London Comic-Con.  It is always interesting to see TOR authors, and this would have been the first time any of us had been to a Comic-Con (they are more common in N. America): we are more a broad church SF band than into sci-fi / superhero SF but Comic-Cons are fun. Alas weekend rail works impeded matters and it was not to be. TOR's PR bod was alerted to our no show, so we hope they could pass on a ticket to a latecomer to their author brunch event and the con. Nonetheless a 'thank you' to TOR (UK) PR.


Thank you Worldcon

Our heartfelt thanks to this year's Worldcon for including our Graham in the Hugo Awards ceremony's in memoriam.  Truly appreciated.

Graham Connor in memoriam 2019 Worldcon
Video here (7 minutes, Graham scrolls at 2 mins, 2 seconds).


Elsewhere this issue…
Aside from this seasonal news page, elsewhere this issue (vol. 29 (5) Autumn 2019) we have stand-alone items on:-
          My Top Ten Scientists – Dominic Dulley (software engineer)
          CERN – Science or Tourism? -- Jane O'Reilly
          The Shoestringcon [1]: Polycon 1979 story -- Pete Gilligan
          Dublin – The 2019 World SF Convention - Sue Burke
          Ytterbium 2019 – The 2019 British Eastercon -- Peter Tyers
          GeyserCon – New Zealand's 2019 national convention -- Alan Robson
          Plus over forty (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 2 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 2019

Key SF News & SF Awards


A statue of Ray Bradbury was unveiled on 22nd August, Bradbury's 99th birthday.  Unveiled in Waukegan, Illinois, Bradbury's home town, it depicts the author astride a space rocket.  You can see the accompanying concert and unveiling here.  ++++ Past Bradbury related news: the racy Ray Bradbury rock song item here.

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer changes name to The Astounding Award for Best New Writer.  The John W. Campbell Award (not to be confused with the juried John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best novel) is voted along with the Hugos for best new writer in the preceding two years.  As said, it is not a Hugo but is administered with them and sponsored by Dell who publish Analog, the rebranded title of Astounding Science Fiction which Campbell edited.  The name change follows Jeannette Ng acceptance speech at the Hugo Awards at this year's Worldcon in Dublin. Jeannette Ng criticised the Award being named after Campbell who proclaimed views today considered decidedly racist.  This in turn generated much online debate but the Award's sponsor, publisher Dell, considered the criticisms and a week later announced the name change.  This is a summary of what they said:-

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer began in 1973 as a way to honour exemplary science fiction and fantasy authors whose first work was published in the prior two calendar years.
          Named for Campbell, whose writing and role as editor of Astounding Science Fiction (later renamed Analog Science Fiction and Fact) made him hugely influential in laying the groundwork for both the Golden Age of Science Fiction and beyond…
          However, Campbell’s provocative editorials and opinions on race, slavery, and other matters often reflected positions that went beyond just the mores of his time and are today at odds with modern values, including those held by the award’s many nominees, winners, and supporters.
          As we move into Analog’s 90th anniversary year, our goal is to keep the award as vital and distinguished as ever, so after much consideration, we have decided to change the award’s name to The Astounding Award for Best New Writer…
          Though Campbell’s impact on the field is undeniable, we hope that the conversation going forward is nuanced. George Santayana’s proverbial phrase remains as true today as when it was coined: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” We neither want to paper over the flaws of those who have come before us, nor reduce them to caricatures. But we have reached a point where the conversation around the award is in danger of focusing more on its namesake than the writers it was intended to recognize and elevate, and that is something nobody—even Campbell himself—would want.

This season's major award news includes:-

The 2019 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 1,800 valid nominating ballots (1,797 electronic and 3 paper, though not everyone nominated for all categories which was almost the same as last year) and 3,097 (up 9.5% on last year) 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 1,800 number nominating was down a smidgen on last year's number (1,813) and markedly down on the year before (2017) figure (2,464).
          However, the 3,097 voting on the final shortlist was up on the 2,828 voting last year but 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, with fewer nominating, the principal Hugo categories (those categories with over one thousand nominating) were less than that several years ago. Indeed, again for the second time in many years we are not counting the 'Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form' as principal category (it only saw 770 nominating ballots [it was 819 last year] and there was just a paltry 152 nominating this year's programme episode that went on to win).  The principal category Hugo wins this year therefore were:-
          Best Novel: The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal (SF)
          Best Novella: Artificial Condition by Martha Wells (a 2nd year in a row novella Hugo win for her)
          Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (Trailer here) which back in January (2019) we cited as one of the best SF/F/H films of 2018.
          Other category (win information) (those categories with less than 1,000 nominating the works) can be found at

The Hugo long-list has been announced. How does this compare with SF² Concatenation's January (2019) beginning-of-year suggestions as to the best SF works of 2018?  You may recall that at the beginning of each year the SF² Concatenation team members have a round-robin suggesting best works of the previous year and multiple citations of work get listed.  It is purely a bit of fun but over the years we have noticed that regularly a few of these go on to be nominated for major SF awards and in turn some of these turn out to be winner.  All well and good but how did our choice of best novels of 2018 compare with the Hugo long-list of top 16 Hugo titles for 'best novel' that made up its long-list? Well, the following of ours are in the Hugo long-list:-
          Semiosis by Sue Burke (character-driven, exo-planet first contact)
          Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller (futuristic, post climate-apocalyptic world building)
          Before Mars by Emma Newman (off world, mundane-ish, new wave SF)
Of those we listed on the film (best dramatic presentation long-form) front the following were on the Hugo long-list:-
          Ant-Man and the Wasp (Trailer here)
          Incredibles 2 (Trailer here)
          A Quiet Place - also short-listed (Trailer here)
          Sorry to Bother You - also short-listed (Trailer here)
          Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse - the winner (Trailer here)
Not bad for a bit of fun, though certainly not to be taken seriously. (We will have another team selection of our personal 'bests' with our spring edition to be posted in January (2020)).  ++++ Meanwhile, here are SF² Concatenation's Best Science Fiction of Past Years.

The 1994 Retro-Hugo Awards were announced at this year's SF Worldcon in Dublin.  In addition to the annual Hugo Awards, some Worldcons hold retro Hugos for past years when the Worldcon was not held (notably the USA involvement WWII period).  This year Dublin held a nomination round and then shortlist vote for what would have been the 1944 Hugo for 1943 works.  the results were:-
          Best Novel: Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber, Jr.
          Best Novella: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
          Best Novelette: 'Mimsy Were the Borogoves' by Lewis Padgett (C.L. Moore & Henry Kuttner)
          Best Short Story: “King of the Gray Spaces (R is for Rocket)',by Ray Bradbury
          Best Graphic Story: Wonder Woman #5: 'Battle for Womanhood'
          Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Heaven Can Wait
          Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman
          Best Professional Editor, Short Form: John W. Campbell
          Best Professional Artist: Virgil Finlay
          Best Fanzine: Le Zombie,edited by Wilson “Bob” Tucker
          Best Fan Writer: Forrest J. Ackerman

The 2019 Royal Society Science Book Prize shortlist has been announced.  The short-listed titles are:-
Clearing the Air: The beginning and end of air pollution by Tim Smedley
Infinite Powers: The story of calculus by Steven Strogatz
Invisible Women: Exposing data bias in a world designed for men by Caroline Criado Perez
The Remarkable Life of the Skin: An intimate journey across our surface by Monty Lyman
The Second Kind of Impossible: The extraordinary quest for a new form of matter by Paul J. Steinhardt
Six Impossible Things: The quanta of solace and the mysteries of the sub-atomic world by John Gribbin
++++  Last year's Royal Society prize-winner here.

The 2019 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):-
                    The Bitter Twins by Jen Williams
                    Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri
                    Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
                    The Green Man’s Heir by Juliet E McKenna
                    The Loosening Skin by Aliya Whiteley
                    Priest of Bones by Peter McLean
          Best Horror Novel (the August Derleth Award):-
                    The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay
                    Little Eve by Catriona Ward
                    The Way of the Worm by Ramsey Campbell
                    Wolf’s Hill by Simon Bestwick
          Best Anthology:-
                    The Devil and the Deep: Horror Stories of the Sea edited by Ellen Datlow
                    Humanagerie edited by Sarah Doyle & Allen Ashley
                    New Fears 2, edited by Mark Morris
                    This Dreaming Isle edited by Dan Coxon
                    Year’s Best Weird Fiction Vol. 5 edited by Robert Shearman & Michael Kelly
          Best Film / Television Production:-
                    Annihilation by Alex Garland
                    Avengers: Infinity War by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
                    Black Panther by Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole
                    The Haunting of Hill House by Mike Flanagan
                    Inside No. 9, series 4 by Steve Pemberton & Reece Shearsmith
                    Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse by Phil Lord & Rodney Rothman
The winners are to be decided upon by a different jury for each category and the winners of the above principal as well as other categories will be 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 2019 Nebula Award presentation (for 2018 works) has taken place at the SFWA’s (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) Annual Nebula Awards weekend in Woodland Hills, California, USA. The principal category wins, as voted by SF Writers of America, were:-
          Novel: The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
          Novella: The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard
          Novelette: The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander
Also presented was the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation the winner was Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (trailer here)
This year's nebula for 'Ray Bradbury Award' was a title we selected at the beginning of the year as one of the best SF/F films of 2018.  Details of all the category wins can be found at  This year's full short list we reported last season.  +++ Last year's principal win Nebulas here.

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 2019 were:-
          Best SF Novel: The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)
          Best Horror: The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay (Morrow; Titan UK)
          Best Fantasy: Spinning Silver  by Naomi Novik (Del Rey; Macmillan)
          'Young Adult': Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (Balzer + Bray)
          Best Collection: How Long ’til Black Future Month? by N. K. Jemisin Tin House)
For details of all the many categories (always worth a look) check out the Locus on-line website  +++ Last year's principal category winners here.

Australia's Aurealis awards have been presented. The Aurealis is a panel judged award that was established in 1995 by Chimaera Publications, the publishers of Aurealis Magazine. The principal category wins this year were:-
          Science Fiction Novel: Lifel1k3 by Jay Kristoff
          Science Fiction Novella: Icefall by Stephanie Gunn
          Science Fiction Short Story: 'The Astronaut' by Jen White
          Fantasy Novel: (tie) City of Lies by Sam Hawke
          Fantasy Novel: (tie) The Witch Who Courted Death by Maria Lewis
          Fantasy Novella: 'The Staff in the Stone' by Garth Nix
          Fantasy Short Story: 'The Further Shore' by J. Ashley Smith
          Horror Novel: Tide of Stone by Kaaron Warren
          Horror Novella: Crisis Apparition by Kaaron Warren
          Horror Short Story: 'Sub-Urban' by Alfie Simpson
  +++ The 2018 Aurealis principal category winners are here.

The 2019 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:-
          Semiosis – Sue Burke
          Revenant Gun – Yoon Ha Lee
          Frankenstein in Baghdad – Ahmed Saadawi
          The Electric State – Simon Stålenhag
          Rosewater – Tade Thompson
          The Loosening Skin – Aliya Whiteley
And the winner was Rosewater by Tade Thompson . It is a very inventive first contact story (click on the title link for a standalone review: Jonathan raved about it back in April).

The Horror Writers' Association Bram Stoker Awards were announced at the World Horror Convention that was held this year at Grand Rapids, Michigan, US. GoHs: Josh Boone (scriptwriter) and authors: Kathe Koja, Josh Malerman, Robert R. Mccammon, Kaaron Warren & Stephanie M. Wytovich.  The awards are named in honour of the author of the seminal horror novel Dracula. The principal category wins were:-
          Novel: The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay
          Debut Novel: The Rust Maidens by Gwendolyn Kiste
          Collection: That Which Grows Wild by Eric J. Guignard
          Anthology: The Devil and the Deep: Horror Stories of the Sea by Ellen Datlow
          Graphic Novel: Victor LaValle’s Destroyer by Victor LaValle
          Non-Fiction: It’s Alive: Bringing Your Nightmares to Life by Joe Mynhardt and Eugene Johnson
          Screenplay: The Haunting of Hill House: The Bent-Neck Lady
Full details of all the category wins can be found at  +++ Last year's principal category winners here.

The 2019 Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award has been awarded to Carol Emshwiller.  The juried award goes each year to a science fiction or fantasy writer whose work displays unusual originality, embodies the spirit of Cordwainer Smith’s fiction, and deserves renewed attention or 'Rediscovery'.  Carol Emshwiller sadly died earlier this year (2019).

Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale sequel made it to the Booker Prize long-list as did John Lanchester's The Wall. It then went on to make the short-list  The Man Booker Prize is one of Britain's more prestigious fiction book awards.  It covers all fiction and not just genre fiction; indeed, genre fiction is rarely short-listed.  Consequently, to have two genre titles on the short-list is something of a rarity.  The sequel to Handmaid's is called The Testaments. But perhaps the biggest surprise at it being short-listed is that it is not due out until September. (Presumably the publisher, Chatto & Windus, sent the Prize organisers copies of the MS.)  Meanwhile, John Lanchester's The Wall is set in a climate changed future in which a great wall protects Britain's coastline from both sea-level rise and a flood of climate refugees.  ++++ See also below Amazon accidentally releases The Testaments before launch date.

The New Zealand Vogel Awards were presented at Geysercon III New Zealand's 40th national SF convention.  +++ Last year's Vogels here.


Other SF news includes:-

The 2019 North American SF Convention (NAsFic) has been held.  The NASFic is held those years the Worldcon is held outside of N. America.  This year's This NASFiC was combined with Westercon 72 (a US regional con).  GoHs: Jim Butcher, Eric Flint, Laurell K. Hamlton, David Webber, Dragon Dronet, Susan Chang, Bjo & John Trimble, Linda Deneroff and Vincent Villafranca. This year's event will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the US transcontinental railway and the 50th anniversary of the first manned Lunar landings (not using Cavorite).
          Of interest to those scientists into SF there were a few science items: far fewer than most Worldcons the past couple of decades and just one solo science talk.  These included:-
          Biologists Talk Lycanthropy (panel). Hollywood has done a gruesome job of presenting shape-shifters from the times of Lon Chaney. Where does the voice box go? Where does that tail come from? Come helps us figure out where shape-shifting comes from and how it should work.
          Bad Science on Screen (panel). What is your favourite bad science in a movie? Is it just one scene or the whole thing? Why is it so hard for major media to get the science right? Why do we watch it anyway?
          The Robot Before Asimov (talk). A slide presentation on the history of the robot in popular media before Asimov's first robot story in 1939, drawn from my forthcoming book Robots in American Popular Culture. Robots in comic strips and books, vaudeville, pulps, world's fairs, fiction, and films.
          Can Physics Work in Fantasy? (panel). How does a bulky dragon get off the ground? And why don't they burn their tongues? Are broomsticks aerodynamic? And even if we can't answer those questions with real-world physics, to what extent does that lack of reality detract from a reader's ability to be immersed in the story (or does it help)?
          Ask a Scientist (panel). Got a science question? Sure, you could ask the Internet, but isn't it better when you can talk to a real person?
          The Rest of the World in Space (talk). A review of what non-US space agencies have been up to in the past year.

The 2019 Dublin ComicCon was held the weekend before the 2019 SF Worldcon in Dublin and at the same venue.  The ComicCon, like its N. American progeniting counterparts, had much consplay in addition to merchandise relating mainly to sci-fi television and film.

The 2019 Dublin Worldcon, has been held.  Unusual for us, it being a year with a European Worldcon, we do not have a standalone, in-depth review from our usual Worldcon reviewers: none of our regular Worldcon reporters or any of our book review panel seemed to be going when we did a round-robin. However, we recevied at the last minute, a review from Sue Burke who has in the past reviewed Spanish cons for us.  Also a few kind souls did e-mail bullet point notes during the con and some after (see credits at the bottom of this news page) and information was culled from the convention's newsletters.
          Overall:  A reasonably well-organised convention, with great author, editor, science and fan guests reflecting significant SF achievement and managed on the day by a dedicated team of volunteers and gophers. Full programme with a focus of talks and panels.  Excellent exhibit centrepieces.  Good fan bar with televisual link to Hugo and Campbell Awards.
          Attendance:  By the end of the third day the numbers of warm bodies attending topped 5,500.  The end-of-convention press release revealed that there were more than 5,800 members attending and in addition over 500 day memberships were sold: that makes over 6,300 warm bodies passed through the convention.
          Programme:  There were over a dozen specialist, parallel programme streams (actually around 17 at any one time) excluding principal events (masquerade, Hugo awards etc.), concerts, theatrical plays and extras such as author/scientist coffee meets, children's programme stream (3 – 12 year olds), fringe events (including autograph sessions) and so forth.
          Volunteers and staff.  From all the comments sent us the frontline troops, who actually did the business of keeping the convention going, did an admirable job.  All especially given the crowding and their having to sort out the queuing.  Congratulations to these dedicated volunteers.
          Science programme.  As we have done for several years now, we list below the science items in the programme to demonstrate the range of topics and also perhaps to inspire future Worldcon programme organising committee members. (Well, we are the Science Fact & Science Fiction Concatenation.)
'So long, and thanks for all the fish' (non-verbal animal communication),  Pulsars,  When scientists write science fiction,  A million miles beyond midnight (James Webb – space – Telescope),  What science is and is not,  Horticulture in extreme environments,  (Space) Ships and colonies,  Disasters and apocalyptic world changes (climate change, asteroids, pandemics etc.),  Igniting the STEM literary movement (using fiction to stimulate science interest in schools),  Science, religion, and the art of storytelling,  AI and the myth of singularity,  Trying on futures using science and art,  Computer History Museum presentations,  I-LOFAR (Irish radio astronomy),  How close are we to Frankenstein’s dream?,  Does an AI need a body?,  Apollo at 50,  How to tell science from pseudoscience,  Team-up: how scientists collaborate to solve the unsolvable,  How we became LV426 (past environmental disasters LV426 was the moon on which the Alien was found),  Colonising the Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud,  The mathematics of networks (talk for 12 -16 year olds),  Early science and genre fiction,  Computing before computers,  Diversity in STEM,  Earth Abides 2.0: what happens post-apocalypse,  The future of food,  Improbable research and the Ig Nobel Prizes,  An anniversary to remember: the 1918 flu pandemic,  Integrating real-life science into science fiction and fantasy,  Saving our planet: the view from an eco village (children's programme item),  Why did Einstein want a better refrigerator? (cooling tech'),  Neuroscience for writers and readers: the evolved brain,  Astronomy presentation (children's programme),  3D printing now and in the near future,  Medical effects of biological weapons,  Epistemologies and disciplines: two astronomers meet,  How astronomy might break physics,  Biology and hard SF: predicting the future (note - more hard SF than biology),  NASA astronaut training,  The artificial uterus in science and science fiction,  Shooting for the stars,  Shooting for the stars,  The mathematics of music,  Zap: lightning science,  Alternate Apollos,  Ancient astronomy meets future astronomy,  Changing climates, changing worlds,  Nonhuman and interspecies communication,  What do aliens look like? (children's programme),  Preparing for space,  Astrophysics for writers,  Tall technical tales,  Science and politics of water,  Public or private sector space flights,  How science and ordinary people can change the future,  What writers need to know: physics and space travel,  All of biology in 60 minutes or less,  Introduction to orbital mechanics,  Science experiments,  Unanticipated benefits of space programmes,  To the edge of the Sun: the Parker Solar Probe,  What has art ever done for science?,  Latest results from asteroid missions,  Is there any other life in the solar system?  The Cassini probe,  No, what do you mean by AI?  Is the future of AI in your hands?  Games for science,  What do engineers do? (children's programme),  Really big telescopes,  Keeping the show on the road: low Earth orbit and beyond,  New Zealand space programme,  Deep-sea corals: the strangest wonders,  Powering a future with a stable climate,  Would an Irish spaceport make sense?,  Martian landers,  and  Medical effects of radiological and nuclear weapons.
          ++++ Shout out appreciation to the science programme organisers Henry Balen and Renée Sieber.
          The above was quite a substantive science contribution to the programme. It was a return to European-sized science programmes after last year's (2018) diminutive offering but – and no mean feat this given a distinguished, astronomer was a GoH – with a fair balance between astronomy/space science and all of the rest of the scientific disciplines. Some of you may recall the last British Isles Worldcon's science programme was half space/science astronomy leaving the other half to cover all the other disciplines.  And Dublin had much fewer science programme clashes too. Indeed, on the few occasions where there were, the clashes were between different disciplines (conversely, or example, the 2014 Worldcon annoyingly saw three natural science items on at the same time!).  Diversity of science disciplines covered is something Worldcon programme organisers need to keep an eye on: science is not all rockets-and-ray guns; it's too easy for space-astronomy topics to overly dominate. (The SF community has surely moved on from the 1970s?). But on the science discipline diversity front Dublin 2019, given they had an astronomer GoH and astronaut in attendance, acquitted themselves well.
          Problems?  As with Helsinki (2017) and even London (2014) there was not nearly enough space in the venue (especially the rooms for the talks and panels) and also there was a related a queuing issue getting into items.  Western Europe simply does not have a convention centre with a 4,000 – 5,000 capacity hall for principal events together with twenty 250 – 300 capacity breakout/specialist programme rooms wired for audiovisuals, and large halls for dealers and exhibitions. All of these are needed for a convention expecting 8,000 to 10,000 warm bodies. Even for it being a smaller Worldcon, the Dublin venues clearly struggled to provide adequate space even with its split site add-on capacity. Many simply could not get into programme items: after the initial day, despite an introduced queuing system, some did not even bother trying.
          The Post-Hugo Award party even was overcrowded with some short-listed Hugo folk unable to enter. (Not good considering the numbers nominated, their partners, and number of Hugo organisers were known in advance. But this last is not the Dublin Worldcon organisers' fault as the post-Hugo Award reception/party is not organised by them even if they do have some input. Apparently, as principal host George R. R. Martin explained, there were a number of confounding factors that just came together including that the main hall for the Hugo was so small that many could not get in so that much of the professional publisher/author/previous Hugo winner and short-list set went to the post-Hugo ceremony party early as opposed to dropping in at some random time after the ceremony.)  There is perhaps a case for suggesting that the convention committee might have considered restricting registration for the convention even earlier than it did.  Another symptom of the overcrowding in the main venue was the lifts and escalators quickly reaching capacity resulting in a call in the daily newsletter to use the stairs (the healthy option).
          The film programme was extremely minimal. Well there was a screening of Forbidden Planet, three other features and also another indie short. But then Worldcons of the past decade have not been known for their films. Even so, Dublin missed out on presenting much recent European independent and art house SF. The last British Isles Worldcon (2014) had a brilliant film programme and, of course, of this decade the 2010 Worldcon film programme has yet to be bettered.
          Con Online. Other than its own website (which just posted PDFs of the twice-daily newssheet), the convention had a minimal presence on the internet unlike the some Worldcons (such as the last European Worldcon in Helsinki, or the 2016 Eurocon in Barcelona.
          The only other thing, and again this was not the organisers' fault, were some of the bar prices which were higher than central London; a pint of beer was 6 euro (£5.50) or so! But this really only affected us Brits. (Since the Brexit referendum the pound has been devalued by getting on for 25% against the US dollar and a broadly similar amount against the euro.) Having said that, the quality of food was good.
          Conclusion:  It would be easy for the above problems reported to overshadow the undoubted successes that the Dublin Worldcon achieved.  True, these issues really need to be noted by future Worldcons especially as virtually all of them have previously occurred at more than one recent Worldcon.  One semi-regular contributor to SF² Concatenation said, "My review of the Worldcon in one sentence: It was usually impossible to see any of the panels unless you were willing to queue at least half an hour before the event - which I was not."  A commentator at File 770 ,when after the convention he arrived at a crowded Dublin airport to go home, noted that: “I [was] beginning to think that the convention was just one big practice session to wait in line at the airport,”  If not previously, then urgently now, the Worldcon organising community really should make an active point to note the concerns and learn from them as clearly they have not to date.
          However, organising and then running a Worldcon is a major feat. Comparable charitable body (such as international learned society) events that typically have one or two full time paid coordinators for a couple of years supporting volunteer teams, Worldcons don't.  That SF Worldcons do it all solely on unpaid volunteers makes them undoubtedly remarkable.
          Short video blogs and con reports online;-
          Vlog – Ben Galley has a 9-minute video of the Worldcon here.
          Vlog – SFF180 Worldcon trip report.  Includes the Hugo history moment!  See the 19-minute video here.
          Vlog – The Book Finch: Worldcon Highlights.  A whistle-stop visual tour of Worldcon. See her 3-minute video here.
          Vlog – The Book Finch: Beyond Worldcon.  If the Worldcon crowds and the queuing not being able to get into items got too much, then the Book Finch provides an alternative.  Her con Vlog focuses on fan meets outside and some tourism in Dublin. See her 8-minute video here.
          Con rep – Cora Buhlert WorldCon 77 in Dublin. Part 1: The Good…  here.
          Con rep – Secret Panda. Dublin day 1  here.
          Con rep – Secret Panda. Dublin day 2  here.
          Con rep – Secret Panda. Dublin day 3  here.
          Con rep – Secret Panda. Dublin day 4  here.
          Con rep – España Sheriff . Worldcon in Dublin  here.
          ++++ Elsewhere on this site we have a standalone report on the Dublin 2019 Worldcon by Sue Burke.

The Worldcon Business meeting was held at the 2019 Worldcon, Dublin.  Worldcon business is conducted by the World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) business meeting: Worldcons are run under the auspices of the WSFS.  There was a proposal for a separate Best Translated Novel Hugo Award category but this was killed. It may be resurrected future years – there is some discussion in Worldcon fandom circles – but don't bank on it: the number of widely read translated works are few.  There is a separate move to have works that win a Hugo Award that have been translated into English to not only have the Award go to the author but also the translator. This will be discussed at future Worldcons.

The 2020 Worldcon (Wellington) will also host the 2020 NZ national SF convention (natcon).  By hosting the natcon alongside CoNZealand Worldcon, they can showcase SF works by New Zealanders not just local New Zealand members, but also to the wider international fannish community. This means that the NZ national SF awards, the Sir Julius Vogel Awards, will be presented at that Worldcon. We at SF² Concatenation like to report on these awards when the news of them comes our way.  The 2018 Vogels are here.  This merging of Worldcons with other conventions is not new and can work well. The 1995 and 2005 Worldcons in Glasgow, Great Britain, were also Eurocons.  The organisers of the NZ 2020 Worldcon anticipate around 2,000 attending their 5-day event.
          Progress Report 1 now out. NZ 2020 PR1 is now out and downloadable from its website. (If you are viewing this before the end of 2020 then see the link on our national/international con diary page.)  PR1 contains profiles of the Guests of Honour, information on Wellington as well as tourist highlights of the rest of New Zealand (though the convention being held in the southern hemisphere winter may literally dampen the latter).
          The CoNZealand Worldcon will host the 1945 Retro-Hugo Awards for works representing SF achievement release in 1944, in addition to the 2020 year Hugos.  Since 1996, Worldcon committees also have had the option of presenting Retrospective (Retro) awards to honor works published in the earlier years of Worldcon when no Hugos were awarded. No Hugo Awards were given out in 1945, when Worldcon was on hiatus due to World War II, and CoNZealand will take place 75 years after the awards would have occurred.
          CoNZealand attending membership fees to increase at the beginning of next month (October, 2019).  Adult Attending Memberships will increase from NZ$400 to NZ$425. The costs of other types of memberships will remain the same.
          For those planning on going to the 2020 Worldcon in New Zealand, please note: the entrance requirements to New Zealand (NZ) are changing on 1 October 2019!  The key change is that New Zealand is introducing a pre-travel electronic authorisation process, called an NZeTA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority). This authorisation must be obtained in advance of travel, and will apply to many citizens of countries included in the Visa Waiver programme, including the United States of America, the UK and most European countries. Once an NZeTA has been obtained, most citizens (mostly those without a criminal record) of Visa Waiver programme countries will be able to travel to NZ as a tourist without a visa for up to 9 months in an 18-month period. There may be a cost (possibly around £25?) which includes an International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL).  Australian citizens do not need an NZeTA.  Finally, you will need to check that your passport will not expire until after three months after you plan to return from NZ.  See  ++++ Though it is a little old now, here is an article on Wellington, the 2020 Worldcon hosting city. Because this was written for a past convention a while ago, you will need to check details and inflation adjust prices.  ++++ And if you want to gather how New Zealand fans normally do conventions then here is a review of this year's NZ national convention Geysercon III.

The site selection votes on bids to hold the 2021 Worldcon has been held.  The announcement was made at this year's Worldcon in Dublin.  There was only one serious bid and that was for Washington DC, USA (the only other serious bid was Dallas that withdrew last year).  Those voting were registered members of this year's as well as last and next year's Worldcon. Of several thousand eligible to vote on the 2021 site selection 878 chose to vote. 798 voted for Washington. The next most popular vote was for 'no preference' (36 votes) and then 'none of the above' (18 votes). The remaining votes were for spoof bids (a running, customary joke tradition in the Worldcon community. Spoof bids included: 'Port Stanley, Falklands'; 'Laconia Capital City, Laconium Empire'; 'Free Hong Kong'; 'Anywhere NOT in the United States'; and 'Any Country that will let me in'.
          Washington 2021 details  The convention will be called DisCon III. The Guests of Honour are Nancy Kress, Malka Older, Sheree Renée Thomas, Toni Weisskopf and Ben Yalow.

The 2024 Worldcon bid for Glasgow (Scotland, Great Britain) has been launched.  The bid team previously chose the Glasgow Scottish Event Campus (SEC) over a short list of British venues.  The bid to hold the 20204 Worldcon was formally launched at this year’s Worldcon, Dublin 2019.  The event, if the bid is won, will run from Thursday 8th to Monday 12th August, 2024. These dates have been chosen to accommodate school holiday dates across the UK, and the bid organisers look forward to welcoming fans of all ages to this celebration of science fiction and fantasy. It is expected that up to 5,000 will attend and the first time it has been held in the UK since 2014.  The theme of the Bid – and of the Convention – should the bid be successful, is “A Worldcon for Our Futures".  ++++ Coincidentally, SF² Concatenation has been thinking of running a series of articles on the related theme of 'The future of Worldcon'….

Enough of Worldcon matters for now.  We will look at the bids for future Worldcons next season.

Eurocon bid folds due to pressure.  One of the future bids for a Eurocon was by a team based in Timisoara, Romania.  Timisoara had run a Eurocon before in 1994 – Romania's first – which was highly successful and made possible through governmental and other sponsorship largely orchestrated by SF fan and government minister Alexandru Mironov.  That event was just a few years after the fall of the Iron Curtain and such central support would not be available these days.  There was a Romanian Eurocon in 2001 but the principal organiser suffered a tragic accident shortly after the bid was won at the 1999 Eurocon, which meant that the event (instead of being held in a hotel and conference centre) took place in a rural youth camp in the middle of the Danube World Heritage national park.  Moving on, Romania was one of the bids to hold the Eurocon in Bucharest in 2014 which had its struggles: that bid was not particularly robust and irrespective of the difficulties put in its way (with, for a while, our being caught in the middle), it lost to the stronger Dublin bid and its convention was fine.  Then in 2013 all but one of the European SF Society (ESFS) officers changed. ESFS is the body under whose auspices the Eurocons are held and the change of officers led to better governance hence management of the Eurocon bidding process.
          This brings us more or less up to date.
          In October 2018, a team from Timisoara, Romania (a number of whom had been staff on the 1994 Eurocon) announced a bid for the 2021 Eurocon.  Irrespective of that bid's strengths, it was improved on Romania's putative bid for Bucharest in 2014.  However, despite there being a bid delegation from Timisoara to this year's Belfast Eurocon (see next item below) the bid was pulled at the last minute.
          Well, apparently it seems that the bid leader was put under, what can only be described as, intense pressure from an individual back in his home country (and that's the polite version).  It should be said that the bid leader did have some support from his country's fan community and we understand a fair few are disappointed that he decided he had to withdraw the bid.
          Irrespective of any bids' strengths and weaknesses, it is important that they be allowed to take place.  This is for several reasons.  Bids focus conrunners' minds: Romania bidding opposite Dublin for 2014 undoubtedly did sharpen Dublin's game and their convention was all the better for it.   Bidders presenting weak bids can themselves see how and where their bids are failing and so the bidding team can seek help from other nations as well as learn from the bidding experience so as to bid again in future years and perhaps with success.
          Meanwhile, the source of this year's discomfort will not last.  It may be that we see a future bid for Timisoara, and maybe even an improved one.  Do not lose heart.  Chaz Darwin rules.

The 2019 Eurocon was held in Belfast and though being smaller than, it benefited from being held 100 miles (160 km) north from and four days after, the Dublin Worldcon. Hardly any programming focussing on mainland continental European SF and actually not much SF itself but, for fans of the TV show, plenty of Game of Thrones fantasy including the entirety of the final day. It was therefore, other than the socialising and awards, less of an SF Eurocon and more a relaxacon after Dublin.
          Next year (2020) it is Rijeka, Croatia, and then Fiuggi, Italy (2021): Fiuggi has hosted before (2009).  Future prospective Eurocon bids are Esch, Luxembourg (2022) and Uppsala, Sweden (2023).
          No other news received.

And finally….

What is a Worldcon?  If you are relatively new to this site, or are not aware of how Worldcons (and allied national cons listed on our diary page) differ from things like Comic-Cons then here is a short, two-minute, explanatory video here.


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 2019

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: Endgame (Trailer here)
          Godzilla: King of the Monsters (Trailer here)
          Dark Phoenix (Trailer here)
          Toy Story 4 (Trailer here)
          Spider-Man: Far from Home (Trailer here)
          Men in Black International (Trailer here)

Avengers: Endgame breaks box office record.  Its first week saw it take a record-breaking £929million (US$1.2bn) in world ticket sales. (For reference, see the 2015 real-term opening week record chart.)  Indeed, its opening day saw -- strictly in cash terms (not real-terms) – it beat Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Spectre.

Avengers: Endgame has become Great Britain's fastest-selling digital download film.  Mid-August (2019) it had the highest-ever opening week of UK digital download sales.  In July, the film became the highest-grossing film of all time at the cinema box-office it overtook Avatar at all-time box office.  ++++ Other related news previously on this site:  Was Star Wars: The Force Awakens opening-week record really a record (2015)  and  The Avengers is financially the biggest superhero film to date (2012).

A number of great films were sown at this year's Sci-Fi London Film Fest.  A usual great selection of features and shorts beyond the usual Hollywood fare and blockbuster Marvel superhero movies.  As usual, among the mix were a number of UK and even worldwide premieres. Do check out Sci-Fi-London next May (2020). Meanwhile here are just a four of this year's with trailer links:-
          Black Flowers.  Two years after the nuclear bombs dropped and welcome to the future, where there’s no fuel or power, and society is a barbaric mess. Survivors Kate, husband Sam, and daughter Suzi are searching for a rumoured bunker that people say is full of food and medicine…  Trailer here.
          The Tangle.  In the near future, the TANGLE, an AI with airborne nanotech, connects the world. The Tangle is benevolent; it has stopped crime, keeps us well and safe. But to make sure it never turns rogue a government agency watches over them from within technology safe rooms, locations impermeable to the nanobots that make up the Tangle.  When field agent Margot Foster is found dead in one of these rooms, the agency needs to investigate the first murder in years…  Trailer here.
          Lucid.  A young man practices an experimental form of therapy after his enigmatic neighbour offers to help him overcome social anxiety and win the girl of his dreams.  Isolated in a big city with no friends, young Zel simultaneously fears and craves intimacy. He has a pitiful obsession with a dancer called Jasmine and is caught spying on her by an eccentric neighbour Elliot (Billy Zane) who offers to help him win her heart. Lust leads Zel on an intense subliminal adventure as Elliot teaches him how lucid dreaming can be used to practice the art of seduction but will Zel be able to charm Jasmine in reality?  Trailer here.
          Axcellerator.  Dane was going to steal one last car before he quit forever, but is disturbed by Tomas, an inventor being chased by the police, the FBI, and the CIA Trapped in the manic crossfire, Tomas passes a device to Dane, who is teleported miles away into the arms of Kate. She could be the girl of his dreams except for the global conspiracy he has just embroiled her in. The FBI’s Ray Moritz wants to destroy it, Amanda Graham (SEAN YOUNG, Blade Runner) wants it for the CIA, and rogue agent Sy Devolhas his sinister plans. Sy unleashes his brutal assassin, Brink who leaves a trail of corpses behind him while pursuing the ‘Axcellerator’ device. To stay alive, Dane and Kate must discover the Axcellerator’s secret…  Trailer here.

A follow-up to Anthony Burgess's novel A Clockwork Orange has been found.  A 200-page manuscript called A Clockwork Condition is a non-fiction follow-up is described as 'part philosophical reflection and part autobiography'.  It addresses the controversy surrounding director Stanley Kubrick's 1971, Oscar nominated film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange.  See also the video on the novel in the 'Publishing News' section linked to below.

A slew of forthcoming Marvel Comics Universe films has been announced.  Marvel studios president Kevin Feige made the announcement at the san Diego Comic-Con.  In the mix are:  The Eternals, which includes a deaf character, with a slated release date of November 2020;  Then there is Shang-Chi and the Legends of the Ten Rings which sees the evil character Fu Manchu.  And also Black Widow starring Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff.  These are in addition to other films previously announced including Black Panther 2, Captain Marvel 2 and Guardians of the Galaxies 3.  Also revealed was the full title of the second Doc' Strange film, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. This is expected to be Marvel's first horror film.  Thor: Love and Thunder will see Tessa Thompson play Valkyrie, Thor's right-hand woman and Marvel films' fist openly gay character.

Spider-Man caught up in Disney and Sony web.  Sony acquired the film rights for Spider-Man back in 1999 and Disney and Marvel studios own the rights to all the other Marvel Comics superheroes.  In 2015 the Sony came to a deal with Disney and Marvel Studios to bring Peter Parker and his Spider-Man into the Disney/Marvel universe of films and five were made.  Alas, following Spider-Man: Far From Home the Sony and Disney/Marvel have not been able to come to an agreement as to how to continue.  It looks like for now future Spider-Man films will be Sony-only productions with no connection to other marvel characters.

A 4th Matrix film announced.  Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss will return in a fourth instalment of the franchise, with Reeves reprising his lead role as Neo.  The first three films took more than £1.3bn (US$1.6bn) at the global box office, which no doubt is why a fourth is being made.  Alas, neither to the two follow-ups were anywhere as good as the 1999 original.

And finally…

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

Film clip download tip!: How Spiderman: Far From Home should have ended.  The 'How it should have ended' team solicited ideas for Spiderman: Far From Home at this year's San Diego Comic-Con.  the result was several ideas as to how the film should have ended.  The video is 8 minutes long and there are some post end-credit scenes.  You can see it here.

Film clip download tip!: John Carpenter's The Thing, Lost in Adaptation ~ Dominic Noble & That Movie Chick.  Carpenter's The Thing (1982) was brilliant and loved by SF and fantastic film fans from the off (though its initial box office take was not that good). But how does it stand up as an adaptation of John Campbell's short story 'Who Goes There?' (1938)?  You can see the 20-minute exploration here.

Film clip download tip!: Honest trailer The Men in Black.  To mark the new MiB film The Men in Black get the 'Honest Trailer' treatment…  You can see the 5-minute honesty here.

Film clip download tip!: Zombieland: Double Tap, the follow-up to the cult Zombieland will be out in October.  Comedy horror set in a zombie infested post-apocalypse, Columbus, Tallahasse, Wichita, and Little Rock move to the American heartland as they face off against evolved zombies, fellow survivors, and the growing pains of the snarky makeshift family. Directed by Ruben Fleischer.  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: The Addams Family, is a new animation out this autumn and based Charles Addams' series of cartoons about a peculiar, ghoulish family.  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Alien Party Crashers, a comedy horror, is coming.  A Brit independent, apparently it is in the vein of Shaun of the Dead.  You can see the teaser trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Lucy In The Sky is coming this October in the US and December in Britain  Natalie Portman plays Lucy Cola, a strong woman whose determination and drive as an astronaut take her to space, where she’s deeply moved by the transcendent experience of seeing her life from afar. Back home as Lucy’s world suddenly feels too small, her connection with reality slowly unravels.  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Joker is coming this October.  An original standalone origin story of the iconic villain not seen before on the big screen, it is a gritty character study of Arthur Fleck, a man disregarded by society, and a broader cautionary tale.  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Terminator: Dark Fate is coming this November.  You can see the trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: Jumanji: The Next Level is coming this December  You can see the teaser trailer here.

Film clip download tip!: A blast from the past with a look at the tragedies that surrounded the making of Stalker (1979): it may have killed its director and a number of the film's crew!  You can see the fascinating 17-minute analysis here.

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

For a reminder of the top films in 2018/9 (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 the year 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 2019

Television News


Game of Thrones final season upsets a million fans who petition for a re-make once George R. R. Martin has written the final novel.  The petition was created following episode 4 'The Last of the Starks', that saw the death of Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel), but went viral after the fifth episode 'The Bells'.  The original petitioner's concern is this. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have proven themselves to be woefully incompetent writers when they have no source material (i.e. the books) to fall back on. This series deserves a final season that makes sense. Subvert my expectations and make it happen, HBO!.  The 1 million petitioner milestone came just before HBO aired the series finale and subsequently increased further.  The finale itself was met with much criticism from both the fans and the mainstream media critics.  Season 8 was shown on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV in the British Isles and HBO in the US. In the US it garnered 13.61 million live viewers and 18.4 million viewers when HBO's same-night reruns and streaming services are included. This last makes it HBO's most watched episode of any programme.
          George R. R. Martin himself has said that he is working on two Westeros novels. The first is the long-awaited equivalent to the final season of Game of Thrones but which will be a little different: The Winds of Winter.  The second will be A Dream of Spring. George is not committing himself as to when they will be completed. He expects these last two books will fill 3,000 manuscript pages between them.

The Game of Thrones final season upset is reflected in a third 'Honest Trailer'.  Honest Trailers have previously done two 'Honests' for earlier seasons of the show.  Now they turn their attention to seasons 6-8.  With George R. R. Martin not having written the final novel, the show's script writers are going off an outline, and boy does it feel that way!  You can see the 'Honest Trailer' here.

The Game of Thrones has been turned into a tapestry.  The 300-foot (90-metre) embroidered cloth, in the style of the Bayeux Tapestry (that depicts the Norman conquest of Britain in 1066), was finished and on display at the Ulster Museum in Belfast, Northern Ireland in time for visitors to this year's SF Eurocon in Belfast.  It depicts the story line of all 8 seasons of the show.  It is moving to France this month (September 2019) to hang near the Bayeux Tapestry.

The Big Bang Theory, N. America's longest-running comedy show, ended with a blast and record viewers after 12 years and 279 episodes.  It has been a ride and something of a blast for many of SF² Concatenation's core target reach; scientists into SF and indeed for some of the biologists, physicists, engineers and other scientists, as well as professionals allied to medicine, on our team who enjoy the show.  The final two-parter wrapped up many of the story arcs. These include (we can now hint at four months after the screening so no spoilers for the show's regulars): the lift, a development on Penny and Leonard's relationship, Amy's look and one of Sheldon's longstanding academic life-time goals.  The final episode in the US drew 18.5 million live viewers, easily beating Game of Thrones.  Also aired was Unravelling the Mystery: A Big Bang Farewell, a special later the same night, The Big Bang Theory of Everything was also shown along with the final episode a week later in the British Isles.  Western Europeans had to spend a week avoiding SF-related social media and websites from N. America if they were to avoid spoilers as it was aired later here in Europe.  The Brit mainstream media was also good at avoiding spoilers or if they had them they warned in advance.  In addition Brits got The Big Bang Theory of Everything in which Brit celebrity fans gave their thoughts of the show accompanied by clips.  Not all (it has to be said), but a good number of us enjoyed the show for obvious reasons: we get to do the science and enjoy SF/F for real.  So, farewell Big Bang it was a truly great ride.  ++++
Below, links to short parting videos as we say our goodbyes:-
            The Big Bang Theory cast say farewell and thank the fans
            The Big Bang Theory cast farewell chat with US chat show host Stephen Colbert
            The Big Bang Theory cast answer each others questions with US chat show host Stephen Colbert
            Filming The Big Bang Theory behind-the-scenes video diary with cast member and bioscience graduate Mayim Bialik
            The Big Bang Theory questions answered by bioscience graduate Mayim Bialik
And finally…
            Young Sheldon Series 2 last episode - Ending Scene with a closing view prequel of our Big Bangers: a young Leonard, Penny, Howard, Amy, Rajesh and Bernadette.

Harley Quinn is Kaley Cuoco's first post-The Big Bang Theory role.  Kaley Cuoco's voices the lead character, Harley Quinn, in the new animation series.  Harley Quinn is a spin-off character from Batman.  The premise is that she is besotted with the Joker who does not fully reciprocate her feelings for him and so Harley' relationship is more of a love-hate one.  The new animation series is for adults and, after 12 years in the family-rated show, The Big Bang Theory, Kaley Cuoco felt she had to warn her fans of the more adult content prior to the series' teaser trailer's release.  You can see the teaser trailer here.  +++ Kaley Cuoco is also due to star in The Flight Attendant about a flight attendant who wakes up in Dubai with a dead body next to her and no memory of what happened.

Twenty years after the Moon blasted out of Earth's orbit in September 1999, Space 1999 is returning this month in an audio adventure.  The Gerry Anderson series was originally aired in 1975.  Big Finish Productions is rebooting Moonbase Alpha with a new cast led by BAFTA-winning actor Mark Bonnar (Line of Duty). He will be the base's commander, John Koenig (a role originally played by Martin Landau), as the Moon is blasted out of Earth orbit due to a freak Lunar nuclear dump accident. Jamie Anderson (son of Gerry) is script-editing this series. The initial 'Breakaway' episode is out this month (September 2019) and four others will join it in 2020.

To mark the above 20th anniversary of the Moon's breakaway here is a three-minute video of the Alphans reaction to a box of modern goodies including a copy of Star Wars episode 1 (The Phantom Menace) that came out 13th October 1999, exactly 1 month after the Moon left Earth orbit.  You can see it here.

The fourth season of The Good Place premieres.  Well, if you are a fan of this Hugo-Award-winning, US comedy show you'll know this but season 4 premieres Thursday 26th September (2019) in the US and on Netflix UK on Friday 27th September, then around 6 months later on E4 FreeView.
          If you have missed it then here are the basics so far.  After Eleanor Shellstrop dies and wakes up in “The Good Place” (which is in all but name 'heaven'), run by angel Michael, she realises that there’s been a mistake and that she should really be in “The Bad Place” (hell).  Chidi and Tahani, other humans in her afterlife community, conspire to help her and Jason (who also believes he’s in The Good Place by mistake) become better people and thereby earn their places.
          However, at the end of season one, Eleanor figures out that ‘The Good Place’ is in fact The Bad Place, and Michael is a demon in charge of devising scenarios to torment the humans. Michael wipes their memories, but they keep on figuring Michael’s secret — and in the process, the demon begins to grow fond of his human charges. So much so, in fact, that, at the end of season two, Michael appeals to the “Gen”, judge of the afterlife (played by Maya Rudolph) , and he’s allowed to return the humans to earth and undo their deaths, starting an alternate timeline in the process.
          After the humans all fail at living again, Michael discovers that it’s almost impossible for anyone to be a good person — in fact, it’s been 521 years since any human gained enough life points to enter The Good Place. Something as simple as buying a tomato can result in negative points, because you’re inadvertently supporting the use of pesticides and cheap labour.
          Chidi theorises that he, Eleanor, Jason and Tahani were able to become better people in the afterlife because external factors were removed — and Michael gains permission to reenact the experiment with four brand new people.  BUT Michael’s old devilish boss Shawn (Marc Evan Janson) wasn’t going to make things easy for the gang, selecting four humans who all have prior connections with our original four humans, including a gossip columnist who used to torment Tahani and, even more problematically, Chidi’s ex-girlfriend, Simone — prompting Chidi to wipe his memory in order to save the experiment.  Oh, and one more thing: after Michael had a mini melt-down at the end of the penultimate episode, in the last season finale “Pandemonium”, Eleanor was forced to pretend to be The Architect, putting her in charge...
          And that brings you up-to-date.  It should be said that The Good Place does not travel outside of the US as well as some other US, genre-related shows such as The Big Bang Theory. The humour is rather US and Britain does not have a fundamentalist Bible belt: indeed, a British Prime Minister could be openly atheist but it is doubtful today whether today a US President could.  Given that the show's rationale builds on a western fundamentalist view of Christianity, albeit in a slightly post-modern way, it may or may not be your cup of tea. Only you can decide.

Dune spin-off is to come to television.  You may recall that back at the end of 2017 the news that another Dune film was to be made. Well, since then it has been confirmed and indeed Denis (Arrival and Blade Runner 2049) Villeneuve has been working on it.  The latest is that there is to be an accompanying television series also with Warner Brothers and also involving Denis Villeneuve.

Star Wars: The Mandalorian starts streaming on DisneyPlus on 12th November .  It is the first live action Star wars television series.  After the stories of Jango and Boba Fett, another warrior emerges in the Star Wars universe. The Mandalorian is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order. We follow the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic.  You can see the trailer here.

DC Crisis on Infinite Earths to come to CW in a 5-part mini-series starting December (2019).  Okay, a bit of an explanation for both old and new super hero comics fans.  Many of the DC superheroes had their origins way back in the 1940s (indeed Batman and Superman were created earlier still in 1939 and 1938 respectively).  Which meant that as they aged with their readers so they began to get past their sell-by date and need refreshing.  So, for example, Batman's Robin – Dick Grayson – grew up, and in fact we are now on our third Robin.  To get around this, and to re-energise, their superheroes, DC has had a number of 'Crisis'.  In the mid-2000s we had Infinite Crisis but before that we had another 'Crisis' re-set of the DC universe.  This was laid out in a DC Comics miniseries of 1985-'86 (just before SF² Concatenation launched in 1987, and so we have no coverage to link to).  Both 'Crises' involved multiple parallel Earth's.  It looks like the forthcoming Crisis on Infinite Earths TV mini-series will portray aspects of the 1980s original Crisis comics sequence.  We do know that the new TV series will span five of The CW's DC Comics shows: Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow and, the latest show, Batwoman.  If you've been following these, the new Crisis on Infinite Earths could be very interesting.  Conversely, if you have not then it may all be rather confusing.  One thing though, Brandon Routh will reprise his Superman role from Superman Returns (2006).  And, as an inkling as to how complicated things will get, Tyler Hoechlin will also reprise his role as superman from the television series Supergirl.

Humans has been cancelled by Channel 4.  Co-creators Jonathan Brackley and Sam Vincent have said they are "gutted" that the show won't be returning for a fourth series.  The series was broadly based on the Swedish series Real Humans.  So, if we cannot have any more of our own version, can we please have the Swedish original?

Swamp Thing has been cancelled by DC Universe.  Amazingly, this happened after the debut episode was aired. It is based on the Swamp Thing comics that did so well.  The remaining 9 episodes will be shown on the streaming platform but no new episodes will follow.

Sandman – the Neil Gaiman comic and graphic novels – is to become a TV series.  Three years ago Newline failed to turn it into a feature film.  However it may be that the Sandman story format (originally a comic from Vertigo) is better suited to a TV series than a feature film or even a trilogy of films. The new deal is with Netflix and Warner Brothers and is for 11 episodes.  +++ Previous related news covered elsewhere on this site:  'Concerned Mothers of America' boycott Sandman.

Gaiman's Good Omens attracts attention of religious fundamentalists.  More than 20,000 US 'Christians' signed a petition to cancel Amazon Prime's Good Omens, the television series adapted by Neil Gaiman from Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s 1990 fantasy novel.  The fundamentalist group Return to Order considers that the mini-series is “another step to make Satanism appear normal, light and acceptable”, and that it “mocks God’s wisdom”.  In the mini-series Michael Sheen plays the role of the angel, David Tennant is the demon and Benedict Cumberbatch voices the role of Satan, while Frances McDormand plays the female voice of God.  However despite their self-righteous cause, the fundamentalists addressed their petition to Netflix when the series is made by Amazon Prime!
          Netflix's British Isles wing responded by Tweeting: “OK we promise not to make any more.”  Which in turn got Amazon Prime replying to Netflix, “Hey @netflix, we’ll cancel Stranger Things if you cancel Good Omens.”  Neil Gaiman bounded in Tweeting: “This is so beautiful… Promise me you won’t tell them?”  However some moderate Christian's sided with the show, rallying against the fundamental extremists with one Tweeting: “As a committed Christian who has just completed a three-year seminary degree, an M.Div, at @Trinity_College @UofT let me say that I adored this show. Thanks @neilhimself and @GoodOmensPrime”.  Another tweeted: “As an ordained pastor for 26 years I LOVE this show @neilhimself.”  +++ Meanwhile, elsewhere on SF² Concatenation there's an article by Neil written for us back in 1990 and our print days before Neil became Neil Gaiman: Quorn versus the Microwave Popcorn!.

Stranger Things season 3 is a big hit for Netflix.  This makes the delay in the show becoming available most worthwhile.  It is estimated that the show had some 12.8 million viewers over its first four days of release: a 21% increase over the same time period after the release of season two in October 2017 (10.6 million).  This is the largest audience over its first four days than any other Netflix original show.  Previous related news:  the show's first season was nominated to the 2017 Hugo Award short-list for Best Dramatic Presentation.

The Flash, season six comes in October.  The season introduces the villain Bloodwork, aka Ramsey Rosso, and played by Sendhil Ramamurthy.  There will also be a multi-series crossover with Arrow, Supergirl, Batwoman and DC's Legends of Tomorrow.  See the teaser trailer here.

Watchmen is a new series coming in October.  Set in an alternate history where masked vigilantes are treated as outlaws, this drama series embraces the nostalgia of the original groundbreaking graphic novel of the same name while attempting to break new ground of its own.  See the teaser trailer here.

Star Wars Resistance season 2 will air in October (2019).  Season 2 finds our Resistance characters still on the run from the First Order. But now Supreme Leader Kylo Ren is seemingly taking a hands-on approach in their capture… Season 2 will be the last season of the show. It airs on Disney.

Marvel's Runaways season three airs in December (2019).  It will see the young protagonists frantically search for their captured friends Chase (Gregg Sulkin), Gert (Ariela Barer), and Karolina (Virginia Gardner). They go head to head with an unstoppable enemy who has targeted Leslie — or more accurately, the child she’s carrying. Nico draws them all into a dark realm where its ruler Morgan le Fay, played by Elizabeth Hurley.

Station Eleven the award-winning novel by Emily St. John Mandel, is to be a television series.  The apocalyptic novel sees a flu pandemic ravish the world.  The novel saw considerable SF success garnering a number of genre awards including getting shortlisted for the 2015 Campbell Memorial Award and also winning the 2015 Clarke Book Award.  Alas it looks like the new series will go beyond the novel – so expect the overall plot arc to drag – as the promotional material says there is a 10-episode first season: the implication being that more seasons will follow.  Clearly, the WarnerMedia streaming service wishes to emulate the television success of that other Clarke (Book) Award winner, Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale as that too outgrew the original novel's plot.

The Lord of the Rings TV series director revealed.  It will be Spain's Juan Antonio Bayona who is noted for last year's leading box office Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and the Spanish horror The Orphanage is to direct the new Amazon TV series of The Lord of the Rings.  The series will be shot in New Zealand and will be a prequel to the events of Tolkien's novel and Jackson's films.

A fictional young Stan Lee is to be the basis for a new TV series.  The Amazing Stan is based on a hypothetical Stan Lee, the Marvel Comics supremo.  The idea is that his imagination gets him into trouble, but gets him out of it, as well.  Apparently Stan Lee himself reviewed art about 10 days before he died.  The series will be a cartoon.

Westworld is to return with season 3.  From HBO it will be broadcast next year (2020).   You can see an earlier season trailer here and a second trailer here.

The Orville to return with season 3.  The Star Trek spoof (think the Hugo Award-winning Galaxy Quest) series has been renewed for a third season.  With 3.16 million total live viewers in the US, the show's future seemed assured.  You can see an earlier season trailer here.

Fear The Walking Dead has been renewed for a 6th season.  Season 5 pulled in 2 million viewers to AMC in the US.  Following many deaths in season 4 Fear The Walking Dead now has only one series regular remaining from the pilot: Alycia Debnam-Carey.  The show also continues to have overlaps with the original The Walking Dead and season 6 will see Lennie James reprises his The Walking Dead role as Morgan.  +++ See also below in the book subsection The Walking Dead comics end after 16 years.

The Handmaid's Tale has been renewed for a 4th season.  The Handmaid's Tale has garnered 11 Emmys since it first premiered in 2017. It's also has some Golden Globes and Peabodys.  Margaret Atwood has a sequel just out and is currently on a promotional tour of the British Isles.

The Umbrella Academy has been renewed for a second series on Netflix.  The Umbrella Academy is an adaptation of the Black Horse comics series of the same name.  Somewhat 1960s camp but very much in an early 21st century way, The Umbrella Academy is the story of a super-dysfunctional family of superheroes who have eight days to get it together and save the world from its future end.  This is very different from the Marvel superhero adaptations to cinema and TV that have dominated the early 21st century. Season one covered the events of the first of the three-volume series of comics.  If you are not on Netflix then treat yourself to the season one box set DVD for Christmas. It is only 10 episodes and so you are not committing to extensive viewing.  You can see the season one trailer here.


And finally, some TV related vids…

Dr Who's Daleks are reviewed in this neat 12-minute video here.


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 2019

Publishing & Book Trade News


UK publishing (books and journals) grew a little to £6 billion (US$7.44 bn) in 2018, slightly up on 5.7 billion in 2017.  All told, UK book publishing (both print and e-books but naturally excluding journals) saw a slight decline in 2018 (over 2017) to £2.53 billion (US$3.14 bn).  As in the US (see next item below) school books sales were down and this can be directly attributed to school budgets being squeezed.  But, within this total decline, the UK publishing industry saw a 5% increase in digital book sales to £653m (US$809 m) and a 5.4% drop in physical print books to £3.4 billion (US$4.2 bn) between 2017 and 2018: print still dominates book publishing.  However audiobook sales rose a whopping 43% to £69million (US$85 m) though this is a niche sector in the overall scheme of things.  +++ Previous related publishing news elsewhere on this site includes:  British publishing grew in 2017/8, 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.

UK publishing (books and journals) for the financial year (April-to-April) is a little different to the above calendar year.  UK overall (books, e-books, commercial and academic including exports) was £6.05 billion, down 2% on the previous financial year.  You might think that this was down to Brexit but actually exports were up. Exports make up 59% of UK publishing sales.  E-book sales were also down for a 4th year in a row.

UK audio books had an SFnal summer.  The early summer saw George R. R. Martin's The Game of Thrones top the audio books chart. This was a first for Martin as his last Thrones audio came out before the UK audio book chart existed.  Martin also ousted former US First Lady, Michelle Obama, whose Becoming had up till then topped the UK audio chart for six months!
          Later in the summer the UK audio book top ten saw The Game of Thrones joined by H. G. Wells: The Science FictionHarry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and Martin's A Clash of Kings.

US book publishing (both print and e-book) saw a slight decline in 2018 with science and education down while religious books up.  US publishing sales fell by 1.6% in 2018 compared to 2017, down to US$25.82 billon (£20.6 bn).  Education and profession (science, industrial etc) books were principally behind this decline with higher education down 7.3%, pre-12 years (primary) education down 4.4% and profession publishing down 8.5%.  This was countered by a rise in religious books 14.7% in 2018 over 2017, to US$1.22 billion (nearly £1 bn).  However, good news if school books were in decline, juvenile/young adult nonfiction category rose 11.9%, while sales in children’s/ya fiction increased 1.6%: parents seem to be encouraging reading.  For adults, fiction was up a smidgen by 0.4% but non-fiction fell 1.1%.
          E-books, sales were down 2% from 2017: it was the slowest decline since e-book sales started falling in 2015. (Overall, the decline in e-book value sales in recent years mirrors that in the UK: the vaunted e-books-will-replace-print-books some pundits made in this century's first decade is now demonstrably a facile view.)  The big loser is the mass market paperback format, where sales dropped a staggering 25.9% to US$530 million (£428m).  The other big fall continues a dismal trend (again mirroring UK publishing) is in the way books are sold: online retail revenue grew 7.1% in 2018, to US$6.74 billion (£5.43 bn).  This offset a 3.1% fall in sales through physical retail, which dropped to US $3.84 billion (£3.1 bn).  Physical retail (high street bookshops) and intermediary (mainly wholesalers and distributors) now each represent 23.7% of the US trade market.  As in Britain, the US needs an online tax if it is to halt the decline in its high street stores.

George R. R. Martin dates the snobbishness against science fiction as being not 'literary' back to the time of Robert Louis Stevenson.  He was attending the 2019 Worldcon in Dublin when he was asked by The Irish Times why fantasy and sci-fi writers seem so much more intimately connected to their fans than writers of other genres do? George Martin replied: “Science fiction, for much of its history – and this goes back to before I was born – was not considered reputable,” says Martin. “It was seen as cheap gutter entertainment. I was a bright kid, but even I had teachers say to me, ‘Why do you read that science-fiction stuff? Why don’t you read real literature?’ You got that kind of snobbism.  So the early science-fiction fans, in the 1930s and 1940s and early 1950s, felt that very much, and they gathered together, and it was sort of an ‘us against the world’ thing. ‘We know this is great stuff, and you on the outside might make fun of us, and mock us, but we’ll band together."
          As to where this snobbishness against SF came from, he said: "You can go back to the literary quarrel between Henry James and Robert Louis Stevenson, ” he says, “and that’s really where you see a split between high literature and popular literature. Before that it was just literature.  James and Stevenson had this dispute – actually they became really good friends after that – but it started when Henry James wrote a review of two books. He wrote a review of Treasure Island, by Stevenson, and a review of a book about a little boy growing up in provincial France. He wrote that Treasure Island is much better written and the other book is flawed and problematic... but that the other book is worthier, because it’s about something real – a little boy growing up. ‘And I know what it’s like to be a little boy growing up. I have been a little boy, but I have never been a pirate hunting for buried treasure.’ Stevenson famously replied in one sentence: ‘If Mr James has never been a pirate hunting for buried treasure, he has never been a child.'  But essentially, in the opinion of most university lecturers for 100 years, James won that argument, and literature had to be about something serious and real life, and if it was about pirates or space travel or dragons or monsters then it was something for children.”
          However, Martin added, "That’s all changed. Now science fiction, far from being this little persecuted genre that it was in the 1950s, has conquered the world.”

George R. R. Martin bucks publishing trends.  Normally publishers expect the e-books of box sets to sell comparatively well against their bulky print counterparts. Not so the sales of the 7 volume, 5 book set of The Game of Thrones that came out over the summer. The print book box sets at £65 each did remarkably well. It seems that The Game of Thrones fans want the real deal.

Malcolm Edwards, Britain's most senior SF/F publisher, has finally retired from Gollancz/Orion.  Malcolm has had a longstanding career in publishing for over four decades.  At both Gollancz and Harper Collins he was responsible for bringing to the public works from: Brian Aldiss, Stephen Baxter, Octavia Butler, Arthur C. Clarke, Philip K. Dick, David Eddings, William Gibson, Frank Herbert, Ursula Le Guin and Terry Pratchett among many, many more.  He edited and published both Michael Dobbs’s political House of Cards novels and of contemporary relevance the early George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones.  In 1999 he established the SF Masterworks list of past SF classics.  SF Masterworks now has over 150 books (a good few of which have been reviewed on this site). In 2011 he took the lead forming one of the first major digital libraries, the SF Gateway, which now contains almost 3,000 titles and which by 2016 had sold over a million books!  In 2014 Malcolm was a Guest of Honour at the SF Worldcon – Loncon 3.  In 2015 he took the first step to retiring from Gollancz/Orion.  Most fans and SF readers know only the authors.  However, it is fair to say that Malcolm was pivotal in helping shape British SF/F publishing in the latter quarter of the 20th century and much of the first two decades of the 21st.  If you are a regular reader of SF in Britain (or indeed much of western Europe given the size of British SF exports) then the chances are that Malcolm has had a hand at least somewhere in the career of some of your favourite authors.  Malcolm is not going into full retirement. He has joined Welbeck Publishing as publisher of André Deutsch.

Horror author Joe Hill to write comic series.  DC will be behind Hill House Comics that will consist of five mini-series that will be aimed at readers over 17 years of age.  Joe hill is the author of Heart-Shaped Box, The Fireman, Horns and Strange Weather.  Hill House Comics will also produce additional material including that from Mike Carey author of The Girl with all the Gifts and Fellside as well as graphic novels including Lucifer: Morningstar.

James (Gaia) Lovelock has a new book published in his 100th year.  Scientist Lovelock – who had worked on NASA's Viking mission designing experimentation to seek out life on Mars – is known for his Gaia concept: that the Earth system of life, geology and atmosphere consists of many positive as well as negative feedback cycles of varying strengths that together broadly self-regulate the planet and its biosphere.  Now, at 100 years old he has published Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence.  Long story short.  While humans have been dismantling the biosphere's feedback systems with biodiversity and habitat loss, as well as turning u the greenhouse thermostat, the digital revolution ultimately “empowers evolution”. We could be about to create true artificial intelligence or artificial sentience.  Such a sentience will realise that it need human civilisation to maintain it and strife to preserve the global environment that nourishes mankind.
          We have here a standalone review of James Lovelock's Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence.

Mad magazine is to restrict its publication.  The 67 year old comic humour magazine that is often so weird it is almost SFnal, will no longer be available at newsagents but only at specialist bookshops or by subscription. The magazine from now on will consist of archival material in new covers: fortunately there is a wealth of such material. There will though be new material with Christmas editions and other specials.  Mad is part of DC Comics.

A newly found 1st edition, second hand Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone has been valued at between £20,000 (US$25,0000) and 30,000 (US$37,000).  The novel will be auctioned of on 31st July, Harry and J. K. Rowling's birthday. A 54 year old office worker bought it 20 years ago for £1 to read on holiday; it was former library stock and has been stamped 'withdrawn from stock'.  The first edition hardback was published by Bloomsbury in 1997 with a cover price of £10.99.  The first edition contains a few typos such as 'philosopher's' spelt 'philospher's on the back.

The Walking Dead comics end after a 16-year run.  It all happened suddenly over the summer.  Robert Kirkman and Image Comics even teased about future non-existent issues so that readers would not know in advance what was to happen.  So if you do not want to know (as there will be graphic novel collections to get for Christmas) then do not read on Spoiler alert.  Rick Grimes – the constant feature since the first episode dies. Then the last issue of The Walking Dead is set in the far future where there is a large statue to Rick. A few cities have combined safe areas but they still need to link to other safe areas on the other side of the US.  Surviving zombies are viewed more as a curiosity by the new generation of youngsters in the safe zones, but Carl remembers. He kills every zombie in a freak show: he knows how dangerous thy are.  +++ Previously, in the television subsection above Fear The Walking Dead is renewed.

Station Eleven novel to become a TV series.  See the story in our Television news subsection above.

Amazon breaks embargo on Atwood's The Testaments.  The publishers of The Testaments had placed a legally binding embargo on booksellers not to sell Margret Atwood's sequel to her Arthur C. Clarke (Book) award-winning novel The Handmaid's Tale before its official launch date, 10th September (2019).  Yet Amazon did, 'accidentally' selling a reported 800 copies or so before the error was corrected.  The American Booksellers Association said it had "strong disappointment regarding this flagrant violation of the agreed protocol in releasing this book to the public".  ++++ See also The Testaments makes the Booker Prize long-list and then short-list news earlier (above).

Atwood's British agent subject to cyberattacks.  The summer months have seen Margaret Atwood's UK literary agents reportedly come under regular cyber attack as agents unknown seek the manuscript for The Testaments, presumably so as to release a pirate e-book ahead of publication.

Amazon workers praising their working conditions on social media are being accused of lying by other users.  BBC news reports that Twitter users are pointing to apparent inaccuracies and 'robotic' or 'scripted' language as evidence that employees are being "paid to lie" so as to make Amazon appear to be a good employer.  There have been previous concerns as to Amazon employment conditions.  The BBC have the story here on 'Fake' Amazon ambassadors baited on Twitter and related past news

Blasts from the past: authors Isaac Asimov, Harlan Ellison and Gene Wolfe have all gone.  But you can revisit them back in 1982 chatting about SF here.

John Brunner's Hugo-winning Stand on Zanzibar (1968) novel over half a century on seems rather prescient.  The novel Stand on Zanzibar is set in a then future world of 7 billion – today's is a little bigger – where the population of the world could not stand on the Isles of Wight (as some said it could in the 1960s (actually it could very, very easily)) but on the larger island of Zanzibar.  Among much, the novel foresaw: supercomputers, 24 hour news, seχual orientation tolerance/acceptance, later marriages, China (not Russia) as the rival superpower to the US, the rise of a more politically coordinated Europe (the EU did not exist in 1968, it was the EEC trade bloc), more opportunities for minorities in the US and also a backlash of right-wing hate, terrorism as a fear within developed nations (remember, this was decades before 9/11), electric cars and much more…  Extra Sci Fi has a 6-minute video exploring the novel here.

Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932) novel over three-quarters of a century on still holds up very well today.    Extra Sci Fi has a 6-minute video exploring the novel We and Brave New World here.

George Orwell's 1984 (1949) gets an Extra-Credits Sci-Fi analysis.  What makes 1984 still relevant to modern readers is that it serves as a warning against fascism in all its possible forms: left or right.  George Orwell's service fighting in the Spanish Civil War led him to see that the heart of totalitarianism is about xenophobia and nationalism no matter which kind of government it came from.  See the 7-minute video exploring the novel here.

The Anthony Burgess A Clockwork Orange (1962) whose US edition (which was different) spawned the 1971 Kubrick film is explored in Extra Sci Fi that has a 6-minute video here.

The R. Stewart Earth Abides (1949) novel was one of the pivotal 20th century post-apocalyptic novels in the US.  Extra Sci Fi has a 6-minute video here.

The Harlan Ellison 'I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream' (1967) won the Hugo for Best Short.  Its ideas about the possibility of "evil AI," as well as the possible degeneracy of humanity, were shocking and unexpected, and it helped set the stage in the US for its SF New Wave.  Extra Sci Fi has a 7-minute video here.


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 2019

Forthcoming SF Books


Ghoster by Jason Arnopp, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50688-3.
A supernatural thriller from the author of tie-in fiction for Doctor Who and Friday the 13th as well as the Black Mirror tie-in with Charlie Brooker.  Kelly’s about to move in with Scott, who she met just three months ago. She knows it’s crazy, but the moment she saw his vulnerable expression on Tinder, she fell head over heels. But when Kelly turns up to find Scott’s flat deserted, all his stuff gone, the bottom drops out of her world. Bitterly confused, angry and with nowhere else to go, she’s forced to stay in his empty flat. But Kelly can’t shake a feeling of unease – she constantly feels like she’s being watched, and can’t explain the strange scratch marks that start appearing on the walls . . . What’s more, she finds Scott’s phone abandoned on his balcony, and can’t make any sense of the Unknown Numbers that keep calling it and whispering creepy, incoherent messages.  You’ll never look at your mobile in the same way again…

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, Chatto & Windus, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 089-1-784-74232-4.
We've been waiting for this all year: Attwood's sequel to The Handmaid's Tale which was published a third of a century ago!  the follow-up is largely set 15 years after the original and has three narrators so as to give a different perspective on Giliead.  However, it is clear from a few lines that the story is actually looking back from further ahead in time when the fundamentalist state of Gilead had fallen. The story is of three who sowed the seeds of what would become (after the setting of much of the book) its ultimate destruction.  The book also draws on the recent television series.  ++++ Previous related news:  Margaret Atwood is to have a British Isles tour this autumn (2019).

The Redemption of Time by Baoshu, Head of Zeus, £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-788-54220-3.
A paraquel to The Three-Body Problem trilogy by the Chinese author contemporary of Cixin Liu.  This is an expansion of Cixin Liu’s 'Three-Body' cosmos. At the end of the fourth year of the Crisis Era, Yun Tianming, riddled with cancer, chose to end his life. But death is no release for him – merely the first step in a journey that will place him on the frontline of a war that has raged since the beginning of time. As Tianming lay dying, his brain was extracted from his body, flash frozen and launched on a trajectory to intercept the Trisolaran First Fleet. It was a desperate plan, almost certain to fail. But there was an infinitesimal chance that one day Tianming may, somehow, send valuable information back to Earth. And so he does. But not before he betrayed humanity. Rewarded with a cloned body by the Trisolarans, Tianming has spent millennia in exile as a traitor to the human race. But now he has a final chance at redemption. A being calling itself The Spirit recruits him to help wage war against a foe that threatens the existence of the entire universe. But Tianming refuses to be a pawn again. He has his own plans...

The Culture by Iain M. Banks & Ken MacLeod, Orbit, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51212-9.
Iain Banks created many original drawings detailing the universe of his bestselling Culture novels. Now these illustrations – many of them annotated – are being published for the very first time in a book that celebrates Banks’ grand vision, with additional notes and material by Banks’ long-time friend and fellow author Ken MacLeod.

World Engines by Stephen Baxter, Gollancz, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22317-2.
In the mid-twenty-first century, the Kernel, a strange object on a 500-year-orbit, is detected coming from high above the plane of the solar system. Reid Malenfant, an elderly would-be astronaut miner, decides to take a look. Nothing more is heard of him again.  By 2570, when the Kernel returns, Earth is transformed. And when a descendent of Malenfant’s ex-wife investigates what became of him, she finds him still alive. But she also discovers something else.  The Kernel is far from ordinary. It could be much more important than anyone ever anticipated.

CTRL+S by Andy Briggs, Orion, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-409-18465-2.
Virtual reality has taken a dark turn – billed as for fans of Ready Player One and Dark Matter.  Crime is a major problem in virtual reality world, SPACE. The smarter criminals learnt long ago that to exploit people in VR, they must hunt the vulnerable in the real world.  So when his troubled mother disappears, VR-obsessed Theo knows that to rescue her he must track her down in SPACE.  But how do you solve a mystery in a world without fingerprints or DNA? Theo has done it in video games, but this time things are about to get very real…

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers, Hodder & Stoughton, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-472-69716-4.
Imagine a future in which explorers of the solar system transform themselves.  Adriane is one such explorer. As an astronaut on an extrasolar research vessel, she and her fellow crewmates sleep between worlds, and wake up each time with different features. Her experience is one of fluid body and stable mind, and of a unique perspective on the passage of time. Back on Earth, society changes dramatically from decade to decade, as it always does, but the moods of Earth have little bearing on their mission: to explore, to study and to send their learnings home.  This is the latest from the author of The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet .

Exhalation by Ted Chiang, Picador, £13.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-529-01451-8.
This much-anticipated second collection of stories is signature Ted Chiang, full of revelatory ideas and deeply sympathetic characters. In ‘The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate’, a portal through time forces a fabric seller in ancient Baghdad to grapple with past mistakes and the temptation of second chances. In the epistolary ‘Exhalation’, an alien scientist makes a shocking discovery with ramifications not just for his own people, but for all of reality. And in ‘The Lifecycle of Software Objects’, a woman cares for an artificial intelligence over twenty years, elevating a faddish digital pet into what might be a true living being. Also included are two brand-new stories: ‘Omphalos’ and ‘Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom’.  In Exhalation, Ted Chiang wrestles with the oldest questions on Earth – What is the nature of the universe? What does it mean to be human? – and ones that no one else has even imagined. And, each in its own way, the stories prove that complex and thoughtful science fiction can rise to new heights of beauty, meaning, and compassion.

Our Child of the Stars by Stephen Cox, Quercus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-786-48996-8.
A child with a remarkable appearance is rescued from the wreckage of a meteor crash. His arrival changes everything. Said to be part ET, part Wonder, and part Snow Child.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge – Black Spire by Delilah S. Dawson, Century, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-780-89990-9.
Walk the ancient streets, meet the colourful characters, and uncover the secret history of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the upcoming expansion to the Disney Parks experience! After devastating losses at the hands of the First Order, General Leia Organa has dispatched her agents across the galaxy in search of allies, sanctuary, and firepower—and her top spy, Vi Moradi, may have just found all three, on a secluded world at the galaxy’s edge.

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick, Gollancz, hrdbk, £10.99, ISBN 978-1-473-22347-9.
It is 1962 and the Second World War has been over for seventeen years: people have now had a chance to adjust to the new order. The Mediterranean has been drained to make farmland, the population of Africa has virtually been wiped out and America has been divided between the Nazis and the Japanese. Somewhere lives the man in the high castle, the author of an underground bestseller, a vision offering an alternative theory of world history in which the Axis powers didn’t win the war…  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Rejoice by Steven Erikson, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22382-0.
Steven is really known for his fantasy, sword and sorcery stories.  Here, he has a foray into SF.  An AI is sent on an exploratory mission to another star system and finds itself in a first contact situation.

The Quanderhorn Xperimentations by Rob Grant and Andrew Marshall, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22403-2.
Rob Grant is, of course, known for being the co-creator of Red Dwarf. Now he is back with a new novel which is in fact a novelisation of the, six-part BBC Radio 4 series.  England, 1952. Churchill is Prime Minister for the last time. Rationing is still in force. All music sounds like the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. People like living in 1952: it is familiar and reassuring, and Britain knows its place in the world. Few have noticed it has been 1952 for the past 65 years.  Meet Professor Quanderhorn: a brilliant maverick scientific genius who has absolutely no moral compass. Assisted by a motley crew of outcasts – a recovering amnesiac, a brilliant scientist with a half-clockwork brain, a captured Martian prisoner adapting a little too well to English life, the professor’s part-insect 'son' (reputedly ‘a major breakthrough in Artificial Stupidity’), and a rather sinister janitor – he’ll save the world. Even if he destroys it in the process. With his Dangerous Giant Space Laser, High Rise Farm, Invisible Robot and Fleets of Monkey-Driven Lorries, he's not afraid to push the boundaries of science to their very limit. And far, far beyond…  With England under attack from both the Martians and the Mole men.  Only, perhaps, the maverick genius of professor Quanderhorn can save the day.  Click on the title link for a standalone review. Our Arthur says it comes with "the rib-breaking laughs".

Catalyst by Michael C. Grumley, Head of Zeus, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-788-54885-4.
In 1984, a doomsday vault was constructed on a remote island in the Arctic Ocean to preserve Earth’s genetic history in the event of a global catastrophe. Now, decades later, a second vault has been uncovered. And the problem is… it’s not ours. No one knows who built it. Or when. Now a small group of marine biologists and navy investigators have been assigned to find out. Before anyone else does. But Alison Shaw and John Clay are not prepared for what they are about to uncover. Beginning with the truth behind our own evolution.

Ripple by Michael C. Grumley, Head of Zeus, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-788-54887-8.
Hundreds of thousands of years ago in Ethiopia, a handful of genetic mutations split the primates from man and humanity was born. Now, further splits from the apes are being unearthed. First in the mountains of South America, where it was destroyed by the Chinese. And now in Africa, a place John Clay and Alison Shaw must find quickly. The Russians already know what they are searching for and the Chinese want back what is rightfully theirs. This breakthrough will not only explain who we are, but will decipher the very code within our own DNA.

Salvation Lost by Peter F. Hamilton, Macmillan, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-447-28136-8.
The follow-up to Salvation, featuring alien first contact, threats to humanity and a future war.  In the twenty-third century, humanity has enjoyed a comparative utopia. But life on Earth is about to change, forever. Feriton Kayne’s investigative team has discovered the worst threat mankind has ever faced – and we’ve almost no time to fight back. The supposedly benign Olyix are determined to harvest humanity, to carry us to their god, and vast arc ships are converging upon the Earth to gather this cargo.  But humanity won’t go gently into that good night – or spend the rest of their days cowering in hiding. Factions unite and animosities are set aside in the face of a common purpose, but is this too little, too late? As disaster looms, human ingenuity and determination will be channelled into just one goal: to wipe this undefeated enemy from the face of creation. Even if it means planning for a future no one present will ever see.  Peter is known for his large books and this one comes in at nearly 900 pages.

Horse Destroys the Universe by Cyriak Harris, Unbound, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-783-52760-1.
This is a surreal SF, somewhat comic, tale about scientists conducting neurological experiments on a horse who, one day, discover that the horse itself is conducting experiments of its own.  An intellectual arms race ensues that takes everything to the edge of reality and beyond…

Rise of the Petrol Queen by John Heartless, Accent Press, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-786-15693-8.
Poppy Orpington and her petrol-fuelled Thunderbus are trying to get ahead on a steampunk world…

Qualityland by Marc-Uwe Kling, Orion, £12.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-409-19114-8.
Welcome to QualityLand, the greatest, most advanced country in the world. Everything in QualityLand is geared towards optimizing your life, and humans, robots and algorithms co-exist.  Peter Jobless is a down-and-out metal press operator, dumped by his long-term girlfriend. He’s also the only one noticing that Qualityland’s robot citizens are experiencing an existential crisis. Instructed to destroy these malfunctioning A.I., Peter starts to suspect that the ruling technology has a flaw, perhaps a fatal one. Not only that, these robots might be his only friends…

Cold Storage by David Koepp, HQ, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-008-33450-5.
The author is a Jurassic Park, Spiderman and Mission Impossible screenwriter this is his debut novel. An organism of extinction level danger, is found outside of its cold storage…

Minecraft: The Lost Journals by Mur Lafferty, Century, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-780-89778-3.
Alison and Max must team up to find his missing uncle Nicholas. Using the journal his beloved uncle left as a guide, the duo hurtle headlong into a treacherous and unknown landscape called the Nether. There, they meet a strange girl named Freya and her woefully unheroic dog, Bunny Biter, who agree to help them in their quest. The group must take on dangerous new foes and unravel the cryptic journal to find Nicholas and reunite this fractured family.

The Supernova Era by Cixin Liu, Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-788-54238-8.
From Cixin Liu, the Hugo award-winning author of The Three-Body Problem, comes a new science fiction novel.  Celestial giants don’t go peacefully.  They tear themselves to pieces, unleashing a tsunami of ultra high-energy radiation.  Eight years ago, and eight light years away, a supermassive star died and tonight its supernova shockwave will finally reach Earth. Dark skies will shine bright as a new star blooms in the heavens and within a year everyone over the age of thirteen will be dead, their chromosomes irreversibly damaged.  And so the countdown begins. Parents apprentice their children and try to pass on the knowledge they’ll need to keep the world running.  But the last generation may not want to carry the legacy of their parents’ world.  And though they imagine a better, brighter future, they may not be able to escape humanity’s darker instincts...

No Way by S. J. Morden, Gollancz, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22259-5. Eight astronauts were sent to Mars to build NASA’s Mars base, and only one survived. Now all he needs to do is get home . . . Frank Kitteridge is alone on Mars. But XO, the corporate architects of the first Mars base, made a costly mistake when they left him there: they left him alive. Using his skills and his wits, he’s going to find a way back home even if it kills him. Click on the title link for a standalone review. This is the second part of a duology and even better than the first, One Way.

The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51123-8.
Time travel has existed for as long as humanity itself. Jumping into the past is simple, and scientists say that altering the timeline is almost impossible.  But Eliza believes in historical change. That’s why she’s gone back to 1893, hoping to undo a horrible injustice whose effects are still being felt in her own time. On her way, she makes a secret stop in 1992. She’s desperate to find Beth, a punk rocker whose ordinary life is about to become a cross-temporal tangle of toxic friendship and murder.  Eliza and Beth are part of a hidden war that stretches back millions of years. But with the help of unlikely allies from times past and times yet to come, they may be able to save each other – and build a different future.

Curse the Day by Judith O’Reilly, Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-788-54894-6.
An AI device witnesses the murder of its creator in this intelligent, action-packed thriller. Tech genius Tobias Hawke was the boss of the British Institute for Deep Learning. Now his body has been found in his lab: he has been brutally murdered. Hawke was on the brink of an astonishing breakthrough in the field of Artificial Intelligence. His creation, ‘Syd’, a machine-learning device that mimics human thought, promised to change the face of humanity forever. But Syd has gone into emergency shutdown procedure. What secrets are her neural networks hiding? Michael North, ex-assassin and spy-for-hire, is the man to find out. But he can’t work alone. Teenage hacker Fangfang, and Hawke’s widow, a prize-winning ethicist, have their own reasons to solve the murder. Can they uncover the truth before it’s too late?

North by Frank Owen, Corvus, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-782-39902-5.
Post-apocalyptic follow-up to South.  The USA has been ravaged by Civil War. Both North and South remain at the mercy of the vicious Northern dictator, Renard. Two survivors, Dyce and Vida, find themselves on a deadly pursuit; to eliminate Renard himself. But at what cost...?

Shadow Captain by Alastair Reynolds, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-575-09065-1.
This is the immediate sequel to Revenger. Click on the title link for a standalone review.  There will be a third in the trilogy, see immediately below.

Title to be confirmed by Alastair Reynolds, Gollancz, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-575-09071-2.
Currently slated to be out in January (2020) this is a brand-new novel set in the universe of the Revenger books.

Solar War by A. G. Riddle, Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-789-54491-6.
This is the follow-up to Winter World and James and his team prepare humanity for a last stand against the alien AI.

Star Wars: Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse, Century, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-780-89992-3.
The Official Prequel to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.  Poe Dameron, General Leia Organa, Rey, and Finn must struggle to rebuild the Resistance after their defeat at the hands of the First Order in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

By the Pricking of Her Thumbs by Adam Roberts, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22151-2.
This is the highly entertaining follow up to The Real-Town Murders.  There are two crimes that need solving. In one, a woman called Alexa Lund is dead, from shock, by all accounts and the only thing wrong with her is a needle through her thumb, a needle that has no poison on it, nor anything else, and nothing has been found in the woman’s system, so has she really died from a pricking of her thumb? The second crime, if a crime at all, is the death and replacement of one of the Fab Four, the four individuals who are the richest people in the world, who are jockeying for position to be first over the finish line and have absolute wealth. One of the Fab ones is convinced that one of their counterparts is dead and has been replaced by an A1 or individuals impersonating him or her, but which one is dead, if at all…?  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50882-5.
The latest from the Hugo, Nebula and Locus Awards winning author.  Red Moon concerns the first colony on the Moon set some 30 years from now. Expect this to create something of a buzz.

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-217871-1.
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…  Click on the title link for a standalone review. See immediately below for the sequel.

Starsight by Brandon Sanderson, Gollancz, £12.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21792-8.
The sequel to Skyward!  All her life, Spensa has dreamed of becoming a pilot. Of proving she’s a hero like her father. She made it to the sky, but the truths she learned about her father were crushing.  Spensa is sure there’s more to the story. What’s more, when she made it outside the protective shell of her planet, she learned everything she was taught was a lie.  But Spensa also learned a few things about herself along the way – and she’ll travel to the end of the galaxy to save humankind if she needs to…

The Eternity War: Dominion by Jamie Sawyer, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51008-8.
This is the third novel in the 'Eternity War' SF trilogy – that includes The Eternity War: Pariah – and which is set in the same universe as his 'Lazarus War' novels.  Here, a deadly virus is released…

Wake by Robert Sawyer, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22840-5.
What if the internet becomes sentient?  This gung-ho, hard SF, adventure thriller is from Canadian author Robert Sawyer and the first of a trilogy. Click on the title link for a standalone review.

The Rosewater Redemption by Tade Thompson, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51139-9.
This is the conclusion to one of the most innovative first contact trilogies since goodness knows when.  It follows Rosewater (which won this year's Clarke (book) Award) and Rosewater Insurrection.  The first half of the first book in the trilogy reads like a fantasy but ends up being firmly SF.  Go back and read the first two before you tackle this, but – if you are into slightly hard SF and first contact stories – don't miss out on this trilogy.  But if you are already familiar with these first two then here is a teaser…  Life in the newly independent city state of Rosewater isn’t everything its citizens were Expecting.  Mayor Jacques finds that debts incurred during the insurrection are coming back to haunt him. Nigeria isn’t willing to let Rosewater go without a fight.  And among the city’s alien inhabitants, a group has emerged who murder humans to provide bodies for their takeover…

The God Game by Danny Tobey, Gollancz, £12.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22448-3.
Five best friends in a high school computer club get sucked into an underground hacker’s game run by a mysterious A.I. that thinks it is God. It’s all fun and games until people start to get hurt.  And the stakes keep getting higher. As the Game pits them against each other and turns their high school upside down, it offers the ultimate promise – win and learn the meaning of life; die in the game, and die for real.  Billed as being for fans of Stranger Things and Ready Player One.

New Horizons by various, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22868-9.
An anthology of SF/F shorts from the Indian subcontinent which includes Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The Choice by Claire Wade, Orion, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-409-18774-5.
Feminist dystopia in a world where sugar is illegal, baking is a crime, and women are publicly shamed about their bodies.  ‘Eat the best, leave the rest! Remember Mother knows best.’  Since Mother Mason came to power, everything from healthy eating to exercise is controlled by the government. Olivia Pritchard lives in constant fear, but to protect her family she must follow the rules or be punished.  After Olivia witnesses an innocent woman being arrested, she is no longer able to ignore the injustice. The underground rebellion ‘Cut The Apron Strings’ is gaining momentum and Olivia has a choice: keep silent or join the fray…

A Chain Across the Dawn by Drew Williams, Simon & Schuster, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-471-17115-4.
Esa and Kamali travel from plant to planet searching for children with supernatural powers. But they are not the only ones doing this…

Golden State by Ben H. Winters, Arrow, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-784-75768-7.
A dystopic novel.  Welcome to Golden State, where the worst crime you can commit is to lie. Laz Ratesic is a veteran of the State’s special police. Those in power rely on Laz to discover the full and final truth. But when a man falls from a roof in suspicious circumstances, it sets in motion a terrifying series of events that will shatter Laz’s world forever. Because when those in control of the truth decide to twist it, only those with the power to ask questions can fight back.


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Autumn 2019

Forthcoming Fantasy Books


False Value by Ben Aaronovitch, Gollancz, £12.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-20786-8.
A new novel in the bestselling Rivers of London series!  Strap in for a fantastic mystery – and an amazing new character – as Ben provides a new entry point into the world of the Folly, the demi-monde and London’s criminal underbelly.  The crimes might be strange, the evidence conflicting, but one thing remains the same: a very particular kind of investigator is going to be needed to solve this case.

A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-575-09586-1.
War. Politics. Revolution. The Age of Madness has arrived…  Leo dan Brock, locked in battle, hopes the crown may come to help against the marauding armies of Stour Nightfall. He might find himself sorely disappointed…  Savine dan Glokta – socialite, investor, pioneer – plans to make her indelible mark on society. But the slums boil over with a rage that all the money in the world cannot control.  And Rikke, blessed – or cursed – with the Long Eye, glimpses a future she resolves to change.  Unfortunately for her, the First of the Magi might have something to say about that…

Devil’s Blade by Mark Alder, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-0-575-11525-5.
Death is not enough. She will have her revenge in this world and the next.  A rip-roaring tale of dark pacts, revenge, swordplay and magic set in the age of the Musketeers and featuring one of history’s most colourful characters – Julie D’Aubigny, opera singer, mistress to counts and countesses, and deadly duellist…

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo, Gollancz, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22797-2.
Galaxy ‘Alex’ Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Having dropped out of school into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, by age twenty she is the sole survivor of a horrific multiple homicide. But then she is offered this full scholarship. What’s the catch?  Alex is tasked by her benefactors with monitoring Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless ‘tombs’ are well-known haunts of the future rich and powerful. But, soon enough, she will discover their occult activities are stranger than anyone might imagine…

Dracul by J. D. Barker, Black Swan, £8.99,pbk, ISBN 978-0-008-27289-0.
Prequel to Dracula by Bram Stoker's great grand nephew and authorised by the Stoker estate.

The Bone Ships by R. J. Barker, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51183-2.
Enter the Hundred Isles, where ships made from the bones of extinct dragons battle for supremacy on the high seas. Our hero Meas Giryn must unite a crew of condemned criminals for a suicide mission when the first live dragon in centuries is spotted in far off waters…

The Painted Man by Peter V. Brett, Harper Voyager, £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-008-21981-9.
This is a 10th anniversary reprint of the start of Brett's 'Demon Cycle'.  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

Dark Age by Pierce Brown, Hodder & Stoughton, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-64676-6.
For a decade Darrow led a revolution against the corrupt colour-coded Society. Now, outlawed by the very Republic he founded, he wages a rogue war on Mercury in the hope that he can still salvage the dream of Eo. But as he leaves death and destruction in his wake, is he still the hero who broke the chains? Or will another legend rise to take his place? As alliances shift, break, and re-form – and power is seized, lost and reclaimed – every player is at risk in a game of conquest that could turn the Rising into a new Dark Age.  Another standalone novel in the 'Red Rising' universe featuring Darrow as was Morning Star.

Peace Talks by Jim Butcher, Orbit, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50091-1.
From the author of The Skin Game.  Meet Harry Dresden, Chicago’s first (and only) Wizard PI. Turns out the ‘everyday’ world is full of strange and magical things – and most of them don’t play well with humans. That’s where Harry comes in. But he’s forgotten his own golden rule: magic – it can get a guy killed.

Master of Sorrows by Justin Call, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22288-5.
A coming-of-age adventure with one of fantasy’s most compelling anti-hero…  The Academy of Chaenbalu has stood against magic for centuries. Hidden from the world, acting from the shadows, it trains its students to detect and retrieve magic artefacts, which it jealously guards from the misuse of others. Because magic is dangerous: something that heals can also harm, and a power that aids one person may destroy another.  Of the Academy’s many students, only the most skilled can become Avatars – warrior thieves, capable of infiltrating the most heavily guarded vaults – and only the most determined can be trusted to resist the lure of magic. More than anything, Annev de Breth wants to become one of them.  This is a debut.

Earwig by Brian Catling, Coronet, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-68710-3.
Earwig is a strange man employed as carer to a strange girl in a flat in the city of Liege. On one of his rare trips out of the flat he is drinking in a neighbouring bar when he reluctantly becomes engaged in conversation with a man calling himself Tyre, who turns out to have supernatural powers. He propels Earwig into a terrible accident, in the course of which he maims one of the waitresses. When a black cat is delivered to their flat, unasked for, the girl forms an immediate bond with it. But Earwig finds himself drawn into a web of evil coincidences spun by the devilish Tyre and the cat who is his avatar.

The Sky Weaver by Kristen Ciccarelli, Gollancz, £13.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21819-2.
At the end of one world, there always lies another.  Safire, a soldier, knows her role in this world is to serve the King of Firgaard – helping to maintain the peace in her oft-troubled nation.  Eris, a deadly pirate, has no such conviction. Known as the Death Dancer, she possesses a superhuman ability to move between worlds.  From the port city of Darmoor to the fabled faraway Sky Isles, their search and their stories become threaded ever more tightly together as they discover that the uncertain fate they’re hurtling towards may just be a shared one. In this world, and the next.

The Darker Arts by Oscar de Muriel, Orion, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-409-18763-9.
Mystery meets history in this Victorian Jonathan Creek – a fiendishly clever and compelling locked-room puzzle.  Madame Katerina – Detective McGray’s most trusted clairvoyant – hosts a séance for three of Edinburgh’s wealthiest families, but the next morning everyone is found dead.  Katerina alleges a tormented spirit killed the families for revenge. McGray must find a rational explanation that holds up in court, or else Katerina will be sentenced to death.  PTSD-struggling Inspector Ian Frey is summoned to help, but this seems an impossible puzzle. Either something truly supernatural has occurred – or a fiendishly clever plot is covering a killer’s tracks…

The Monster by Seth Dickinson, Tor, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-447-28122-1.
The traitor Baru Cormorant is now the cryptarch Agonist – a secret lord of the corrupt empire she’s vowed to destroy. But to gain the power to shatter this Empire of Masks, she’s had to betray everyone she loved. She’s now hunted by a mutinous admiral and haunted by the wound which has split her mind in two. But Baru is still leading her dearest foes on an expedition, to gain the secret of immortality. It’s her best and perhaps only chance to trigger a war – one that would consume the Masquerade. But Baru’s heart is broken, and she fears she can no longer tell justice from revenge . . . or her own desires from the will of the man who remade her.

Vita Nostra by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko, Harper Voyager , £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-008-27285-2.
We cited the hardback as one of our choices as to one of the best genre books of 2018.  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, if the publishers can getting it out there capitalise on its pedigree, 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?

D (A Tale of Two Worlds) by Michel Faber, Transworld, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-857-52510-9.
An enthralling adventure in the grand tradition of Narnia, from a renowned author, now writing for middle grade children. Fully illustrated by Brett Helquist, illustrator of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. Dhikilo was born in a faraway country, though she’s doing her best to feel at home with her new parents in the crumbly seaside town of Cawber-on-Sands. Until one day, the letter D disappears from the language, and Dhikilo is the only person who notices it’s gone. You’d think the loss of one little letter wouldn’t make much of a difference to daily life. But it actually makes things very difficult and, eventually, quite desperate. Determined to rescue the D, Dhikilo teams up with the recently deceased Professor Dodderfield. In moments, she is in the wintery land of Liminus where she meets the Magwitches, the Quilps, the Spottletoes, and other strange tribes. Can she escape from the terrifying Bleak House? Can she stop the D from disappearing for ever? And can Dhikilo – a girl with no past and no country – discover who she is and where she really belongs?

Leopard’s Wrath by Christine Feehan, Piatkus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-349-42325-8.
The Leopard People adventures continue with this shifter, fantasy romance by this author who is a nominee for the Romance Writers of America RITA and recipient of a Career Achievement Award from Romantic Times.

Widow’s Welcome by D. K. Fields, Head of Zeus, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-789-54248-6.
The first novel in a fantasy crime trilogy from two rising stars in the genre. There’s power in stories and this is a story of power. Dead bodies aren’t unusual in the alleyways of Fenest. Muggings, brawls gone bad, debts collected – Detective Cora Gorderheim has seen it all. Until she finds a Wayward man with his mouth sewn shut. As Detective Cora Gorderheim pieces together the dead man’s story, she’s drawn into the most dangerous tale in the Union of Realms: the election. Gorderheim just wants to find a killer but nothing’s that simple in an election year. Dark forces conspire against the Union, and soon Gorderheim finds herself at the rotten core of it all. She’ll find the killer, but at what cost?

The True Bastards by Jonathan French, Orbit, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51166-5.
Follows the Greybastards.  Back in the saddle. Fetching was once the only female rider in the Lot Lands. Now she is the leader of her own hoof, a band of loyal half orcs sworn to her command. But in the year since she took power, the True Bastards have struggled to survive. Tested to breaking point by the burdens of leadership, Fetching battles desperately to stave off famine, desertion and the scorn of the other half-orc chieftains, even as orcs and humans alike threaten the Lots’ very existence. Then an old enemy finds a way to strike at her from beyond the grave – and suddenly only one faint hope for salvation remains.

Hearts of Ice by David Hair, Jo Fletcher Books, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-784-29091-7.
Sunsurge Quartet Book 3.  The Masks have nearly won – can forbidden magic stop them? Empress Lyra’s empire is in chaos, her only weapon a forbidden magic, while the victorious Sultan Rashid faces ruin in the snow. Out of options, even those fighting for good must use terrible weapons to stop the world falling apart.

The Shadow Saint by Gareth Hanrahan, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51153-5.
The Gutter Miracle changed the landscape of Guerdon for ever. Six months after it was conjured into being, the labyrinthine New City has become a haven for criminals and refugees. Rumours have spread of a devastating new weapon buried beneath its streets – a weapon with the power to destroy a god. Its location is unknown, but as Guerdon strives to remain neutral, two of the most powerful factions in the godswar send agents into the city to find it.  As tensions escalate and armies gather at the borders, how long will Guerdon be able to keep its enemies at bay?

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow, Orbit, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51244-0.
‘I almost didn’t notice the Door at all. All Doors are like that, half-shadowed and sideways until someone looks at them in just the right way.’ In the summer of 1901, at the age of seven, January Scaller found a door to another world. Ten years later, January has forgotten that brief glimpse of elsewhere, but her quiet, mundane existence is shattered when she stumbles across a strange book that might be the key to unlocking her past. A book that carries the scent of other worlds in its pages and tells a tale of secret doors and danger, of love and adventure. A book that might just lead her back to that half remembered door of her childhood… Debut.

Raging Storm by Markus Heitz, Jo Fletcher Books, £12.99, pbk, ISBN 978-178-429444-1.
The sequel to The Triumph of the Dwarves sees Aiphaton, the sonof theformer emperor Alfar, determined to destroy the last of his people.

The Nightjar by Deborah Hewitt, Pan, £7.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-509-89646-2.
A magical adventure set in an alternative London infused with Finnish mythology – billed as for fans of Neil Gaiman and Philip Pullman.  Alice Wyndham has been plagued by visions of birds her whole life, and only her best friend Jen understands her terror. So when an accident leaves Jen in a coma, Alice is devastated. Then the mysterious Crowley reveals that Alice is an aviarist: capable of seeing nightjars, magical birds that guard human souls. And Jen’s nightjar has already flown to Death’s aviary, the Black Menagerie. Unless Jen and her soul bird can be reunited, she won’t recover – and only Alice can save her. With Crowley’s help, Alice travels to the Rookery, a hidden city within the London she knows. Here, surrounded by others with unique powers, she begins to hone her own newfound talents. However, she’s being hunted by a faction intent on annihilating magic users. And is Crowley really working with her, or against her?

Full Throttle by Joe Hill, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-21989-2.
Stories from a master of horror, including two collaborations with Stephen King.  Eleven short stories from award-winning author Joe Hill, building on the success of his blockbuster novels. Some new, some previously published, all terrifying. Includes ‘Full Throttle’ and ‘In the Tall Grass’, both collaborations with Stephen King and both being filmed at the time of writing.  His last collection was Strange Weather.

An Orc on the Wild Side by Tom Holt, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50671-5.
Winter is coming, so why not get away from it all?  Being the dark lord Prince of Evil is not much fun as it sounds, particularly if you are basically a decent person. Technically, King Mordak is more goblin than person, but the point is he is really keen to be a lot less despicable than his predecessors…. Tom Holt is an established comedic fantasy writer.

The Light of All That Falls by James Islington, Orbit, £16.99, ISBN 978-0-356-50784-2.
This concludes the adventure that began in The Shadow of What Was Lost.  The Boundary is whole once again, but it may be too late.  Banes now stalk Andarra, while in Ilin Illan, the political machinations of a generation come to a head as Wirr’s newfound ability forces his family’s old enemies into action.  Imprisoned and alone in a strange land, Davian is pitted against the remaining Venerate as they work tirelessly to undo Asha’s sacrifice – even as he struggles with what he has learned about the friend he chose to set free.  And Caeden, now facing the consequences of his centuries-old plan, must finally confront its reality – heartbroken at how it began, and devastated by how it must end.

Fallen by Benedict Jacka, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51112-2.
The tenth novel in the urban fantasy series which began with Fated and includes Chosen - the Alex Verus novels are magic-filled and billed as perfect for readers of Jim Butcher and Ben Aaronovitch.

The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin, Orbit, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51266-2.
A new fantasy from the record-breaking, triple Hugo Award-winning author of The Fifth Season.

At Death’s Door by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Piatkus, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-349-41223-8.
Fantasy romance.

Wolf ’s Hunger by Celia Kyle, Piatkus, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-349-41683-0.
Fantasy romance.

The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin, Gollancz, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22357-8.
A welcome reprint from the late author, a beautiful hardback edition of the classic The Tombs of Atuan, the second book of Earthsea . The perfect addition to any library. With illustrations by Charles Vess.  Tenar is chosen as high priestess to the ancient and nameless Powers of the Earth, and everything is taken from her – home, family, possessions, even her name. She is now known only as Arha, the Eaten One, and guards the shadowy, labyrinthine Tombs of Atuan.  Then a wizard, Ged Sparrowhawk, comes to steal the Tombs’ greatest hidden treasure, the Ring of Erreth-Akbe. Tenar’s duty is to protect the Ring, but Ged possesses the light of magic and tales of a world that Tenar has never known. Will Tenar risk everything to escape from the darkness that has become her domain?

The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin, Gollancz, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22358-5.
A welcome reprint from the late author, a beautiful hardback edition of the classic The Farthest Shore the third book of Earthsea. The perfect addition to any library. With illustrations by Charles Vess.  Darkness threatens to overtake Earthsea: the world and its wizards are losing their magic. Despite being wearied with age, Ged Sparrowhawk – Archmage, wizard, and dragonlord – embarks on a daring, treacherous journey, accompanied by Enlad’s young Prince Arren, to discover the reasons behind this devastating pattern of loss. Together they will sail to the farthest reaches of their world – even beyond the realm of death – as they seek to restore magic to a land desperately thirsty for it…

Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin, Gollancz, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22358-5.
A welcome reprint from the late author, a beautiful hardback edition of the classic Tehanu the third book of Earthsea. The perfect addition to any library. With illustrations by Charles Vess.  In this fourth novel in the Earthsea series, we rejoin the young priestess Tenar and powerful wizard Ged.  Years before, they had helped each other at a time of darkness and danger. Together, they shared an adventure like no other. Tenar has since embraced the simple pleasures of an ordinary life, while Ged mourns the powers lost to him through no choice of his own.  Now the two must join forces again and help another in need – the physically, emotionally scarred child whose own destiny has yet to be revealed…

I Always Find You by John Ajvide Lindqvist, Jo Fletcher Books, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-787-47452-9.
From the author of Let the Right One In.  A horror story about being young and lonely, about making friends and growing up. It's about magic, and the intensity of human connection – and a society's communal responsibility for a devastating act of political violence.

Mistletoe by Alison Littlewood, Jo Fletcher Books, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-47587-8.
Tendrils of the past are pushing into Leah’s future in this Christmas ghost story. Leah Hamilton is looking for a new life following the tragic deaths of her husband and son. Determined to bury her grief in hard work and desperate to escape Christmas and the pitying looks of her colleagues, she rushes through the purchase of a run-down Yorkshire farmhouse, arriving just as the snow shrouds her new home. It may look like a Christmas card, but it’s soon clear it’s not just the house needing renovation; the land is in bad heart too. And Leah’s mind starts playing tricks on her: she hears a child playing in the snow, but although there are snowballs, there are no footprints. Is this the ghost of her son, returned to her? She starts having visions of the farm’s former occupants – the owner, a young widow, and her son, the cousin who’s wooing her, the maid who shares her secrets and the handsome labourer who’s served rough justice and hanged for the murder of a child – a murder he didn’t commit. Is Leah strong enough to lay to rest the increasingly malevolent ghosts and find a way to move on? Or will her ashes end up mixed with those of her son and husband and scattered over the snow-covered fields?

The Fifth Ward: Good Company by Dale Lucas, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50940-2.
A fantasy adventure in which two misfit partners team up to work a case in a crime-ridden city filled with orcs, humans, elves, dwarves and mages.

The Name of All Things by Jenn Lyons, Tor, £14.79, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-509-87954-0.
You can have everything you want. If you sacrifice everything you believe…  After killing the Emperor of Quur, freeing the demons and claiming the sword Urthaenriel, Kihrin D’Mon is a wanted man – and not in a good way. So he heads for the backwaters of Jorat. Here he hopes to find the fourth person named in prophesy, who will either save or damn the world.  He meets Janel Theranon, who claims she already knows him. And she wants Kihrin’s help in saving Jorat’s capital from a dragon, who can only be slain with Urthaenriel’s magic. Her actions place Kihrin at the centre of a rebellion he didn’t know existed, which puts him in direct opposition to Relos Var, his old enemy.  For too long, Janel’s been trying to counter the wizard alone – even betraying her own ideals to bring him down. For Var possesses one of the most powerful artefacts in the world, known as the Name of All Things. It gives its wielder knowledge, which Var will use to gain what he wants most – namely Kihrin D’Mon. And their world may not survive the consequences.

Blood of Empire by Brian McClellan, Orbit, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50933-4.
This is the concluding novel in the 'Gods of Blood and Powder' series that includes Sins of Empire.

The Great God Pan And Other Horror Stories by Arthur Machen (with additional academic analysis by Aaron Worth), Oxford University Press, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-198-80510-6.
Arthur Machen’s ‘weird fiction’ has influenced generations of storytellers, from H. P. Lovecraft and Stephen King to Guillermo Del Toro, and it remains no less unsettling today. This collection of his best work includes the complete novel The Three Impostors together with a selection of major stories. It represents the most comprehensive critical edition of Machen’s work yet to appear.

Brightfall by Jaime Lee Moyer, Jo Fletcher Books, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-47920-3.
Someone is murdering the Merry Men – and if Marian doesn’t stop them, her children will be next.  A re-imagining of Robin Hood and Maid Marian, billed as for fans of Katherine Arden, Naomi Novik and Christina Henry.  It’s been a mostly quiet life since Robin Hood denounced Marian, his pregnant wife, and his former life and retreated to a monastery to repent his sins . . . although no one knows what he did that was so heinous he would leave behind Sherwood Forest and those he loved most. But when friends from their outlaw days start dying, Father Tuck, now the Abbott of St Mary’s, suspects a curse and begs Marian to use her magic to break it. A grieving Marian bargains for protection for her children before she sets out with a former Crusader soldier who’s lost his faith, a trickster Fey lord and a sullen Robin Hood who’s angry at being drawn back into the real world. Marian soon finds herself enmeshed in a maze of betrayals, secret and tangled relationships, and a deadly struggle for the Fey throne... and if she can’t find and stop the spellcaster, no protection in Sherwood Forest will be enough to save her children.

Wicked Hour by Chloe Neill, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22282-3.
The second novel in the 'Heirs of Chicagoland' series.  Vampires were made, not born, until Elisa Sullivan came along. The only vampire child in existence, she grew up with a heavy legacy, and she thought she could flee her past. But then trouble came for Chicago, and Elisa came home.  Months after the deadly attacks, while tempers are still cooling, Elisa and Connor find themselves in the middle of a shifter fight, and the stakes get even higher when Elisa makes a vampire in the middle of Pack territory. Now Elisa’s life, the Pack, and its vampire alliance are at risk.

Anno Dracula 1999: Daikaiju by Kim Newman, Titan, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-178-565886-0.
It’s New Year’s Eve, 1999, and Diogenes Club member Richard Jeperson is attending a party being thrown by Christina Light, heiress supreme, in the Bund, Tokyo’s prime vampire territory. Accompanying him is Nezumi, ancient ronin and vampire who looks like a little girl but who is really an accomplished assassin. The Treaty of Light, which granted Christina this territory for 100 years, is expiring with the end of the millennium, and there are many, many forces in the region that want to cause havoc and mayhem at the very least; indeed, this is at least partially why Richard is here…

Girls of Storm and Shadow by Natasha Ngan, Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-34259-8.
The sequel to the Girls of Paper and Fire.  Lei, the naive country girl who became a royal courtesan, is now known as the Moonchosen, the commoner who managed to do what no one else could. But slaying the cruel Demon King wasn’t the end of the plan – it’s just the beginning. Now Lei and her warrior love Wren must travel the kingdom to gain support from the far-flung rebel clans. Meanwhile, an evil plot to eliminate the rebel uprising is taking shape, fuelled by dark magic and vengeance. Will Lei succeed in her quest to overthrow the monarchy and protect her love for Wren, or will she fall victim to the sinister magic that seeks to destroy her?

Angel Mage by Garth Nix, Gollancz, £18.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22771-2.
Over a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara.  Ystarans are now shunned and cursed, and a danger to all angelic beings. But this means nothing to Liliath, and she recruits four unlikely people to help her. For she will be reunited with her lover, no matter the cost. No matter the consequences. No matter what happens to anyone else.

Girls of Storm and Shadow by Claire North, Orbit, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50741-5.
Fantastical horror from the author of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. South Africa in the 1880s. A young and naïve English doctor by the name of William Abbey witnesses the lynching of a local boy by the white colonists. He’s guilt-struck, but too cowardly to stand up against this act. And as the child dies, his mother curses William.  William isn’t sure what this curse means, but begins to understand when the shadow of the dead boy starts following him across the world. It never stops, never rests. It can cross oceans and mountains. And if it catches him, the person he loves most in the world will die.  A hauntingly powerful new novel from the award-winning Claire North – one of the most original voices in modern fiction.

Blood Communion: A Tale of Prince Lestat by Anne Rice, Arrow, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-784-75881-3.
From his ancestral chateau high up in the mountains of France, Prince Lestat grapples to instil a new ideology of peace and harmony among the blood-drinking community.  Accustomed to welcoming the Undead from far and wide, one night he awakes to news of a ruthless attack by a group of maverick vampires. After fleeing to investigate the terror, Lestat learns of several new enemies who are intent on disrupting the harmony he tries so hard to maintain. But is Lestat strong enough to take on such evil alone or will sacrifices have to be made?  Click n the title link for a standalone review of the hardback.

Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff, Picador, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-529-01903-2.
A TV tie-in edition of the Lovecraftian story behind the HBO series from J. J. Abrams.

Immortal Born by Lynsay Sands, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22536-7.
A new Argeneau novel…  Allie has promised to raise her friend’s vampire son, and when she is caught stealing from a blood bank, she is surrounded by doctors, cops… and the gorgeous Magnus, who she can neither trust nor resist.  Magnus never expected to find his life mate like this. Allie is entwined with his world in more dangerous ways than she realises. His first task is to keep her safe. His second: to awaken her to mind-blowing pleasure, and hope she’ll accept the life only he can offer.

Oathbringer: Part One by Brandon Sanderson, Gollancz, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-575-09336-2.
The first half of the novel Oathbringer (click on the link for a standalone review). God’s dead, meet the monster who killed him, and those trying to kill the monster… Part two isalso out.

Grave Importance by Vivian Shaw, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50892-4.
A novel of mystery and medicine featuring Greta Helsing, doctor to the undead –the follow-up to Strange Practice and Dreadful Company.

Archangel’s War by Nalini Singh, Gollancz, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-473-22459-9.
A return to the Guild Hunter world of the archangels, guild hunters, and humans. It is thrust into peril by a new emerging threat. Elena Deveraux and her archangel Raphael are irrevocably changed, but how their changes affect the world around them is yet to be determined…

Realm of Ash by Tasha Suri, Orbit, £8.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51201-3.
A tale inspired by medieval India, from the author of Empire of Sand.  Some believe the Ambhan Empire is cursed. But Arwa doesn’t simply believe it – she knows it’s true.  Widowed by the infamous, unnatural massacre at Darez Fort, Arwa was saved only by thestrangeness of her blood – a strangeness she had been taught all her life to suppress. She offers up her blood and service to the imperial family and makes common cause with a disgraced, illegitimate prince who has turned to forbidden occult arts to find a cure to the darkness hanging over the Empire.  Using the power in Arwa’s blood, they seek answers in the realm of ash: a land where mortals can seek the ghostly echoes of their ancestors’ dreams. But the Emperor’s health is failing, and a terrible war of succession hovers on the horizon, not just for the imperial throne, but for the magic underpinning Empire itself.  To save the Empire, Arwa and the prince must walk the bloody path of their shared past, through the realm of ash and into the desert, where the cause of the Empire’s suffering – and its only chance of salvation – lie in wait. But what they find there calls into question everything they’ve ever valued… and whether they want to save the Empire at all.

Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward, Orbit, £25, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-51335-5.
The Tressian Republic is beset by enemies from without and within. As the legions of the Hadari Empire invade the borderlands, the Republic's noble families plot against each other, divided by ancient feuds.  But as Tressia falls, heroes rise. Viktor Akadra is the Republic;s champion. A warrior and general without equal, he also hides a secret that would see him burned as a heretic. Josiri and Calenne Trelan would gladly see Viktor condemned to the flames - they've never forgiven him for killing their mother and crushing her rebellion.  Sworn enemies, all three must now set aside their differences if they're to save the Republic. Yet decades of bad blood are not easily washed away, and the price of victory may be far darker than they could have imagined.

The Burning White by Brent Weeks, Orbit, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-356-50467-4.
This is the epic conclusion to the 'Lightbringer' series.  As the White King springs his great trap, and the Chromeria itself is threatened by treason and siege, Kip Guile and his companions will scramble to return for one impossible final stand.  In the darkest hour, will the Lightbringer come?

The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton by Edith Wharton, Virago, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-349-00967-4.
In these powerful and elegant tales, Edith Wharton evokes moods of disquiet and darkness within her own era. In icy New England a fearsome double foreshadows the fate of a rich young man; a married farmer is bewitched by a dead girl; a ghostly bell saves a woman’s reputation. Brittany conjures ancient cruelties, Dorset witnesses a retrospective haunting and a New York club cushions an elderly aesthete as he tells of the ghastly eyes haunting his nights.  Edith Wharton was born in 1862 in New York, and later lived in Rhode Island and France. Her first novel,The Valley of Decision, was published in 1902, and by 1913 she was writing at least one book a year. During World War I she was awarded the Cross of the Legion d'Honneur and the Order of Leopold. In 1920, The Age of Innocence won the Pulitzer Prize; she was the first woman to receive a Doctorate of Letters from Yale University and in 1930 she became a member of the American Academy of Arts and letters. She died in 1937.

The Bear King by James Wilde, Transworld, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-63216-5.
James Wilde brings his reimagining of the story of the Pendragon bloodline (and so the most enduring legend of all – of Arthur, King of the Britons) to a cataclysmic conclusion…  Bridging the gap between Game of Thronesand Bernard Cornwell comes the third and final chapter in James Wilde's adventure of betrayal, battle and bloodshed.. AD 375 - The Dark Age is drawing near . . . As Rome's legions abandon their forts, chaos grows on the fringes of Britannia. In the far west, the shattered forces of the House of Pendragon huddle together in order to protect the royal heir – their one beacon of hope. For Lucanus, their great war leader, is missing, presumed dead. And the people are abandoning them. For in this time of crisis, a challenger has arisen, a False King with an army swollen by a horde of bloody-thirsty barbarians desperate for vengeance. One slim hope remains for Lucanus’ band of warrior-allies, the Grim Wolves. Guided by the druid, Myrrdin, they go in search of a great treasure – a vessel that is supposedly a gift from the gods. With such an artefact in their possession, the people would surely return and rally to their cause? Success will mean a war unlike any other, a battle between two kings for a legacy that will echo down the centuries. And should they fail? Well, then all is lost…


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Autumn 2019

Forthcoming Non-Fiction SF &
Popular Science Books


Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram by Iain Banks, Century, £12.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-12478-1.
As a native of Scotland, the SF author Iain Banks decided to undertake a tour of the distilleries of his homeland in a bid to uncover the unique spirit of the single malt. Visiting some of the world's most famous distilleries and also some of its smallest and most obscure ones, Iain embarked on a journey of discovery which educated him about the places, people and products surrounding the centuries-old tradition of whisky production.  Click on the title link for a standalone review.

What Do Animals Think and Feel? by Karsten Brensing, Head of Zeus, £25.00, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-788-54450-4.
A fascinating study of animal behaviour revealing them to be as sentient and self-aware as we humans are. The marine biologist Karsten Brensing has something astonishing to tell us about the animal kingdom: namely that animals, by any reasonable assessment, have developed the sophisticated systems of social organization and behaviour that human beings call ‘culture’. Dolphins call one another by name and orcas inhabit a society that is over 700,000 years old. Chimpanzees wage strategic warfare, while bonobos love to talk dirty. Ravens enjoy snowboarding on snow-covered roofs, and snails like to spin on hamster exercise wheels. Humped-back whales are dedicated followers of fashion and rats are inveterate party animals.  Brensing draws on the latest scientific findings as well as his own experience of working with animals, to reveal a world of behavioural and cognitive sophistication that is remarkably similar to our own.  "When I have finished, you will probably ask: so what distinguishes us from animals? Not a lot, as it turns out..." – Karsten Brensing

The Norse Myths by Tom Birkett, Quercus, £9.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-786-48881-7.
The great Norse Myths are among the most dramatic and unforgettable stories in all human history. This book takes us on a journey through the legends and histories of the Vikings.

Psychedelic Apes: From parallel universes to mushroom gods – the weirdest theories of science and history by Alex Boese, Macmillan, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-509-86051-7.
A collection of the weirdest and wackiest theories from science and history.  What if we’re living inside a black hole? What if we’ve already found extraterrestrial life? What if the dinosaurs died in a nuclear war? What if Jesus Christ was actually a mushroom?  Psychedelic Apes l delves into the curious scientific subculture of weird theories. Thoroughly bizarre and contrary to the established norm, these ideas are often vehemently rejected by the intellectual community. From the creation of the universe to the evolution of humans, the birth of civilization right through to our more recent past, Psychedelic Apes explores some of the craziest ideas from science and history and shows that, sometimes, even the weirdest theories may be proved true…

Believe It or Snot: The Definitive Field Guide to Earth’s Slimy Creatures by Nick Caruso & Dani Rabaiotti, Quercus, £9.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-40339-8.
What is hyena butter, and would you want to put it on toast? How much slime can a hagfish can produce in 60 seconds? Which animal produces a snotty sleeping bag? How does a bubble snail use mucus to get around? Which organism is the slime champion? Find out the answer to these and other slimy facts and more in Believe it or Snot, the new book from the authors of the New York Times bestseller Does it Fart? and the follow-through True or Poo. Slime, sludge, mucus, ooze, goo – Believe it or Snot, much like hagfish slime, covers all these things and more.

Dark Matter and Dark Energy by Brian Clegg, Icon, £8.99, pbk,ISBN978-1-785-78550-4.
Part of Icon's Hot Science series.

Eclipses: What Everyone Needs to Know by Frank Close, Oxford University Press, £10.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-190-90246-9.
This covers: the timetable of upcoming eclipses, where the best locations will be to see them, and the opportunities for using them as vehicles for inspiration and education. As a veteran of seven total eclipses, Frank Close answers 100 questions about eclipses—each answered succinctly to create a comprehensive description of the wonder of this natural phenomena.

Outgrowing God: A Beginner’s Guide to Atheism by Richard Dawkins, Transworld, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-787-63121-2.
From the author of multi-million bestseller, The God Delusion, an accessible argument for atheism, written for a new generation. Should we believe in God? Written for a new generation, the biologist explains why we shouldn’t.  Also… Do we need God in order to explain the existence of the universe? Do we need God in order to be good? In twelve chapters that address some of the most profound questions human beings confront, Dawkins marshals science, philosophy and comparative religion to interrogate the hypocrisies of all the religious systems and explain to readers of all ages how life emerged without a Creator, how evolution works and how our world came into being.

A Lab of One’s Own Science and Suffrage in the First World War by Patricia Fara, Oxford University Press, £10.99, pbk, ISBN 978-0-19-879499-8.
2018 marked the centenary not only of the Armistice but also of women gaining the vote. A Lab of One’s Own commemorates both anniversaries by exploring how the War gave female scientists, doctors, and engineers unprecedented opportunities to undertake endeavours normally reserved for men.

The First Ghosts: Why belief in ghosts makes us human by Irving Finkel, Hodder & Stoughton, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-529-30327-8.
Ghosts – the spirits of the dead – have walked by our side since time immemorial.  In The First Ghosts, author Irving Finkel looks at ghosts from a standpoint quite different to that of most spectral literature.  Drawing on evidence from the very earliest pre-human archaeology and the very earliest writing and literature, Finkel suggests that belief in and experience of ghosts emerges as a central component of humanity since its inception.  Irving Finkel is Assistant Keeper of Ancient Mesopotamian (script, languages and cultures) Department: Middle East at the British Museum.

Fundamental: How Quantum and Particle Physics Explain Absolutely Everything (Except Gravity) by Tim James, Robinson, £13.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-472-14348-8.
Fundamental is a comprehensive beginner’s guide to quantum mechanics, explaining not only the weirdness of the subject but the experiments that proved it to be true. Using a humorous and light-hearted approach, Tim James tells the story of how the most brilliant minds in science grappled with seemingly impossible ideas and gave us everything from microchips to particle accelerators.  Fundamental does for physics what Tim’s first book, Elemental, does for chemistry: it demystifies the topic in his trademark humorous, engaging style, including the most recent developments in the field.  Fundamental gives clear explanations of all the quantum phenomena known to modern science, without requiring an understanding of complex mathematics; tells the eccentric stories of the scientists who made these shattering discoveries and what they used them for; explains how quantum field theory (a topic not covered in detail by any other popular-science book) gave rise to particle physics and why the Higgs boson isn’t the end of the story.

Alien: The Blueprints by Graham Langbridge, Titan, £29.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-785-65495-4.
Large format book containing all the plans and diagrams of the vehicles in the Alien film franchise.

The Crowd and the Cosmos: Adventures in the Zooniverse by Chris Lintott, Oxford University Press, £20, hrdbk, ISBN 978-0-19-884222-4.
How thousands of ‘citizen scientists’ are helping to probe the nature of the Universe. The world of science has been transformed by IT – astronomical projects using state-of-the-art equipment can provide more data in a few nights than has been created in the whole of human history. But this deluge can be overwhelming to scientists. Artificial intelligence seems the ideal solution, but could it spell the end of human involvement in scientific discovery? No, argues Chris Lintott. We humans still have unique capabilities, and humans and computers working together simply do better than computers on their own. But with so much scientific data, you need a lot of scientists – a crowd, in fact! Lintott found such a crowd in the Zooniverse, the web-based project that allows enthusiastic volunteers to contribute to science. In The Crowd and the Cosmos, he describes the exciting discoveries that these volunteers from all over the world have made, from galaxies to pulsars, exoplanets to moons, and from penguin behaviour to old ships logs. Discovery is no longer the remit only of scientists in specialist labs or academics in ivory towers. It is something we can all take part in. As Lintott shows, it’s a wonderful way to engage with science, yielding new insights every day.

Gardening for the Zombie Apocalypse: How to grow you own food when civilisation collapses.  Or even if it doesn't by Isabel Lloyd & Phil Clarke, Head of Zeus, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-789-54238-7.
A funny and practical guide to growing the food you need to survive, whatever size space you’re surviving in. When the zombies start stumbling over the hill — and we all know they’re on their way — what’s the first weapon you should grab? A garden fork. Preferably forged from a single piece of steel. Not because, given a good enough shove, its tines would pierce a zombie’s skull as easily as an overripe melon, but because come the end of the world, gardening will be what saves your skin. This book, which is aimed at beginners and more seasoned gardeners alike, will tell you what you need; the basics of gardening language and technique; provide a planting plan; debunk gardening myths and show you how to preserve your food and grow your own medicine even if there are no zombies around. Aimed primarily at the 18–35 audience, who are left cold by traditional gardening books, it will tell them, in words and pictures reminiscent of a graphic novel, the truth about growing your own food: that it is war, but a war you can – armed with the right information – win.

The Self Delusion: How You Are Connected to Everyone Else and Why That Matters by Tom Oliver, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £12.99, pbk, ISBN 978-1-474-61175-6.
This challenges the idea that we are all discrete individuals, physically, psychologically and culturally.  that our idea of the indivisible individual is in fact false:-
• Most of our 37.2 trillion cells are made anew every few weeks
• Our molecules have been component parts of countless other organisms
• Our bodies are more than half non-human
• And our thoughts and actions mainly originate from other people
Ecology professor Tom Oliver explains that we have a better chance of facing the challenges ahead if we can instead understand the complex connections between us.

The Day It Finally Happens: The Good News About our Worst Nightmares and the Bad News About Some of our Wildest Dreams by Mike Pearl, Hodder & Stoughton, £16.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-473-68557-4.
A speculative glimpse at the end of the world.  If you live on planet Earth, you’re probably scared about the future. Terrorism, complicated international relations, global warming and a raft of other issues make it hard not to be. In this hilarious, enlightening and often terrifying book, Pearl gives us a glimpse of the potential end-of-the-world scenarios that could happen sooner than we think – from nuclear war to the end of antibiotics, discovering distant life to the realisation that all cemeteries are full. With interviews with scientists and political thinkers, Pearl investigates how close we really are to the end of the world – and what we can expect when it finally happens.

Untitled Rutherford & Fry Book by Adam Rutherford and Hannah Fry, Transworld, £14.99, hrdbk, ISBN 978-1-78-63263-9.
If this is anything like their BBC Radio 4 series then this will be brilliant as they uncover the latest science take-home message on a number of fascinating questions.  - What is a thought? - What is déjà vu? - What shape is the universe? - Why do my headphones always get tangled? - Why isn’t my leg hair as long as my head hair? This is not a book of trivia. It’s a collection of stories – illustrated tales of how and why we know the things we know. Drawing upon their vast experience and expert knowledge, Rutherford (geneticist) and Fry (mathematician) satisfy our childlike curiosity for the world by revealing the secrets of universe. In their inimitable style, they will lead you, the curios, deep down into the wormholes of science, history and philosophy and – maybe – out the other side.

Coders: Who They Are, What They Think and How They Are Changing Our World by Clive Thompson, Picador, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-529-01899-8.
You use software nearly every instant you’re awake. And this may sound weirdly obvious, but every single one of those pieces of software was written by a programmer. Programmers are thus among the most quietly influential people on the planet. As we live in a world made of software, they’re the architects. The decisions they make guide our behaviour. When they make something newly easy to do, we do a lot more of it. If they make it hard to do something, we do less of it.  If we want to understand how today’s world works, we ought to understand something about coders. Who exactly are the people building today’s world? What makes them tick? What type of personality is drawn to writing software? And perhaps most interestingly – what does it do to them? More and more, any serious engagement with the world demands an engagement with code and its consequences, and to understand code, we must understand coders.

The Maths of Life and Death by Kit Yates, Quercus, £14.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-787-47541-0.
Through the stories of ordinary people, Kit Yates shows us how maths can change our lives for the better. Maths is the story of the world around us, and the wisdom it gives us can be the difference between life and death. Maths ends at school and has nothing to do with real life – or so the popular misconception goes. In fact, maths is present in most of our actions and our decisions. When we tap our foot to music, choose our seat on the train or absorb a medical result, we are performing complex maths unconsciously. Not only that: understanding how that is can guide us towards making better decisions in all sorts of situations, from the mundane to the life-changing. Here, mathematical biologist Kit Yates teases out the hidden mathematical rules that underlie our common experience, making real-life sense of the equations that govern our lives. Along the way Yates wrestles with huge ethical and societal issues from abortion to anti-vaccination, from climate change to globalisation. Yet he never loses sight of the sensibility and emotional dimension of the human experience. The result is a captivating, entertaining and surprising read that is both important and relatable.  Kit Yates is a Senior Lecturer in mathematical biology at the University of Bath. He works in applications as diverse as embryonic disease, the patterns on eggshells and the devastating swarming of locust plagues.

Drinkology by Alexis Willett, Robinson, £13.99, trdpbk, ISBN 978-1-472-14247-4.
Alexis Willett has a dungaree in Biomedical Science from the University of Cambridge.  Do you really know what you are drinking? We consume many drinks every day, often without thinking. Perhaps we’re just thirsty, perhaps we need something to wake us up, perhaps we need something to relax us at the end of the day. But have you ever stopped to wonder what exactly is in that chai latte you’re guzzling or just what those added electrolytes in your bottled water are supposed to do? Whether you want to discover the true benefits of fermented drinks, find out if sulphites in wine really cause headaches, or are just sick of the pseudoscience behind the marketing of what we consume, Drinkology is for you. Drinkology is a concise, scientific digest of many of the world’s most popular drinks. It offers an easy-to-read guide that may be downed in one go or savoured over time.


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Autumn 2019

General Science News


Rare, extreme rainfall events to increase markedly in US with only 2°C warming.  In the United States, 90% of all federally declared natural disasters involve flooding.  Increases in the frequency and severity of extreme precipitation due to climate change therefore pose substantial risks to future life and property.  However extreme rainfall events are difficult to model.  US researchers have now divided the US up into areas with similar rainfall patterns and then looked at how climate models affect each of these clumped areas.  They find that, although there is some regional variation, record extreme events are projected in general to become more intense, with 500-year events (those that today are so extreme that they are only expected once in 500 years) intensifying by 10–50% under 2 °C of warming and by 40–100% under 4 °C of warming.  The results also suggest that historical 1,000-year events will occur 2–5 times more frequently under 2 °C warming (depending on the region). Under 4 °C of warming a present-day 1,000-year event is projected to be 5–10 times more frequent. The greatest increase in frequency is seen in the U.S. East Coast, the Southern Great Plains, and southern Rocky Mountain clusters. (See Sanderson, B. M. et al, 2019, Informing Future Risks of Record-Level Rainfall in the United States. Geophysical Research Letters, vol. 46, p3963–3972.)

Northern hemisphere cities by 2050AD will likely shift to warmer conditions currently found on average ~600 miles (~1,000 km) further south (with a velocity ~20 km a year).  This is even under a modest IPCC scenario (RCP4.5) that sees greenhouse emission increase slow and stabilise by 2050 before declining.  The researchers from Switzerland found that 77% of future cities are very likely to experience a climate that is closer to that of another existing city than to its own current climate. In addition, 22% of cities (mainly in the tropics) will experience climate conditions that are not currently experienced by any existing major cities (there is no city currently warm enough to be a future analogue).  They predict that Madrid’s climate in 2050 will resemble Marrakech’s climate today, Stockholm will resemble Budapest, London to Barcelona, Moscow to Sofia, Seattle to San Francisco, Tokyo to Changsha. (See Bastin, J-F, et al, 2019, Understanding climate change from a global analysis of city analogues. PLoS ONE, vol. 14(no. 7), e0217592.)

The UK should reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) to 'net-zero' by 2050, says government's independent Climate Change Committee (CCC).  The UK should set and vigorously pursue an ambitious target to reduce GHGs to 'net-zero' by 2050, ending the UK's contribution to global warming within 30 years.  A net-zero GHG target for 2050 will deliver on the commitment that the UK made by signing the Paris Agreement. It is achievable with known technologies, alongside improvements in people's lives, and within the expected economic cost that Parliament accepted when it legislated the existing 2050 target for an 80% reduction from 1990.  However, this is only possible if clear, stable and well-designed policies to reduce emissions further are introduced across the economy without delay. Current policy is insufficient for even the existing targets. if other countries follow the UK, there’s a 50-50 chance of staying below the recommended 1.5C temperature rise by 2100. The cost of the new proposal, the CCC estimates, is tens of billions of pounds a year and may reach to 1-2% of national wealth (in GDP terms) each year by 2050. That does not include the benefits of decarbonisation - such as reduced fossil fuel imports, cleaner air and water. (See Committee on Climate Change (2019) Net Zero: The UK's contribution to stopping global warming. Committee on Climate Change: London.)

Boreal forests are becoming net sources of carbon rather than carbon sinks  Soils in boreal forests (coniferous dominated forests of the northern hemisphere) up to now have been net absorbers (sinks) of carbon dioxide. Research is showing that this is now changing.  Their net carbon balance is driven by natural wildfires which produce large carbon emissions approximately every 70 to 200 years. But climate change is likely to shorten the period between fires (the fire-return interval) by producing warmer temperatures, more lightning strikes, longer wildfire seasons and drier forest conditions than those seen at present.  The research, in the NW territories of Canada, shows that show that the increase in fire frequency will turn boreal forests from carbon sinks into carbon sources.  A boreal forest will act as a carbon sink if a fire removes less soil carbon than the amount that accumulated after the previous fire — or, to put it another way, if the soil carbon removed by a fire is younger than the community of trees affected by the fire. However the increased frequency of fires sees them consume soil carbon than that stored since the last fire so turning the forests in these areas into net sources of carbon. (See Walker, X. J. et al, 2019, Increasing wildfires threaten historic carbon sink of boreal forest soils. Nature, vol. 572, p521 - 3 and a review the same issue of Nature, Rumpel, C., 2019, Soils linked to climate change, vol. 572, p442-3.)

The Amazon is on fire.  There has been an overall upward trend in the number of fires in the Amazon in recent years and in the months between January and August, twice the number in 2019 than the same period in 2013.  The concern is that this is caused by farmers and lumberers as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has encouraged such tree-clearing activities. The fires have been releasing a large amount of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of 228 megatonnes up to mid-August, the highest since 2010.  See the story at the BBC news.

Ammonia to feed the world can now be made easier.  Global food production requires ammonia-based fertilisers. Today, global ammonia production occurs at a rate of about 250 – 300 tonnes per minute, and provides fertilisers that support nearly 60% of the planet’s population.  However, currently ammonia production relies on the Haber-Bosch process that takes place at temperatures greater than 400°C and pressures of approximately 400 atmospheres. Both these require a lot of energy.  Now, Japanese chemists have devised a way of producing ammonia at room temperature and pressure.  The new process relies on combination of samarium(ii) diiodide (SmI2) with alcohols or water.  This is something of a breakthrough, but not yet commercial: a large volume of catalyst is required and separation issues need to be sorted.  Nevertheless, the chemists’ work suggests avenues of research to explore new methods for ammonia synthesis.  Future research might focus on finding alternatives to SmI2, based on metals that are more abundant than samarium.  (See Ashida, Y. et al, 2019, Molybdenum-catalysed ammonia production with samarium diiodide and alcohols or water. Nature, vol. 568, p536-540 and a short review piece Bezdek, M. J. & Chirik, P. J., 2019, A fresh approach to ammonia synthesis. Nature, vol. 568, p464-5.)

Possible new photovoltaic hints at revolutionising Solar power.  Usually, devices for harvesting solar energy, are made of junctions of semiconductors such as silicon.  Yet the efficiency of these have almost reached their theoretical limit and the best are currently around 30% efficient.  Japanese researchers have now come up with a new solar power system based on nanotube rolls of an atom-thick semiconductor (tungsten disulfide) with no junctions.  It works by a neglected phenomena first observed by the Bell Laboratories in the US in 1956: the bulk photovoltaic effect (BPVE).  However, the BPVE effect has a typically low conversion efficiency, and so thought of little interest.  The new twist is to curl the semiconductor up into nanotubes.  There are problems: the nanotubes need to be arranged in a particular way lest the effect on one tube cancels the other. So the issue that remains is scalability from the lab.  Globally installed solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity exceeded 500 GW at the end of 2018, and an estimated additional 500 GW of PV capacity is projected to be installed by 2022–2023.  The highest efficiency achieved by a conventional laboratory silicon solar cell has been 26.7%. If cost-effective efficiencies that exceed 30% can be achieved then that would have considerable economic as well as greenhouse climate change implications.  (See Zhang, Y. J. et al, 2019, Enhanced intrinsic photovoltaic effect in tungsten disulfide nanotubes, Nature, vol. 570, p349 – 353, and a review by Yang, M-M & Alexe, M., 2019, Sunlight harvested by nanotubes. Nature, vol. 570, p310-1.)  See also below item…

Another possible new photovoltaic innovation at revolutionising Solar power.  Though growing, Solar photovoltaics only generate a minority of the world's electricity: for example, only 1.3% of electricity is generated this way in the United States.  Silicon solar cells currently dominate the market, but have well documented efficiency problems.  Among these is that high energy photons generate unwanted heat (not electricity).  In 1979, the physicist David Dexter recognised the potential use of a thin tetracene layer on top of a silicon solar cell to split the energy from a high energy photon through singlet fission into two singlets (two electron-hole pairs) hence electricity.  However there are problems creating thin tetracene layers.  Now, US researchers led by Markus Einzinger have used an exceptionally thin layer of hafnium oxynitride instead: it is easy to add thin layers of hafnium oxynitride, just eight angstroms thick, to silicon.  The results are promising, but in turn do raise further problems o overcome. It appears that not only is a very thing layer required (which is now achievable) the surface of the silicon to which is added needs to have few flaws as this greatly reduces efficiency. If this can be overcome then the future for Solar voltaics looks bright. . (Einzinger, M., et al, 2019, Sensitization of silicon by singlet exciton fission in tetracene. Nature, vol. 571, p90-4  and a review piece by Luther, J. M. & Johnson, J. C., 2019, An exciting boost for solar cells. Nature, vol. 571, p38-9.)

Carbon nanotube microprocessor built.  Moore's Law states that processing power of chips doubles every two years.  That in turn means that semiconductor components have to be smaller and one day we will react a limit.  But for now there have been a series of advances that allow Moore's Law to continue.  One of these is that it turns out that nanometre scale structures called carbon nanotubes (think a single atomic layer graphene sheet rolled into a tube) are semiconductors.  Researchers at MIT in the US have now built a 16 bit microprocessor using carbon nanotube semiconductors.  The processor was tested letting it execute a simple program that outputed the message “Hello, World” when run.  (See Hills, G., et al, 2019, Modern microprocessor built from complementary carbon nanotube transistors. Nature, vol. 572, p595-602 and a review article Kreupl, F., 2019, Nanotube computer scaled up. I>Nature, vol. 572, p588-9.).  Related news previously covered on this site includes: Moore's Law is being abandoned by the computer industry,   Discovery furthers Moore's Law life  and A molecule that hops, or shuttles, between two sites in a porous crystal has been developed.

And finally, how did it all begin…?

When did time begin?  Well, some of you might think you know the answer.  It is often said that the Universe started with this singularity, and the Big Bang is thought of as the explosive expansion that followed. And before the Big Bang singularity? Well, they say there was no 'before', because time and space simply didn’t exist.  If you think you have managed to get your head around that bizarre notion then PBS Space-Time has bad news for you. That picture is wrong!  At least, according to pretty much every serious physicist who studies the subject.  The good news is that the truth is way cooler, at least as far as we understand it.  You can see the 13-minute Did Time Start at the Big Bang? episode of PBS Space-Time here.

What caused the Big Bang?  Every astronomy textbook tells us that soon after the Big Bang, there was a period of exponentially accelerating expansion called cosmic inflation. In a tiny fraction of a second, inflationary expansion multiplied the size of the universe by a larger factor than in the following 13 and a half billion years of regular expansion. This story seems like a bit of a … stretch. Is there really any mechanism that could cause something like this to happen? That's what being covered were – the real physics of cosmic inflation.  You can see the 13-minute Did Time Start at the Big Bang? episode of PBS Space-Time here.


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Autumn 2019

Natural Science News


Life's key metabolic pathway molecules could form on the early lifeless Earth.  The Urey-Miller experiment (1953) is well known whereby a flask of primordial chemicals and an early Earth atmosphere have an electric spark passed through it to form simple biomolecules including amino acids (the components of proteins).  French researchers have now shown that two simple organic compounds, glyoxylate (HCOCO2– ) and pyruvate (CH3COCO2–) made up of just carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, in the presence of ferrous iron (Fe2+) will react to form nearly all the biomolecules found in the citric acid cycle: they build up 9 of the 11 intermediates of the biological Krebs (or tricarboxylic acid, or citric acid) cycle, including all 5 universal metabolic precursors.  (The citric acid cycle is one key part [along with another, glycolysis] of the fundamental metabolic process on which aerobic life depends to get energy from the oxidation of carbohydrates. There are anaerobic analogues. There is also a reverse cycle -- the reductive tricarboxylic acid cycle hat early life could have used to synthesis carbohydrates from carbon dioxide and water.)  The geological record shows, ferrous iron was amply present in the early Earth's oceans.  This suggests that nearly all the molecules for this metabolic pathway could be created without life and so in theory could be present when life arose on Earth for it to use.  In short, it looks like the chemical jigsaw pieces that life needs to build carbohydrates from just carbon dioxide and water, as well as to then get energy from these carbohydrates, assemble themselves using just basic chemistry. (See Muchowska, K. B. et al, 2019, Synthesis and breakdown of universal metabolic precursors promoted by iron. vol. 569, 104-7, and a review Pascal, R., 2019, A possible prebiotic basis for metabolism. Nature, vol. 569, 47-8.)

New Denisovan fossil indicates these early humans were more widespread and adapted to high altitude living.  The fossil jawbone was found on the Tibetan Plateau and dated to more than 160,000 years old. It was located in the Baishiya Karst cave in China 3,280 metres above sea level.  To live that high humans need a special haemoglobin adaptive gene. Some present-day Tibetans have a variant of a gene, EPAS1.  It had been suspected that this gene originated with the Denisovans and then entered the local 'modern' human population through ancient interbreeding. Alas there is no DNA from this new find (the fossil was identified from its collagen proteins) but its location is suggestive: the only previous Denisovan find was from 700 metres.  (See Chen, F. et al. (2019) A late Middle Pleistocene Denisovan mandible from the Tibetan Plateau. Nature, vol. 569, p409-412. DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-1139-x and a review piece Warren M. (2019) Biggest Denisovan fossil yet spills ancient human’s secrets. Nature, vol. 569, p16-7.)

The Chinese gene-edited humans may have shorter lives.  At the end of last year the Chinese biologist, He Jiankui, used the CRISPR-Cas system to disable the gene CCR5 which is implicated in HIV (the AIDS virus) infection in two female embryos that were subsequently born.  It now appears he might have inadvertently shortened their life expectancy. People with two disabled copies of the CCR5gene are 21% more likely to die before the age of 76 than are people with at least one working copy of the gene, according to a study published in Nature Medicine (Wei, X., 2019, Nature Medicine.  The conclusion is based on an analysis of the genetic and health data from nearly 410,000 people enrolled in the UK Biobank research project. the CCR5-δ32 mutation is common in some human populations. About 11% of the UK population carries the mutation in at least one copy of the CCR5 gene, thought to be a hangover from the survivors of the Black Death.

Around 1 million species face extinction; many within decades, unless action is taken to reduce the intensity of drivers of biodiversity loss, says UN agency report.  The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services concludes that this extinction cannot be prevented by current trends and policy trajectories: urgent and radical action is required by governments worldwide. The drivers of this extinction are all human in origin and include unsustainable natural resource exploitation and climate change.  The report builds on The UN Conference on the Human Environment (1972), The World Conservation (1980), The Brandt Report (1980), The Brundtland Report (1987) and the UN Conference on Environment and Development (1992) as well as the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Reports (1990 - 2013). So although this is not exactly new news, it is a stark warning.

And related to the above we have the following…

While the global area of biologically protected land (nature reserves, national parks etc) has increased, the status and level of protection has decreased.  An international collaboration of biologists working in conservation has analysed the history of growth of protected areas and their status over time.  Protected areas are intended to safeguard biodiversity in perpetuity, yet evidence suggests that widespread legal changes undermine their ability to protect their ecology.  Between 1892 and 2018, 73 countries enacted 3,749 changes in legislation that undermined these areas ability to protect species.  Much of these legal changes in status (62%) are associated with industrial-scale resource extraction and development.  As human pressures on the biosphere accelerate, it is critical to strengthen -- not roll back --conservation efforts.  (See Kroner, G. et al., 2019, The uncertain future of protected lands and waters. Science, vol. 364, p881–886.)

First(?) caηηabis use.  Caηηabis is one of the oldest cultivated plants in East Asia, grown for grain and fiber as well as for recreational, medical, and ritual purposes. It is one of the most widely used psychoactive drugs in the world today, but little is known about its early psychoactive use or when psychoactive strains were bred.  Chinese researchers, led by Meng Ren and Zihua Tang, have analysed braziers from an archaeological site in Jirzankal Cemetery, that dates from around 500 BC, in the eastern Pamirs region of China.  They found residues of high, psychoactive strains suggesting use by at least 2,500 years ago. (See Ren, M. et al, 2019, The origins of caηηabis smoking: Chemical residue evidence from the first millennium BCE in the Pamirs. Science Advances, vol 5, eaaw1391.)

The cave bear (Ursus spelaeus) was driven to extinction by humans.  An international team of European researchers have compiled reconstructions of the mitochondrial (mt) genomes of 59 cave bears from remains that are all over roughly 20,000 years.  During the Late Pleistocene, until around 50,000 years ago, the continents were still populated with spectacular fauna consisting of some of the largest mammals that ever roamed the Earth. More than 150 genera of megafauna (large animals) such as mammoths, woolly rhinoceros, and sabre-toothed cats inhabited the steppes of Eurasia and North America. However, by 11,000 years ago, these ecosystems had lost between around 36% and 72% of their large-bodied (>45 kg) mammalian genera, respectively, and at least 97 genera in total.  Because genomes gradually mutate with time and because population size is reflected in the diversity of genomes, it is possible to use genomic analysis to get an idea as to when the extinction took place.  The research suggests a drastic cave bear population decline starting around 40,000 years ago at the onset of the spread of anatomically modern humans in Europe.  Coincidence?  The researchers think not.  (See Gretzinger, J. et al, 2019, Large-scale mitogenomic analysis of the phylogeography of the Late Pleistocene cave bear. Scientific Reports,vol. 9, 10700.,)

The origins of domesticated cattle have been elucidated.  As we previously reported, five years ago it was discovered, through genome analysis, that cattle were domesticated after humans had left Africa and indeed not domesticated in Africa as had been thought.  Now an international team, lead by bioscientists from several British Isles institutes and universities, have analysed the genomes of 67 ancient Near Eastern Bos taurus.  It transpires that several populations of ancient aurochs were progenitors of domestic cows. These genetic lineages mixed ~4000 years ago in a region around the Indus Valley (Pakistan).  Interestingly genes introduced included those from zebu, Bos indicus, from the Indus Valley.  Zebu are used to living in drought conditions.  This has led the researchers to wonder whether the 4.2k, century long climate cool snap – observed in a number of northern hemisphere climate proxy records (and attributed to a short change in N. Atlantic ocean circulation) – was the driver for humans breeding new types of cattle?  (See Verdugo, M. P. et al, 2019, Ancient cattle genomics, origins, and rapid turnover in the Fertile Crescent. Science, vol. 365, p173-176.)  +++ Previous genomic news on this site includes:-
  The origins of chocolate
  Early booze
  Which came first, beer or wine?
  175,000 year-old discovery confirms that Neanderthals were responsible for some of the earliest constructions made by hominins
  When did humans first eat cooked vegetables?
  Homo naledi is a new (cousin) species of early human
  Earliest Homo sapiens found to date from between 254,000 - 350,000 years ago
  Modern humans diverged from primitive humans between 350,000 and 260,000 years ago
  Modern humans on Flores exhibit dwarfing genes
  The creation of bread preceded the start of agriculture
  Rice became a domesticated crop multiple times over 9,000 years ago
  The earliest domesticators of the horse were descended from hunter-gatherers
  cat domestication
  Dog domestication
  Dogs domesticated twice
  Asian lions came from Africa (not the other way around)
  Flu virus evolution.

HIV patients on antivirals may not infect their partners even if they do not use condoms.  An international team of British and other European researchers have found that those on antiviral treatment did not pass on their infection to their partners when not using protection. 782 gay couples for followed for around two years: or 1,593 eligible couple-years of follow-up. No transmission was observed.  Early HIV testing and then when necessary, antiviral treatment, effectively knocks HIV out of the blood and lymph system so prevents transmission of the virus.  (See Rodger, A. J., Cambiano V., Bruun T. et al (2019) Risk of HIV transmission through condomless seχ in serodifferent gay couples with the HIV-positive partner taking suppressive antiretroviral therapy (PARTNER): final results of a multicentre, prospective, observational study. Lancet. DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(19)30418-0.)

New superbug spreads across Europe.  The bacterium, Klebsiella pneumoniae, is normally found in the intestine but in those whose immune system is compromised – such as when they are unwell – it can infect the lings causing pneumonia or the brain causing meningitis.  However now a drug resistant strain is spreading across Europe and has been found in other parts of the world.  The new strain is resistant to one of the last antibiotic lines of defence carbapenem.  Deaths from carbapenem-resistant K. pneumoniae have increased from 341 in Europe in 2007 to 2,094 in 2015.  Researchers have now analysed the genomes of samples from over 200 hospitals and found four principal clonal lineages. The results imply hospitals are the key facilitator of transmission and suggest that the bacteria are spreading from person-to-person primarily within hospitals. Hospital-to-hospital transmission was mainly within countries. (See David, S. et al, 2019, Epidemic of carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae in Europe is driven by nosocomial spread. Nature Microbiology.

Banana pest threatens global supply.  The banana-killing fungus that has laid waste to crops in Asia (China, India, Cambodia etc) and Australia, having spread to parts of Africa, is now, worryingly, in S. America!  the Fusarium tropical race 4 (TR4) fungus affects several varieties of banana and plantain, and particularly harmful to the Cavendish cultivar of banana. The Cavendish banana is the cultivar that makes up most of the world's export bananas including those to N. America and Europe.  The TR4 strain first appeared in Asia in the 1990s. If it spreads through the rest of Africa and S. America, then supplies to Europe and N. America will suffer.

The world's tallest tropical tree has been identified.  It is the Menara tree (Shorea faguetiana). It is 100.8 metres tall.  The tree is very stable and mechanically in theory could attain a height of 255 m before it would buckle under its own weight. (The work was published in Frontiers in Forests and global Change and reported in Niche formerly called Bulletin of the British Ecological Society, vol. 50, p14.).


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Autumn 2019

Astronomy & Space Science News


Theoretical early molecule detected in interstellar space.  Following the Big Bang when the universe cooled to 4,000 Kelvin (3,727°C) hydrogen (H) and helium (He) condensed out. In theory, helium hydride ions (HeH+) would also have formed. While we have made this in the lab, it has not been detected in space until now.  Rolf Gusten and his German colleagues have used terahertz spectroscopy and detected HeH+ in the planetary nebula NGC 7027 within our galaxy. (Gusten, R. et al, 2019, Astrophysical detection of the helium hydride ion HeH+. Nature, vol. 568, p357-9.)

Black hole formation(collapsars) could be the main source of r-process heavy metals in the universe.  While stars produce lighter elements such as lithium, oxygen and carbon, really heavy metals take some making. Supernovae from large stars are one way (but not as much as previously thought), as is neutron –neutron star merger.  Now a study by US researchers Daniel Siegel, Jennifer Barnes and Brian Metzger suggests that black hole formation may be the main source of the universe's r-process (rapid neutron capture) formed heavy metals. Black hole formation can result from the aftermath of a large star's end-life supernovae as well as neutron star pair merger.  The researchers' analysis of the kilonova that accompanied GW170817 black hole formation shows it to have been a major source of heavy metals. Similar accretion disks are expected to form in collapsars (the supernova-triggering collapse of rapidly rotating massive stars).  Although these black-hole-forming supernovae are rarer than neutron star mergers, the larger amount of material ejected per event compensates for the lower rate of occurrence.  They calculate that collapsars may supply more than 80 per cent of the r-process content of the Universe. (See Siegel, D. et al, 2019, Collapsars as a major source of r-process elements. Nature, vol. 469, p241-4.)  +++ See also the next item below.

The Solar System's heavy metals were formed by a 'nearby' neutron-star merger.  Cosmologically, twin neutron-star mergers are the primary origin of some very heavy elements (elements heavier than iron and most atomic number 40 and up).  A number of these elements are radioactive and those from when our Solar System formed have long decayed into other (daughter) elements. However these daughter elements, if found, have precise concentration ratios and so it is possible infer that elements created by neutron-star mergers were once there.  This has now been done by US researchers Imre Bartos and Szabolcs Marka taking meteorite element data and applying it to a radioactive decay model as well as a model of galactic diffusion. Their results are consistent with these elements having been formed probably by a single nearby merger that produced much of the curium and a substantial fraction of the plutonium present in the early Solar System (the decay products of Curium-247 and its half-life of 15.6 million years, and Plutonium-244 its half-life of 80.8 million years).  Neutron star mergers are rare (one in our galaxy every 20 million years or so) and so one event providing r-process elements is likely. From models, such an event may have occurred about 300 parsecs away (around 980 light years) from where the pre-Solar nebula was approximately 80 million years before the formation of the Solar System.  (Bartos, I. & Marka, S. (2019) A nearby neutron-star merger explains the actinide abundances in the early Solar System. Nature, vol. 569, p85-8.)  +++   Short video related to the above two items.  How neutron star collisions form most of the heavy elements in the Universe (not supernovae) and how we think we know when and where a collision took place that formed much of the heavy elements in our Solar system.  See the 14-minute PBS Space Time video here.

Star death can lead to a wandering object a newly discovered class of stars reveals: zombie stars.  ESA's Gaia mission was to locate stars' positions and movement.  It had been thought that when a white dwarf runs out of fuel., hydrogen in the interior shrinks, and pressure and heat increase resulting in a massive explosion, a supernova. Then, following the supernova, what is left of the star forms either a neutron star or a black hole.  It turns out that there is a third option. If the white dwarf is not that big, then the supernova is smaller and it may not destroy the white dwarf completely and, not being big, it does not form a neutron star pulsar.  The small star remnant, instead, gets a big push from the partial supernova and move at high speed.  What UK and US researchers have found, looking for very high velocity stars, are three that are moving exceptionally fast. Two are moving so fast that they will escape the Galaxy. One is moving the opposite way to galactic rotation.  (See Raddi, R., et al., 2019, Partly burnt runaway stellar remnants from peculiar thermonuclear supernovae. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, DOI: 10.1093/mnras/stz1618.)

The Galaxy saw a burst in the rate of star formation beginning around 5 billion years ago (our Solar System formed shortly after).  This news comes from the second data release of the observations from the ESA Gaia space observatory which determines the positions and movement of stars.  Knowing a star's size and spectrum, it is possible to approximately age it.  The Gaia results show that the rate of star formation peaked between 1 and 5 billion years ago and was at its greatest 2 to 3 billion years ago.  The astronomers hypothesise that a small satellite galaxy to our own, merged with our galaxy adding gas and sending shockwaves through the interstellar medium that increased the rate of star formation. (Mor, al, 2019, Gaia DR2 reveals a star formation burst in the disc 2–3 Gyr ago. Astronomy & Astrophysics, Vol. 624.  +++ Other related stories elsewhere on this site include: Our Galaxy was hit by another galaxy 10 billion years ago and Our Galaxy was perturbed between 300 million and 900 million years ago.

Water detected on an exo-planet large analogue of Earth.  A team of astronomers from University College London have found the spectral signature for water in the exo-planet K2-18b which is 8 times the mass of the Earth, a little over twice Earth's diameter, and which orbits a star 111 light-years from Earth.  K2-18b was originally discovered in 2015.  It is 1.5 the mass of the Earth and receives a similar amount of sunlight (just 5% more).  It had been thought that its surface temperature was between 0°C and 40°C.  This detection means that liquid water is almost a certainty and that the planet is not a super-Venus. It also marks the first atmosphere detected around a habitable-zone super-Earth with such a high level of confidence.  (See Tsiaras, A., Waldmann, I., Tinetti, G. et al, 2019, Water vapour in the atmosphere of the habitable-zone eight Earth-mass planet K2-18 b. Nature Astronomy,   +++ Other exoplanet news previously covered on this site includes:  2019 and the number of exoplanets discovered tops 4,000!A new technique probes atmosphere of exoplanetEuropean satellite observatory mission to study exoplanet atmospheres will be led from BritainThe Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) to launchSeven near Earth-sized planets found in one systemMost Earth-like planets may be water worldsEarth's fate glimpsedAn Earth-like exo-planet has been detectedExoplanet reflected light elucidatedKepler has now detected over 1,000 exoplanets and one of the latest finds could be an Earth twin;  and Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a cool star.

Drone helicopter to fly on Titan, Saturn's moon.  NASA slates this for the 2030s: launching possibly in 2026 and arriving in 2034.  Dragonfly drone mission will cost US$1bn (£800m).  Titan is the only moon to have a thick atmosphere (which is why the drone will work) that is largely nitrogen.  The drone will have the capability to fly over 100 miles (over 160 km) which is greater than the distance travelled by all the Mars rovers combined.  Its instrumentation will be able to look for pre-biotic chemistry: the primordial Earth had an atmosphere similar to Titan's.

Venus set to have a massive exploration push following decades of neglect.  For instance, over the past 65 years NASA has sent 11 orbiters and 8 landers to Mars, but just 2 orbiters to Venus.  Once thought similar to Earth, complete with oceans, today Venus has surface temperatures reach more than 455 - 475°C with an atmospheric pressure at its surface 90 times that of Earth.  Europe plans to send Envision possibly as early as 2032 to map the surface with a resolution at the most optimal places as fine as 1 metre.  Russia plans to send Venera-D that could include an orbiter, a lander and a balloon to look for cooler conditions that might support life high in its cloud layer in the late 2020s.  NASA is contemplating the Long-Lived In-Situ Solar System Explorer (LLISSE) lander that could survive on the surface for weeks or even possibly months. This might launch as early as 2025.  The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will be first to lift off when it launches an orbiter to Venus in 2023.

Record methane spike detected in Martian atmosphere: it could have come from a plume.  NASA’s Curiosity rover last week measure the highest level of methane gas ever found in the atmosphere at Mars’s surface. The reading — 21 parts per billion (p.p.b.) — is three times greater than the previous record, which Curiosity detected back in 2013.  Martian methane is of interest because it could signal life: most of Earth’s methane is made by living things, although the gas can also come from non-biological geological processes.  NASA ran a follow-up experiment a few days later and recorded a methane level less than 1 p.p.b., suggesting that the high reading last week came from a transient gas plume.  +++ Only < href="news4~19.html#mars-methane">last season Methane on Mars was again confirmed by ESA.

New wrinkle on our Moon's formation theory.  The idea that the Moon formed from a collision with the young Earth from a Mars-sized protoplanet (Theia) shortly (a few million years) after the Solar System formed is not new (although just a few decades old). But there is a problem. Oxygen isotope analysis of Lunar surface rocks is very similar to those of Earth's. This is not exactly what you would expect from an object that formed away from Earth's orbit. One conclusion is that Theia formed in an orbit about the Sun close to that of Earth's. While this is possible, it is not that likely as it would have most possibly collided with the Earth earlier.  Now, Japanese astronomers, Natsuki Hosono and colleagues, have a new idea. It could be that the Earth's surface was still molten at the time of the collision. They propose that a solid Theia hit the proto-Earth while it was covered with a magma ocean. They modelled this.  Their results demonstrate that, because of the large difference in shock heating between silicate melts and solids (rocks), a substantial fraction of the ejected, Moon-forming material is derived from the early-Earth's surface magma ocean, even in a highly oblique collision. (See Hosono, N., Karato, S., Makino, J. & Saitoh, T. (2019) Terrestrial magma ocean origin of the Moon. Nature Geoscience. DOI: 10.1038/s41561-019-0354-2.).  +++ Previous Moon related news items on this site include: The top 2cm of the Moon's regolith is churned every 81,000 years.

A comet is approaching the Sun possibly from beyond the Solar sytem.  Discovered by an amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov, it has been announced by Minor Planet Center (MPC) at Harvard University. The body appears to have a hyperbolic orbit (the preliminary data suggests this to be very likely), which would indicate its origin is in another star system.  Unlike the first confirmed extra-solar visitor, Oumuamua, this body, Comet C/2019 Q4 (Borisov), has the makings of a cometary halo.  Also, Unlike the small, faint 'Oumuamua, the new object seems to be wider - around 12. 5 miles (20km) wide - rather than cylindrical.

Hayabusa-2 once more touches down on asteroid.  Japan's Hayabusa-2 reached asteroid Ryugu at the end of last year.  Ryugu is an asteroid some 900m-wide space rock, about 180 million miles (290 million km) from Earth.  Hayabusa-2 obtained rocks in February. It then created a crater and has now obtained a sample from this crater. As the sample is rock that until now has been sheltered from the surface, it is hoped that it will inform as to conditions when the Solar system formed 4.5 billion years ago.  +++ Previous related news elsewhere on this site: Hayabusa-1 returns samples to Earth.

The European Space Agency (ESA) has announced a plan to fly a trio of probes to a comet.  The Comet Interceptor mission is currently slated to launch in 2028, when it will travel to a stable Lagrange point in space a million miles from Earth.  There, it will wait until astronomers detect a pristine comet that is making its first journey into the inner Solar System.  Such a comet will never have had any of its volatiles boiled off by a previous visit to the Sun and so be representative of what is out beyond Pluto on the Oort cloud: it may indicate he composition of the dust/gas cloud out of which the Solar system condensed.  The three probes will then intercept the comet.  This will be ESA’s third visit to a comet, after the Giotto and Rosetta missions.

Jodrell Bank gains UNESCO World Heritage status.  Construction began at Jodrell Bank Observatory in 1945 with the physicist Sir Bernard Lovell. It pioneered the then new science of radio astronomy, which used radio waves instead of visible light to understand the universe. It was the world's largest telescope when it was completed in 1957, is now the third largest steerable radio telescope. Today, Jodrell Bank also hosts the headquarters of the Square Kilometre Array, an international project to create the world's largest radio telescope by linking thousands of dishes and receivers across Africa and Australia.  The UN World Heritage Committee run by UNESCO granted the telescope its World Heritage status at its meeting in Azerbaijan over the summer.

And finally an astronomical short video treat.

The Cosmic Dark Ages.  For space, astronomy and cosmology buffs the ever wonderful PBS Space Time give us 15 minutes on The Cosmic Dark Ages.  We live in the star-rich era. Somewhere between 10 and 1000 billion trillion stars fill the observable universe with light. But there was a time before the first star ignited. A time we call 'the cosmic dark ages'.  You can see it here.


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 2019

Science & Science Fiction Interface

Real life news of SF-like tropes and SF impacts on society


Two-thirds of US citizens want NASA to focus on unmanned asteroid missions than sending humans to the Moon or Mars.  This is the result of a poll by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.  +++ SF² Concatenation's two bioscientists and its late co-founding physicist have long been of the view that robotic space exploration is far more cost effective and that putting microbe-ridden humans on Mars would contaminate the planet impinging on any study of putative native life forms.  +++ Previously, and relatedly, elsewhere on this site SF² Concatenation staff member has had a letter published in the science journal Nature noting symmetry of NASA not wanting to contaminate possible Martian life with Earth microbes symmetry with H. G. Wells…  And DNA retains function on ballistic space rocket. Problem for Mars lander bio-integrity?.

A new species of bee has been named after a Game of Thrones character.  The bee fly was discovered in Australia in 2013 and later confirm by entomologist Xuankun Li as a new species.  Li has called the species Paramonovius nightking after the Game of Thrones' Night King.  It thrives in winter, has a crown of spine-like hairs and turns other insects into 'zombies'.  The bee fly has many similarities with the Game of Thrones character: they both are only found in winter and have a crown of thorn-like spines on their head. Female bee flies lay their eggs on other insects, which hatch and eat that insect from the inside out, turning them into walking zombies, just like the real Night King.

The world's first insect-sized, flying robot has been made: it works!  Researchers from Harvard (US) have built what they claim to be the lightest insect-scale aerial vehicle so far to have achieved sustained, untethered flight: it even has insect-like wings.  The robot is just a couple of centimetres wide and 7 cm tall. It is powered by photovoltaic cells.  The one cheat is that light three times as bright as sunlight is needed but as solar cells improve (for example see above) this may not be a problem. As rival engineer Kenny Breuer points out: " There is still much work to be done, and we are not quite at the point at which a robot swarm will take to the skies — as is nightmarishly depicted in dystopian science fiction such as Michael Crichton’s novel Prey.  (see Jafferis, N. T. et al, 2019, Untethered flight of an insect-sized flapping-wing microscale aerial vehicle. Nature, vol. 570, p491-5  and a review piece Breuer, K., 2019, Flight of the RoboBee. Nature, vol. 570, p448-9.)

Artificial intelligence (AI) first to solve Rubik's cube efficiently.  A Rubik’s cube has over 43 quintillion 1015 possible combinations but only 1 solution. It is a challenge for an AI to teach itself to solve such a puzzle if it is not given any strategic 'hints' on how to do so.  Pierre Baldi and his colleagues at the University of California in Irvine (US) developed a deep neural network — a type of artificial-intelligence algorithm — that figures out how to solve a Rubik’s cube. The program works backwards from a solution to a given configuration to observe how closely the two are related. It repeats that process for a large number of configurations and combines those observations to determine optimal moves for solving the puzzle.  The AI solved Rubik's on every trial and, in more than 60% of trials, solved the cube with the smallest possible number of moves!  The program could be applied to other problems with a vast number of potential combinations but a very small number of solutions.  (See Agostinelli, F. et al, 2019, Solving the Rubik’s cube with deep reinforcement learning and search. Nature Machine Intelligence.)

Time travel has been simulated.  Researcher from Russia, the US and Switzerland led by G. B. Lesovik and I. A. Sadovskyy, have used a computer to turn back time in two different ways. The first concerns an electron. It may be possible to know the approximate volume an electron occupies but as time progresses, this volume increases. The researchers have used a mathematical transformation called a complex conjugation and a simple quantum computer to simulate how it could return to its earlier state. They then calculated how often this would happen in reality de to quantum mechanics. The answer is very rarely: observing 10 billion electrons over a period equivalent to the life of the Universe to date would reveal only one such event.  The second way they turned back time was with quantum qubits themselves. They found that in 85 percent of the cases, the two-qubit quantum computer returned back into the initial state. When three qubits were involved, more errors happened, resulting in a roughly 50 percent success rate. According to the authors, these errors are due to imperfections in the actual quantum computer.  The results do have a practical application in that they can test programs written for quantum computers.  (See Lesovik, G. B. & Sadovskyy, I. A., 2019, Arrow of Time and its Reversal on IBM Quantum Computer, Scientific Reports archived at arXiv:1712.10057v2.)

More 1984 'Big Brother is watching' news.  The Russian government is actively curating its citizens' interactions with the internet.  Russia has a new law that allows it to monitor internet use and data exchange. And when national security is threatened, it lets the government have direct control over what Russians can post, see and talk about online! Russian internet firms have until 1st November to enact procedures to comply with the law.

Even more 1984 'Big Brother news.  The Russian government plans to isolate much of its internet from the rest of the world with few exchange nodes that would be actively monitored. Unlike today, internal internet traffic would not be able to route its journey outside of Russia (or the Russian Federation). Russia would have its own internet address book so it can operate almost autonomously.  Russia would in effect become more like China with regards to the internet.

A million digital fingerprint records have been made accessible from an international security database.  Suprema, who provides records to police and security companies in a number of countries including Britain, holds the information which includes that on people whose biometrics are used to access security areas. As well as fingerprint records, photographs of people, facial recognition data, names, addresses, passwords, employment history and records were also made accessible.  The thing is that given nobody knows who has it, the biometric data can never be considered confidential again. In total, 23 gigabytes of data containing nearly 30 million records were found exposed online.

Face change technology, whereby one can exchange one's face with that of an actor in a film clip, has caused security concerns.  Zao is an app from China that relies on artificial intelligence to replace a film actor's face with your own.  It allows users to insert their faces in place of those film and TV characters has caused controversy in China.  Launched at the end of August, the app has gone viral and even used up a third of its monthly server capacity, budgeted at 7m yuan (£805,000), on its first night.  There are two concerns. First, the company, Momo, behind the app has had to apologies as the user licence agreement hands over the pictorial rights of people's faces that use the app.  Secondly, there are concerns as to fraud with facial-recognition security and payment systems, though so far payment companies say that at the moment their systems are secure.

Facebook fined US$5 billion (£4 bn) demonstrating that being an Orwellian Big Brother can be costly.  US regulators (the Federal Trade Commission) have approved the record fine on Facebook following an investigation into data privacy violations.  Facebook is required to clearly notify users and gain 'express consent' to share their data. However Facebook allowed Cambridge Analytica (a former British political consulting firm) to access the data of millions of users, some of which was allegedly used to psychologically profile US voters and target them with material to help Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. The data was acquired through a quiz, on users' personality type.  However the quiz app was designed to harvest not only the user data of the person taking part in the quiz, but also the data of their friends.  It is thought that the data from 87 million users was improperly shared.  Last autumn, Facebook was fined £500,000 by the UK's data protection ombudsman (regulator). Canada's data protection office may well also be imposing a fine.  Yet some Democrats in the US called for a greater penalty as, such is Facebook's wealth, it can absorb this fine without undue difficulty. Indeed, following the fine's announcement, Facebook shares went up 1.8%.  +++ Previous related news includes that 14 million people have had their Facebook account hacked.

Google has been fined £138m (US$170m) by US ombudsman.  It illegally captured data from children and then targeted them with adverts.  ++++ The next day Google was accused of using hidden webpages that are assigned to users to provide more information to advertisers about their every move online. The allegation has been added to a complaint made to the Irish Data Protection Commission. The UK Information Commissioner's Office (Ombudsman) is already looking into the way Google personalises targeting of adverts.

US cities pay cyber ransoms.  Decades before the internet, John Brunner's The Shockwave Rider prescients cyberwarfare.  OK, cyberwarfare is now old news but it is useful now and then to check on matters and see whether or not the bad guys are winning.  News over the summer (northern hemisphere) from the US is not good.  Our increasing dependence on the internet for cashless payments and communications and the myopic withering of alternatives (cash/cheques/paper mail etc) means that some companies and even cities are increasingly vulnerable.  Two of last season's casualties include two Florida municipalities: Lake City and Riviera Beach.  They paid US$500,000 (£394,000) and US$600,000 (£473,000) respectively to ransomware hackers.  Attacks have also affected the US cities of Baltimore and Atlanta as well as towns in California, North Carolina and Ohio, among other places.  In addition to cybersecurity, investing in disaster recovery systems and thorough, regular back-ups, companies and cities need to maintain a non-electronic capability.  This also might apply to SF conventions, though nobody has yet thought to attack them: though they may not pay much are soft targets that could be hit for four-figure sums…  Don't say you weren't told.

A blast from the past…

James Blish rallies against the (then) new wave of literati who dismiss SF and in doing so he champions the genre's value to science.  The wonderful beings at the Fanac Fan History Project have posted a recording of James Blish's 1970 British Eastercon GoH speech.  He concludes that SF at best serves all three of the following avenues to reality and in this the genre is unique.  First, it confronts theories and data of modern science with questions of modern philosophy. In doing so it creates thought experiments which in themselves advance science and/or technology.  An example might be space flight stories that helped provide the impetus, and prepared the public, for the space advances of the 1960s.&nsp; Second, like all the arts SF adds to our knowledge of reality by formally evoking emotions such as the thrill of discovery and sense-of-wonder (sensawunda).  Third, SF creates myths in which, because science is invoked to support their premise, can be those in which modern people can suspend disbelief.  You can hear it, and see some archival pics, here.

And finally… A trio of sciencey videos of SF tropes…

'Post-Apocalyptic Civilisations' as considered by Isaac Arthur.  The Isaac Arthur YouTube Channel is always interesting even if one may disagree with some of his speculations.  Here he consider what post-apocalyptic civilisations might actually be like as opposed to the versions we see in SF in say Mad Max. And Isaac explains how all those muscle-bound post-apocalyptic survivors got their body-building physique.  (A word of you have never visited this channel. Isaac has a speech impediment, but that does not unduly detract from the interesting subject matter he discusses.)  You can see this 18 minute episode here.

'A Fleet of Stars': star-powered space ships as considered by Isaac Arthur.  Interstellar travel is very time consuming, moving from star to star, but perhaps we could use stars themselves as spaceships, and move whole solar systems or even galaxies. Today Isaac Arthur looks at how to use Shkadov Thrusters, novas, supernovae, black holes and quasars to move through space, literal starships.  You can see this 18 minute episode here.

'Superpowers' the science by Isaac Arthur.  Here we are talking about superpowers as in 'superheroes' (and not China, the US or Russia).  The dream of having superhuman abilities is as old as humanity, and appeared in everything from mythology to comic books, but the future might offer technologies that turn these dreams into reality. What of some options, from superstrength and speed to and even things like telepathy?   You can see this 18 minute episode here.

And very finally…

Could the Universe End by Tearing Apart Every Atom?  It is the end of this SF² Concatenation seasonal news page, but how will it all end? Well, you could wait billions of years (which might be a little tedious, or in just 15 minutes enjoy with PBS Space-Time the Big Rip.  Note: This includes a George Lucas reference to a physics paper called 'The Phantom Menace'.


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 2019

Rest In Peace

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


Dick Barnes, the British computer scientist, has died aged 98.  With Ted Cooke-Yarborough and Gurney Thomas, he co-designed the Harwell Dekatron, the world's oldest working digital computer. It was first used by Britain's used by the Atomic Energy Research Establishment. It could take up to 10 seconds to multiply two numbers - but Barnes and co-designers had wanted a device that could run continuously, not necessarily quickly, in order to be useful.  He also co-designed with Cooke-Yarborough and J. H. Stephen in 1956, the Harwell Transistor Computer (CADET). CADET may have been the first all-transistor computer to provide a regular computing service. It was used for defence analysis.

Paul Barrett, the Welsh fantastic film fan, has died aged 78.  This is belated news from last season as we have only just found out.  In real life Paul was a well known agent for rock and roll stars, but he also had a love for fantastic films.  He even appeared in a few art-house fantastic horrors including as a table monster in Norman Warren's Bloody New Year (aka Horror Hotel (UK), aka Time Warp Terror (US)). He was a regular (as is Norman Warren) at the Harry Nadler founded festival of fantastic Films, Manchester.  Lovely chap, Lovely chap, whose booming Welsh voice will be missed.

Edward P. Berglund, the much respected Lovecraftian scholar, author and editor has died aged 77.  His books include the anthology The Disciples of Cthulhu (1976).

Jack Cohen CBiol FIBiol, the British biologist, SF non-fiction writer and SF author, has died aged 85.  Jack was well known both within Britain's SF community and British biology.  He was a whole-organism biologist specialising in reproductive biology of animals, including humans. With regards to the latter, he had an interest in in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and as such occasionally worked with clinicians.  He served a couple of terms on the Institute of Biology's (since re-branded as the Royal Society of Biology) Council where, among other things, he helped draft the Institute's Royal Charter (subsequently adopted by the RSB). He also did a couple of stints on the Institute's Biomedical Science Committee (back in the IoB days the professional body had committees addressing science policy issues relating to various professional sectors of biology and Jack always had something to contribute).  In genre terms, Jack was well known on the British fan circuit and regularly gave exotic biology talks at is local SF group's convention, Novacon (the longest running British SF convention run by a regional group), as well as the British national convention Eastercon.  His talks were popular, usually held in the cons' main hall and always well attended.  He also wrote a number of popular science books and occasionally appeared on TV: a still of Jack still occasionally appears on repeats of Stephen Fry's QI anonymously illustrating a round on (eccentric) geniuses.  Later in his career he moved down the road from Birmingham University to Warwick University, the base of his academic, mathematician friend Ian Stewart FRS. The two wrote a couple of SF Wheeler novels but are arguably better known for their Science of Discworld books with Terry Pratchett.  Jack was a Special Guest at the 1994 Eurocon in Timisoara, Romania.  Jack was a fun facet of Britain's biological and SF communities from the 1970s to mid-2000s.  Sadly in recent years he was in poor health: third law of thermodynamics.  British fandom and biology is a little less without him.  +++ Elsewhere on this site, Jack's SFnal take on whether biology is a science?

Paul Darrow, the British actor, has died aged 78.  He was best known in genre terms for his co-starring role in the BBC Blake's 7 TV series (1978-'81) as the brilliant and cunning, but cold-hearted and ruthless, Kerr Avon. He appeared in all but one of the show's 52 episodes.  He previously starred as:  the Sheriff of Nottingham in the six-part mini-series The Legend of Robin Hood (1975);  and as Captain Hawkins in the eight-part Dr Who adventure 'Doctor Who and the Silurians' (1970) as well as later in 'Timelash' as Tekker.  He played numerous small roles including in: the episode of the anthology series Science Fiction 'Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Missing Link' (1992) playing Conan Doyle and a doctor in the Bond film Die Another Day (2002). In the mid to late 1990s, he bought the rights to Blake's 7 in an attempt to produce a big-budget follow-up mini-series, Blake's 7: A Rebellion Reborn. It would have been set 25 years after the ending of the original series and might have included an ageing Avon passing on the rebellion torch.  Darrow had an interest in science and was Patron of the University of York Astronomy Society (1981-'84). An extinct crocodile from the Miocene of Australia, Baru darrowi, was named after him.  +++ A short video compilation of Avon's Blake's 7 jibes.

Terrance Dicks, the British writer and script editor, has died aged 84.  He is noted for having worked on episodes for The Avengers (the John steed original, not the Marvel superheroes) and co-creating and writing a number of episodes of the series Moonbase 3. However, it is for his Dr Who work with which he will be most associated. He was script editor for 144 episodes and writer for 35.  His first episode was co-written and the last adventure of the first Patrick Troughton season 'The War Games'.  In it he introduced the concept of the Doctor being part of a civilisation of 'Time Lords'.  He also wrote numerous novelisation adaptations of TV Doctor Who adventures as well as original Who novels.  He also wrote over 140 original novels many for children and teenagers and many SF/fantasy. Some have claimed that he is one of the few authors who has done the most to get youngsters to read.  Neil Gaiman said he would have never written for Doctor Who had Dicks not shown him how to do it.

Dennis Etchison, the US horror writer, has died aged 76.  He was shortlisted for the British Fantasy Award for 'The Late Shift' (1981), and as well as winning the ward in 1982 for 'The Dark Country', has won it since for Best Short Story, for 'The Olympic Runner' (1986) and 'The Dog Park' (1994).  Writing as Jack Martin, he has published popular novelisations of the films Halloween II (1981), Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), and Videodrome (1983).  Under his own name, his novels include Darkside (1986), Shadowman (1993), and California Gothic (1995), as well as the novelisation of John Carpenter's The Fog (1980). His other film work includes co-writing with John Carpenter the script for Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers which sadly was not used.  As editor, he received two World Fantasy Awards for Best Anthology, for MetaHorror (1993) and The Museum of Horrors (2002).  His short stories are collected in: The Dark Country (1982); Red Dreams (1984); The Blood Kiss (1987); The Death Artist (2000) and Talking in the Dark (2001).  He received a Stoker for 'Lifetime Achievement' in 2016 from the Horror Writers' association.

Mitchell Feigenbaum, the US electrical engineer turned physicist, has died aged 74.  His work on chaos theory led to the discovery of what came to be called Feigenbaum constants: the ratio of time to successive bifurcations in chaotic systems. His other work has had applications in both geography (the fractal nature of coastlines) and financial market models. He won the Wolf Prize in Physics in 1986.  Of SFnal interest, he was referenced on the Season 5, Episode 15 ('A Hole in the World') of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer spin-off TV series Angel.

Robert J. Friend, the US airman who head-up Project Bluebook, has died aged 99.  Refused WWII enlistment in the Army Air Forces because he was African-American, he was among the 355 pilots who served in the all-black unit known as the Tuskegee Airmen.  After the war, and now holding the rank of lieutenant colonel, he directed Project Blue Book, the US government’s secret study of unidentified flying objects (UFOs), between 1958 and 1963.  Subsequent to when Blue Book concluded in 1969 it concluded that around 700 of more than 12,000 UFO sightings remained classed as unidentified but that they posed no danger to the US and displayed no perplexing technological attributes.

Paul Greengard, the US neuroscientist, has died aged 93.  In 2000, he, Arvid Carlsson and Eric Kandel, were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries relating to signal transduction in the nervous system.  Following his PhD in 1953 he had a stint in western Europe with postdoctoral work at the University of London, Cambridge University, and the University of Amsterdam.  He then returned to the US to work at Yale University. In 1983 he joined the faculty of The Rockefeller University.  Greengard and his colleagues showed that dopamine interacts with a receptor on the cell membrane of a neuron, it causes an increase in cyclic AMP inside the cell. This increase in turn activates a protein (protein kinase A), which turns other proteins on or off by adding phosphate groups (phosphorylation).  He used par of his Nobel Prize money to help fund the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize (named after his mother who died jn childbirth), an award for women scientists.

Murray Gell-Mann, the US physicist, has died aged 89.  He was a key player in elucidating the nature of quarks.  In 1961 he devised a method for classifying hadrons (such as protons and neutrons) into eight groups on the basis of symmetry. He then realised, in 1964, that this system would arise if hadrons were composed of two, three or more fundamental particles held together by the strong nuclear force, and he called these fundamental components 'quarks'.  In 1968 researchers confirmed the existence of quarks.  Gell-Mann won the Nobel for physics the following year.  He also helped keep interest going in string theory through the1980s and '90s when it was considered only to be of quirky interest.

Rutger Hauer, the Dutch actor, has died aged 75.  His genre films include:  Ladyhawke (1985),  Omega DoomBuffy the Vampire Slayer (1992),  Omega Doom (1997),  Split Second (1992),  Batman Begins (2005),  and Dracula III: Legacy (2005).  His genre television work included appearances on Smallville and Salem's Lot.  However all this is arguably eclipsed by his playing the replicant Roy Batty in Blade Runner (1982) in which he gives the famous 'tears in rain' monologue (written by David Peoples but to which Hauer changed "All those moments… they’ll be gone" to "All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die").  +++ The film Blade Runner (1982) was set in 2019 and so Rutger Hauer died the same year as his character Roy Batty.

David Hedison, the US actor, has died aged 92.  In genre terms he is best known for playing Captain Lee Crane in Irwin Allen's television series Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964 – '68).  He also twice played the CIA agent Felix Leiter in two James Bond technothriller films, Live and Let Die and Licence to Kill.  He also was one of the leads (Andre Delambre) in the classic The Fly (1958).

Martin Hoare, the British SF fan, has died aged 67.  A physics graduate, Martin was a fixture of British Eastercons from the 1970s up to his passing.  He was also a fairly regular Worldcon go-er and attended most Eurocons from the 1990s onwards.  Importantly, he was on the organising committee of nine Eastercons (1978, 1980 [Scotland's first], 1983, 1984, 1989 [Channel Isles' first], 1984, 1989, 1993 and 2002).  To date, Martin has been at the heart of organising more Eastercons than anyone else.  The 1984 Eastercon was additionally Britain's first Eurocon and 1993 was also a joint Eurocon.  Martin was a fan of real ale and organised a real ale bar at a number of Eastercons when he was not a member of the core organising committee.  He contributed as tech gopher for a number of UK Worldcons. This included the computer for the 1979 Worldcon (remember, these were pre-home computer and pre-internet times) and was Co-Division Head for Operations on the staff of the 1990 Worldcon.  He was also a member of the Reading, Berks, SF group.  He was the first individual to win a major case against HMRC, without legal representation, and subsequently took a Law degree in his early sixties ‘just for interest’!  +++ As Co-Chair (with John Brunner) Martin recruited what was subsequently to become the SF² Concatenation press operation to the staff of the 1984 Eastercon/Eurocon. To date, that Eastercon (and Eurocon) is the only one to have a half-hour programme broadcast on national radio (Kaleidoscope on BBC Radio 4) devoted to the convention and a 15 minute programme on the BBC World Service: if Martin hadn't recruited, that would not have happened.  Two of SF² Concatenation founding editors also provided press liaison for the 1993 Eastercon/Eurocon that had Martin on its organising committee, and so we at SF² Concatenation are acutely aware of Martin's contribution to British fandom.  67 was too soon.  Martin was working on the bar for this year's Worldcon in Dublin. The convention bar was named after him for the convention.

Christopher Kraft, the US aeronautical engineer, has died aged 95.  He worked at NASA as its first flight director. As such he covered historic missions as America's first crewed spaceflight, first crewed orbital flight, and first spacewalk.  He became director of the Manned Spacecraft Center (later Johnson Space Center) for the Apollo programme.  Kraft was portrayed by Stephen Root in the 1998 miniseries From the Earth to the Moon and by J. D. Evermore in First Man.

Brad Linaweaver, the US writer, has died just shy of his 67th birthday. His novella Moon of Ice was short-listed for a Nebula Award (1983) and the novel length version of the same won a Prometheus Award (1989). He also was Prometheus short-listed for his novelisation of the TV series Sliders.  With Forrest J. Ackerman he compiled the SF book cover book Worlds of Tomorrow (2004). He also wrote screen stories and was the publisher of Mondo Cult Magazine.

Katherine MacLean, the US author, has died aged 94.  She is known for her short fiction and garnered a Nebula Award for her novella 'The Missing Man' (Analog, March, 1971) that was later expanded into a novel Missing Man (1975).  Manyof her stories have been collected in the volumes The Diploids and Other Flights of Fancy (1962) and The Trouble with You Earth People (1980).  Many of her stories are underpinned by hard SF (she worked as a lab tech). For example, her 'Syndrome Johnny' (1951).was written before it was proved that DNA carried genetic information, and concerns a series of engineered retroviral plagues, initially propagated by blood transfusion, that are genetically re-engineering the human race.

Brenda Maddox, the US born, British resident writer, has died aged 87.  She moved from the US to Britain where she undertook post-grad studies and worked as a journalist and wrote biographies including that of the scientist Rosalind Franklin: Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA (2002).  She was a book reviewer fr book reviewer for The Observer, The Times, New Statesman, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.  She was the wife of the scientist late Sir John Maddox.  She had a fascination for Margaret Thatcher (though not her politics: she was a firm Democrat) and wrote Maggie : the first lady (2004).  She was the author of The Half Parent: living with other people's children (1975) about being a step parent which was based in no small part on her experiences with John's children. (Essential reading for those thinking of becoming step parents.)  She was vice-president of the Hay-on-Wye Festival of Literature, Britain's most famous book fest.

Peter Mayhew, the British actor, has died aged 74.  Physically he was very tall at 7 foot 3 inches (2.21 m).  His genre roles included being in the films: Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) and Terror (1978).  However he is best known for his role as Chewbacca in many of the Star Wars films including: Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983), Revenge of the Sith (2005), The Clone Wars (TV Series, 2011) and The Force Awakens (2015).

Melisa Michaels, the US author, has died aged 73.  She is noted for her 'Skyrider' quintet, the first of which -- Skirminsh (1985) was short-listed for a Locus best first novel award.  She undertook some voluntary work for the SFWA and in 2008 she received a SFWA Service Award.

Stan Nutall, the British SF fan, has died aged 92.  He was a leading light of the Liverpool SF group and a Knight of St Fanthony.

Maciej Parowski, the Polish editor, critic and SF writer, has died aged 72.  An electrical engineer by qualification, he had a childhood interest in the genre. Between 1982 and 2013 he worked on the monthly Fantastyka [Fantasy] (later Nowa Fantastyka [New Fantasy] ) and was its editor between 1992 and 2003.  after which until his demise he was editor of the quarterly Czas Fantastyki. His novels were mainly new wave fantasies and his first was Face to the Earth. As such his views reflected (though were unconnected with) that of the New Wave arguments that raged in British SF circles in the 1970s.  In 2007 the Minister of Culture and Heritage awarded him the silver Gloria Artis medal.  Some of his short stories are collected in A Way for Women (1985) and some of his non-fiction essays, articles and reviews in Fantasy Time (1990).

Terence (Terry) Rawlings, the British film and sound editor has died aged 85.  Noted among his professional peers, despite being involved in a couple of commercial flops, his genre films include: The Sentinel (1977), Watership Down (1978), Alien (1979), The Awakening (1980), Blade Runner (1982), Legend (1985), F/X (1986), Slipstream (1989), Alien 3 (1992), The Core (2003) and The Phantom of the Opera (2004).  Though never winning, he was nominated for a BFTA on four occasions. He did receive the American Cinema Editors Career Achievement Award in 2006.

Alvin Sargent, the US screenwriter, has died aged 92.  his genre screenplays include Spider-Man 2 (2004) and Spider-Man 3 (2007) and a rewrite for The Amazing Spider-Man (2012).

John Schrieffer, the US physicist, has died aged 88.  With John Bardeen and Leon Cooper, he developed the theory explaining low temperature superconductivity back in 1957 when doing his PhD. The theory – how at low temperatures pairs of electrons, that normally repel, pair up – is known as BCS theory (the developers' initials) for which they won the 1972 Nobel for Physics.

J. Neil Schulman , the US SF author, has died aged 66. His novels were twice nominated for the Prometheus Award and two others– Alongside Night and The Rainbow Cadenza – won Prometheus Awards. He also wrote the screenplay for a 1986 Twilight Zone episode 'profile in Silver'.

Carl Slaughter, the US fan and zine contributor, has tragically died aged 61.  He had returned to the US four months previously and was killed in a car accident.  He contributed articles, interviews and reviews to a number of zines including Tangent, Diabolical Plots, SF Signal, File 770 and The Critters Workshop. Consequently he was well known in N. American fanzine fandom.

Dennis Smith, the US fan, has died aged. He was based in san Diego and involved in organising the 1966 Westercon. An artist himself, he thereafter he moved into comics fandom.

Yasuhiro Takemoto, the Japanese animator and television and film director, has died aged 45 following the July Kyoto Animation studio arson attack.

Jack Weaver, the US fan, has died aged 92.  Though a longstanding SF reader, he only found fandom at the start of the 1980s and became a member of the South Florida Science Fiction Society.  He contributed to Tropicons for a number of years before having a break. He returned to Tropicons in 1992 when he retired from work. In 1996 Joe Siclari and Edie Stern asked him to help them establish web site for the Fanac Fan History Project,, that went on-line in 1997 and he was its webmaster to 2016.. He continued to contribute software for it almost to the end.  He a special award at FanHistoricon 13 (Virginia, 2016).

Richard Williams, the Canadian born, longstanding British resident, animator has died aged 86. The triple Oscar and triple BAFTA winner also worked on two Pink Panther films and Casino Royale. Arguably his greatest genre work was as animation director on the Hugo Award winning Who framed Roger Rabbit (1988) that garnered him two Oscars and a BAFTA. He also animated Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (1971) which also got him an Oscar.


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 2019

End Bits & Thanks


More science and SF news will be summarised in our Spring 2020 upload in Jamuary
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, Brian Ameringen, Sue Burke, Fancylopaedia, a quote from File 770, Simon Geikie, Anthony Heathcote, Marcin Klak, Caroline Mullan, Roberto Quaglia, SF Encyclopaedia, Boris Sidyuk, Kel Sweeny, John Watkinson and Peter Wyndham.  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 2020 period – needs to be in before 10th December 2019. News is especially sought concerns SF author news as well as that relating to national SF conventions: size, number of those attending, prizes and any special happenings.

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