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Is it time to say Happy New Year yet? Have a good holiday anyway.

As Others See Us: Hordes of the Things. I'm told that part three of the movie of some fantasy novel has been released, leading to the usual sneers from the great and good. Allan Massie, Scots novelist and critic, was quick to publish a column in The Scotsman titled 'Sorry, but grown-ups don't read Tolkien'. Thus: 'His work seems to me closer to science fiction than to myth and legend, and has the characteristic weakness of that genre: indifference to the complicated individual human being, indeed ignorance of him and her.'    Howard Jacobson, another novelist turned newspaper pundit, is sure that reading this stuff can do only harm: 'Start low, end low. Tolkien does not lead ineluctably to Joyce or Conrad. Tolkien leads ineluctably to more Tolkien. Give me the child and I will show you the man. Give Tolkien the child and he will stay a child. [...] If I have my way, owners of these and other works which pose a similar threat to the continuance of the human intelligence will be able to deposit them in bins left outside police stations, no questions asked.' (Independent, 20 December)    One happily imagines these chaps' blood pressure rising still further when British postage stamps mark the 50th anniversary of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. The stamps feature Tolkien's own artwork and will be released on 26 February 2004.

J.G. Ballard was revealed (in leaked 'secret' documents) to be one of nearly 300 British notables who have turned down state honours. Both Ballard and Michael Frayn are among the more select 40-odd who refused to be honoured by Tony Blair's government. (Sunday Times, 21 December) Quoth Ballard, who declined a CBE for 'so-called services to literature': 'I am opposed to the honours system. The whole thing is a preposterous charade. Thousands of medals are given out in the name of a non-existent empire. It makes us look a laughing stock and encourages deference to the crown. [...] I must say I find it sad to see left-wing playwrights who have traded on their socialist credentials throughout their careers accepting knighthoods. People like David Hare who have worn their socialist credentials on both sleeves kneel in front of the Queen, It's too much.' Charles Platt laments: 'I greatly regret that we'll never see, for instance, The Drowned World by Sir J.G. Ballard.'

Celebrity Interview. Taras Wolansky conducted a merciless interrogation at Philcon, where 'I got a chance to ask Harry Harrison about his 1966 novel, Make Room! Make Room! (a.k.a. Soylent Green). How had he gotten New York City in the year 2000 — population over 30 million, hundreds of thousands sleeping on the streets — so wrong? The book was not extrapolation, but "all lies ... pure propaganda", Harrison explained, and as propaganda he was very pleased with the influence it had over the years. But "crying wolf" like that, wouldn't it make people disbelieve him the next time he had a cause to push, I asked. "Fandom is reborn every year," Harrison replied complacently.'

Festive Links. BoingBoing reveals that Ursula Le Guin has been cleared of the dreadful charge of writing sf — see story 'A&E gratuitously slams science fiction.'    A reader points out strange allegations of transgendered hobbit-obsessed identity theft.    And the very, um, original author Frank Key announces his new Hooting Yard website, with unique search-engine bait....

Thog's Masterclass. Dept of Linguistics. `Hello, stranger on the road, a voice called in a language not known to me, Turkish presumably.' (Fred & Geoffrey Hoyle, The Incandescent Ones, 1977)


He Do the Time Police in Different VoicesDavid Langford is an author and a gentleman. His newsletter, Ansible, is the essential SF-insider sourcebook of wit and incongruity. His most recent books are Different Kinds of Darkness, a new short-story collection of horror, SF, and fantasy, Up Through an Empty House of Stars: Reviews and Essays 1980-2002, 100 pieces of Langfordian genre commentary, and He Do the Time Police in Different Voices, a short-story collection that brings together, all of Dave's SF parodies and pastiches. (This is a scary thought. Are you ready to laugh that hard?)

Dave lives in Reading, England with his wife Hazel, 25,000 books, and a few dozen Hugo awards. He continues to add books and Hugos.

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