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So now it's 2004, a year of some numerical significance for this column. Taking over from Peter Roberts's British fan newsletter Checkpoint, the first issue of that tatty scandal-sheet Ansible burst upon an unimpressed audience in 1979. Twenty-five years ... that's not too many. Happy New Year to all!

Philip Pullman's fame has reached the point where His Dark Materials fan minutiae are found in 'mainstream' magazine gossip columns: 'Children's daemons change shape, he writes, but take a fixed form in adulthood. So why, a percipient fan asked Pullman the other day, does the kindly boatwoman Ma Costa's daemon appear first as a hawk, and later as a wolf? "A mistake," Pullman confessed.' (The Spectator, 27 December) Oh, and unlike J.G. Ballard, Pullman did not turn down his CBE — just announced in the New Year honours list.

R.I.P. Charles Berlitz (1913-2003), linguist and author of such science-fantasy bestsellers as The Bermuda Triangle (1974) and The Philadelphia Experiment (1979 with William I.Moore; 1984 movie), died on 16 December aged 90.    Alexis Kanner (1942-2003), French-born Canadian actor best remembered for his two parts in The Prisoner (1967-8), died on 13 December; he was 61. Kanner also appeared in a 1970 episode of the Andersons' TV series UFO. He was a guest at the 2003 Prisoner convention in Portmeirion, North Wales.    Anita Mui (1963-2003), Hong Kong actress and singer who appeared in several fantasy, superhero and supernatural films — notably the 1987 Rouge — died from cervical cancer on 30 December, aged 40. She was also credited as Yan-Fang Mei and Yim-Fong Mui.    Les Tremayne (1913-2003), US actor who voiced cartoon characters in The Phantom Tollbooth, Smurfs, and others, died on 19 December.

As Others See (Some Of) Us. 'There is snobbery among anoraks, believe it or not. A philatelist may sneer at a train-spotter, and the consensus seems to be that Dr Who fans are beneath everybody.' (Louis Barfe, The Oldie magazine, January 2004) To be fair, the writer cautiously continues: 'I've never agreed. Surely one obsessive interest is as valid as another.' Put away those death threats, chaps.

Ray Nelson, famed in sf fandom not so much for his novels (one in collaboration with Philip K. Dick) as for his invention of that iconic symbol the propeller beanie, received the 2003 Rotsler Award for fan art. He was 'chosen in recognition of his current fanac as well as his artwork in fanzines going back many years. His insightful and humorous cartoons have illustrated the fannish spirit for over three decades.'

Thog's Masterclass. Eyeballs in the Sky (Retro Division). '... she threw her eyes upon the walls, and saw their shattered condition.' (Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho, 1794)


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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