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Every day, items of interest to you arrive in our email. Our bi-monthly format doesn't lend itself to daily updates. However, this is a small inconvenience to our Contributing Editor Steven H Silver. He's begun this column which will fill you in on recent news in science fiction. We'll be updating the page as he sends in new items.

Did you miss something? Have a look at last month's news page.

Material for possible inclusion here should be sent to Steven H Silver at

30 December 2003
Hitch Hiker's to Return to Roots
BBC4 has announced that 2004 will see the airing of three new series in the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy sequence. The first two series formed the basis for the original novel and its sequel, The Restaurant at the end of the Universe. The new series will be adaptations of Life, the Universe and Everything, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish, and Mostly Harmless. Life will be produced in six fits with the remaining series of 4 fits each. Actors Simon Jones, Susan Sheridan, Geoffrey McGivern, Mark Wing-Davey, and Stephen Moore will reprise their roles from the original shows with William Franklyn replacing the late Peter Jones as "The Book." The first of the new series will be broadcast beginning February 17 at 6:30, the fourth and fifth series will begin on September 14.

China Ends Year with Bang
The Chinese space program finished 2003 with the launch of the first "Double Star" satellite from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre. The launch was a collaboration between the Chinese and the European Space Agency. In 2003, China launched a record six satellites and became the third nation to launch a man into orbit.

Charles Berlitz (b. 1913) died on December 18. Although best known as a linguist (his grandfather founded the schools which bear the family name), Berlitz was also interested in the paranormal and wrote popular books about the Bermuda Triangle, The Philadelphia Experiment, and the Roswell Incident.

Actor Les Tremayne (b.1913) died on December 19 of an heart attack in Los Angeles. Tremayne provided voices for numerous cartoons, including "Jonny Quest," "The Phantom Tollbooth," and "Smurfs." He also appeared in numerous television shows and films. On "Shazam," he played Billy Batson's mentor and he also appeared in the films "Angry Red Planet" and "The Slime People."

Dutch fan Simon van Dongen died of an heart attack on December 22. He suffered from heart and kidney problems for several years. In addition to being an active Usenet poster, Mr. van Dongen was a filker who occasionally traveled to the United States for conventions.

28 December 2003
Actor Alan Bates (b.1934) died on December 27 in London following a long battle with cancer. Bates never acted in a strictly science fiction or fantasy role, however genre fans may have known him for his portrayal of Rudi von Sternberg in the 1975 film adaptation of George MacDonald Frasier's Royal Flash, or his role as the title character in Le Roi de coeur (1966), as a World War I soldier who finds himself surrounded by the inmates of an insane asylum and beginning to question where real sanity lies.

26 December 2003
Conversion Deadline for LA Con IV
The deadline for converting a pre-supporting membership to an attending membership at the lowest possible rates for LA Con IV, the 2006 Worldcon, is January 1, 2004. Pricing information is available at the LA Con website. Pre-supporters who voted at Torcon should contact the LA Con registrar to find out how much they owe. The basic conversion is $60, but it may be decreased based on the number of Space Cadet badges a person has.

Naked Man at Uncle Hugo's
A naked 34-year-old man had to be rescued by police after getting stuck in the furnace flue of Uncle Hugo's Bookstore in Minneapolis. Uncle Hugo's specializes in selling science fiction and fantasy. He is expected to be charged with attempted burglary. The man claimed to have dropped his keys down the shaft around 1 AM and got stuck while trying to retrieve them. A passerby called police around 9 AM. The man was being treated for abrasions and bruises.

Mars Destroys
The Beagle 2 spacecraft, the first interplanetary probe launched by Europe, apparently was destroyed upon reaching Mars. Of the thirty six probes launched to Mars since 1960, twenty-one have ended in failure, thirteen have been successful, and two are currently en route to the red planet. Although loss of Beagle 2 has not been confirmed, multiple attempts to contact the craft have failed. The Mars Express which delivered the Beagle 2 to Mars has established an orbit around the planet.

Wah Ming Chang (b.1917) died on December 22. Chang won an Oscar for special effects for his work on "The Time Machine." In addition to working on "The Time Machine," Chang created masks for the original "Planet of the Apes" and worked on alien design for "Star Trek" and "The Outer Limits." Chang worked for Disney on "Bambi" and "Pinocchio" as well as numerous other science fiction films.

25 December 2003
Pratchett Award at Noreascon 4
Terry Pratchett's American publisher, HarperCollins, has announced a $500 prize to be given at Noreascon 4, the 2004 Worldcon in Boston, for the best masquerade entry based on Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. Information about entering the masquerade can be found at All masquerade entrants must be members of Noreascon 4.

J.G. Ballard Refuses Honour
British author J.G. Ballard has reportedly refused the honour of a CBE according to a four hundred page document which lists all the people who have refused the honour since World War II. Ballard, who refused the honour this year, noted that he viewed the honours system as a "preposterous charade" since "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." Ballard, whose CBE would have been for "services to literature," is the author of Crash, The Crystal World, and Empire of the Sun.

22 December 2003
L. Ron Hubbard Musical
Les Freres Corbusier experimental theatre troupe has produced "A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant," which will run through January 4 at the John Houseman Theater in New York. The musical is performed almost entirely by children between the ages of 8 and 12 and covers L. Ron Hubbard's life, including his period as a science fiction author.

Aurealis Nominates
The nominees for the 2003 Aurealis Awards, presented for achievement in Australian SF, fantasy and horror. The awards were establishe din 1995 by Chimera Publishing and are voted on by a panel of judges.

Science Fiction Novel:
Fallen Gods, by Jon Blum and Kate Orman
Wyrmhole, by Jay Caselberg
Terminator Gene, by Ian Irvine
Blue Box, by Kate Orman
Orphans of Earth, by Sean Williams and Shane Dix

Science Fiction Short Story:
"Acquired Tastes," by Stephen Dedman
"Louder Echo," by Brendan Duffy
"Amy's Stars," by Sue Isle
"Sigmund Freud and the Feral Freeway," by Martin Livings
"State of Oblivion," by Kaaron Warren

Fantasy Novel:
The Etched City, by K J Bishop
Grass for his Pillow, by Lian Hearn
The Aware, by Glenda Larke
Voyage of the Shadowmoon, by Sean McMullen
Abhorsen, by Garth Nix

Fantasy Short Story:
"Tireki and the Wind," by Lily Chrywenstrom
"In the Bookshadow," by Marianne de Pierres
"Hope Chest," by Garth Nix
"La Sentinelle," by Lucy Sussex,

Horror Novel:
Born of The Sea, by Victor Kelleher
The Lamplighter, by Anthony O'Neill
The Autumn Castle: Europa Suite 1, by Kim Wilkins

Horror Short Story:
"Love is a Stone," by Simon Brown
"The Wind Shall Blow For Ever Mair," by Stephen Dedman
"Amy's Stars," by Sue Isle
"Kijin Tea," by Kyla Ward
"Blake's Angel," by Janeen Webb

Young Adult Novel:
Abhorsen, by Garth Nix
The Silken Road to Samarkand, by Janeen Webb
Dragonkeeper, by Carole Wilkinson

Young Adult Short Story:
No Award

Children's (8-12 Years) Long Fiction:
Max Remy Superspy: The Hollywood Mission, by Deborah Abela
Eustace, by Catherine Jinks
Mister Monday, by Garth Nix
Jumpman Rule 2, by James Valentine
Dragonkeeper, by Carole Wilkinson

Children's (8-12 Years) Short Fiction:
Emily Eyefinger and the Balloon Bandits, by Duncan Ball
Wolfchild, by Roseanne Hawke
Tashi and the Royal Tombs, by Anna and Barbara Fienberg and Kim Gamble
Lily Quench and the Lighthouse of Skellig Mor, by Natalie Jane Prior
Lily Quench and the Magicians' Pyramid, by Natalie Jane Prior

Quarter Billion Worldwide for Return
The third installment of Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, "The Return of the King' earned an estimated $246.1 million worldwide in its first five days of release, $125 million of which was in American theaters. The movie became the fourth fastest film to earn $100 million in the US and the largest five day opener for a film opening on a Wednesday. In the US, "The Return of the King" earned $73.6 million during the weekend, the remaining nine films in the top ten earned a combined total of $56.3 million.

Actress Hope Lange (b.1931) died on December 19 from an infection caused by an intestinal inflammation known as ischemic colitis. Lange was perhaps best known for the title role in "The Ghost and Mrs Muir" and also appeared in "Death Wish" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street Part II: Freddy's Revenge."

20 December 2003
Prisoner in IMAX
"Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," the third film in the popular series based on the novels of J.K. Rowling, will be released in both regular format and IMAX on June 4, 2004. Unlike "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," which was shown on IMAX screens but not converted, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" will be converted to IMAX for presentation.

Science Fiction Tax Discussed
Once again an American politician is discussing a science fiction tax. Alabama Republican congressional candidate Michael Williams has stated that if elected he would propose a 1% tax on all science fiction books, comic books, space sciences books and any other space-related literature. In addition, he would tax "space, space-related, and science fiction toys, puzzles and games." Unlike earlier proposed science fiction taxes, Williams would earmark his tax to go directly to NASA's budget. At the same time, he espouses tax breaks for scientific research facilities.

Death of VHS
Artisan Home Entertainment President Steve Beeks has announced that Artisan will begin releasing new titles on DVD only, ceasing production of pre-recorded videotapes. Beeks predicted that other companies would soon follow suit. DVDs account for 87% of all home video purchases and 64% of rentals. Artisan has released films including "T2: The Rise of the Machines," "Stargate," and "Frank Herbert's Children of Dune."

18 December 2003
Golden Globe Nominees
The Nominations for the Golden Globe Awards were announced on December 18. Below are the categories which include items of genre interest.

Best Picture, Drama:
"Cold Mountain"
"The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"
"Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World"
"Mystic River"

Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy:
Bend It Like Beckham
Big Fish
Finding Nemo
Lost in Translation
Love Actually

Best Actress, Musical or Comedy:
Jamie Lee Curtis, Freaky Friday
Scarlett Johansson, Lost in Translation
Diane Keaton, Something's Gotta Give
Diane Lane, Under the Tuscan Sun
Helen Mirren, Calendar Girls

Best Actor, Musical or Comedy:
Jack Black, School of Rock
Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Bill Murray, Lost in Translation
Jack Nicholson, Something's Gotta Give
Billy Bob Thornton, Bad Santa

Best Director:
Sofia Coppola, "Lost in Translation"
Clint Eastwood, "Mystic River"
Peter Jackson, "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King"
Anthony Minghella, "Cold Mountain"
Peter Weir, "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World."

Best Original Score:
Alexandre Desplat, Girl with a Pearl Earring
Danny Elfman, Big Fish
Howard Shore, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Gabriel Yared, Cold Mountain
Hans Zimmer, The Last Samurai

Best Original Song:
"The Heart of Every Girl" (Mona Lisa Smile, music by Elton John, lyrics by Bernie Taupin
"Into the West," (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), music & lyrics by Howard Shore, Fran Walsh and Annie Lennox
"Man of the Hour" (Big Fish), music & lyrics by Eddie Vedder
"Time Enough for Tears" (In America), music & lyrics by Bono, Gavin Friday and Maurice Seezer
"You Will Be My Ain True Love" (Cold Mountain), music & lyrics by Sting

Best Actress, Television Drama:
Frances Conroy, "Six Feet Under"
Jennifer Garner, "Alias"
Allison Janney, "The West Wing"
Joely Richardson, "Nip/Tuck"
Amber Tamblyn, "Joan of Arcadia."

18 December 2003
Baen Supports Troops
In 2003, Baen Books shipped 5,000 books to the US Navy, including packages to every surface ship and submarine in the fleet. In addition to the traditional bound books, the packages shipped by Baen include CD-Roms which include the full texts of numerous additional works. The company plans to ship 10,000 volumes in 2004.

One Film to Rule Them All
Preliminary reports show that the final installment of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, "The Return of the King" brought in US$8 million in domestic box office for midnight showings and a total of $34.1 million for the entire day, giving it a record for the largest Wednesday opening and the largest single day sales in December. The previous single day Wednesday opening was in 1999 when "Star Wars: Episode 1: The Phantom Menace" brought in $28.5 million. Last year, "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers set the December one day record with $26.1 million and still holds the December first weekend record with $62 million.

First Supersonic Private Rocket
SpaceShipOne (SS1), the first piloted rocket-powered craft developed by a private company made its maiden voyage on December 17 over the Mojave Desert. In the course of the flight, the SS! Broke the sound barrier, reaching a top speed of 930 mph (1490 km/h) on the one hundredth anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first flight. Developed by Scaled Composites, the rocket was flown by Brian Binnie and reached an altitude of 68,000 feet (20,700 m). Upon a landing, the plane was caught in a crosswind and damaged a wingtip on the runway.

Broadcast Film Critics Association Nominees
The Nominations for the BFCA Awards were announced on December 16. Below are the categories which include items of genre interest.

Best Picture
Big Fish
Cold Mountain
Finding Nemo
In America
The Last Samurai
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Lost In Translation
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Mystic River

Best Actor
Russell Crowe: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
Johnny Depp: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Ben Kingsley: House of Sand & Fog
Bill Murray: Lost In Translation
Sean Penn: Mystic River

Best Acting Ensemble
A Mighty Wind
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Love Actually
Mystic River

Best Director
Tim Burton: Big Fish
Sofia Coppola: Lost In Translation
Clint Eastwood: Mystic River
Peter Jackson: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Jim Sheridan: In America

Best Animated Feature
Brother Bear
Finding Nemo
The Triplets of Belleville

Best Family Film (live action)
Freaky Friday
Peter Pan
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Whale Rider

Best Composer
Clint Eastwood: Mystic River
Danny Elfman: Big Fish
Howard Shore: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Gabriel Yared: Cold Mountain
Hans Zimmer: The Last Samurai

17 December 2003
Films Added to Registry
Twenty-five films have been added to the National Film Registry by the (American) National Film Preservation Board. Films of genre interest added in 2003 include the Hugo Award-winning "Young Frankenstein" (1974), "Tin Toy" (1988), "One Froggy Evening" (1956), "Princess Nicotine" (1909), and "Tarzan and His Mate" (1934). The Registry was developed in 1989 and contains films from as early as 1893 and as recent as 1991.

Space Tourism
Two Americans have purchased tickets to the International Space Station in an auction run by the Russian Space Agency. Each person, neither of whom has been identified, will spend about $20 million for their trip, which will last between 8 and ten days. The two purchasers are not related and will fly at separate times. Two more trips are currently up for auction, which will fill available seats until 2007.

16 December 2003
Julius Schwartz Hospitalized
Julius Schwartz, known for his role as an SF agent and his work on the Superman comics, has been hospitalized for pneumonia. Schwartz and his friend Mort Weisinger are credited with publishing the first true fanzine, the Time Traveller, in 1932, as well as founding the first SF literary agency in 1934.

New Arm of Milky Way
Australian astronomers have discovered a previously unknown arm of the Milky Way which is believed to wrap itself around the exterior of the galaxy. The 6500 light years-thick spiral is mostly gaseous, as opposed to the stellar arms which are more central to the galaxy. The team believes the new arm connects to one of the stellar arms.

World's Largest Book Published
Michael Hawley has published the world's largest book, a 133 pound (51.26 kg) volume which measures 5x7 feet (152.4x213.36 cm) and is 112 pages long. The book, a photoessay on the country of Bhutan, costs $2,000 to publish and will be sold for $10,000, with the proceeds going to Friendly Planet, a charity which has built schools in Bhutan and Cambodia.

5 December 2003
UPC Awarded
The annual UPC Science Fiction Award was presented to Catalan author Jordi Font-Agusti for his novel Traficants de llegendes. The UPC award is presented by the Technical University of Catalonia and has been presented since 1991. The winner receives a prize of 6,000EUR.

French author Pierre Pairault (b.1922) died on November 26. Pairault, who wrote science fiction under the name Stefan Wul, published eleven SF novels in the 1950s, although only one of them, The Temple of the Past, was translated into English. Two of his novels were translated into animated films. Wul published a last novel, Noo, in 1977. In 1997, a complete edition of his works was published.

4 December 2003
TAFF Nominations Open
Nominations for the westbound TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) race from Europe to North America are now open. People interested in running need to have 3 European and 2 North American nominations, a platform of no more than 100 words, and a bond of 10 sent to Tobes Valois no later than 28 February 2004. The winner will travel from Europe to Boston for Noreascon 4.

Ace/Roc Merge
In the aftermath of Roc editor Laura Anne Gilman's decision to leave Roc to pursue a career as a freelance author, parent company Penguin/Putnam has elected to merge Roc and Ace, its other science fiction imprint. The merger appears to be mostly administrative in nature and books will continue to appear under both imprints.

Shooting for the Moon
US Administration officials are indicating that President Bush will announce sometime in December that the United States plans on returning to the surface of the moon and maintaining a permanent presence there more than thirty years after the last man set foot on the moon. The rumors came less than a week after the Chinese announced their own plans to land a man on the moon by 2020. There are also indications that Bush will call for the moon to be a stepping stone for a man on Mars. On July 29, 1989 Bush's father, then President, called for a manned mission to Mars, later setting a goal of landing a man on Mars on July 20, 2019, but Congressional support never materialized for that project.

Six New Prehistoric Mammals
Scientists working in the highlands of Ethiopia have announced the discovery of the fossils of six new species of prehistoric mammals. Five of the species are Proboscidea, or trunked animals and three of those are paleomastodons. The remaining species is a Arsinoitherium, a sort of rhinoceros with two curved horns in its forehead. All six species were discovered in the Chilga region.

Oldest Verifiable Male Found
David J. Siveter, a geologist at the University of Leicester, has announced that a team has discovered a fossil in Herefordshire which is the oldest verifiable male creature. The stacean, named Colymbosathon ecplecticos, is a 1/5th inch long animal which is 425 million years old. What allows the scientists to verify it as male is the presence of a penis. Although there are older fossils believed to be male, none of them has shown an indication of having a penis.

British actor David Hemmings (b.1941) collapsed from an heart attack while filming in Romania and died on December 3. Hemmings played Mordred in the film version of "Camelot," Dildano in the 1968 sf film "Barbarella" and most recently Nigel in "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen." In addition to his acting roles, he also directed numerous films and television shows during his career.

3 December 2003
King with Pneumonia
Stephen King was hospitalized on November 23 for pneumonia and also underwent a thoracotomy to remove fluid from his lung. Mr. King was initially diagnosed with pneumonia before his trip to New York to receive the National Book Award medal, but his condition worsened upon his return to Maine, spreading to both lungs. He is recuperating and expected to make a full recovery.

Not Space Junk
NASA has announced its agreement with Russian space officials that the strange sound heard by astronauts aboard the International Space Station last month was not caused by a collision with orbiting debris. The cause of the noise is still under investigation.

NASA Success
NASA has achieved a success with the Stardust spacecraft. Launched in 1999 to rendezvous with the comet Wild 2 and return a sample of the comet to Earth, the spacecraft made visual contact with the comet on November 13, several weeks before it was scheduled. At the time of first visual contact, the spacecraft was 15.5 million miles away from the comet. Stardust is scheduled to rendezvous with the comet on January 2 when it flies within 186 miles of the comet. Dust trapped by the spacecraft will be returned to Earth in 2006 in a parachute-equipped capsule.

1 December 2003
Tangent Online Names New Managing Editor
David Truesdale, longtime force behind Tangent and Tangent Online, has announced the appointment of Chris Markwyn as Managing editor of Tangent Online, effective immediately. All magazines and anthologies for review should be sent to Mr. Markwyn at 313 Kedzie St. Apt. 3, Madison, WI 53704. Mr. Truesdale will continue as publisher and fill other assorted posts.

Battlefield Top Turkey
In an on-line poll conducted by Yahoo! My Movies website, the 2000 film "Battlefield Earth" was named the "Top Turkey of All Time," beating out non-genre fare including "Gigli," "From Justin to Kelly," and "Glitter." "Halloween 3: Season of the Witch" also ranked in the top five. More than 1.2 million votes were cast.

Marguerite Bradbury (b.1922) died on November 25 in Los Angeles. Mrs. Bradbury was born Marguerite McClure and married author Ray Bradbury on September 27, 1947. She worked in order to allow a young Bradbury time to work on his fiction and eventually typed the manuscript for Bradbury's first novel, The Martian Chronicles.

Albert Nozaki (b.1912) died of complications from pneumonia on November 16 in Los Angeles. Mr. Nozaki worked in Hollywood as a film art director in the 40s and 50s, whose genre credits included the television movie "Destination Space," "The War of the Worlds" and "When Worlds Collide." Nozaki, who was blind for much of his later life, also was the art director for Cecil B. DeMille on "The Ten Commandments."

Copyright © 2003 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a four-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings (DAW Books, January, February and March, 2003). In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.

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