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The American-produced television series The X Files has won a cult following in Britain in a very short time. Agents Scully and Mulder seem to be everywhere, emblazoned across magazine covers and in video shops, and their wise words sell like hot cakes in bookshops. So you would expect the UK newsgroup to be packed with science-fiction freaks and self-styled paranormal investigators discussing their every move.

But when I dropped in on uk.media.tv.sf.x-files I felt as if I were eavesdropping on a private conversation. Although there were more than 300 postings, most of them seemed to come from the same small group of X Files fanatics. A lot of spammers also seemed to have taken up residence.

The main topic of conversation was the recent "Pusher" episode, about a guy with mysterious hypnotic powers who can kill people by talking to them. "I reckon it was one of the best of the season so far, a lot of suspence [sic], especially the Russian roulette scene - would he or wouldn't he shoot Scully?" said one correspondent.

Everyone else seemed to agree. "C'mon then ... who else thought this was a bloody excellent episode, and probably one of the best from the past couple of seasons?" said one regular. "I'm glad I taped it ..."

And so it went on. All this mutual agreement was very boring. Don't these X Files fans ever have a cyber-slanging match, I wondered. Or have they all been hypnotised by the Pusher?

My suspicions about the size of this X Files community were confirmed when I read the group's annual awards for everything from best television programme to most regular poster on this newsgroup. One Lee Stainforth picked up that prize, in case you are interested. He must be pleased with himself, knowing that a total of four people voted in the poll.

The best TV show of 1996 was The X Files. But there was another award for "best TV show excluding The X Files": Babylon 5 came top and Sooty & Friends and The Muppets also featured. And don't talk to them about health food. The awards for "best food of the year" were as follows: Wotsits; a curry from the White Swan in Bottisham, Cambridgeshire; balti chicken; and apple crumble yoghurt.

More surprises in the "best actors" categories: David Duchovny picked up the male award and Gillian Anderson the female. Congratulations both.

After such an orgy of prizegiving, it seemed only fair that the last award should be for best newsgroup of 1996. And uk.media.tv.sf.x-files was the unquestioned winnern

Andrew North

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