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The authentic ring of Christmas

THE true commercial spirit of Christmas is nigh with news that the biggest names in the music industry, including Madonna and the Spice Girls, are to earn megabucks by allowing their hits to be used as ring tones on mobile phones - the must-have for any teenager.

Charlotte Church, the teenage super-star soprano, has conclud- ed a pound;500,000 deal to tell the story of her short life and is also about to sign a contract with Disney in America to sing and act in a film. "I just can't believe that any 14-year-old can do her memoirs," comments a man from publishers Weidenfeld amp; Nicholson.

Authors are cashing in on the internet by posting the first chapters of new books on the website Writers as diverse as Jackie Collins, JG

Ballard and Sebastian Faulks, have been recruited. Mr Ballard thinks it's an excellent idea, but worries about the book's future. Novels on the net would not be intimate enough. Quite right.

David Starkey is building on the success of his Channe 4 series on Elizabeth 1 with a project about her dad's wives. The Six Wives of Henry Vlll will tell the story of all the queens by using letters and journals they wrote. "These people were the superstars of their day," said a producer.

The Beeb is also at it. The Daleks are set to compete with Darth Vader under director-general Greg Dyke's plans to revolutionise British film-making. He hopes his blue-print for a full-scale Hollywood-style film studio at the Beeb will reverse the talent drain - and make the corporation lots of dosh. The Dr Who baddies will lead the assault on the international box office.

The infamous computer in the cult film 2001: A Space Odyssey,HAL-9000, which turned on its operators, is to add to the fortune of creator, Sir Arthur C Clarke. The 82-year-old has given his name to a mass-market version of HAL: the Clarke 1 Gigahertz Omniputer, dubbed as the most advanced PC in the world. Parents, fear not. They won't be in the shops until after Christmas.

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