Monday, May 31, 2010

The Starlog Project: Starlog #107, June 1986: Tom Cruise in Legend, Top Gun

Tom Cruise dressed as a sprite! Ray Bradbury in shorts! Don Ameche in swimming trunks!

Those are just some of the sights to see in this issue of Starlog.

Starlog #107
76 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $2.95

Okay, I never saw Ridley Scott's film Legend, so I don't know if Tom Cruise is actually a sprite or just some male forest nymph or something. But it's interesting that this issue highlights him in two roles, as Jack O' the Green from Legend and as a fighter pilot in Top Gun. It's kind of like a time-travel check-in on Cruise's career, when he was transitioning from dancing in his underwear in Risky Business to headlining tough-guy action roles.

The rundown: The cover photo is from Jim Henson's Labyrinth movie. Kerry O'Quinn's From the Bridge column shares some convention thoughts; the entire Communications section is taken up with letters responding to Harlan Ellison's comments in his two-part interview back in #100-101; Medialog includes David McDonnell's roundup of genre news (including a planned ABC TV series based on the 1976 David Bowie film The Man Who Fell to Earth – see Starlog #1), Edward Gross talks to Pierce Brosnan about playing James Bond, and Gross also chats with He-Man himself, Dolph Lundgren.

Adam Pirani quizzes producer Gale Anne Hurd about Aliens and The Terminator; the Future Life section includes Douglas Borton on meddling with genes to fight diseases, and Borton (again) on an idea by Freeman Dyson for a micro-spaceship; Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficer profile composer Alexander Courage (Star Trek); the Fan Network section includes info on Buckaroo Banzai fan activities, Max Rottersman on a phone hotline about SF industry happenings, and more; Kim Howard Johnson interviews actor Don Ameche about Cocoon and Trading Places; Adam Pirani interviews Ridley Scott, who discusses Blade Runner and Legend; Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier interview actor Tom Cruise about Legend, with a sidebar by Anthony Timpone on Cruise's other film, Top Gun; David Hutchison lists the new genre video releases in his Videolog column; in a Comics Scene page, Daniel Dickholtz previews a new comic book, Captain Confederacy; Dennis Freeland interviews Jim Henson on Labyrinth (with a sidebar by Daniel Dickholtz talking with actress Jennifer Connelly); novelist Lawrence Watt-Evans explains his six laws of fantasy, writing this month's Other Voices guest column; Lee Goldberg talks to the screenwriters of Invaders from Mars; William Rabkin talks with writer Tom Benedek about Winter's Tale and Cocoon; Bill Feret interviews writer Jean M. Auel about Clan of the Cave Bear; Lee Goldberg interviews writer W.D. Richter (Buckaroo Banzai, Big Trouble in Little China); Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier talk with writer/director David Engelbach about America 3000 and a never-made sequel to The Day the Earth Stood Still; William Rabkin talks with Highlander screenwriter Greg Widen; Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier interview Doctor Who veteran Terrance Dicks; Booklog includes Thomas Arndt chatting with author Terry Brooks about his Shannara series and and Landover tales, plus obituaries for Judy-Lynn Del Rey and Frank Herbert; and editor David McDonnell wraps it all up in his Liner Notes with a few words about writers (and that photo of Bradbury in tennis shorts).
"I've never actually been asked to play James Bond. And the next question is, 'Would I like to play James Bond?' I suppose I would like to have a crack at it. It hasn't been a lifetime ambition to play James Bond, but I wish they would make up their minds one way or the other by offering it to me or giving it to someone else. Not a day goes by now without people saying, 'You're going to make a great James Bond.' But no one has ever come to me and said, 'Pierce, my dear boy, we would like you to play Jimmy Bond.' That may knock the rumor on the head, but I've been saying that now for quite a while and the rumor is still around."
–Pierce Brosnan, Medialog interview by Edward Gross: "Brosnan on Bond"
To view previous Starlog issue descriptions, click on "Starlog Internet Archive Project" in the keywords below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent home.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Malawi Gay Couple Pardoned, After Assistance from Ban Ki-Moon

The New York Times is reporting that the couple in Malawi that was sentenced to 14 years in prison after they celebrated their engagement has been unconditionally pardoned. Malawi's president, in announcing his order for their immediate release, nonetheless went out of his way to condemn the two people, saying they had gone against the country's laws, religion, blah blah blah, and that by releasing them, he wasn't supporting them.

What a mensch.

Really, the hero here is United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who asked that Malawi's leader to release his two citizens, and who will be making a speech to Malawi's legislature in which he will request that it change its laws discriminating against (I think persecuting is a proven alternative word that could be used here) homosexuals.

Now, someone can start a gay Malawi magazine ...

Friday, May 28, 2010

Mithly: A New Gay Magazine – Where Homosexuality Is Illegal

It's probably a little difficult to imagine here in the United States. Say you wanted to create a magazine for something that was illegal. Naturally, your mind goes to things that are prurient and disgusting. (Shame on you.) Because so much is legal here that is illegal in less advanced nations, right?

But what if it was simply illegal to love someone, to be intimate with them, and you wanted to make a magazine about that?

No, it's not Texas. It's Morocco. Britain's The Guardian reports on a new gay magazine in Morocco. Gays might be frowned upon there, but they've got a print presence. Mithly magazine is the newest publication there. It might supplant my previous prediction of the shortest-living magazine alive today, but I wish Mithly (and Gay: Good As You) long lives.

But both of their editor's might want to sleep with one eye open.

When Lev Met J.K. (Rowling, that is)

All you Harry Potter or The Magicians fans, you might be interested in author Lev Grossman's blog about the time he interviewed Potter author J.K. Rowling. And find out why Terry Pratchett called him an idiot.

It Looks Like We're Finally Getting the Government We Voted For

Health-care reform. Progress on financial re-regulation. And dramatic movement on ending discrimination against gay service members.

After a year in which it looked like the minority party, the refuseniks in the Republican Party, were still setting the agenda for the country, the majority party has finally asserted itself. All it took was ... Nancy Pelosi.

Glad the president is smart enough to follow her lead.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Alien Parody, from mid-1980s

Part I:

Part II:

The Starlog Project: Starlog #106, May 1986: Big Trouble in Little China

John Carpenter's film Big Trouble in Little China, which takes the cover spot this issue, is a very 1980s film. Fake characters, over-the-top action and acting, farcical premise. It's a film that should have been fun, but was instead forgettable. Carpenter's track record is long and impressive, but it includes a number of these utterly useless films (sorry for the strong opinions) among the many gems. On the other hand, this is probably the only issue of Starlog that features a Buddha on the cover.

In his column, editor David McDonnell notes that sister magazine Fangoria (which he is temporarily editing) is increasing its frequency from nine to ten issues annually, and the Starlog Scrapbooks, Poster Magazines, and Best of publications are being rebranded under a Starlog Presents label.

Starlog #106
76 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $2.95

This issue sees an actual mention of Mobile Suit Gundam. Groundbreaking. Probably never to be repeated. Alas.

The rundown: In his From the Bridge column, publisher Kerry O'Quinn talks about hope as the first step toward success; Communications letters include a proposal for a museum that would house science-fiction spaceship models, plus a ton of comments on many aspects of Star Trek; Medialog items include Carr D'Angelo with a promo for the Starlog conventions, Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier chatting up NBC Entertainment president Brandon Tartikoff (who talks Amazing Stories), and David McDonnell rounding up all of the genre multimedia news (including the upcoming Evil Dead sequel).

Adam Pirani previews Aliens, the sequel to the great Alien; Lee Goldberg interviews actress Louise Fletcher about her role in Invaders from Mars; the Fan Network pages include a note from Leonard Nimoy assistant Kirk Thatcher, Anthony Timpone's answers to reader queries (including, "What is the status of Ray Harryhausen's Force of the Trojans?"), a call for more fan club listings, and more; William Rabkin profiles actor Tim Curry (Legend, The Rocky Horror Picture Show); the Future Life section includes Chris Henderson on Kerry Mark Joels' book The Mars One Crew Manual, Douglas Borton on designs for the next generation of automobiles, and Daniel Dickholtz on the Star Trek game The Kobayashi Alternative; Lee Goldberg previews Big Trouble in Little China; Kim Howard Johnson chats with former Monty Python member Terry Jones, screenwriter of Labyrinth; Patrick Daniel O'Neill profiles Blake's Seven's Terry Nation; Kim Howard Johnson visits the location shoot for Cherry 2000; Ben Bova, writer and former editor of Omni and Analog, pens the Other Voices guest column, in which he discusses space-based defensive technology; Robert Greenberger interviews The Postman's David Brin; Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier explain the animated War of the Rock Lords; Lee Goldberg interviews writer Rockne S. O'Bannon; Steve Swires talks with director Leonard Nimoy about Star Trek III: The Search for Spock; Adam Pirani interviews Highlander actor Clancy Brown; in the conclusion of his two-part examination of Japanimation, Fred Patten includes Mobile Suit Gundam, TranZor Z, Robotech, Fist of the Big Dipper, and others; in Booklog, Kathleen Gooch talks to author James P. Hogan, and Chris Henderson rounds up the latest book releases; David Hutchison rounds up the latest genre video releases in Videolog; and editor David McDonnell wraps it all up in his Liner Notes column with some notes about doings in the Starlog family of publications.
"I would trade a million copy bestseller to be able to write a paper on mathematical physics that only a hundred people would appreciate and would stun Steven Weinberg in Cambridge. One of the most wonderful things about our culture is that people can be physics groupies. ... My brother had only two science and math courses in his entire college career and he's a ferocious science groupie – he subscribes to Scientific American and he's always calling me up with questions."
David Brin, author, interviewed by Robert Greenberger: "David Brin: Dispatches for The Postman"
To view previous Starlog issue descriptions, click on "Starlog Internet Archive Project" in the keywords below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent home.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Starlog Project: Starlog #105, April 1986: There Can Be Only One!

Highlander takes the cover spot this issue. The movie was a surprise hit (though I'll admit I never saw it; I was, however, subjected to its first sequel, which was a truly terrible movie, and I've always retroactively judged Highlander by the sequel – unfair, I know). But Highlander is only one of a new batch of genre films that ruled the screen (and the fan magazines) for a while. Others – Aliens, Big Trouble in Little China, Star Trek IV, Legend, even the finally-released Brazil – are also represented here, which makes one wonder why the magazine had to put Star Wars on the cover so many times in recent months.

Starlog #105
76 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $2.95

Starlog never really did anime well. Though it did very well covering American animation, especially in its spinoff Comics Scene magazine, it really missed the boat when it comes to Mobile Suit Gundam, and it gave some welcome but only limited coverage to Space Cruiser Yamato (aka Star Blazers). It did some nice feature articles on anime in the final decade or so of its life, but it was too U.S.-focused for most of its 374 issues, and in the process it probably missed an audience of burgeoning anime and manga fans. This issue includes part one of Fred Patton's look at "Japanimation," and it's a good opening salvo. But there wasn't enough follow-up to make it stick.

The rundown: In his From the Bridge column, Kerry O'Quinn unveils the cover design of Starlog/Fangoria's upcoming new video release, featuring Tom Savini; Communications letters include a number of negative reactions to the Amazing Stories TV series, Entertainment Tonight's Leonard Maltin writing to share a story about a recent convention, a Canadian reader who has had it with Starlog's attempts to inspire him, and more; in the Medialog section, Lee Goldberg previews Big Trouble in Little China, David Hutchison announces that Starlog will be saluting Star Trek at an upcoming special convention, Lee Goldberg quotes William Friedkin praising Starlog (am I wrong to read that and think the editors are still smarting over Harlan Ellison's criticism?), David McDonnell provides a roundup of happenings in the SF media world, and more.

Steves Swires goes behind the scenes of The Manhattan Project; Patrick Daniel O'Neill profiles actress Mia Sara about Legend; Fan Network includes info on a Japanimation association, The Stuff contest winners, reader queries (such as, "Will we ever see the Star Wars Holiday Special on TV again?"), and more; Patrick Daniel O'Neill interviews the sixth Doctor Who, Colin Baker (plus a sidebar by Julius Fabrini on the new productions of Who); author Ron Goulart gives his "Confessions of a Zany Sci-Fi Writer" in the Other Voices guest column; Adam Pirani talks with actor Christopher Lambert about Highlander; the Future Life section includes Rick Kolker on where the Space Shuttle Enterprise will end up, a report from the Ames Research Center on the detection of ice on Halley's Comet, Douglas Barton on regulatory acceptance of genetically engineered drugs, and a PBS note about a public television program, "The Rise of a Wonder Drug" (aka penicillin); Fred Patten begins a two-part overview of Japanese anime, such as Astro Boy, Star Blazers, Marine Boy, Force Five, Voltron, and more; David Hutchison's Videolog announces new genre video releases; Joe Russo, Larry Landsman and Edward Gross revisit Beneath the Planet of the Apes; Daniel Dickholtz interviews actress Grace Lee Whitney; Adam Pirani interviews actor Jonathan Pryce (1984, Brazil, Something Wicked This Way Comes); Will Murray profiles The Shadow creator Walter B. Gibson; in Booklog, Kathleen M. Gooch gets Barry Longyear's reactions to the filming of his Enemy Mine, and Chris Henderson provides a roundup of new print releases; Steve Swires highlights a Dr. Pepper SF-flavored commercial; Bill Cotter puts together a complete episode guide to V; and David McDonnell's Liner Notes compiles a number of obituaries.
"Starlog, I think, is a very well-edited magazine. ... It's very interesting, and it's a little more fan-oriented than something like American Cinematographer, which I think is the best magazine of its kind for imparting technical information. I think Starlog goes a little too far from time to time in the gee-whiz school of journalism but buried in there generally is an interesting little piece about how a film got made. It's that aspect of the magazine that I like and on which I focus. Some of those pieces are the kind of thing that Hollywood should be doing itself, trying to explore the workings of this or that particular film."
–William Friedkin, director, interviewed (briefly) by Lee Goldberg in Medialog: "William Friedkin on Starlog"
To view previous Starlog issue descriptions, click on "Starlog Internet Archive Project" in the keywords below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent home.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Starlog Project: Starlog #104, March 1986: Re-Warring

Star Wars is on the cover of Starlog for the third time in six issues, and there hasn't even been a Star Wars film for several years. Call it savvy marketing, call it a lack of enthusiasm among the editors for any of the new movies out in early 1986, or call it a lack of originality. But it probably worked and moved copies at the newsstand. Wookies attract.

Starlog #104
76 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $2.95

Overdosing on the tales of filmdom's special makeup effects artists had long been a signature approach of sister magazine Fangoria. Maybe it was because there weren't a lot of new horror films in those days; maybe it was because (as was intimated from time to time in the magazine) many higher-up creators such as directors and writers objected to being interviewed by a magazine called Fangoria. Whatever the reason, it served another good purpose, taking the magazine's readers behind the scenes of how a film is made and how Hollywood really works. Though they would always remain part of the magazine's mix of articles, Fango eased up on the makeup stories as the film world served up more new terror treats and as the magazine grew.

So, two things: This issue of Starlog features several stories branded on the cover under "Makeup FX torture tales." And Starlog editor David McDonnell would, very soon, be taking over the editing chores of Fangoria (while continuing his Starlog magazine duties, plus licensed film magazines) after Fango editors Bob Martin and David Everitt both exited stage left.

The rundown: In his From the Bridge column, Kerry O'Quinn suggests people take Basic Thinking 101; letters in the Communications section include a reader disturbed by the sexual content of recent SF films (The Goonies, in particular), reaction to Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, a story about a less-than-awesome encounter with George Lucas, and more; the Medialog section includes Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier's report on the unveiling of Gene Roddenberry's star on Hollywood Boulevard, Edward Gross on Spider-Man: The Movie, and David McDonnell's media roundup, including news on the flick Solarbabies; and Videolog includes David Hutchison's roundup of new video releases, plus Carr D'Angelo on D.A.R.Y.L.

Edward Gross interviews writer/producer Joseph Stefano on The Outer Limits, old and new (including a sidebar featuring Stefano's original story theme guidelines for the series' writers); Lee Goldberg previews The Ray Bradbury Theater; Booklog features Edward Gross' chat with British James Bond author John Gardner, Geraldine Freedman's check-in with author Joan Vinge, and Chris Henderson's roundup of new books; Lee Goldberg talks with actors Jimmy Hunt and Hunter Carson about their roles in Invaders From Mars; Adam Pirani visits the location set of Highlander; Ian Spelling interviews actor James Remar (The Clan of the Cave Bear); Will Murray interviews actor Joel Grey (Remo: The Adventure Begins, Cabaret); Adam Pirani interviews Peter Mayhew, Star Wars' Chewbacca; William Rabkin interviews Louis Gossett, the alien in Enemy Mine; in a roundup of short articles on makeup effects professionals, Will Murray profiles Carl Fullerton, William Rabkin profiles Stephan Du Puis, Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier profile Michael Westmore, and Richard Meyers and Phil Nutman profile Stuart Freeborn; David Hutchison previews F/X; William Rabkin reveals the unseen footage from Enemy Mine; Edward Gross interviews V creator/producer Kenneth Johnson, who dissects the TV series; Anthony Timpone interviews actor Stephen Collins (Tales of the Gold Monkey, Star Trek – The Motion Picture); the Future Life pages include David Hutchison's three short articles on comets; the Other Voices guest columnist is author William F. Wu; the Fan Network pages include Anthony Timpone answering reader questions (such as, "Is there going to be a conclusion to Lost in Space?"), plus short items on a young man who really wants to be Robin (of Batman) and Merana Cadorette's hand-sculpted Star Wars figurines; and editor David McDonnell's Liner Notes column explains how the staff chose the cover of Starlog #102 (the Enemy Mine cover), making a nice behind-the-scenes look at how magazines are produced (and why).
"My feeling was that Warner Bros. was worried I wouldn't do V as quick, cheap and dirty as they wanted it done, and they were right, so I left. ... They were astonished because I also had, at the time, a 12-hour blind series commitment with NBC through Warner Bros. which was going to bite the dust if I left. That's about a half-million dollars, and they said nobody walks away from that. I said, 'Oh yeah, read my lips, guys.' Then, they brought in more writers and totally bastardized the six-hour script we had written."
–Kenneth Johnson, producer, interviewed by Edward Gross: "Kenneth Johnson: V: What Could Have Been"
To view previous Starlog issue descriptions, click on "Starlog Internet Archive Project" in the keywords below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent home.

The Starlog Project: Starlog #103, February 1986: Let's Put on a Show!

The striking cover photo of actress Daryl Hannah's painted face from Clan of the Cave Bear might look rather familiar to genre magazine fans of a certain age, even if they never saw the movie. A similar cover (albeit with the photo flipped) appeared at the same time on the winter 1986 edition of Heavy Metal magazine. Considering how many magazines were covering the same films and TV shows, I suppose it's only surprising that such coincidences didn't happen more often.

Starlog #103
76 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $2.95

Starlog recently redesigned and updated the ad promoting its lucrative line of licensed movie magazines, and we see that the company produced not one, not two, but three official publications for Rocky IV: a magazine, a deluxe magazine, and a poster magazine. And they did one for John Travolta's Staying Alive? Huh. Wonder how that sold.

The rundown: In his From the Bridge column, publisher Kerry O'Quinn argues that information made all the difference in the death toll between two hurricanes, 47 years apart; Communications letters offer wide-ranging reactions to Explorers, The Goonies, Cocoon and The Black Cauldron, plus a defense of Sheena by her creator (S.M. Iger) and a reader who sees oedipal themes in Back to the Future and Fright Night; David Hutchison's Videolog announces some genre video releases, including the first Starlog-created video: Cinemagic – The Best of Science Fiction Lunacy; Medialog includes David McDonnell's roundup of genre news (such as Terry Gilliam being named to direct something called The Chocolate Project), and Robert Greenberger's very brief chat with animator Don Bluth.

The feature articles this month are packaged in a theme of How to Make a Science-Fiction Movie. William Rabkin talks with screenwriter Ed Kharma (Enemy Mine, Ladyhawke); Chris Henderson's Booklog column reviews Philip K. Dick's Radio Free Albemuth, and other books; Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier interview producer Harve Bennett about Star Trek IV; in the Fan Network section, Forrest J. Ackerman announces the winner of his contest from issue #94, plus a producer urges readers to send him their resumes; the Future Life pages include David Hutchison on an underwater EPCOT feature (The Living Seas), Max Rottersman on tracking space debris, and Hutchison on a science-fiction group on the CompuServe online service; William Rabkin talks with director Wolfgang Peterson (The Neverending Story, Enemy Mine); Adam Pirani interviews production designer Norman Reynolds (Young Sherlock Holmes, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Raiders of the Lost Ark); Steve Swires profiles cinematographer Dean Cundey (John Carpenter's The Thing, Back to the Future, Big Trouble in Little China); Robert Greenberger interviews Clan of the Cave Bear star Daryl Hannah; Don McGregor interviews stunt coordinator Bob Simmons (James Bond films) – with a sidebar by Adam Pirani covering Bond stuntman Martin Grace; Rachel Long interviews actor Rutger Hauer (The Hitcher, Blade Runner); Anthony Timpone interviews editor Terry Rawlings (Alien, Blade Runner, Legend); David Hutchison covers special effects supervisor John Dykstra (Star Wars, Lifeforce, Battlestar Galactica); Hutchison also talks with sound designer Ben Burtt (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back); Brian Lowry interviews special makeup designer Rob Bottin (Explorers, Legend, The Thing), with a sidebar by Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier talking with actress Leslie Rickert; Thom Clement interviews composer Elmer Bernstein (The Black Cauldron, American Werewolf in London); and editor David McDonnell's Liner Notes column focuses (oh, can we say fixates?) on Darby O'Gill and the Little People.
"Lifeforce was probably the worst patch-up job of timing in a movie I've ever seen in my life. Bad! Every print – the 70mms were worse. Bad! Terrible! There was stuff we had worked on a long time that came out looking awful because they didn't time right. OK? That's a real bitch! I don't intend to ever have somebody do that to me again. They paid good money for those effects, and they were damn good effects and it's wrong for them to be destroyed by somebody's lack of concern."
–John Dykstra, special effects wizard, interviewed by David Hutchison: "John Dykstra: Planning Science-Fiction Illusions"
To view previous Starlog issue descriptions, click on "Starlog Internet Archive Project" in the keywords below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent home.

The Empire Strikes Back "Premake"

As you contemplate the 30th anniversary of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, here's an ingenius spoof video of an Empire "premake."

Monday, May 24, 2010

Who Gets the Space Shuttle Atlantis When It's Put out of Commission?

The Atlantis space shuttle returns to earth very soon, completing its final mission. The other two shuttles – Challenger and I forget the other name... Pegasus? Reagan? Millennium Falcon? whatever – also each have one last flight to make before the entire fleet (if three spaceships can be called a fleet and not an affectation) is retired.

So my question of the day: Who gets the Atlantis when it's done doing its work? Does it get sold to some Russian billionaire? A Saudi billionaire? Chinese billionaire? (After the recent near-depression, do we have any American billionaires left? I mean for real, not on paper?)

Are we going to see the shuttle refurbished and used as an amusement park, some sort of space-themed restaurant? Will a Russian billionaire buy Atlantis and a Chinese billionaire buy the Challenger, and they'll play aerial battles against each other? (Um, that would be cool, but probably impractical; besides, I'm sure NASA will remove all of the photon torpedoes and laser banks before selling the ships).

While the national "news" media wastes its time covering so-called stories such as financial reform and the Afghanistan war, this real news is just waiting to be explored and reported. Hello, PBS NewsHour?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Starlog Project: Starlog #102, January 1986: Enemy Mine, Frenemy Mine

Six degrees of separation: The movie featured on the cover of this edition is Enemy Mine. The novelization of the movie was written by David Gerrold (with Barry B. Longyear). Oh, wait, that's just one or two degrees of separation. Science fiction's a small world.

This month, Starlog publishes its annual postal statement of ownership and circulation. The total paid circulation for the issue closest to the statement's filing deadline is listed as 217,435 (up strongly from last year's 190,699), including the number of paid subscriptions of 12,945 (down from 13,408 last time).

Starlog #102
76 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $2.95

In his Linter Notes column in upcoming issue #104, editor David McDonnell will explain the genesis of this issue's alien cover. Apparently the editors, publishers, and art director were in agreement about putting Enemy Mine on the cover, but they disagreed about whether to feature the alien photo (Louis Gossett Jr. as alien Jeriba) or the clean-cut human photo (Dennis Quaid as Davidge). Which is more science fictiony? Well, aliens, natürlich, so the Gossett lizard-man photo went to the cover. In his #104 column, McDonnell displays both covers. I think the Quaid one would have been nice, too, but that might just be because Dennis Quaid is easy on the eyes. But no one asked me.

The rundown: Kerry O'Quinn's From the Bridge column relates the publisher's experience playing the live-action game PHOTON; Communications letters include a plea to cover Silverado, an English special effects supervisor who takes umbrage at comments about his countrymen, corrections to Starlog's trivia book, and more; Medialog includes McDonnell's headline-news roundup of genre developments (such as Tim Burton being signed on as the new director of the Batman movie), plus Edward Gross talks with The Fly writer Charles Pogue.

Mike Clark goes behind the scenes to preview Irwin Allen's Alice in Wonderland; David Bianculli reports on a press conference with Steven Spielberg, who comments on his Amazing Stories TV series; the Fan Network pages include answers to readers' questions (such as, "Where can I write Supergirl's Helen Slater?") compiled by Anthony Timpone, plus a Fan Notebook collection of news bits (such as a report on a concert by The Replicants), a Star Trek IV contest, and more; Ben Landman interviews former Doctor Who Peter Davison; Booklog features Chris Henderson's overview of new releases (including Harlan Ellison's An Edge in My Voice, which includes columns he wrote for Starlog's departed sister magazine Future Life – another couple degrees of separation connected with this issue) and Michael Vance's chat with writer Stephen R. Donaldson; William Rabkin visits the Munich, Germany, set of Enemy Mine; Robert Greenberger interviews Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy creator Douglas Adams; William Rabkin previews Clue, the movie version of the board game; Steve Swires interviews actress Mary Woronov; Lee Goldberg interviews Kirstie Alley ("She isn't Saavik. I am."); Kim Howard Johnson dissects the problems Terry Gilliam had with the studio working on his Brazil film; David Hutchison lists new genre video releases in Videolog; Will Murray talks with Remo: The First Adventure director Guy Hamilton; Anthony Timpone interviews actor/producer Michael Douglas about The Jewel of the Nile; Lee Goldberg talks with director Jeannot Szwarc about his Santa Claus; Karen E. Bender profiles actors Nicholas Rowe and Alan Cox about Young Sherlock Holmes; Brian Lowry interviews Bugs Bunny voice magician Mel Blanc (with a sidebar by Anthony Timpone: "Friz Freleng on Mel Blanc"); and editor David McDonnell wraps it all up in his Liner Notes column with an announcement that he will be succeeding the departed Fangoria editors Bob Martin and David Everitt as "interim" editor of that mag, plus he shares the tale of his first meeting with Mel Blanc.
"They offered me less money than they did for Star Trek II, so I figured they weren't very interested in me for Saavik. ... I thought [new Saavik Robin Curtis] was at a real disadvantage playing a role someone else established, especially with Star Trek, which has an enormous following. I think she did a fine job. I have no problem with what she was doing except that, when I saw the film, I said, 'She isn't Saavik. I am.'"
–Kirstie Alley, interviewed by Lee Goldberg: "Kirstie Alley: 'She isn't Saavik. I am.'"
To view previous Starlog issue descriptions, click on "Starlog Internet Archive Project" in the keywords below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent home.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Starlog Project: Starlog #101, December 1985: Ewoks and Harlan Ellison -- Eeyikes!

So make it three-for-three: Of all of the controversies that have raged in Starlog's pages over the past decade, three of them involved a certain meek writer named Harlan Ellison. First, he got into a spat (a relatively silly one, admittedly) with Star Wars star Mark Hamill. Then he wrote one of the all-time great movie reviews in Starlog #33, in which he dissected Star Trek – The Motion Picture and set off a vociferous response from readers and industry professionals alike. Now, he is back with an interview in which he bites the hand that, um, interviews him.

Starlog #101
76 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $2.95

Ewoks. Why did it have to be Ewoks? The teddy bears take center stage on the cover this issue. Maybe Ellison's right.

The rundown: In his From the Bridge column, Kerry O'Quinn breaks the news that David Gerrold's column in Starlog is ending; letters in the Communications section include praise for Sting, reactions to Return to Oz and Back to the Future, comments on the Starlog Festival in Los Angeles, and more; poof! there's no more Log Entries, the short-news section that has appeared in Starlog since the very first issue, and it is replaced by Medialog, which this issue includes Patrick Daniel O'Neill with an update on Doctor Who, Eddie Berganza on the Hugo Award winners, Kerry O'Quinn on Star Trek IV, and more.

Julius Fabrini interviews actor and author George Takei; David Gerrold ends his long-running column with "Hail and Farewell"; Bertrand Borie and Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier interview Sting about his work in The Bride and Dune; Fan Network includes a photo report on the premiere of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, and queries from readers (including, "I love Godzilla and want to know more. When is the new movie due?"); Will Murray profiles Fred Ward (Remo: The First Adventure); Adam Pirani interviews Ewok portrayer Warwick Davis; Marc Weinberg profiles Misfits of Science actor Kevin Peter Hall; Lee Goldberg completes his two-part interview with writer Harlan Ellison ("My role in life is to be a burr under the saddle"); Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier explore The Jetsons; John Adcox interviews author Lloyd Alexander; Brian Lowry profiles screenwriter Hal Barwood (Warning Sign); Adam Pirani visits the set of Irwin Allen's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland; Jean Airey and Laurie Haldeman provide a one-page chat with Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner; Will Murray reports on Doc Savage's return to radio; Edward Gross interviews actor Roddy McDowall (Fright Night, Planet of the Apes); the Videolog column covers the Video Visions Space Archives, and more; Chris Henderson's Booklog column reviews a number of new books; the Future Life pages include David Hutchison on an Imax astronauts film, Max Shannon on biochips, Scott Zachek on Cassini's mission to Saturn, and David Hutchison on a NASA phone service that lets you listen in on space shuttle mission talk; Adam Pirani interviews Legend director Ridley Scott; David Caruba profiles actor Patrick Macnee about A View to a Kill and Avengers; and David McDonnell's Liner Notes column recounts a pretty bad day, which included the Starlog editor reading Harlan Ellison's critical comments about Starlog.
"I have known [publisher] Kerry O'Quinn for years and I wrote for Future Life, so I will give you a very candid answer. I am always suspicious of whores. Starlog, Fantastic Films, almost all the magazines with the exception of Cinefantastique are flacks for the industry. They live off the free hand-outs and they can't really say bad things. How honest can a magazine like that be? ... I respect some of the things that Kerry tries to do. I respect some of the writers. The magazine does what the magazine does. I don't revile it and I don't usually publicly put it down."
–Harlan Ellison, writer, interviewed by Lee Goldberg: "Harlan Ellison: 'Call Me a Science-Fiction Writers – I'll Tear out your Liver!"
To view previous Starlog issue descriptions, click on "Starlog Internet Archive Project" in the keywords below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent home.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Pause to Reflect on the First 100 Issues of Starlog

After chronicling every issue of Starlog magazine's first 100 issues, I wanted to pause to reflect on this thing I call The Starlog Project (which can be found here and here). 
As a result of this effort, I've heard from many people about their memories of the magazine, questions about an article, or just a pat on the back. Barely a day goes by that I don't hear from a former Starlog writer, editor, or reader. I'm grateful for that. 

I started the Starlot Project after I noticed how much feedback I continue to get from an earlier, similar compendium I had done of Starlog's short-lived sister magazine, Future Life, a science/science-fiction hybrid published from 1978 through 1981. There, too, I hear from former writers, Disney employees looking for more information about a series of articles, college students researching a topic covered in the magazine, and just plain old fans and readers.

So I decided to embark on a version of it featuring Starlog, the long-lived (but recently deceased) science-fiction media magazine, and I began it earlier this year. (In a nice kind of payback, The Starlog Project inspired me to go back and update and expand the Future Life compendium, and I'm about two-thirds of the way through with that revamp.)

Frankly, I reached Starlog issue #100 far faster than I expected. My assumption going into this was that I would write up a few issues a week, but that I'd also go through dry spells where I was just sick of the magazine and wouldn't write anything for a month. Instead, I've probably averaged about an issue a day. I might yet have dry spells during my coverage of the remaining 274 issues, but I've learned a few things along the way that have kept up my interest and enthusiasm.

First, the magazine meant and still means a lot to people. Especially back in the late 1970s and the 1980s, when there were fewer genre films and television programs being produced, and before the internet transformed magazines from timely news organs into feature article organs (not a bad change, actually, though many magazines still fail to notice the shift), Starlog was it for the interested SF fan. I don't mean that it was the only source, but I do think that it was the best, and certainly the most successful. It was likely the place that most SF fans first learned about Harlan Ellison, The Brother from Another Planet, the King Kong remake, Ayn Rand, Boris Vallejo, the implications of Back to the Future, and much more.

Second, we readers were spoiled. From following what former Starlog company employees have posted elsewhere, it seems pretty clear that the company was arguably a creative hotspot but inarguably a home to very poorly paid staffers. So the regular turnover of all but a few editors and art staff is not a surprise. But their time in the Starlog trenches is still appreciated by us, the spoiled many.

Third, each "era" of the magazine is different and has something new to interest me. Whether it's the fun of watching the magazine's first year of frantically trying to keep up with its own breakneck pace of growth, or it's the second and third years' maturity in design and coverage, or the adaptations to rising inflation in the next year, or the dearth of new big films to cover in another year, or the addition of new staff or the return to growth or the many controversies that broke out or ... it's always something.

I've noted in this project that I'm a professional magazine (and internet) editor, and I don't note that as a way of trying to give my words more weight. I doubt anyone's impressed. But I do let people know that because it affects how I view Starlog; it means I'm not only looking back at it as an SF follower, but also as someone who's interested in why and how the company so successfully exploited its market, made mistakes, survived when so many competitors died unmourned deaths, and retains so much affection and interest today. Certainly my interest in Future Life and Starlog is affected by my hopes of creating a new magazine at some point that can serve the need those magazines did – though I think I'll pay my staff better than did Norman Jacobs and Kerry O'Quinn. (Each generation does learn something from the previous generation!)

There. That's more than enough words spent on this reflection. I'll get started on the second 100 issues in a day or so. But now you know a bit more about why I'm doing this. Enjoy.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Senate Passes Finance Regulation Bill

I know you don't come to this blog to get political news, so feel free to ignore this if you're not interested in the global economy. But I think the Senate did a very exciting thing today by passing sweeping financial regulation legislation. It still has to be reconciled with a House version of the bill, but in a few weeks, we could be having significant adult supervision once again of our financial transactions.

On this blog, I have occasionally dipped my toes into such areas, and I've been contemplating whether the world was waiting with baited breath for my comments on the European efforts to re-regulate financial instruments. (In brief: I think Germany has the right idea, though I'm not sure why they did the shock announcement on a ban on "naked short selling" -- which might sound weird, but when you hear the full explanation of what it is, you realize it's even weirder and you can't figure out why the hell it's legal in most places.)

So, I was taken aback this evening when I checked the news online and there was a big report about the Senate bill passage. I didn't know they would do it so quickly. But I'm very happy they did.

I'm no socialist. I'm certainly not anti-business. I have spent most of my professional life as a journalist covering commercial real estate finance markets, so I knew all about credit default swaps before you ever learned that they had caused your retirement savings to dwindle to nothing. But my view of successful market capitalism is much like German Chancellor Angela Merkel's and her finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble's: The best option we have for making people's lives better, but it needs to be run transparently and orderly.

The Dow Jones has dropped hundreds of points the past couple days in response to the German actions (and, supposedly, if you read the financial press, because the markets are worried about "Greek contagion," but the same financial press a couple months ago was saying that the markets had already priced in the possibility of a Greek default on its debts, so who the heck is running the markets? Thirteen-year-old girls?). I wonder what they'll do tomorrow, Friday, in response to the U.S. Senate's actions. Granted, they have a better chance of buying off U.S. legislators than they do German Bundestag members. But they've got to understand that the foundation that's being laid is not anti-business, and once they understand the rules, they'll be better off -- as will be their customers.

Congratulations, Senators.

Star Gobbles up a Planet, Hubble Finds

Star Devouring a Planet
If you think you're having a bad day, it's nothing like the bad 10 million years this orbiting guy's having.

I'll let NASA explain: "This is an artist's concept of the exoplanet WASP-12b. The planet is only 2 million miles from its sunlike parent star — a fraction of Earth's distance from the Sun. Gravitational tidal forces from the star stretch the planet into an egg shape. The planet is so hot that it has puffed up to the point where its outer atmosphere spills onto the star. An accretion bridge streams toward the star and material is smeared into a swirling disk. The planet may be completely devoured by the star in 10 million years. The planet is too far away for the Hubble Space Telescope to photograph, but this interpretation is based in part on analysis of Hubble spectroscopic and photometric data."

In related news, KFC has announced plans to begin serving exoplanets to its customers on earth.

Image credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI); science credit: NASA, ESA, and C. Haswell (The Open University, UK).

The Starlog Project: Starlog #100, November 1985: The Importance of Being 100

Just think of all of the science-fiction media magazines that never published 100 issues: Fantastic Films (didn't even get halfway there), Questar, SF Movieland, Star Blasters, Science Fiction Illustrated, Sci Fi TV, Sci Fi Teen, The Monster Times, and more. How many can you name? The point is that it's difficult to keep a magazine afloat for a decade or more, so Starlog's 100th issue was quite an achievement.

Three big players in genre entertainment bought ads in this issue congratulating the magazine for its milestone issue: Lucasfilm, Warner Bros., and Amblin Entertainment.

Why am I listing all these things? Because this is a biggie list issue. The theme is "The 100 Most Important People in Science Fiction," who are featured in short writeups in a loooong article that sprawls throughout much of the issue. I won't reprint the list of names here, because, well, I'm too lazy. But suffice to say it includes many of the people you would expect to be on such a list of genre notables (Isaac Asimov, Frank Frazetta, Harlan Ellison, George Lucas, etc.), as well as some less well-known choices that might have surprised some readers (Olaf Stapledon, A. Merritt). This list would continue in the magazine's 200th and 300th issues, so pretty much anyone you though should have been on this 100 list gets onto the list sooner or later. I think my cat is number 293.

Starlog #100
100 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $3.95

In Starlog spinoff news, the sixth edition of The Best of Starlog is out, including new and previously published articles.

But back to issue #100. This special 100-page magazine includes extra color pages, as well as interviews with some of the biggest names in the field. And as much as it is a celebration, the magazine does not shy away from controversy, especially with publisher Kerry O'Quinn's interview with Gene Roddenberry, which includes quite a bit of religious criticism. They do something else that's not controversial but is rather cool: The issue includes separate short articles by each of McDonnell's predecessors as editor, David Houston (who gives some interesting background on the magazine's early years) and Howard Zimmerman.

The rundown: For the first time ever, co-publisher Norman Jacobs pens an editorial. The From the Bridge column is broken into two parts, with O'Quinn writing part and then Jacobs writing part. Jacobs tells us what most of us suspected; he's the business person running the Starlog empire (somebody's got to negotiate with printers and distributors). Meanwhile, O'Quinn talks about the magazine's growth and shares a barrage of quotes from readers (including one that, I think, was mine: "If there is any magazine on the market that constantly offers inspiration and positive values, it is Starlog" -- which is attributed to "John" in "Wisconsin," both of which I was, and it sounds very much like something I'd have written back then; I know, I know – that, and a dollar, will get me a cup of coffee). There is no letters page this issue, and Future Life, Fan Network, and Videolog also take the month off. But Log Entries is here! So short news items include Chris Henderson on a number of new genre books from Charles Shffield, Richard A. Lupoff, and others, and David McDonnell's roundup of news bits includes word on a Heavy Metal movie sequel (to be called -- but never made -- Heavy Metal's Burning Chrome), a sequel to The Ewok Adventure, and much more.

In the Other Voices guest column, Starlog's founding editor, David Houston, relates the tale of Starlog's inspiration and creation (including this insight, from an explanation of when Houston joined the company: "Kerry and Norman ... enjoy, and succeed at, the process of publishing: define a market, discover how to answer a need, locate effective suppliers, find and hire the right personnel, keep costs low, give it a best effort; and it doesn't make much difference what the subject matter might be. Evidently. They've come out with everything from astrology to wrestling."); "The 100 Most Important People in Science Fiction/Fantasy" kicks off with John W. Campbell Jr., and ends many, many pages later with Willis H. O'Brien; Kerry O'Quinn interviews Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry about life, the universe, and everything -- but mostly about religion; Mike Clark interviews Lost in Space creator Irwin Allen; Steve Swires interviews stop-motion effects magician Ray Harryhausen; Lee Goldberg interviews George Lucas; it's time-travel time: back in issue #92, Steve Swires interviewed John Carpenter in the first part of a two-part profile, and this issue -- eight months later -- part two of that interview is published; Swires also interviews Leonard Nimoy about Star Trek IV; Lee Goldberg interviews writer Harlan Ellison (who gets even more biting in part two of this interview, published next issue); Robert Greenberger interviews actress Nichelle Nichols; Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier profile writer Richard Matheson; Steve Swires finishes his two-part interview with Peter Cushing (the first part ran in #96); Howard Zimmerman writes a guest Lastword column, in which he looks at the ways science fiction media have evolved in the past decade; and David McDonnell's Liner Notes column gives some background on this anniversary issue.
"I always liked the bizarre. I suppose that was part of my Germanic background. Fantasy films always attracted me. I can remember my parents taking me to see The Lost World and Metropolis when I was very young. My love for science fiction and fantasy led me to join the Science Fiction League in Los Angeles, where I first met Ray Bradbury and Forrest J. Ackerman. We all had similar interests. We dreamt about space platforms, and going to the Moon and Mars. That was in the 1930s, so most 'normal' people thought we were off our rockers."
–Ray Harryhausen, filmmaker, interviewed by Steve Swires: "Ray Harryhausen: The Man Who Can Work Miracles"
To view previous Starlog issue descriptions, click on "Starlog Internet Archive Project" in the keywords below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent home.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Chris Alexander Era at Fangoria

The editor is gone, long live the editor.

It's not got quite the ring of the king's death, but you get the point. When an editor leaves a publication, especially if that editor has been there a long time, it's a momentous event. It can be an exciting time for readers, as they wonder what will change. Will their favorite parts of the publication be ruined? Will their most disliked parts of the magazine be remedied? Will the changes be refreshing?

Some magazines barely change when there's an editor. For you old-timers, do you really remember a change in Omni or Future Life when their editors switched? Of course not. And until recently, Playboy's editors (called editorial directors, because Hugh Hefner really calls the editorial shots) were somewhat commoditized. But for many periodicals, a new editor is an opportunity to take a fresh look at things. Sometimes that means things that were hallowed for good reasons are given short shrift; other times things that were ignored or given short shrift finally get their due. That's just life.

Earlier this winter, Tony Timpone gave up the reigns of Fangoria magazine, the horror film bible. Timpone joined the Starlog Group (then known as O'Quinn Studios) family as a contributor, first as a freelancer, then as a junior staffer. When first Bob Martin and then David Everitt left their Fangorian editor's desks in the mid-1980s, Starlog editor David McDonnell temporarily took over editing Fangoria while a young Timpone was brought up to speed. (Or so goes the lore.) Timpone then assumed command, after a bit more than a year of McDonnell's leadership, and remained there for about a quarter century.

In this past decade, Fangoria ran into a rough patch, not unlike that faced by many periodicals publishers. At its height, Starlog Group published dozens of magazines a year. As of 2000, it was publishing about a dozen (let's see if I can remember them all: Starlog, Fangoria, Comics Scene 2000, Teen Girl Power, Black Elegance, Belle, Wrestling All-Stars, TV Wrestlers, Wrestling Scene, Fight Game, Sci-Fi Teen, Sci-Fi TV, and probably some more (there were a number of wrestling titles I don't remember nor do I care to). Then the financial rug was pulled out from under the company, and it was sold to Creative Group, with only Starlog and Fangoria ultimately surviving. A few years later, Creative Group itself went belly-up, and the two magazines were bought by former Creative Group executive Tom DeFeo. And there you are, up to the present.

I started this blog post by noting that sometimes a change of editors doesn't make much difference, but that does not seem to be the case here. Alexander has been putting his stamp on the publication, and he promises to keep changing as he goes. His initial moves appear to be focused on moving away from a frantic coverage of every possible major film of the day (though Fango still covers them), and more toward a wide-ranging coverage of the horror – for lack of a better word – lifestyle. Music. Classics. Monsters. Exploitation films. Games. We can probably expect that mix to change over time, as Alexander gets his editor's feet underneath him and as the horror film and TV worlds evolve. But for now, it's a nice change, especially if it results in one less article about some tortured-teens movie.

Like most readers, I like some and don't like some of what he's doing. (I would, for example, dearly love to see the magazine redesigned; it's about 15 years behind schedule for a visual revamp.) But I am pleased to see he's confident enough to make changes, so that makes me, as a reader, confident enough to sit back and see what he continues to do with his new baby.

We're also seeing a lot of Alexander in the current issue (number 294); his byline (solely or shared) is on about seven feature articles (depending on how you define some of the articles), not counting departments. That's a lot of Alexander in one magazine, but it's not unprecedented. As former editor Robert "Uncle Bob" Martin has written elsewhere, he and his co-editor David Everitt were writing practically the entire magazine back in the early 1980s. Sooner or later, Alexander might crack, and police will find him on the top of a high-rise with a dangerous weapon. But for now, this über-hands-on approach will also help him really establish his mark on the magazine.

Fango itself will continue to change, of course. Fangoria #294 is the first one I can think of that includes an ad (a one-third pager) for adult videos; even Playboy doesn't advertise X-rated products, so Fangoria's powers that be have obviously chosen to go in a direction never before visited by this magazine, as far as I know. But when times are tough, as they are in almost every business these days, it's hard to say no to almost any ad.

I'm sure some readers, who grew up with Timpone's Fangoria, will be sad to see him go. Others are probably eager for a change. I have no horse in this race. I only tangentially met Timpone; I was being given a tour of the Starlog Group offices in 1999 by a former publisher, when he engaged Timpone in an animated discussion about David Cronenberg's latest film. (Always being more a Starlogger than a Fangorian, I was more excited about seeing all the cool space art paintings on the wall and seeing Starlog editor David McDonnell's office. Sorry, Fango Faithful.) And I have never met Chris Alexander. (I mean, we're best buds on Facebook, but by that measure, I'm pals with Barack Obama, too. Me and 8 million other people.)

However, I am currently a magazine editor and have served in various editorial positions at publications for more than two decades. So I kind of instinctively sympathize with -- and envy -- anyone who gets the chance to sit in the editor's chair of a publication. Especially if that publication focuses on horror, fantasy, or science fiction. How much more fun can life be? My web site sports the following quote from German politician (and future post-war chancellor) Konrad Adenauer in 1917: "There is nothing better that life can offer than to allow a person to expend himself fully with all the strength of his mind and soul and to devote his entire being to creative activity."

If you love and enjoy genre entertainment, what better thing in life is there than editing a leading magazine that covers these topics?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Starlog Project: Starlog #99, October 1985: Party Like It's #99

Star Wars is back on the cover of Starlog this issue, for about the 98th time out of 99 issues. Okay, that's an exaggeration, obviously; I'm sure Star Trek was on the cover 104 times out of the first 99 issues. So there must be some parallel universe double-counting going on. (About that latter franchise: Just wait a couple years until Next Generation starts, and we'll see Trek-galore  – did I just coin a phrase? trakalore? trekglore?) This time, the occasion is a new interview with Anthony Daniels, the ever-present C-3PO from all six Wars films.

Starlog #99
76 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $2.95

The big news is not that big this issue. It's that this is the last double-digit magazine in the Starlog series. Yep, with next issue, the mag hits ol' number 100. And they've started celebrating early, plugging that special issue with two small ads within #99, in addition to the next-month box on the last page. "Watch for the Solid Gold cover!" we're told in the ads. Okay, we will. Oh, and by the way, the subscription ad informs us that sister magazine Fangoria is now published nine times annually, up from eight.

The rundown: Kerry O'Quinn's From the Bridge column recounts what he learned from his vacation in the U.K. and France; Communications letters include feedback on A View to a Kill and Lifeforce, praise for recent interviewees Peter Cushing, James Doohan, Rutger Hauer, and Jonathan Harris, and more; Log Entries short news items include Chris Henderson's brief chat with writer Damon Knight, David McDonnell's Medialog roundup, Henderson's Booklog roundup, and more.

Adam Pirani profiles actor Ian Holm about Brazil and Alien; Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier interview Terry Hayes, Mad Max writer and producer; the Fan Network pages include fan club and convention listings, Daniel Dickholtz (his first appearance in Starlog, I believe) on a New York convention appearance by Leonard Nimoy, and a "Fan Notebook" of short bits; Brian Lowry interviews actor Anthony Daniels; David Hutchison's Videolog column debuts with a look at efforts to restore classics, such as Metropolis, and there's a sidebar by Lee Goldberg noting some science-fiction TV series that did not sell (such as Generation: "The father is an inventor, his brother is a 'sports gladiator,' his wife is the host of a futuristic TV talkshow, his parents are worried about the continuation of human values and his kids are attractive."); William Rabkin profiles Amazing Stories' Mick Garris (who once was a contributing writer to Starlog, among other publications); Lee Goldberg previews the revival of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV series; Edward Gross interviews Don Jakoby, writer of Lifeforce and Blue Thunder (about which he explains his dissatisfaction); Goldberg (again) previews The Twilight Zone TV revival; Brian Lowry interviews screenwriter Eric Luke (Explorers); Goldberg was a very busy man this month – he also profiles director Bob Zemeckis about Back to the Future; Bruce Gordon and David Mumford continue their look at Disney's Tomorrowland, in the Future Life section; Adam Pirani interviews Bond impressario Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli; Will Murray visits the set of Remo: The First Adventure; David Gerrold's column asks "Is There a Household Robot in Your Future?"; and editor David McDonnell uses his Liner Notes page to share some nice thoughts about various folks, including a touching note about Albert Broccoli.
"Someone at NBC thought it would be dynamite to revive the series [Alfred Hitchcock Presents], considering the renewed interest in Hitch as a filmmaker. I was extremely nervous about remaking the work of a man now dead."
–Christopher Crowe, producer, interviewed by Lee Goldberg: "Alfred Hitchcock Presents"
To view previous Starlog issue descriptions, click on "Starlog Internet Archive Project" in the keywords below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent home.

The Starlog Project: Starlog #98, September 1985: The Perils of Science at Home

In 1985, there were a lot of genre films somewhat related to a theme: My Science Project, Weird Science, Explorers, and Real Genius. Young people get caught up with science gone awry, things blow up, things (more or less) end happily. What was it about the mid-80s that made this a theme, instead of space opera or adventure?

Starlog #98
76 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $2.95

In the minor-design-items-of-note this issue: The contents page has featured multiple photos for a couple years, but none of the photos were full-color. (They tended to be tinted different colors; a cost-saving measure, I assume.) This issue, the contents page pictures are all in full color. In Starlog staffing news, Eddie Berganza, who had been an editorial assistant, is now listed in the staffbox as the assistant editor of the magazine. Oh, and the fourth edition of the Starlog Poster Magazine is out, so clear some wall space in your room.

The rundown: In his From the Bridge column, publisher Kerry O'Quinn comments on an SF fan with physical ailments who withdrew from the world; Communications letters include a reader accusing Starlog of not helping women and minorities in the genre (the editors' response is even longer than the reader's letter), multiple comments on the film Ladyhawke, praise for Kim Howard Johnson's Monty Python articles, appreciation for the new Future Life section, and more; Log Entries this issue is a mere two and one-thirds pages, but it still includes a big Medialog report by David McDonnell with updates on all kinds of genre media, Bob Schreiber on new Mars Attacks trading cards, and David Hutchison with a roundup of video news (including the promise that next issue Videolog would spin off into its own column).

Robert Greenberger interviews actress Jennifer Beals, but not about being a "flashdancing maniac," rather for co-starring with Sting in The Bride; writer Norman Spinrad explores "Jack Barron vs. The Black Tower" (about plans to adapt his Bug Jack Baron for the screen) in the Other Voices guest column; Brian Lowry visits the set of My Science Project; the Fan Network pages include info on an animation gathering, an announcement of the new edition of the Fandom Directory, and Eddie Berganza on Harrison Ford's performance at Cannes; Lee Goldberg profiles Mr. Teen Wolf/Marty McFly himself, Michael J. Fox; Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier interview Starlog favorite Joe Dante, director of Explorers and Gremlins; Patrick Daniel O'Neill talks with director Martha Coolidge of Real Genius; Anthony Timpone provides a brief interview with Anthony Michael Hall of Weird Science; Dennis Fischer profiles actor Ernie Hudson about Ghostbusters and Spacehunter; Adam Pirani interviews actress Tanya Roberts (Sheena, A View to a Kill); Ian Spelling interviews Cocoon star Tahnee Welch (this is the first article by Spelling, who would become one of the magazine's most prolific contributors over the next couple decades); Kim Howard Johnson interviews Welch's costar Steve Guttenberg; Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier interview two of the young stars of The Goonies, Jeff. B. Cohen and Corey Feldman; the Lofficiers also interview Australian director George Miller, he of Mad Max fame; Brian Lowry visits the set of Warning Sign; in the Future Life section, Bruce Gordon and David Mumford explore Disneyland's Tomorrowland; and David McDonnell wraps it up in his Liner Notes, in which he echoes my comments about the interesting number of teens-in-Sf/fantasy storylines at this time (honest, I didn't peek at his editorial before I started writing this thing).
"I want to be a comedian/actor all my life. But, I know it's not a real stable business. One day, you're hot, one day, you're not. So, I think what I would do is go to college and get a degree in brain surgery, because I have really good manual dexterity. No, no, I was thinking of being something like a brain surgeon, but that's too gross for me, so I'll probably be a dentist instead. But I do have really good manual dexterity."
–Jeff B. Cohen, actor, interviewed by Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier: "Gooning Around with Jeff. B. Cohen and Corey Feldman"
To view previous Starlog issue descriptions, click on "Starlog Internet Archive Project" in the keywords below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent home.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Put Carol Burnett on SNL

Yes, a campaign worth supporting. I've signed up for the Facebook page supporting her. For those of you who didn't grow up watching The Carol Burnett Show every Saturday night, first of all, poor you. But second, here's a taste of what you missed:

The Starlog Project: Starlog #97, August 1985: The New Regime

The David McDonnell Era begins at Starlog, as he takes the captain's chair following the departure of long-time editor Howard Zimmerman. Carr D'Angelo assumes McDonnell's old post as managing editor. The magazine hires a new senior staffer, too: Robert M. Sacks is the new production director.

Starlog also releases its newest special publication: Science Fiction Trivia, a digest-sized one-shot magazine stuffed with more than 1,300 questions from the magazine's staff. In the not-too-distant future, Starlog would team up with a book publisher to release an expanded edition of the trivia book in paperback format.

Starlog #97
76 pages (including covers)
Cover price: #2.95

A little design note: The Starlog logo on the cover is given a 3-D look, which it would largely retain in one form or another for the rest of its life. Also, the Next Month box no longer takes up half of the final page; it is now reduced to a small box on the bottom of that page, which now features an expanded editor's column.

The rundown: In his From the Bridge column, publisher Kerry O'Quinn writes a belated farewell note to Howard Zimmerman; Communications letters include lots of 2010 feedback, fanciful ideas of the next Star Trek film, and more; short news items in Log Entries include David McDonnell on upcoming science-fiction television shows, Carr D'Angelo on a Star Trek comic book written by Walter Koenig, McDonnell with a roundup of genre news, and more.

Adam Pirani interviews Christopher Walker, who discusses his roles in The Dead Zone, Brainstorm, and A View to a Kill; Kim Howard Johnson interviews Ron Howard, director of Splash and Cocoon; the Fan Network section includes a Ghostbusters fan club, a contest to win a canister of The Stuff from the movie The Stuff, reader queries (such as "I ... would like to know what a person has to do to become an animator with Don Bluth Studios"), and more; Brian Lowry interviews actor Paul Smith, who discusses his roles in Dune and Red Sonja; Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier interview Mad Max himself, Mel Gibson; the Lofficiers also profile young actor Barret Oliver (The Neverending Story, D.A.R.Y.L., Cocoon); Disney historian David R. Smith celebrates the 30th anniversary of Disneyland (this is the article to get if you want to see a photo of Ronald Reagan co-hosting the live broadcast of the opening day ceremonies); there's a two-page photo preview of Fright Night; Lee Goldberg continues his interview with Goonies director Richard Donner; Goldberg also previews the new Robert Zemeckis film Back to the Future and discusses all of the changes in the story and casting from the initial plans; Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficer interview the young stars of Explorers: Ethan Hawke, River Phoenix, Jason Presson, and Amanda Peterson; Marc Weinberg talks with Steve Railsback, who plays a vampire killer in Lifeforce; in the Future Life section, Scott Zachek interviews America's first female astronaut, Sally Ride, and Mark Shannon contributes a short item on the X-29 super-jet; Brian Lowry explores the animation in Disney's The Black Cauldron; Patrick Daniel O'Neill interviews actor Scott Glenn (The Right Stuff, Silverado); David Gerrold says goodbye to his friend, the late legend Ted Sturgeon; and David McDonnell wraps it all up in his first Liner Notes column, in which he introduces himself and gives background on some of the interviews in this issue.
"I really wanted to be a rock star because I play guitar and I sing with my sister. But, as it went along, I started getting into commercials and acting. I got a part in Seven Brides just by auditioning and I liked it a lot. I really like acting because you can create a character. You can make someone who has never existed before. That's neat."
–River Phoenix, actor, interviewed by Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier: "Joe Dante's Explorers"
To view previous Starlog issue descriptions, click on "Starlog Internet Archive Project" in the keywords below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent home.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Final Flight of the Space Shuttle Atlantis

Photo above courtesy NASA/Kenny Allen. Photo below: NASA.

I was only in my early teens when the space shuttles first began to fly in 1980, but I remember that it was a matter of considerable accomplishment. NASA had lost some vigor and popularity in the lean years following the abandonment of our moon program. But the shuttle was an indication that the United States (and mankind) still had the appetite for space adventure, and it was also a step ahead: It was the first reusable spaceship.

The shuttle fleet never lived up to its early promise, alas. We never approached the number of flights each year that were bandied about. Critics have complained that there was a leaner and lighter approach that should have been used to take people into space. And I don't recall vacationing on the moon, do you? Also, of course, there's no real space station on the other end.

Oh, there's a space station, all right. And in its final voyage this week, the shuttle Atlantis docked at the International Space Station. But it's not a space station that any of us who have been hoping for space settlement for decades would admit to. We're not there, and the thing's only inhabited whenever a country has the bucks to spare to shoot some astronauts (or cosmonauts) at the orbiting tin can.

This week we're seeing the final flight of the Atlantis. (Geeky moment aside: Today I listened to the audiobook recording of the SyFy-era Battlestar Galactica, which begins with the old Galactica battlestar about to be decommissioned -- which was delayed by a little thing like the destruction of the colonies. You do not know me at all if you don't think I'm at least entertaining the idea in the back of my head of being forced to live in an about-to-be-decommissioned space shuttle after Earth is destroyed by Cylons.) (Yes, I know that doesn't make this blog post any more respectable, but what can you do?)

This is the final flight of the Atlantis, and the other two shuttles have their final flights coming up. This is an end of an era. Private enterprise can, and should, take over, no doubt. But it is worth noting that the American government won't be in the lead.

The future in space looks increasingly like it'll be written in Chinese. Nothing against the Chinese (well, except for their awful authoritarian government), but I'd rather fly on Virgin Galactic. At least I know it'll be ready and working when the Cylons attack.