Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Starlog Project: Starlog #24, July 1979: Third Anniversary Celebration

The magazine publishes its first 100-page issue, celebrating its three-year growth into a behemoth in the niche that is the science fiction magazine publishing world. It includes a rare two-page table of contents, a buxom (I'm running out of adjectives) two-page publisher's column, a bunch of extra color pages, and a look back at the previous year in science fiction. In short, it's a muscle-flexing issue that tells the SF world that Starlog's the new measure of success and quality. Of note: For the first time, we see that sister magazine Fantastica has been renamed Fangoria.

Starlog #24
100 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $2.95

The double-sized contents page includes a collage of science-fiction images, created by editor Howard Zimmerman (something he would continue for the next couple anniversary issues). The cover is also the blocked-photo design the magazine's annual birthday parties would retain for nearly a decade.

Kerry O'Quinn jump-starts the party by retelling "The Roots of Starlog," how it was born in a manger... wait, that's not it. Actually, two art directors start their own business, and after a number of publications, attempt to put out for another publisher a one-shot magazine devoted to Star Trek. That publisher was unable to get his distributor to agree to a Trek-themed magazine, so Norman Jacobs and O'Quinn rethought the entire concept, making it an ongoing science fiction magazine that would cover many topics. "We decided that what was needed was a beautiful magazine (to help pull SF out of the pulp ghetto) with full-color art and photos -- an authoritative magazine featuring expert columnists, writers, and researchers -- an informative magazine including speedy news and behind-the-scenes interviews and articles," O'Quinn remembers. They eventually convince their distributor to carry the magazine, which quickly became a collectors item. O'Quinn, of course, doesn't neglect the proliferation within the Starlog family: trade paperbacks, records, Future/Future Life, SF Color Poster Books, Cinemagic, and Fangoria. Unmentioned in this column are the other titles produced by their company, such as Daily TV Serials (a soap-opera publication that lasted quite a few years in the 1970s and was briefly revived in the mid-1980s) and specials such as Hollywood Musclemen, The Fab 50s, and licensed movie magazines and posterbooks (there's an ad on page 71 of this issue advertising "official movie posterbooks" for Moonraker and Rocky II. Licensed movie magazines would become a very lucrative business for the company in the 1980s, when the company would reign as the number-one publisher of licensed movie publications in the country.

Now, on with the issue! The letters in Communications range from arguments over socialism and capitalism to news about model kits to a follow-up for the "Statues of the Gods" spoof article, and more; short news in Log Entries includes an SF and fantasy art gallery in Los Angeles, an update on Superman II, SF-themed pinball games, David Gerrold wins the Skylark award, and more. David Gerrold's State of the Art column features a grab-bag of news and notes, including a literal note that George Lucas passed along explaining his use of "parsec" as a time measurement instead of a distance in Star Wars, and the column ends with Gerrold's announcement that this is "the last State of the Art column that I would write." William G. Fowler compiles a seven-page index to Starlog's first 22 issues; a one-page "Space-Age Spaceware" looks at SF toys and games; Susan Sackett's Star Trek Report presents a roundup of news, including the item that "Bill Shatner is also active on our softball team." Speak of the devil! Barbara Lewis interviews Shatner (his third talk with the magazine in its short life so far, by my count).

A 32-page color anniversary section is fronted by a reprint of the Star Trek art from the cover of Starlog #1. Included inside is a photo-heavy recap of recent big SF events: Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Buck Rogers, Starcrash, a roundup of other films, some classic films, a "Best of SFX" section, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Space: 1999, a roundup of other TV programs, three pages of space art, and Jonathan Eberhart on the photographic results of Jupiter probes.

Barbara Lewis also brings back Leonard Nimoy for another Starlog interview ("He Is Spock"); Allan Hendry gives advice for making photographs of things you think are UFOs; David Houston describes an SF-themed radio program called Hour 25; a four-page "Anniversary Salute to Starlog" prints birthday congratulations from the SF famous (such as this from Arthur C. Clarke: "I'm still in a daze this morning having just spent two hours on the phone with Carl Sagan, Ray Bradbury and the Voyager team, as the closeups of Jupiter arrive at J.P.L. in Pasadena. Now there's some spectacular artwork for you to publish and, I suspect, where the action is in the centuries to come. Best wishes to Starlog." Or this from Harlan Ellison: "Starlog deserves to flourish. ... You deserve praise and support because you fight the good fight, trapped between your own lofty ethics and your need to purvey cheap thrills to get [readers'] attention. It cannot be an easy task ... and I applaud you."). Bob Martin explains the Moonraker story; Fredrick King previews The Cry of Cthulhu; David Hutchison goes behind the scenes of the Major Mars film, which was to be part of the Intergalactic Picture Show, Starlog's never-realized feature film that was supposed to come out in the autumn of 1979; Bob Martin returns with an interview of Alien producer Walter Hill; David Houtson's Visions continues his look at Charles Darwin's influence on science fiction; and Howard Zimmerman's Lastword urges readers to be discerning in their appreciation of film and TV during this boom period in the genre.
"Starlog, with three years behind it, is a lusty young giant, symbolic of the new stature of science fiction in the visual media. May you and SF continue to grow and may humanity enter a good science-fictional world of space exploration for a growing and united world."
--Isaac Asimov, author, "An Anniversary Salute to Starlog"
To view previous Starlog Archive issues, click on "Starlog Internet Archive Project" in the keywords below.
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