Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Starlog Project: Starlog #34, May 1980: My First Starlog

Okay, here it gets a bit personal. It goes back to Stangel's Super Valu grocery store in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. I, a 12-year-old science fiction fan, had been eyeing and paging through the Starlogs and Fantastic Films and Future Lifes at the magazine rack for months, but only now ("now" being April 1980) did I save up enough of my weekly allowance to purchase a copy of Starlog. I was hooked instantly, and I was a constant reader for three decades until the magazine closed in 2009. I absolutely absorbed Starlog #34, and decades later I could still recount many of the articles even without picking up the issue. The reason wasn't quite as pathetic as it sounds; I did have a life, but in Starlog I found two things: a magazine devoted to something I was beginning to get into big-time (i.e., science fiction), and a publication that wasn't afraid to challenge me and take me outside of my comfort zone. The only downside of this is that this issue was devoted to Galactica 1980, and I'd love to say that I was so precocious as a 12-year-old that I knew that the original Galactica (not to mention the 1980 rebirth) was silliness; but the truth is that even with a dozen years under my belt, I was totally swept away with the saga and the mythos of Battlestar Galactica. I did understand that Galactica 1980 was a low-budget and poorly constructed retread of the show, so give me that. But still, that color shot on the cover of the Galactica being attacked by a Cylon fighter -- well, I just had to have that magazine.

Starlog #34
68 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $2.25

Starlog #34 includes a neat free insert: a Star Wars cast photo, and -- on the other side of the binding -- a Fangoria Count Fangor bookmark. Otherwise, it's a Galactica- and Empire-heavy issue. Perfect food for a 12-year-old science-fiction fan in 1980. Also, an armload of new Starlog photo guidebooks are advertised: Spaceships (the expanded edition), Science Fiction Heroes, Special Effects Volume II, and Science Fiction Villains.

If you like Cylon raider photos, such as the one on the cover, you'll geek out over the contents page photo of raiders among the clouds; Kerry O'Quinn's From the Bridge is another Grab Bag Notes column, this time covering everything from digital recordings, to reader reactions to his previous columns, to why he's adding a comic strip to his Fangoria magazine (over the objections of Fangoria's editor, "Uncle Bob" Martin); reader letters in the Communications pages include reactions to O'Quinn's "Dreams" editorial, thoughts on Galactica 1980, playing the recent special effects record, and more; Log Entries is filled with short news items such as a report on Forrest J. Ackerman's science fiction museum, first news of Roger Corman's Battle Beyond the Stars, Howard Cruse releases a new edition of his Barefootz Funnies, the death of Don Post Sr., and more.

Karen E. Willson interviews Robyn Douglass, who plays Jamie on Galactica 1980; Willson also interviews Robbie Rist, who might well be a wonderful person but who played the annoying Doctor Z on Galactica 1980; David Gerrold discusses writing, and he begins his column with the words that introduced me to Harlan Ellison ("Harlan Ellison once said that a fresh litchi nut is the third best thing in the world. I thought for a moment, then asked, "What's the second?" "Sex, of course." "Oh -- then, what's the first?" He blinked. "David, I'm surprised at you! It's writing!"); David Houston interviews Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner; Bjo Trimble's Fan Scene highlights the Fantasy Artists Network; Jonathan Eberhart's Interplanetary Excursions, Inc., visits the Martian moon of Phobos; the Quest page includes some Australian readers who make SF models; a two-page color photo spread revisits The Martian Chronicles; Karen E. Willson interviews Tom Baker, Britain's Doctor Who; Alan Brender reports from the first Doctor Who convention in North America; Gerry Anderson's Space Report has the first part of "The Mysterious Unknown Force"; Samuel J. Maronie interviews Felix Silla, who plays the uber-annoying Twiki on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century; David Houston writes the SFX section, looking at the Halloween production of Bob Burns; David Houston's Visions column looks at the work of William Cameron Menzies; and Howard Zimmerman's Lastword covers some of the many flaws in Galactica 1980.
"You know, when I got the character I was desperately out of work and glad to have the contract. Fortunately, I signed the contract before anybody else did. I remember the wonderful feeling I had when I signed this beautiful contract, which was going to put me into television history because of the formula. Even if I had been a disastrous failure I would have gone into history as the first failure, because no one has failed Dr. Who."
--Tom Baker, actor, interviewed in "A Visit with The Doctor (Who): Tom Baker"
To view previous Starlog Archive issues, click on "Starlog Internet Archive Project" in the keywords below.
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