Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Starlog Project: Starlog #84, July 1984: The Stars Our Destination

In the United States, we frequently hear the statistic that 90 percent of all new restaurants fail within their first year. New magazines fair a bit better, if I recall the statistics, but it can still be a brutal business. So for Starlog to celebrate its eighth anniversary is indeed a big thing. After nearly a decade, it's impressive how smart this magazine has been about exploiting its position, with spinoffs of every kind (records, videos, magazines, books, calendars, even watches). But it owes its success to something more fundamental than just opportunism: It's a professional, well-done magazine that combines veteran, genre reporters with inspiration for the reader. There were times when competitors gave readers a few more pages or some more color than Starlog provided, but none of them seemed to quite grasp the smart editorial mix that Kerry O'Quinn, Howard Zimmerman, and the rest of the staff put together.

Speaking of spinoffs, this issue hosts a number of them, such as an ad for four Rock Poster Magazines (they would publish a whole bunch of these eventually). There's also the newest -- the fourth -- edition of the Special Effects photo guidebook; ads for various movie lecensed magazines show that the company has produced 'em for Fame, Staying Alive, Joanie Loves Chachi (it hurts to even type that), and others; new official movie magazines for Star Trek III (a magazine and a separate poster magazine) and Conan the Destoyer, as well as a "Coming in December" note that it'll be producing a 2010 official licensed movie magazine. These editors have been busy.

Starlog #84
100 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $3.95

We get some more science-fiction photo collages out of Howard Zimmerman, as his time at Starlog starts to draw to a close (don't worry, you have a year to get used to the idea). Once again a collage is featured as the graphic on the contents page.

On to the rundown: Every anniversary issue, publisher Kerry O'Quinn writes a special anniversary editorial, and this year is no different. This time, in his From the Bridge column, he recounts traveling to Florida to watch a space shuttle launch. In the Communications readers letters section, we get a batch of correspondence about the magazine itself, a letter from "The Nose" about Dick Tracy, a comment about the in-production film Enemy Mine, and more; in what is likely the shortest Log Entries section in the magazine's eight years so far (about two full pages), short news items include a report on the Michael Pare film Streets of Fire, a note about T.E.D. Klein's book The Ceremonies, and more (but not much).

Brian Lowry kicks off the feature section by interviewing actress Catherine Mary Stewart, who discusses The Last Starfighter, Night of the Comet, and more; legendary cartoonist (and former Starlog art director) Howard Cruse contributes a one-page comic on the occasion of reaching 1984, the year made famous by George Orwell; Steves Swires interviews Leonard Nimoy, who has directed the first of his two Trek films: The Search for Spock; Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier interview Marc Singer, one of the stars of The Beastmaster and V; Robert Greenberger interviews actress Phoebe Cates about her role in the quirky Joe Dante film Gremlins (about which article a design note: whoever decided to print the text of the interview in blue letters against a light blue background wasn't thinking clearly); and David Gerrold's column offers "A Defense for Didactics," sparked by Robert Heinlein's newest novel Job, A Comedy of Justice (an appropriate writer for Gerrold to cite; for years, Gerrold's work -- especially his War Against the Chtorr series -- has been mentioned as the successor to Heinlein, a heady comparison).

The special 36-page full-color anniversary section is led by an intro page featuring another Howard Zimmerman SF collage (his last?); Zimmerman and Milburn Smith write "The Year in Review," featuring not only a roundup of the big films but lots of interesting charts (the top 10 SF and fantasy films of the year, Hugo and Saturn awards winners, etc.); David Hutchison continues the magazine's fascination with Disney World's EPCOT Center; Howard Zimmerman reports on the magazine's first Starlog Festival in Chicago, complete with photos (and I have to admit, I'd have liked to have attended the trivia session featuring a panel of Zimmerman, David Gerrold, David Hutchison, David McDonnell, and Kerry O'Quinn); David McDonnell provides a roundup of SF television for 1983-1984 (a time when Glen Larson's Automan actually got on the air); writer (and spouse of L. Sprague de Camp) Catherine Crook de Camp provides a personal report about being "On Tour with Conan the Barbarian"; Robert Greenberger talks with the writers of Conan the Destoyer, Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway; Disney expert David R. Smith provides the history of histrionic Donald Duck; Thomas McKelvey Cleaver interviews Tarzan actor and future Highlander Christopher Lambert; an unbylined two-page article features some info and photos on the long-awaited film sequel, 2010; David Hutchison is back with part three of his coverage of the special effects for Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, focusing on effects for the scenes in Jabba the Hutt's palace; Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier interview Ke Huy Quan, the 12-year-old co-star (as Short Round) of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom ("You call him Doctor Jones, doll!"); former Famous Monsters of Filmland editor Forrest J. Ackerman writes about the Ray Bradbury film Quest; and Lee Goldberg interviews writer Earl MacRauch of Buckaroo Banzai.

Patrick Daniel O'Neill interviews Jimmy Olsen himself, Marc McClure, about his work in the Superman films; Lenny Kaye's Space Age Games and Computers column looks at Interactive Picture Systems; David Hutchison interviews Frank Oz about the new Muppets Take Manhattan film; Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier interview wee little Drew Barrymore about her roles in E.T. and Firestarter; and editor Howard Zimmerman wraps it all up in his Lastword column by sharing his happiness about the first Starlog convention.
"I want to say something to the kids. If you want to be in a movie, it's really fun, but it's not as easy as you think it is. But it's the most fun thing, and if you want to do a movie, and you have the chance, you should do one. I'm glad I did."
--Drew Barrymore (age nine), actress, interviewed by Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier: "Drew Barrymore: E.T.'s pal is a Firestarter"
To view previous Starlog issue descriptions, click on "Starlog Internet Archive Project" in the keywords below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent home.
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