Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Starlog Project: Starlog #117, April 1987: Enter Tom Weaver

"Ib." That's the first word (a first name of an interview subject, if you're curious) of the very first Starlog article written by Tom Weaver, one of the most talented and prolific of contributors to the magazine. In issue #117, Weaver interviews the unlikely named Ib Jorgen Melchior, the "Danish Monster Master of Mars." Over the next two-decades-plus, Weaver would write countless (if, like me, you're too lazy to actually count them) articles for the magazine, almost always featuring actors, writers, directors, and producers from classic films, especially from the 1950s.

If you haven't read anything by Weaver, he might surprise you. His articles are mostly in the question-and-answer format. I have always appreciated his ability to go in-depth into the lives of the people he interviews. He is polite but insistent. He is informed about his subjects, but willing to be surprised by a contradicting fact from his interviewee and able to pursue it to a satisfying conclusion. He is a wizard at getting interesting stories out of his conversation partners. I rarely am familiar with the people he interviews, but I never miss reading a Weaver article (in Starlog or Fangoria), because he'll take an old movie I've never heard about, or an actor I've never known about, and I'll end up reading some interesting stories and excellent insight into movie making.

So, welcome to Tom Weaver.

(Not that you asked, but the last word in Weaver's first article is "that.")

Starlog #117
76 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $2.95

When I was in grade school, I read a short story by George R.R. Martin that blew me away. It might even have been the story from which the film Nightflyers originated (I'm not sure; I never saw the movie and I don't remember the story's title). But the story was incredible. I remember that someone's head exploded, and I'd been completely unprepared for it. I thought it was the most powerful story around. What it meant, of course, was that Martin was one of the most powerful writers around, so it's great that Hollywood tapped his works to make a film. But, still, I never saw the film.

BTW, in staffing news, Gary Schneider is the new production director at Starlog.

The rundown: Catherine Mary Stewart in Nightflyers is on the cover. In his From the Bridge column, publisher Kerry O'Quinn announces a special Starlog convention celebrating Star Wars' 10th anniversary (you'll of course remember the magazine's recent convention celebrating Star Trek's 20th anniversary, which turned into a special Starlog issue, #112, and the Star Wars convention will be mined for content for another special Starlog issue, #120, so stay tuned). In the Communications department, readers defend Howard the Duck (and make me feel sad for joking about it a few issues ago), rip on Starlog's cover text, criticize The Fly, and more; Medialog includes an unbylined short article quoting classic Star Trek actors commenting on the new series Star Trek: The Next Generation (including William Shatner's "I don't feel good about the new series"), and David McDonnell gives an overview of genre news (such as the cancellation of The Twilight Zone series).

Steve Swires interviews actor Adam West, who talks about the upsides and downsides of playing Batman in the camp 1960s series (when his agent pitched him the role, he said, "Come on, I'm trying to have a serious career"); between "ib" and "that," Tom Weaver spins his first Starlog article, an interview with the Danish writer and director Ib Jorgen Melchior, who talks about The Angry Red Planet, Robin Crusoe on Mars, and more; grandmaster L. Sprague de Camp continues the Mars mini-theme with an eight-page exploration of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars stories, with an assist from Edward Gross, who writes a sidebar on Princess of Mars screenwriter Charles Edward Pogue; David Hutchison has a few more words on the colorization debate and how it's being played out in the marketplace, and he shares them – along with some notes on new genre video releases – in his Videolog column.

Michael Wolff makes his first appearance as a writer for Starlog, with more Mars coverage – specifically, with a look at George Pal's The War of the Worlds adaptation of H.G. Well's classic novel; Jean Airey and Laurie Haldeman interview Terry Nation, creator of Blake's 7; Texas-based writer Ardath Mayhar, writing the Other Voices guest column, looks at the creation of fictional aliens; in the cover story, Brian Lowry interviews Nightflyers star Catherine Mary Stewart; in a three-page "The Writers of Star Trek" section, Edward Gross profiles three different contributors to that series: Carey Wilbur ("Space Seed"), David P. Harmon (The Deadly Years," "A Piece of the Action"), and Stephan Kandel ("Mudd's Women" and "I, Mudd," plus the animated series' "Mudd's Passion" and "Jihad"); Robert Greenberger interviews actor Mark Lenard, who reprises his role as Spock's father in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home; the Fan Network pages include items on international fan clubs, a revived Nichelle Nichols fan club, answers to reader questions (such as, "Holy turnaround, what's going on with The Batman movie?), and more; in a two-page "The Guests of Trek" section, Mark Phillips profiles Roger Perry, and Frank Carcia profiles Meg Wyllie and Michael Forest; still more Trek comes from Edward Gross, who interviews Robert Butler, director of "The Cage" pilot episode of the original series; in his Booklog column, Chris Henderson chats with Fred Saberhagen (who talks about The Frankenstein Papers), and he notes the new print releases; Eric Niderost previews Robocop; Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier talk with Frank Oz about his new film, Little Shop of Horrors; in the Comics Scene column, Patrick Daniel O'Neill talks with Mark Evanier, co-creator (with Sergio Aragones) of Groo the Wanderer; and in his Liner Notes column, editor David McDonnell shares some behind-the-scenes tales of interviews, including a cute exchange he had with Rick Moranis and Frank Oz ("Rick, he's telling you to lie").
"Hell, the plot for 'Space Seed' came from an old Captain Video I did some 30 odd years ago. Of course, we did some very far out things on that show, including the popular idea of people being transported in space while in suspended animation."
–Carey Wilbur, writer of "Space Seed," interviewed by Edward Gross: "Carey Wilbur: Seed for a Trek Fairy Tale"
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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