Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Starlog project: Starlog #147, October 1989: When They Walked Among Us

One would expect that chronicling a 20-year-old magazine would be an exercise in nostalgia, but it is usually a very personal one: I remember what I was doing, what I was going through in life, what my attitudes were, at the time I read a particular issue when it first came out.

But this issue of Starlog is a bit more like a public time capsule, mixing brand-new film and TV productions with long-ago classics and with then-alive persons (such as River Phoenix) who would not survive into the new century. It is hard to read Lynne Stephens’ article on a stage play of the German silent science-fiction classic Metropolis and not reflect on the times that created the story in the first place (and you’re helped with that thought by Stephens’ fine writing, which begins the article telling us just how filmmaker Fritz Lang was inspired to make his story). Or Bill Warren’s profile of former Tarzan actor Denny Miller takes chrononauts back to the carefree (but boring) 1950s, when the country went for a Tarzan who looked more like a surfer than a jungle man.

However, I suspect this issue will stand out for most people because of Dan Yakir’s Q&A with 19-year-old River Phoenix (then appearing in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), which shows the young actor – who only had another four years to live – to be a sensitive and thoughtful man. “I would just look at Harrison [Ford]: He would do stuff and I would not mimic it but interpret it younger. Mimicking is a terrible mistake that many people do when they play someone younger, or with an age difference. Mimicking doesn’t interpret true, because you can’t just edit it around.”

Starlog #147
100 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $4.95

This is another “100-page SF Spectacular” (so says the cover), and it’s a great, article-packed issue.

In some ancillary notes, Starlog announces the debut this issue of another horror spinoff magazine, Toxic Horror. That brings to three the number of the company’s horror film magazines: Fangoria, Gorezone, and now Toxic Horror. Gorezone would last a few more years, and it retains a fan base to this day for its devotion to more independent, bloodier horror than in Fango. But Toxic Horror – which was initially edited by Bob Martin, the former Fangoria editor – would only last five issues before being killed. It was an attempt to merge filmed horror with real-life horrors and cult topics. Martin has written elsewhere of his struggle with the publishers to prevent it from being just another horror film magazine, but the company knew how to sell horror magazines, not odd hybrids, and, according to Martin, he didn’t want to work on the magazine they had forced Toxic Horror to become, so he exited. Soon, so did the whole magazine.

Why, you might ask, did Starlog publish so many horror film magazines? Yes, horror was going through a Freddy Krueger-inspired boom at the time, but it wasn’t off the charts. Judging from comments various former editors have made, the reason appears to have been a desire to soak up newsstand space, to own market share of the horror magazine market (i.e., squeeze out competitors). So the publishers weren’t terribly concerned about whether the new magazines would last 30 years; they just needed them to last long enough to send off a few of the competition. Starlog did much the same in the 1990s, when it at one point was publishing Starlog, Sci-Fi Teen, and Sci-Fi TV (which was actually quite a good magazine). Earlier, it had spun off Starlog Platinum Edition (which switched names to Science Fiction Explorer), a title that survived a couple years before dying. (It also published two boxing magazines at the same time in the early 1980s, as well as numerous wrestling magazines for decades.)

I understand the business sense of bulking up your market share to try to see off the competitors, but I also remember, each time Starlog did something like this, that I’d rather the company had bulked up Starlog itself instead of creating separate thin magazines. Make Starlog a 100-page magazine every month; even at a higher cover price, it would have been worth it, as the editors proved with 100-page special issues such as this one, #147.

Anyway, the rundown: Brent Spiner, as Data, is the cover boy; meanwhile, a different Trek takes the contents page slot, a big photo from Star Trek III showing the Enterprise burning up in the atmosphere. Communications letters include fan comments on War of the Worlds and Beauty & the Beast, reader reviews of Batman (the movie and recent articles), a complaint about Blake’s 7 coverage, and more; and David McDonnell’s Medialog column reports that former Doctor Who actor Jon Pertwee is going to star in a new science-fiction ecology-based series called Starwatch.

Continuing the mag’s Trek movie coverage, Marc Shapiro interviews actor Leonard Nimoy about The Final Frontier (“I know the question is on many people’s minds as to how much longer we can all continue to do Star Trek.... [M]ore and more people are coming up to me and saying, ‘Are all of you still alive?’”); a restored Mighty Joe Young leads off David Hutchison’s Videolog; Dan Yakir talks with actor River Phoenix about acting in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, plus life, vegetarianism, and society; Edward Gross profiles Star Trek writer Arthur Heinemann (“The Savage Curtain,” “The Way to Eden,” “Wink of an Eye”); in the Fan Network pages, Robert Greenberger answers readers’ queries (such as, "In an Adam West interview [issue #117], it was mentioned that he played Batman in two comedy specials. Can I have their titles and dates aired?”), photos of science-fiction actors in non-SF scenes, William S. McCullars’ short article on the location of a Klingon battle cruiser from the original Trek series, and more; I’d never heard of this production before, but Randy Quaid starred in an adaptation of Frederic Brown’s classic story “Martians Go Home,” and Marc Shapiro has an on-the-scene report.

Kerry O’Quinn’s From the Bridge column title has been, er, abridged; it is now just called Bridge, and it’s no longer anchored (I’m mixing metaphors, but what can you do?) to the front of the magazine next to the staff box; this month, Bridge carries O’Quinn’s page-and-a-half photo report on signs that incorporate science fiction names. Speaking of films I didn't remember hearing about before now, Kyle Counts reports on Martians!!! – a low-budget comedy extremely loosely tied to War of the Worlds; Craig Chrissinger profiles Star Trek: The Next Generation executive script consultant Melinda Snodgrass; actor/author Walter Koenig is still at it, making sure he has a non-Trek career, and his latest effort is starring in Moontrap, which he discusses with Marc Shapiro; in the fourth installment of David Hutchison’s extended look at the special effects of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, we learn more about shadows and dummy characters, and more; novelist A.C. Crispin continues her conversation from last issue with novelist Andre Norton, who discusses her favorite genre films, the Beastmaster film (adapted from her book, nonetheless not one of her favorite genre films), her writing topics, and more; Lynne Stephens talks with actor Brian Blessed about the stage version of the classic German silent film Metropolis (with a sidebar on Blessed’s role in the Flash Gordon film); Marc Shapiro interviews composer Danny Elfman, who talks about scoring Batman; interplanetary correspondent Michael J. Wolff gets a bit more serious this issue, with an exploration of race and racism, “Pigments of the Imagination” (illustrated by George Kochell).

Bill Warren chats with former Tarzan actor Denny Miller, who also discusses acting in V and Battlestar Galactica; Jean Airey and Laurie Haldeman, who have been extensively chronicling the British science-fiction TV series Blake’s 7 with their interviews of anyone and everyone involved with the show, here present part one of a complete episode guide to the series; Will Murray talks with author John Varley, who discusses the Millennium film, which was made from his short story “Air Raid”; Beverly M. Payton and Shelley Savren interview young actor Christopher Daniel Barnes, who played Scott Hayden in the Starman TV series; and editor David McDonnell wraps it all up with his Liner Notes column, in which he discusses Andre Norton, as well as the more serious article by Michael J. Wolff.
“It angers me that in this society we’re trained from a very young age, watching television, to swallow preconceived ideas of what is the ideal man or ideal woman. It’s prejudice, really. Many people overcome it, but so many remain oppressed if they’re not happy with their looks, if they don’t look like Robert Redford. It’s a shame, because they shouldn’t be. When I was younger, I was worried about how others viewed me and if I was good enough. I realize now that you can’t mold an image or try to be something that you are not. As far as being an actor is concerned, your work really speaks for itself.”
–River Phoenix, actor, interviewed by Dan Yakir: “A Hero By Any Other Age”
To see more issues, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit the permanent home of The Starlog Project.
Post a Comment