Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Starlog Project: Starlog #159, October 1990: Captain Picard’s a Borg!

This autumnal 100-page special issue of Starlog is a nice time capsule of what was going on in the science fiction and fantasy worlds around October 1990. Star Trek: The Next Generation’s third season had presented some of its best work (such as “Yesterday’s Enterprise” and “The Best of Both Worlds, Part I”), and season four would continue the show’s maturation from its somewhat PC first year. A new generation of science fiction writers were making their names, including William Gibson (interviewed in Starlog #145), Terry Pratchett (interviewed in #157), and Orson Scott Card (interviewed this issue).

What was happening outside of the SF world at that time? After all, if there’s supposed to be some connection between the themes of science fiction and the real world, then there should be something of interest.

Let’s see. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev got his legislature to pass laws laying the foundation for a market economy. France and England are connected by the Channel Tunnel. East Germany and West Germany are reunited after 45 years. President Bush was readying Operation Desert Storm to counter Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August. Akihito becomes the 125th emperor of Japan. And, perhaps most important, the Internet Movie Database is launched, ending world conflict (well, as long as that conflict revolved around trying to figure out how many Police Academy movies featured that guy who can make weird sounds with his voice). Hey, it apparently brought a East and West Germany together.

Hmm, the real and the science-fiction worlds seem to be out of sync. In the real world, nations are moving together, settling old fights, and uniting (with the exception of Iraq, though even that brought together a million nations in George Bush’s coalition to invade Iraq). But in the science-fiction world, the peaceful if bland federation is threatened by the evil Borg, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is threatened by memory control.

Or wait, maybe it’s all right after all. SF is supposed to predict the future, right, not necessarily reflect the present. So this issue of Starlog has an interview with Orson Scott Card, who presages the rise to power of anti-science conservatives who reject climate science and impose religious views on matters of individual freedom. (But hey, I’ll give him this: He’s a very good writer.)

If only we’d known ...

Starlog #159
100 pages (including cover)
Cover price: $4.95

A photo caption to make you think: “Sikes (Graham) comes to terms with his feminine side as he must help deliver George’s (Pierpoint) child.”

The rundown: Patrick Stewart hasn’t been made into a knight yet by the queen of England, but he has been made into a Borg by the Borg queen, as he models the latest in cyborg headgear on this month’s cover; meanwhile, Peter Pan gets the contents page featured photo slot. Letters to the editor in the Communications pages all explore the Back to the Future III film or respond to Bruce Gordon’s exploration of that film (and, I have to admit, some of the hypotheses they suggest are quite interesting – Starlog readers really pay attention when they see movies); in Medialog, Marc Shapiro shares Bill Cosby’s comments about his planned remake of H.G. Wells' The Man Who Could Work Miracles, and David McDonnell provides a roundup of genre news, such as reading the tea leaves indicating that a Star Trek VI will be made (because Paramount’s been shopping around merchandising opportunities to potential partners – and I’d be willing to bet $2 that one of those potential partners was licensed movie magazine publisher Starlog); the Fan Network pages include a two-page article by Bill G. Wilson about modelmaker Mark Bradley refurbishing the original Battlestar Galactica model, a Star Trek novels contest, a very brief list of Beauty & the Beast fan clubs, and a convention calendar; and David Hutchisons’ Videolog column announces the release of Peter Pan on video, pllus other news.

T. L. Johns interviews legendary SF author Fritz Leiber; Bradley H. Sinor talks with Russell Bates about the animated Star Trek; Marylois Dunn profiles author (and self-proclaimed “very mean little old lady”) Ardath Mayhar; Jim George talks with director Nicolas Roeg about his fantasy The Witches, and he also gets Roeg to comment on his David Bowie SF film The Man Who Fell to Earth and its leading man, with whom he seems to retain a cordial if distant friendship; Star Trek: The Next Generation writer/producer Michael Piller tells Edward Gross about recent episodes; Will Murray interviews Total Recall screenwriter Ron Shusett about the film, including the abortive David Cronenberg-Richard Dreyfuss version; Edward Gross gets the inside scoop on the late Alien Nation TV series from that show’s writers; in part one of a multi-part article, Mark Phillips talks to the writers of the 1960s TV series Land of the Giants; and Mike Clark interviews Shimon Wincelberg, writer for Lost in Space (and he tells us that Carroll O’Connor – who eventually starred in All in the Family – was considered to star in Lost in Space, but the actor turned it down), Time Tunnel, and more.

It's a very writers-heavy issue. W. Bradford Swift interviews Ender’s Game author Orson Scott Card, who mostly gives a standard overview of his books and writing, but who also has some typically thought-provoking comments; Kerry O’Quinn’s From the Bridge column issues a call for ideas from readers; Bradley H. Sinor talks with another novelist, Walter Jon Williams (author of Angel Station, The Crown Jewels, and more); Wanda J. Hall checks in with Star Trek novel writers Diane Carey and Greg Brodeur; in a three-page Tribute section, Adam Pirani says good-bye in obituaries for the great Jim Henson and actor David Rappaport, Tom Weaver notes the passing of actress Susan Oliver, and Eric Niderost remembers actress Jill Ireland; and editor David McDonnell wraps it all up in his Liner Notes column, telling a cute story about his younger self, a mimeograph machine, and memories.
“I’m talking about books by 35-year-old novelists writing about 35-year-old characters who nevertheless approach the world as an adolescent: that life is all about getting free of people that dominate you. That’s a 15-year-old’s viewpoint. There should be fiction that tells you about growing up, about being an adult who’s responsible, who can’t just walk away when he gets tired, who doesn’t just go and get a divorce, who doesn’t have a mid-life crisis, but instead, sticks it out and deals with what goes wrong. There aren’t many adult heroes in fiction.”
–Orson Scott Card, author, interviewed by W. Bradford Swift: “Words He Lives By”
To see more issues, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit The Starlog Project’s permanent home.
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