Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Android's Dudgeon: The Starlog Project: Starlog #171, October 1991

Brent Spiner’s not a fan of talking to reporters. Some actors love to give interviews, others don't; that's their right.

Capturing big-name (or even just significant) interviews in genre magazines is something of an art. There are press conferences at which the interview subject might appear, there are one-on-one interviews arranged by studio press relations departments, there are Q&As with several journalists present, there are direct appeals to an actor/director/writer/whatever from a journalist that sometimes are accepted, and sometimes the publication has its own strings to pull to get an interview (such as the publisher is friends with a director, or the editor used to go to school with an actor).

But one of the most tried-and-true methods of securing an interview is for a journalist to meet (planned or “accidentally”) the subject at a science-fiction convention. A number of professional genre journalists began that way; they got the interview, then pitched it to magazines until one of them bought it.

This issue, the cover story is a twist on that method. Marc Shapiro, a veteran contributor to the magazine’s pages, lucks into a whopping seven-minute interview with Star Trek: The Next Generation star Brent Spiner, who was trying to avoid a crush of other media professionals following a Trek press conference. “When the actor who plays Data had an escape route blocked by a phalanx of television cameras and inquiring minds, he agreed to answer a few questions for Starlog while literally on the run,” writes Shapiro. And thus a photo-heavy and text-light cover story is born.

Starlog #171
84 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $4.95

This month, for the first time, Starlog rolls out its new ad featuring its licensed movie magazine for Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

A more important debut this issue is Booklog, a multi-page department featuring short reviews of new print releases. I was glad the magazine launched this section, because books are often overlooked by fans of television and film, and Starlog stuck with this column from this issue all the way until the magazine uttered its final “Phasers on stun!” in early 2009.

The rundown: Brent Spiner looks a little caught-in-the-headlights on the cover; but he’s in a more relaxed pose on the contents page. This issue, the letters section is pushed back deeper into the magazine, and instead we lead off with David McDonnell’s Medialog column, where we learn that rumors of Starlog, Fangoria, and Cinemagic programs airing on the new Sci Fi Network are unfounded, though after the rumors surfaced, the two sides did begin “actually discussing this possibility, but no contracts have been signed or commitments given.” This would never come to be; Sci Fi never had a Starlog TV special or series, and that was probably another big missed opportunity on Starlog’s part. It reminds me of National Lampoon having a chance to create a TV sketch comedy series in the 1970s when the magazine was at the height of its popularity, but its leaders passed on the opportunity; instead, NBC came up with a little show called Saturday Night Live. Perhaps you’ve heard of it?

David Hutchison’s Videolog column announces that eight Battlestar Galactica episodes are being released for $14.98 apiece; Communications letters feature readers commenting on everything from Star Trek to Doctor Who to Philip K. Dick, with one letter-writer beginning her letter thusly: “Starlog #167 was a great issue, and I didn’t even mind seeing Hulk Hogan on the cover” – high praise, indeed, plus Mike Fisher’s Creature profile features Mothra; the Fan Network pages include Lia Pelosi’s fan club directory plus the convention calendar (including something called “Eroticon Six” in Kent, UK); Booklog reviews The Worm Ouroboros, Nothing Sacred, The Hereafter Gang, and Smart Dragons, Foolish Elves; and Kerry O’Quinn’s From the Bridge column tells the tale of a young man who overcame a horrendous upbringing.

Marc Shapiro corners Star Trek’s Data, Brent Spiner, for a short interview in the cover story; the Bill & Ted movies have spawned an animated TV series, a live-action series (proposed, at least), and now, as Kim Howard Johnson reports, comics; T.W. Knowles II interviews author Fred Saberhagen, who discusses his books The Empire of the East, Berserker Kill, and others; Marc Shapiro visits the set of John Carpenter’s new film, Memoirs of an Invisible Man, which stars Chevy Chase and Daryl Hannah; Kim Howard Johnson talks with director Terry Gilliam about The Fisher King (with a sidebar on the director’s postmortem comments on The Adventures of Baron Munchausen); and Marc Shapiro interviews James Cameron and William Wisher about their writing chores on Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

Bill Florence chats with writer George F. Slavin about his original Star Trek episode “The Mark of Gideon”; in part two of Mark Phillips’ look at Irwin Allen’s The Time Tunnel, we learn about the eight-hour story conferences for the series; David McDonnell reports (with photos by Lynne Stephens) again on the Seatrek cruise for fans and professionals from Star Trek, including Gene Roddenberry this (last) time; and in his Liner Notes column, McDonnell says goodbye to managing editor Dan Dickholtz and hello to the Booklog column.
“We never saw Irwin as a genius of any sort, and we never consulted with him about a script. He would scribble comments for rewrites in the margins. We crossed him on small issues that weren’t worth a damn, and always lost. In one show [“Collector’s Item,” Land of the Giants], the end scene had a house blown to smithereens and we asked that the housekeeper be shown getting away from the explosion. As a character, she had done nothing which required her obliteration. Her death wasn’t necessary. We wrote in the housekeeper’s escape and Irwin crossed it out. We wrote it in again and once again, he crossed it out. This went on until the filming when, of course, the housekeeper was demolished with the house. [Robert’s wife and writing partner] Wanda and I were against gratuitous killings, and we explained that to Irwin, but it was his show and we were not to forget it!”
Robert Duncan, writer, interviewed by Mark Phillips: “Time & Time Tunnel Again”
To see more, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit The Starlog Project’s permanent home.
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