Saturday, January 15, 2011

Isaac Asimov, RIP: The Starlog Project, Starlog #181, August 1992

According to Wikipedia, the exact date of legendary writer Isaac Asimov's birth is unknown; he chose to celebrate his birthday on January 2. What is known is the exact day he died: April 6, 1992. At least that's what it says in Wikipedia and in the feature article in this issue of Starlog, where his life is appreciated. Though Asimov's longtime pal Kerry O'Quinn, the magazine's former publisher, mistakenly writes in his column that the good doctor died on April 7.

Actually, I think O'Quinn was making a point about the media coverage on the day after Asimov passed away, but it's confusingly worded. That is all of little matter. Another, more fascinating, misrepresentation about Asimov is repeated in this issue: He died of "heart and kidney failure."

Years later, his widow Janet revealed in an edition of his autobiography that the heart and kidney problems weren't from out of nowhere. As Asimovonline.com notes: "Asimov died on April 6, 1992 of heart and kidney failure, which were complications of the HIV infection he contracted from a transfusion of tainted blood during his December 1983 triple-bypass operation. (The revelation that AIDS was the cause of his death was not made until It's Been a Good Life was published in 2002). His body was cremated and his ashes were not interred." The HIV aspect was apparently (if you believe Wikipedia's report) so explosive at the time that the family and doctors kept the secret for 10 years.

Starlog #181
84 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $4.95

Asimov's death reminds us that it has been a season of losing giants of the genre. Gene Roddenberry and Irwin Allen both passed away in late 1991, and a few months later we lost the most prolific writer the genre has ever known (Asimov wrote or edited more than 500 books). Starlog highlighted all of these (and other) deaths, focusing of course on the lives of the people lost.

The rundown: To go from the sublime to the ridiculous, for the first time in four issues, Batman Returns is not on the cover of Starlog; instead, the cover is given over to Honey, I Blew Up the Kid, the sequel to the surprise hit Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (the screenplay for which was co-written by former Starlog editorial staffer Ed Naha, who does not appear to be involved in the sequel). The contents page features a costume sketch from Land of the Giants (I guess they were sticking to the theme of size-shifting people). David McDonnell's Medialog column reports that the new Sci Fi Channel has purchased a bevy of episodes to air from old shows, ranging from the original Battlestar Galactica to Kolchak the Night Stalker to The Incredible Hulk; and in his Gamelog column, Michael McAvennie highlights Nintendo's Star Trek, GURPS Robin Hood, Acclaim's Super Smash TV, and others.

The Communications pages include – surprise, surprise – letters about Star Trek (including this sentence out of context: "Best of all, it showed Wesley does have the potential to be used effectively as a recurring character"), Hook, Young Indiana Jones, and others, plus Mike Fisher's Creature Profile features the Amazing Colossal Man; the Fan Network pages include the convention listings and Lia Pelosi's compendium of fan clubs and publications; David Hutchison's Videolog column announces Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and other genre releases; a shortened Booklog section reviews Reality Is What You Can Get Away With, Shadows of Dawn, and Art Liberty; the obituaries continue, with Bill Warren's two-page Tribute to director Jack Arnold (The Incredible Shrinking Man, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and many others); and in "Farewell, Isaac," Kerry O'Quinn devotes his column to remembering his friend (including: "He was not known for his modesty, but his positive self-image was only honesty. Isaac Asimov knew more things about more things than any other human.").

Kyle Counts sits down with actress Deanna Lund in her living room to talk about her career, including the cult TV series Land of the Giants; David A. Kyle provides a long tribute to Isaac Asimov, full of neat insights into the man and his friends, such as the friendly rivalry he had with fellow legend Arthur C. Clarke, about whom he said: "[L]et us talk about science fiction, which, after all, is what we both do – I, because I'm a great writer, and Arthur, because he's a stubborn writer"; Kim Howard Johnson interviews actor Dolph Lundgren about his role in Universal Soldier, though they also talk about The Punisher; Bill Warren interviews Randal Kleiser, director of Honey, I Blew Up the Kid; Batman Returns producer Larry Franco is profiled by Marc Shapiro, to whom he explains his disinterest in the Batman character: "I was never a Batman fan. ... I never read the comics. Quite frankly, when Batman came out, I didn't care." As for Batman Returns, Franco says, "I co-produced it, and that's why I'm going to see it. I'm not going to see it because of Batman."

Pat Jankiewicz talks with filmmaker Stuart Gordon, who was one of the creators of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and who discusses that film as well as his Robot Jox, Re-Animator, From Beyond, and more; Ian Spelling profiles actor Michael Murphy about Batman Returns, Shocker, and other works; RoboCop 3 director Fred Dekker tells Kim Howard Johnson about his approach to doing that sequel, which he says isn't really a sequel for him because he's never done a RoboCop before; in part one of a multi-part article, Mark Phillips talks to the writers of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea; Marc Shapiro previews the new film Stay Tuned, starring John Ritter; and editor David McDonnell wraps it all up in his Liner Notes column, in which he notes classic TV series revisited and classic actors interviewed.
"[Isaac Asimov] wrote what he wanted to write, and his works were invariably published, all with varying degrees of success. One big regret that his longtime friends had was that he virtually abandoned SF for so much of his writing life. However, of all his many varied and serious works, some of his most delightful writings in the 1980s were for young people. In this, he truly enjoyed the collaboration of his wife Janet in a pleasant series of books concerning a robot named Norby."
–David A. Kyle, writer, "In Memories Yet Green"
For more Starlog, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent site.
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