Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Treks Ahoy! The Starlog Project, Starlog #189, April 1993

After writer Harlan Ellison was finished with putting out his An Edge in My Voice columns, which began in Future Life magazine and then migrated to other publications after FL folded, he put out a book with the collected columns and new introductions. The book, also called An Edge in My Voice (1985), was one of my favorites of that decade, and I gave it as a gift to several of my friends.

I always expected Ellison’s friend and fellow writer David Gerrold to one day collect his long-running Starlog columns in book form. Gerrold began writing for the magazine with its fourth issue in March 1977 and continued every month (later switching to bimonthly frequency) until issue #101, rejoining its pages a couple years later to chronicle the birth of Star Trek: The Next Generation, which he helped birth with Gene Roddenberry. Over the years, his columns ranged from controversial reviews of the first Star Trek movie and The Empire Strikes Back to computer insights to thoughts on life and encouragement for readers. I figured that was a no-brainer candidate to become a book, but none ever appeared. Gerrold seemed more intent on producing new novels and some television work, which is his right, of course. But still, a missed chance, no?

Then there’s been some talk in 2011 about a possible book collecting Kerry O’Quinn’s From the Bridge columns, literally hundreds of which were written over decades by the magazine’s co-founder and former publisher. In Starlog #189, O’Quinn begins his column noting that he had recently received a letter from a friend, who wrote, “I’ve seen a few of your most recent Bridge columns, and they’re fun to read because you wrote them – but I haven’t seen a ‘reach for the stars’-type column lately. I hope you still feel that they’re important.”

O’Quinn then goes on to offer up just such a column, about Jok Church, creator of the Beakman’s World TV series and the syndicated comic strip You Can with Beakman. Reading the story about how the young man struggled to get his ideas off the ground and then found success in print and on television, I found myself agreeing with O’Quinn’s friend about how much I enjoy the “reach for the stars” columns. It’s one of the ingredients that is missing from all current science-fiction media magazines, not to mention any other magazine I can think of with a young audience. It’s easy to throw together a magazine with all the ingredients that your focus groups tell you are important and that the MBA in the corner office insists are critical; it is much more difficult to engage readers on the level of their dreams, their souls. Seeing them as consumers is one thing; seeing them as humans is another.

Let’s hope O’Quinn publishes that book.

Starlog #189
84 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $4.95

There is some personnel-shifting at Starlog this month. Managing editor Michael McAvennie is heading off to greener pastures (actually, DC Comics; DC and Marvel seemed to hire away a lot of Starlog junior staffers over the years). He will continue to write the magazine's video-game review column, Gamelog. Taking his place as managing editor is Maureen McTigue, who would herself end up working at DC Comics and Harris. In a long interview with Sequential Tart in 2002, McTigue was asked about her Starlog tenure:
ST: What was the main difference between being an intern at Starlog and being an assistant editor there?
MMT: [grins] I got paid better.
ST: Between being an assistant editor and being a managing editor there?
MMT: [smiles] More responsibility.
For more on the joys and tribulations of working at Starlog, see my interview with former staffer Carr D’Angelo in my digital magazine-about-magazines, Magma.

The rundown: It’s Trek, Trek, and more Trek on the cover of this issue, where Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and even animated Trek get featured placement, with a note that inside there’s info on the oft-maligned Star Trek V movie; on the contents page, we get a Trek-breather and instead some comic-book aliens get the spotlight. David McDonnell’s Medialog column tells us that the little-talked-about CBS science-fiction series Space Ranger, noted briefly last issue, debuted months earlier than planned, in January rather than in spring, which seems to have wrong-footed Starlog’s coverage of the series. That coverage starts this issue. The series, though, only lasted six episodes, so the magazine was left dribbling out coverage of the show after it had died. Michael McAvennie’s Gamelog reviews a Star Trek: The Next Generation game called How to Host a Mystery, which McAvennie warns “can take as long as four hours to play.” And the Communications section is filled up with mostly kvetching about Alien3, though the magazine’s recent 20th-anniversary Blade Runner coverage gets some reader love, too; also, It (just It) is featured in Mike Fisher’s Creature Profile.

Booklog reviews Kingdoms of the Wall, Damia’s Children, Kalifornia, Dirty Work, The Red Magician, Demons Don’t Dream, and Assemblers of Infinity. Starship Invasions is out on home video, warns David Hutchison in his Videolog column. Maureen McTigue’s directory of fan clubs and publications and the convention listings fill up the Fan Network pages. In a two-page Tribute section, T.L. Johns remembers the late writer Fritz Leiber, while Tom Weaver does the honors for actor Robert Shayne. And, as noted at the top of this post, Kerry O’Quinn highlights Jok Church’s efforts to make science fun and understandable to young audiences.

Marc Shapiro kicks off Starlog’s feature coverage of Space Rangers with an interview of actor Jack McGee, who portrays the, um, zaftig cyborg in the series, and who comments on similarities with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator cyborg: “I guess you would say we’re quite the same. I know he would love to have a body like mine.” Animated Star Trek episode writer Larry Brody (“The Magicks of Megas-Tu”) is interviewed by Bill Florence; he also discusses his never-filmed script for Star Trek: The Next Generation, how Harlan Ellison got fired from a TV series over one of Brody’s scripts, and other interesting tidbits from his career. Craig W. Chrissinger profiles actor Dale Midkiff, star of Time Trax. And Marc Shapiro checks in with Time Trax’s creator, Harve Bennett, to discuss his views of William Shatner’s Star Trek V.

Kim Howard Johnson previews ALIENS: Colonial Marines, a new series from Dark Horse Comics. Ian Spelling visits the set of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Joe Nazzaro interviews Red Dwarf’s Hattie Hayridge, who plays the ship’s computer. Ian Spelling also talked to actor Robert Patrick this month, and Patrick discusses his roles in Terminator 2 and Fire in the Sky; meanwhile, Kim Howard Johnson provides a sidebar chat with that latter film’s director, Robert Lieberman, who claims it’s “much more science fact than science fiction.”

Craig W. Chrissinger checks in with Star Trek: The Next Generation story editor Rene Echevarria. Mark Phillips profiles actor Arthur Batanides, who discusses his roles in Star Trek (“That Which Survives”), Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers, Land of the Giants, and others. Kim Howard Johnson talks with screenwriter Nicholas St. John about his new Body Snatchers interpretation. Bill Warren chats with writer George R.R. Martin about Doorways. And editor David McDonnell wraps it all up in his Liner Notes column by saying hello/good-bye to his managing editors, plugging the next issue of Comics Scene magazine, and announcing a giveaway of new Alien Nation novel The Day of Descent. Did you get one?
“I told Bill [Shatner] that he was doomed to disappointment at the film’s [Star Trek V] end. It’s not that the film couldn’t be great, but that he was going to be stuck with a philosophical unsolvable. In the end, he would end up saying, ‘Well, it isn’t really God, folks,’ and the audience would know that you were going to have to say that. I explained my feelings to Bill until I was blue in the face. But he was very persuasive in defending his idea. It was the way he wanted it and everybody over at Paramount was telling me to do what Bill wanted to do. And ultimately I did because I love Bill. … Ultimately, my fears about that storyline came to pass. But the funny thing is that, not too long after [Trek V] came out, Bill came up to me and said that the next one we do should be about the Fountain of Youth.”
–Harve Bennett, producer, interviewed by Marc Shapiro: “School’s Out”
For more, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent site.
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