Monday, May 23, 2011

The Coneheads – This Is Why People Hate France: The Starlog Project, Starlog #194, September 1993

Back in issue #164, Dan Aykroyd was on the cover of Starlog outfitted in a completely body-covering costume of a disgusting giant mutant baby. The photo was from his movie Nothing But Trouble, which performed poorly at the box office.

But Aykroyd is back with another strange movie character, and Starlog’s once again game, putting a photo of him and costar Jane Curtin on the cover to promote their new movie Coneheads. This movie, too, underwhelmed, according to imdb.com. But the message to the science fiction world was clear: Dress up Dan Aykroyd in a bizarre costume, and it pretty much guarantees him a Starlog cover.

Starlog #194
92 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $4.95

This issue, Starlog adds eight pages to its basic package to end up with 92 pages in an issue. No cover price boost, which is nice. If only a columnist or some new regular cool feature or department could have been invented to take up one or two of those eight new pages. Instead, toward the back of the magazine, there are six consecutive pages of nothing but ads; no editorial content in between. Why? They could have spread those ads throughout the magazine. It’s not as if the advertiser came in at the last minute with an ad that had to be crammed somewhere – anywhere – in the issue. All of the ads are for products sold through Starlog Press, such as Star Trek pins and Jurassic Park models and whatnot. Perhaps the publishers and editors liked the old Warren practice of having a chunk of ads at the back of their magazines, which were kind of fun to page through as you dreamed about having the various products pitched there. But it just seems like wasted pages here at the back of Starlog. I’m not against advertising; I’m just not impressed when it’s executed poorly.

Two other overly-technical notes about this issue: First, Starlog advertises the first edition of its Star Wars Technical Journal. The three-issue project would become a landmark in geektastic publishing. It was a huge success for the publisher, and it remains something that every single Star Wars fan should own or face excommunication. Second, while scanning the staffbox, I noticed that among the gaggle of “assistants” listed, there is a certain Marc Bernadin, Starlog’s future managing editor and later a successful professional comics creator.

The rundown: Saturday Night Live alumni Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin mug for the cover, against a (presumably) computer-generated background attributed to Rudel Simon III, who even gets a copyright line on the cover. Odd, that. The contents page is given over to Jurassic Park photos. It’s remakes-time in David McDonnell’s Medialog column, where we learn of upcoming remakes of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Island of Dr. Moreau. And in his Gamelog column, Michael McAvennie reviews Star Fox, Sega’s X-Men, GURPS Atomic Horror, and other games.

The letters to Starlog’s Communications section are for the most part the usual mix of reader commentary on Star Trek (of course), Night Gallery, SF costuming, and more, but one letter particularly caught my attention. A reader writes in to argue that, despite Kerry O’Quinn’s statement that Star Trek’s philosophy is about “full rights for all individuals,” Trek has never featured a gay character in its nearly 30 years of live action TV series, animated series, and films. I echoed that statement more than a decade later in my own letter to Starlog, though I was unaware I was echoing anyone. But that’s a sign of how little Trek evolved; after nearly 40 years, it still hadn’t shown us a gay character. And that always struck me as odd; in a future where humans have supposedly shed their primitive prejudices, we are shown starships and planets that appear to have been perfectly cleansed of homosexuals. There was the notable effort by Trek veteran David Gerrold to break that barrier in a script he wrote for the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but the script was never filmed, and it eventually became a novel in a different setting by the author, until Gerrold directed it as a two-part episode of the fan-made Star Trek: New Voyages series.

Mike Fisher's Creature Profile info-comic features the classic robot from the silent German film Metropolis. In his Videolog column, David Hutchison announces the Criterion edition of another classic, Akira. Booklog reviews Dinosaur Fantastic, Timelike Infinity, Split Heirs, Simulations: 15 Tales of Virtual Reality, The Oathbound Wizard, Vanishing Point, Glory Season, Taminy, Dr. Dimension, Blood and Honor, Cold Allies, Challenges, and The Wolf and the Raven. The Fan Network pages include Scott Briggs' directory of fan clubs and publications, as well as the convention listings. And is it a coincidence that Kerry O'Quinn uses his From the Bridge column to talk about the bravery shown by author Toby Johnson, whose book Secret Matter tells a science fiction story about gay identity? Except O'Quinn doesn't mention homosexuality (or any of its synonyms) anywhere in the column.

Interplanetary Correspondent Michael J. Wolff marks the 25th anniversary of the cinematic release of Arthur C. Clarke & Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. With illustrations by George Kochell, Wolff delves into the crafting of the movie and speculation about its meanings. Kyle Counts interviews Ralph Winter, producer of the witch comedy Hocus Pocus. Bill Warren talks to actor Wayne Knight, who portrays Dennis Nedry in Jurassic Park (and who explains that he likes science fiction movies, but not movies about "secretions" – i.e., Alien and The Thing. Too gooey.) Mark Shapiro previews Coneheads. And Bill Florence profiles Trek fan Timothy de Haas, who penned the Next Generation episode "Identity Crisis" and explains why Marina Sirtis was mad at him.

Marc Shapiro interviews director John McTiernan, who discusses Predator, Last Action Hero, The Hunt for Red October, and more. Brian Bonsall, who portrays Worf's son Alexander on The Next Generation, tells Pat Jankiewicz about his experience on that show and as the youngest character on Family Ties. And Bill Florence talks to writer John T. Dugan about his "Return to Tomorrow" script for the original Star Trek series.

Roy Kinnard gets the scoop from classic "scream queen" Fay Wray, who tells him about acting in King Kong, Mystery of the Wax Museum, and other films. Tom Weaver follows up with more Kong, providing a Q&A with Gil Perkins, who was a stunt performer in the giant ape film. And in his Liner Notes, editor David McDonnell notes the new books written by various Starlog contributors, as well as highlighting the non-book extracurricular activity of writer Ian Spelling, who began writing a column called "Inside Trek" for the New York Times Syndicate. (I recall seeing it run in the Chicago papers under the title "High Trek," so maybe it later changed its name .)
"The first time I saw King Kong I was distressed by how much screaming there was in it. It seemed too much to me, and I realized only later that a lot of screaming was necessary in order to give life to the little animated figure of me in Kong's hand, and without the screaming, it wouldn't have seemed alive. These essentially had to be long shots, but still all of that screaming seemed overdone to me at the time."
–Fay Wray, actor, interviewed by Roy Kinnard: "Queen of Screams"
For more, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent site.
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