Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Chock Full of the Nineties: The Starlog Project, Starlog #198, January 1994

If there is one consistent complaint that is lodged against Starlog in the 1990s, it is that the magazine focused too much on chasing every detail of every science fiction TV show and movie (and occasionally books), while ignoring the fan experience and other aspects of the science fiction universe. The magazine had been strongest in that regard in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when multiple columnists and the magazine’s then-co-publisher made sure the magazine spoke to the heart of science fiction fans.

Times change, of course, and one of the biggest changes from the early 1980s to the early 1990s is the tremendous growth of SF TV programs. With new television networks needing popular products – er, programs – to push, and with Star Trek: The Next Generation having established the viability of syndication for genre TV, the 1990s would see a never-ending succession of programs. We got everything from Trek spinoffs to non-Trek Roddenberry creations to entirely new efforts. That meant that Starlog had to cover this ongoing onslaught of SF TV, whether it was good, bad, or in between. 

But something else changed between the early 1980s and the early 1990s. What was once a 68-page magazine was now a 92-pager, and that meant that the magazine could have easily found space to slot in the occasional space science story or scientist interview, or run competitions that called for reader creativity, or any number of other things. The Fan Network pages, which by the mid-1990s had for years been just compilations of fan clubs and convention listings, was originally created to feature articles about creative fans, their experiences, their lives. As former managing editor Carr D’Angelo told me, the editors were under pressure from the publisher to find these interesting fan-based stories, but that task was easier said than done; it even resulted at least once in a story being published about something that had been reported years earlier in the magazine.

Even in the mid-1990s, however, Starlog still produced the occasional article outside of its usual SF TV coverage. This issue, that article is F. Colin Kingston’s guide to auctions, where fans can buy science fiction memorabilia (such as a $1,500 Cylon fighter model from the original Battlestar Galactica). Get out the credit card.

Starlog #198
92 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $4.95

Odd classified ad of the month: “GIANT WOMEN GROW HUGE in adult books, fantasies! Must state you’re over 21, & sign. $1, long SASE …”

The rundown: The cover is a mishmash of items, apparently none of them strong enough to command the cover by themselves; meanwhile, the work of artist James Bama makes one of many appearances in Starlog publications and is the sole featured illustration on the contents page. In David McDonnell’s Medialog column, the big tease begins, with rumors that a fourth Indiana Jones film is already being written (something that wouldn’t come to fruition for a decade, of course); furthermore, “George Lucas reports that the next three Star Wars films … will probably be shot simultaneously sometime before 1997.” Or maybe not. And in Gamelog, Michael McAvennie reviews Legend Entertainment’s Gateway II: Homeworld, Steve Jackson Games’ Hacker II: The Dark Side, and more.

The Communications section includes Mike Fisher’s Creature Profile of Gamera (misspelled Gammera), plus letters about the need to read, and the requisite debates over the finer points of Star Trek. Booklog reviews Christmas Forever, Tears of Time, Dealing in Futures, Alien Secrets, Heart Readers, The Hidden Realms, Fossil, The Wolf of Winter, Satellite Night Special, Godspeed, and Moving Mars. In his Videolog column, David Hutchison reveals that there’s a new home video release of the Star Wars films called Star Wars Trilogy: The Definitive Collection, which of course stayed definitive until the next collection. The Fan Network includes Marc Bernadin’s list of fan clubs, publications, and conventions. And in his From the Bridge column, the ever-social Kerry O’Quinn travels the country alone.

In a Startling Starlog Stories faux-pulp layout, Michael J. Wollf (and illustrator George Kochell) examine shows that deal with, um, brains, including a certain infamous Star Trek episode. Tom Weaver interviews Lost in Space actress June Lockhart, revealing – among other things – that she once worked at religious magazine Guideposts to gain experience in the publishing business. Today she’d just blog. Bill Warren profiles genre stalwart Ted Raimi, who was starring in seaQuest DSV at the time. And Will Murray interviews artist James Bama, who painted years of Doc Savage paperback covers, as well as some SF-themed works.

Actress Lindsay Frost (Monolith, Dead Heat, etc.) is interviewed by Pat Jankiewicz, revealing that the first money she earned on stage was “about a madam who ran a whorehouse.” So, no Star Wars, then. Craig W. Chrissinger checks in with Mike W. Barr about the new Star Trek: Deep Space Nine comic book. Rod Taylor and Alan Young reminisce about working with the great George Pal, in an article by Bill Warren. Much is made of the iconic time machine from the same-titled Pal film, and much also is made of Bob Burns, the man who ended up buying and restoring the machine. And Steve Eramo contributes his first article to Starlog, an interview with Doctor Who actor Jackie Lane, who discusses portraying Dodo Chaplet to William Hartnell’s Doctor.

F. Colin Kingston explores the hot commodities on sale on the SF memorabilia auction circuit, and he includes a how-to-bid sidebar (in those admittedly pre-eBay days). Tom Weaver interviews Michael Fox, who discusses acting in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Conquest of Space, Young Frankenstein, Twilight Zone episodes, and more. And in one of the odder or more creative (take your pick) ways for editor David McDonnell to get out of writing his editorial column, the final four pages of the magazine are taken up with imitation trading cards, featuring photos and facts about various Starlog correspondents. It is, at least, an interesting way to put faces to names we’ve been seeing in print for years. It’s also where we learn that Mike McAvennie once “caught 38 quarters after placing them on my elbow.” Talented group, this.
“I used to be made fun of a lot. There was one kid, who will remain nameless, that I’ll never forget. He used to come up to me and say, ‘Raimi, you’re a geek! Hyuk, hyuk!’ Every day he would pop my books and they would go sliding down the hallway. I thought, I have to do something at school. I’m not a jock, so I chose acting; it was natural, it was the only thing I could really do.”
–Ted Raimi, actor, interviewed by Bill Warren: “The Young Ted Raimi” 
For more, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent site.
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