Saturday, February 26, 2011

Fangoria Becomes the Posterchild for Print Posters

Class is in session, my fellow magazine editors and publishers. Our topic today: How to get people excited about buying a print magazine in the age of the internet.

Now, I've written at length on this blog and in my inaugural issue of Magma magazine about this topic. Go in-depth; don't compete with the web (online and print can complement each other, they don't have to cannibalize); use great design. But one thing goes further, and I'm thrilled to see an example of it. To wit: Include in the magazine premiums and special stuff that can't be easily scanned by fans who post your mag to their web sites and blogs.

Horror film bible Fangoria magazine, which has been undergoing a thorough revamp under new (as of last year) editor Chris Alexander, has been including a poster every couple issues. As you can see in the cover reproduced above, they're continuing this with the latest issue that Alexander has just started promoting in his social media.

Posters, see, can't be easily scanned. And what would be the point, anyway? You wouldn't post a poster on your blog at full size. You wouldn't download a poster and then print it on giant-sized paper. A poster only has value in original print form. It also induces the occasional purchase of more than one copy of an issue, if the reader wants to have his cake and eat it, too (have the unblemished magazine to save and have a copy of the poster to hang on his wall).

I've been working on a plan for a magazine that deals with this very issue, and I'm very pleased to see that I'm not alone. So a tip of the hat to the Fango crew.

Class dismissed.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

My Latest Column in Northside San Francisco: David Brooks and Tucson

My latest column for Northside San Francisco magazine is in print and online.

Common Knowledge
When the Street Is the Clinic  
By John Zipperer 
Anyone with a family member suffering from mental illness didn’t need the tragic shootings of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and others in Tucson last month to know that there is a problem with how this country handles the mentally ill. David Brooks, the conservative New York Times columnist and political commentator, in his January visit to The Commonwealth Club sought not only to put a damper on the charged rhetoric about the possible political origins of the shooting, but he also pointed to its more likely cause.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Opens for Business: The Starlog Project, Starlog #187, February 1993

After the unprecedented success of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Paramount decided to keep the series going with another new series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Awkwardly launching around the same time as Babylon 5, DS9 was thus the second syndicated science-fiction series set in a space station to be on the air in the early 1990s.

I gathered with some friends at the home of a coworker (and Trek fan, the same person with whom I saw Patrick Stewart’s live stage show, if you’re keeping track) for dinner and to watch the DS9 premiere episode. I remember basically liking the show, but my friend said that the story threw us into too much of Commander Sisko’s personal angst and expected us to be invested in him, even though we’ve just met the man. I remember little else about any comments made by my fellow viewers at the time, but those remarks have stuck with me. I think they are a fair criticism of a program that’s trying too hard in its first episode to attach the audience to its characters. We don’t know them yet, so we can’t begin to understand Sisko’s grief and anger on a level commensurate with the amount of airtime devoted to recounting how he got there. It probably would have been better to hint at that past, and then explore it in later episodes, after we’ve gotten to see that he’s a great leader and a humane man and father.

An understandable mistake. After all, it must have been very difficult to come up with a follow-up to TNG, a series that set records for syndicated popularity and brought in an entire new audience to the franchise. TNG certainly had some episodes that were stinkers; that’s true. But more important is the remarkable general level of quality maintained (and, in my view, increased) as the series aged.

As TNG neared its seven-year termination date, the producers didn’t want to just do another series set on the Enterprise or another starship, so they chose a space station. That allowed them to get partly out from under the suffocating blanket proclamation that there couldn’t be conflict between Starfleet members. With half of the space station crew being Bajorans, and with an ever-changing cast of aliens visiting the station, the writers could easily come up with an interesting conflict or challenge each week, right?

Apparently not. The show eventually had to deal with the suffocating effect of being stuck on a space station, so the crew was made more mobile with the addition of their own sleek ship for long-distance travel. The crew itself was also changed up a bit, including the addition of the character of the Klingon Worf. If the show’s producers and writers didn’t change and freshen up the Star Trek story restrictions enough, they at least made an effort in that direction. By the time DS9 neared its own termination date (successful Trek series all have Logan's Run-ish set lifetimes of seven years), it had acquitted itself pretty well.

Starlog #187
84 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $4.95

An interesting classified ad this month: “STAR WARS: DID IT AFFECT YOUR LIFE? Writers/S.W. devotee seeks personal stories of its impact on people who were between ages 8-18 in 1977. Deadline 5/25/93. SASE for guidelines: S.W. Project Dept. S., …”

The rundown: The cast of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine poses together for its first cover of Starlog this month; but First Officer Kira Nerys is all alone on the contents page. In his Medialog column, David McDonnell reports that Kenneth Branagh has been slated to direct Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the followup to Francis Ford Coppola’s smash hit Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Michael McAvennie’s Gamelog column reviews RoboCop 3, Dragon Quest, Bart’s Nightmare (a Simpson’s game), and other new releases. And the letters go long in the Communications section, in which three letters sprawl over three pages, covering Star Trek: The Next Generation commentary, and Mike Fisher’s Creature Profile features She-Creature.

Booklog reviews Geodesic Dreams, Fire and Ice, Mutagenesis, Wulfsyarn (which deserves a slap just for the spelling of its title), A Dark and Hungry God Arises, and Why Do Birds. David Hutchison’s Videolog column announces the releases of widescreen home video versions of the original Star Wars trilogy, plus a slew of Blake’s 7 episodes (and the page also includes the first ad for the Starlog retail store in New Jersey, announced a couple issues ago). The Fan Network has the usual listing of fan clubs and publications by Maureen McTigue, plus the conventions calendar. Classic-movies journalist Tom Weaver steps out of his routine this month to feature an article on a new comic mini-series based on the 1950s’ science-fiction program Space Patrol. And in his From the Bridge column, Kerry O’Quinn reports on a virulently anti-gay law proposed for Oregon (Measure Nine, which was eventually soundly defeated).

Bill Warren interviews actor Gordon Scott, a former lifeguard who became a 1950s screen Tarzan. Craig Chrissinger talks with producer Grant Rosenberg about his new science-fiction police show Time Trax, starring Dale Midkiff. Bil Warren profiles character actor Vincent Schiavelli, who discusses his roles in Batman Returns, Ghost, Buckaroo Banzai, and others, and he admits that he’s a big genre fan: “My fiancee and I watch Star Trek every night. Both series are pretty terrific, in their own ways. The older one created this magic with nothing; it was really kind of wonderful the way they relied on the imagination. The modern one lacks the original’s innocence, but I watch it every night.”

Ian Spelling will become Starlog’s go-to correspondent for all things Trek over the next decade, and at one point he will even pen a Trek-and-other-SF-themed newspaper column called "High Trek" syndicated by The New York Times. Here he gets to go behind the scenes of the new Star Trek: Deep Space Nine with a conversation with Rick Berman, the producer. Berman confirms my friend’s comments (see top of this post) about the focus on Sisko in the premiere episode: “The two-hour pilot, more than any Star Trek episode Berman can remember, is a journey for one man’s redemption. ‘Sisko is a man whose wife was killed a few years earlier, when the Borg attacked the fleet,’ [Berman] explains of a dramatic situation to be recalled in a series of flashbacks that enable Captain Picard to serve as the link between action past and present.” He also tells us that other candidates for the role of Commander Sisko, eventually won by Avery Brooks, included Tony Todd, James Earl Jones and Carl Weathers.

Bradley H. Sinor interviews fantasy novelist Glen Cook (Sweet Silver Blues, Shadow Games, Bitter Gold Hearts, and others). Joe Nazzaro continues his exploration of the British SF comedy series Red Dwarf, talking with the show’s star, Craig Charles. And Pat Jankiewicz chats with writer/producer Robert McCullough, who explains what it was like working on Star Trek: The Next Generation and shares his happiness to have known Gene Roddenberry.

Tom Weaver’s back in his home territory with an entertaining interview with cinematographer Jacques Marquette, who worked on a number of classic (or infamous) films, such as The Brain from Planet Arous, Teenage Monster, and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. Mike Clark has a long article focusing on Paul Zastupnevich, costume designer for producer Irwin Allen, who must have been at least as interesting to work for as Roger Corman. And editor David McDonnell wraps it all up in his Liner Notes column with a roundup of new Star Trek publications from Starlog.
“It was so cheap to make pictures in Puerto Rico that Roger [Corman] did decide to make a third picture there [after completing two others]. By this time, I was ready to go home; I told him, ‘If this third one takes over eight days, I’m gone. I can’t stay. I have commitments.’ He said, ‘OK, we’ll do it in eight days.’ Meanwhile, his secretary never paid the bill at the Caribe [Hilton, where Marquette was staying]. I told Roger, ‘Your girl hasn’t paid the bill. They won’t let me out until the bill’s paid.’ He said he would talk to her. Another couple of days go by, and still the bill is unpaid. I said, ‘Roger, if this bill isn’t paid, you’re not going to be able to release any of these pictures, because part of them is going to be missing.’ I had the negatives [laughs]! That's when Roger finally paid the bill and I went home!”
–Jacques Marquette, cinematographer, interviewed by Tom Weaver: “Killer Brains & Giant Women”
For more, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent site.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Can Americans Really Do a Better Space Battleship Yamato Film than the Japanese?

Before you rush to yell, "No," ask yourself: Why even argue? Of course the Americans can't do a live-action Space Battleship Yamato (aka Starblazers) film better than the Japanese, who recently released a well-received film (see trailers here).

And yet, there are plans for just that: a U.S.-made live-action Yamato film, reports Deadline's Mike Fleming. Skydance Productions, run by David Ellison (son of Oracle king Larry Ellison), is working on a deal for the U.S. Yamato version. Skydance already has a big hit under its belt, notes Fleming, in the form of the recent True Grit remake.

It's their money, so they can do what they want. It could, of course, turn out to be a good film. But I have tended to find American versions of foreign films to be homogenized, stripped of the unique touches that made the films worth my attention in the first place. (You're right in guessing that I'm not eagerly anticipating the Americanized versions of Stieg Larssson's The Girl Who Blah Blah Blahed books; the Swedes did a great job of that themselves on the big screen.)

But hey, I'm always game for more space opera.

Mr. Magazine Busts the Numbers of the Latest Magazines-Are-Dying Report

Samir Husni, aka Mr. Magazine (aka Professor Husni at the University of Mississippi School of Journalism) takes apart some lazy reporting about declines in magazine circulation. As usual, Dr. Husni makes good points and demonstrates his knowledge of the breadth of newsstand magazines today.

It's just the latest in the seemingly never-ending debate over the heath of the print magazine industry, in which I work and about which I care a great deal.

On another front in that same war, I have an ongoing debate with a friend over the whole print-vs-digital magazines matter. As I've stated here (and here, extensively) before, magazines that try to do what digital does better are cutting their own throats. Print magazines should offer the in-depth, designed presentation that they do better than online. They should not try to be print versions of web sites with short articles and brain-dead writing that caters to ADD readers.

But beyond that, I do find myself wondering about the need that anti-print people have to kill magazines. Frankly, I don't understand it. I happen to love print and digital, and I have worked in both media. Print mags are hardly standing in the way of digital publications of all kinds, so it's not as if these digital-or-nothing people are in a kill-or-be-killed conflict. Why do they glory over every print magazine that dies, and why do they flame every print magazine that refuses to die?

If they don't like print magazines, then they should just ignore them. After all, I couldn't care less about jai alai, but I don't spend time criticizing it and arguing that everyone who plays it is doomed to irrelevance. Why don't I? Because I genuinely don't care about jai alai. If you love jai alai, don't write me a list of reasons I should love it, too. I just picked that game as one example of the millions of things about which I care not one bit. In short, I think the anti-print people's obsession with the health or ill health of print magazines shows they care about it a great deal. One just can't figure out why.

Have the anti-print people been abused by print magazines in their lifetime, and are they bearing a grudge against this horrible industry? Did they fear that magazines were lurking underneath their childhood beds, waiting to pop out and force them to read long articles on monetary policy or Ray Harryhausen retrospectives? Did they walk down dark alleys on their way to school, fearful of stacks of unread magazines waiting to beat them up and take their lunch money?
I suspect the real reason is related to the fact that magazines remain a challenge to the kool-aid that some of these people have gulped down. They believe that speed and ephemeral trends are the keys to success in the future, and they can't book any contradiction. If print magazines remain a viable source of entertainment and education and information-exchange, then were they really wise to spend hundreds of dollars on that new digital reader? (which they'll replace with a new model in 12-18 months?)

I probably confront more of this kind of anti-print thought than many of you, because I live and work in San Francisco, the heart of the new economy (the good and the bad, the grounded and the fake). But short-sighted, emotion-driven thinking birthed here often drives investment decisions across this country, and it's certainly doing so in the magazine industry. It's also driving publishing decisions. How many magazines do you know that used to run full-page subscription ads for themselves every issue now don't run any? (I can name two off the top of my head.) If the publishers themselves have decided to downgrade their print medium or have given up on it, then why should they expect readers to make a commitment to their print product?

And giving readers a reason to make a commitment to print magazines is what periodicals publishing is about, when it's done successfully. They make a commitment to subscribe to a magazine (which plays into the wacky newsstand numbers Dr. Husni dissects in his commentary cited above), or they make a commitment to look at a magazine each issue on the magazine rack and decide whether they want to purchase it.

It's a greater commitment than deciding to bookmark a web site.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Two Best Horror Film Magazine Covers Ever?

While enjoying the latest installment of Don Guarisco's Fango Files over at Schlockmania, I got to thinking about how the two most recent issues of Fangoria that he chronicles – issues #8 and 9 – were true boundary-breakers back in 1980s when they appeared.

I've written about them before, but I am inspired by Don's memories of the issues to nominate these two gross/fascinating/fun covers as best horror film magazine covers ever. Any other contenders you'd like to nominate?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

ScottWalkermageddon in Wisconsin, the Lighter Side

I've been watching with a mixture of home-state pride and bemusement the ongoing attempts of Wisconsin GOP Governor Scott Walker to bust the state's unions (hey, I'm not the most pro-union person in the world, but let's admit it: that's what this is all about). Anyway, not that you asked, but I think states have to reckon with huge largely unfunded pension obligations. I live in California now, and it's got unbelievable pension obligations that it might not be able to meet.

But Wisconsin? One report shows that state workers there earn an average of about $24,000. Hardly pilfering the pockets of the common man. Compare that to San Francisco, where the local paper reported that one-third of city workers earn more than $100,000. The latter brings out the Republican in me. The former confirms the Democrat in me.

Anyway, as I was trolling through the interwebs for info about my home state and my beloved Madison, Wisconsin, where I spent five of the most wonderful years of my life, I came across this story on Madison.com:

Protests Provide a Business Boon for Capitol-Area Shops

So, everyone's biz-friendly, Gov. Scott. Now grow up.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Patrick Stewart on Stage: The Starlog Project, Starlog #186, January 1993

Many years ago, actually probably not too far off from when this January 1993 issue of Starlog appeared, I lived briefly in Indianapolis. One fine day, a friend and I went to see Patrick Stewart on stage. He was touring with a one-man show in which he offered vignettes of various famous men from the history of the arts.

Naturally, he had bits of Shakespeare and other expected sources. But the best bit was what he didn’t do; he didn’t pander to all of us in the audience who expected some extended Captain Jean-Luc Picard scenes. Instead, about midway through his program, he mentioned the Picard character, walked over to the chair in the center of the stage, tugged on his tunic and sat down. All very Picardesque. The audience roared. Then he went on to other, non-Trek characters.

The show was great, and it probably introduced a lot of Star Trek fans to characters they’d never heard of or at least have never seen performed before. I hardly need to mention that Stewart is a great actor, and he made every minute of the show quite worth the price of the ticket.

But this was actually his less-known stage performance of the early 1990s. This issue of Starlog features an interview with the actor that focuses on his one-man Broadway stage performance of A Christmas Carol. I never had the opportunity to see this show, and I apparently missed something big. Stewart reportedly played to sold-out houses and rave reviews, just what any actor hopes to get. As he tells Starlog: “I had often imagined – all actors have, particularly, of course, British actors – what it would be like to be in a very successful show on Broadway. I had never projected myself into a successful solo show, a one-man show, so that made the whole experience that much more intense and exciting.”

Starlog #186
84 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $4.95

There are some personnel changes this issue. Editor David McDonnell says good-bye to longtime contributor Lia Pelosi, who is moving on; and Maureen McTigue is joining the staff as associate editor. Pelosi has used her post-Starlog life well, working as an editor at Marvel Comics and a string of major book publishers, including John Wiley & Sons and Random House. (No, I don’t know that off the top of my head. Google was invented for moments like this.)

The rundown: Patrick Stewart is in full Christmas Carol mode on the cover; meanwhile, Mel Gibson is in Forever Young mode on the contents page. David McDonnell’s Medialog column informs us that Mel Gibson has another project in process: a film revival of the old TV series Maverick. Michael McAvennie’s Gamelog column reviews Universal Soldier, More Cosmic Encounter, Star Wars: The Role-Playing Game, and others. And Communications letters dissect the late Beauty & the Beast, Gene Roddenberry worshippers and detractors, and the alleged paucity of new ship models on Star Trek: The Next Generation, while Mike Fisher’s Creature Profile features flying saucer aliens.

A bunch of classic adventures, such as Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films, The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao, Jason and the Argonauts, and others, are released on video, as David Hutchison notes in his Videolog column. The Booklog section reviews Legends Reborn, The Magic of Christmas, Alien Earth, Speaking in Tongues, Blood Trillium, The Collected Stores of Robert Silverberg, Volume One: The Secret Sharers, The Eye of the Hunter, Time, Like an Ever-Rolling Stream, Nightside the Long Sun, and Mutant Legacy. Maureen McTigue takes up where Lia Pelosi left off and assembles the directory of fan clubs and publications in Fan Network, which also features the usual convention listings. And Kerry O’Quinn gets a tour of the Skywalker Ranch by his buddy Howard Roffman, a Lucas executive, and tells us, “Insiders say that [Lucas] has developed another Star Wars trilogy and hopes to begin working with writers and directors so that the premiere of the first film (the actual beginning of the entire saga) can be May 1997 – the 20th anniversary of Luke Skywalker’s materialization.”

The always-great Tom Weaver interviews Anne Francis, who discusses her work in the classic Forbidden Planet, including her impressions of fellow Forbidden star Leslie Nielsen, whom she says she “was madly in love with! Les was a very gentle, kind, terrific guy, just as he is today. He had a great sense of humor; today it has become more extreme than it was when I worked with him in those days.” David Hutchison talks to producer Brian Henson about the new film, The Muppet Christmas Carol. And Lynne Stephens talks about another Christmas Carol with stage and screen performer Patrick Stewart.

Marc Shaprio previews Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and gets all the awkward introductions of new characters and actors out of the way. Kim Howard Johnson interviews director Steve Miner about his new film Forever Young, which stars Mel Gibson, Jamie Lee Curtis, George Wendt, and Elijah Wood, all of whom Miner praises like there’s no tomorrow. Peter Bloch-Hansen profiles actor Adrian Paul, who talks about TV’s War of the Worlds (apparently it was a show with serious script difficulties) and his current gig as star of Highlander. And Ian Spelling chats with composer Alan Menken about the music for Disney’s Aladdin.

Coralee Grebe makes her first appearance in Starlog’s pages with “Heir to the Wars,” an interview with Star Wars novelist Timothy Zahn. Alain Bourassa and Mark Phillips continue their in-depth look at The Immortal. Joe Nazzaro investigates the cult British science-fiction comedy Red Dwarf, including a sidebar on the failed American version of the show. And David McDonnell wraps it all up with a grab bag of news, including an aside that Fangoria Films has released three films; those three films (for which my home state of Wisconsin played at least a partial role as a film set) were not exactly blockbusters, and I later heard the publisher say that the company didn’t make any money out of the deal, so an aside like this is probably all they deserve.
“More than anyone else, my father was responsible in those early days for eliminating the puppet proscenium that was commonly used. It was the usual practice to see puppet characters confined to a small stage with the human performers standing alongside. Jim broke that proscenium and used the TV screen itself as a picture frame. He experimented with lenses, preferring a wide-angle lens, so that his creations could work sometimes only mere inches in front of the camera. This technique created an extraordinary sense of immediacy and led to refinements in detailing and very precise lip-sync techniques. Also, a puppet usually had a single costume that never changes and which helped to define the character. Jim was always changing his characters’ wardrobe. Jim created beings. Kermit wasn’t a frog when he was created, Kermit was … an organic creature. He became a frog later on.”
–Brian Henson, president and CEO of Jim Henson Productions, interviewed by David Hutchison: “The Muppet Christmas Carol”
For more, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent site.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Iron Sky Movie Trailer


The Local, an English-language web site covering Germany, reports in "Space Nazis colonize moon in fan-funded film" that the movie Iron Sky has completed filming and is being shopped around to distributors.

The film posits an escape from Earth to the moon by the Nazis at the end of the second world war. They establish a lunar homeland, from which they apparently return to earth in the year 2018. So your average Merchant-Ivory storyline. (Am I the only one who thinks of Norman Spinrad's novel Iron Dream upon hearing about this film?)

The film is a Finnish-German-Australian coproduction and was made for just €6.8 million, including funding kicked in by the fan community.

Think of it as a Teutonic Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Success! Uninstalling Dictator

The best tweet I've come across so far about the exit of Mubarak:

Mubarak Finally Resigns, Even Al Jazeera Struggles to Keep Up



Some amazingly good news this morning as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has finally resigned his post. I share some of the uncertainty about what might come next, but I think it's far from certain that the country will go down a radical path. There are many reasons to be hopeful for that country, its people, and its regional role. It's perfectly appropriate to bask in the hope that people-power success creates.

The next steps will be dissected endlessly by individuals and media around the world. For now, I'll just note that Al Jazeera, which has provided probably the best coverage of the Egyptian protests (in second place: the much-maligned CNN), had a live video feed of its English coverage of Egypt on its web site (very helpful, because Al Jazeera continues to be hard to get on cable in America). The screen capture above shows that live stream, with the big headline, "Mubarak Steps Down," while right below it is the crawl of headlines, showing the headline that people were still protesting across Egypt as "President Mubarak Refuses to Step Down."

Yep, things moved so fast that even the instant news crawls couldn't keep up with the actual headlines. Al Jazeera did correct the crawl in a few minutes, but it's always exciting to watch news being made at such a pace that even the big news organizations can't keep pace.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Android Marriage on the Horizon? We Can Only Hope

So the latest in overheated rhetoric from people freaking out over gay marriage is a fear expressed by anti-gay-marriage activist named Robert Broadus. Mr. Broadus says that if we allow gays to marry, then we could be on the slippery slope to people marrying their androids.

I like Star Trek, too, Mr. Broadus; anyone can tell it from reading all of the science-fiction-related posts on this blog. But Trek is not a documentary of our future. I only point that out because you seem to be unclear on the concept. You did, after all, cite Star Trek: The Next Generation's android Data as an alluring example of what the future could hold.

Ah, well. Gay marriage is an issue that will pass by Mr. Broadus. Even younger evangelicals in the United States are increasingly uninterested in this issue, so the anti-homosexual forces have to get all of the political mileage it can from it before America simply ages out of this point of view.

BTW, the first issue I ever bought of illustrated fantasy magazine Heavy Metal was the issue whose cover is reproduced above. It shows two androids that appear to be in love. Or lust. Whatever. But it does suggest something that should calm Mr. Broadus: Androids are likely to be more interested in other androids than in marrying him or his offspring.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Highlander and other Dinosaurs: The Starlog Project, Starlog #185, December 1992

This month’s returning champion is a dinosaur web-spinner of some fame to the Starlog crowd. His name is Howard Zimmerman, and he was David McDonnell’s predecessor as editor of Starlog, steering the ship for most of its first decade of life before heading over to serve as an editor of Byron Preiss Books.

This issue, Zimmerman is interviewed about Preiss’ series of graphic novels called The Ray Bradbury Chronicles. The first illustration in the article is of a tyrannosaurus rex from one of the books. I thought that was a fitting opening, because Zimmerman himself would go on to write Dinosaurs! The Biggest Baddest Strangest Fastest, Beyond the Dinosaurs!, and Armored and Dangerous. Clearly, the guy likes dinos.

Starlog #185
84 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $4.95

Back in 1980, the magazine sold a Starlog-branded wristwatch. I never bought one, and I’ve never seen one outside of the full-page color ads that ran in Starlog and Future Life at the time. The watch looked nice, but the price was prohibitive: $50 plus shipping. And that was in 1980, 30 years ago. Not willing to sell my parents into slavery or knock over a bank just so I could get the money to buy the watch, I never owned one.

Fast forward to December 1992 (or at least the December 1992 issue of this magazine), and Starlog’s running a subscription deal in which you can buy one year (12 issues) of the magazine for $39.97 and you receive a free Starlog watch. The photo of the watch makes it clear that it’s a lower-quality watch than what was offered in 1980, but it’s still a rather cool premium. And I still didn’t get one. Either I was too poor in late 1992 to subscribe or my subscription wasn’t up for renewal at the time, but I missed my chance once again. Otherwise, I’d still have the watch today nearly two decades later, proudly wearing it everywhere even though it probably stopped working 12 months after I received it. Wouldn’t matter; I’d still wear it, and when people looked at me funny and said, “Your watch doesn’t work; the hands just spin around loosely,” I’d shrug and reply, “So what, dude; it’s a Starlog watch!”

Well, I probably wouldn’t say “dude,” even if I were 20 again. But the rest of that is true.

One last Starlog company note this time: On page 44 of this issue, Starlog publishes an ad for its new licensed Star Trek: Deep Space Nine magazine, which will be published four times annually. Subscribe for four issues for $25!! No watch, though.

The rundown: Television retakes the lead spot on Starlog this month, and it’s a two-fer. The highlighted show on the cover is Highlander, the TV spinoff of the cult movie series. And one of the actors on the cover is Richard Moll, who played Bull Shannon in the long-running sitcom Night Court. Meanwhile, the contents page features an illustration by Timothy Truman from The Ray Bradbury Chronicles. David McDonnell’s Medialog warns us that there will be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III; Michael McAvennie’s Gamelog reviews Batman Returns, Dragon’s Fury, SkyRealms of Jorune, and other new games; genre editor Gordon Van Gelder writes in with a correction to a recent book review, and other letters in the Communications section include good-god-yet-another flare-up of the controversy over whether Starlog slants its coverage against Irwin Allen productions, plus reader thoughts on the late Isaac Asimov, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, Linda Hamilton and Beauty & the Beast, Mann and Machine, and of course Star Trek, while Mike Fisher’s Creature Profile features Count Dracula.

In his Videolog column, David Hutchison notes the video versions of Batman Returns as well as Batmunk, among other video releases; a three-page Booklog includes reviews of Mars Prime, Murasaki, Count Geiger’s Blues, Lord Kelvin’s Machine, Storeys from the Old Hotel, Under the Shadow: Moonrunner #1, Sideshow, Doomsday Book, The Night of Wishes, The Sails of Tau Ceti, The Modular Man, and Afterimage; the Fan Network includes the usual conventions listing and Lia Pelosi’s directory of science-fiction fan clubs and publications; and in his From the Bridge column, former publisher Kerry O’Quinn writes that the new Starlog retail store (see last issue) is the culmination of something that he and former business partner Norman Jacobs wanted to do from the beginning.

It’s been a while since we had a contribution from Michael Wolff, but the magazine’s “interplanetary correspondent” is back with an examination of immortality in the genre, with illustrations by George Kochell; Marc Shapiro talks with executive producer Bill Panzer about his new TV show, Highlander: The Series, starring Adrian Paul (with Richard Moll guest starring in the first episode); Dan Yakir interviews Death Becomes Her director Robert Zemeckis, who explains the technical challenges of aging Meryl Streep 15 years and blasting a hole in Goldie Hawn’s stomach; and Marc Shapiro talks with Roman Coppola and Fred Fuchs about Francis Ford Coppola’s smash hit Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Actor George Hall portrays the old Indiana Jones in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, and this issue he tells interviewer Lynne Stephens about the role, which actually has the 75-year-old actor portraying a 93-year-old (he also has nice things to say about the considerably younger George Lucas); Kim Howard Johnson visits the Selma, Alabama, set of the new Body Snatchers (yet another reimagining of the 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers); and Stan Nicholls interviews legendary SF author Robert Sheckley (Crompton Divided, Citizen in Space, etc.), who tells him he was underwhelmed with the film Freejack, which was based on a story of his: “I thought Freejack was a pretty good action film, but to be honest, I was a little disappointed, because I expected them to get into the idea in my book more deeply. Freejack had very little development of the life-after-death or personality-transfer themes.”

Mark Phillips and Alain Bourassa provide a retrospective of the 1970s TV show The Immortal, about a man whose blood can extend other people’s lives; Edward Gross interviews Byron Preiss Books’ editor Howard Zimmerman, who discusses The Ray Bradbury Chronicles set of graphic novels; and editor David McDonnell’s Liner Notes discusses new Starlog Group one-shot magazine Dracula: The Complete Vampire and other immortals news.
“[Ray Bradbury’s writing is] classic storytelling in the sense that his subject matter is people. Classic SF has been seen as hardware stories and post-apocalyptic scenarios, heavy technology and jargon – all of which frightens some people away. They feel it’s a specialized field that they aren’t privy to. Bradbury, however, is accessible to anyone and everyone. A classic story like ‘The Electric Grandmother,’ which has been on The Ray Bradbury Theater and in 17 different anthologies, deals with a father, his kids and the relationship between them. The mother has died, and there’s this tremendous sense of loss the father doesn’t know how to deal with. But the device of the grandmother allows the daughter and the father to feel their grief, get over it and move back to the joys of life. When you have classic themes that are told by a writer of Bradbury’s caliber, the material is going to be accessible to anyone.”
–Howard Zimmerman, editor, interviewed by Edward Gross: “The New Illustrated Man”
For more, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent site.

Monday, February 7, 2011

VW Commercial Is the Other Big Winner at the Super Bowl

Yes, I'm very happy that my hometown Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl yesterday. So let's take a look at the other winner: Volkswagen walked away (drove away?) with the best commercial.

AOL Buys Huffington Post

AOL made a big move today by purchasing the ├╝ber-blog online site Huffington Post. At a cost of $315 million, the online service assumes ownership of one of the best-known digital opinion (and increasingly news) sites in the country.

It's a great move. Though I don't agree with all of site co-founder Arianna Huffington's views about news media (I think she's too one-sided in her promotion of new media; I think her site often replicates and even enlarges upon the shallowness of modern news media), I do think she's very sharp and clearly knows what she's doing with her business. I also take it as a good sign that she will remain with the site as editor-in-chief.

It's also a great move because it shows that AOL is on the right track in finding a new identity. It demonstrates that the company is serious about staying alive in the digital present. Content counts, and Huffington Post brings the company a lot of content with a lot of daily readers (including me). AOL is a company that has been written off for dead countless times in the past decade, more than a few times by people who lost millions of dollars in the epically disastrous AOL-Time Warner merger. But now we see the new AOL emerging, and it looks like it is a company to watch once again.

For more of a taste of Huffington's media views: Below is a video from 2008, in which Huffington spoke to The Commonwealth Club of California in San Francisco about right-wing politics and new/old media. In the question and answer portion of the hour-long program, she spars with the moderator (a local political journalist) about blogs and the news media.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

To Reiterate: Magma, Now in Print-on-Demand

February 2011
Magma Issue 1:
The magazine industry review. Premiere issue. Inside: Starlog, Conde Nast, National Lampoon, what's wrong with guest editors, the decline and fall of gay magazines, and much more.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Monsters of German Postwar Science Fiction

 

For your Friday viewing pleasure: io9 has a photostream of German science-fiction magazine covers from the early postwar era, focusing on the fanciful monsters portrayed by Terra magazine's artists.

The occasion for io9's posting these is apropos of what, I don't know. But it's an amusing trip back to a long time ago. The appropriately titled Monster Brains blog has even more (and bigger) scans of old Terra monster/SF covers.

And if you enjoy stepping into the Teutonic way-back machine, Dieter von Reeken has a gallery of covers from another old German SF magazine, Utopia. More spaceman- than monster-focused (see example, left), Utopia nonetheless sported some very classic covers of its own. There's also a larger collection of Utopia covers in the Retro Futurism community.

And, finally, check out Flickr user Paul's collection of classic German (and some non-German) SF magazine covers.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Wheeljack35's Tribute to Starlog

Here's a relatively recent YouTube tribute to the late, great Starlog magazine.

The photos of the page spreads look a bit familiar to readers of my Starlog Project (and here), but I'm flattered.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Blade Runner, The Making of a Classic: The Starlog Project, Starlog #184, November 1992

The Rifftrax boys aren’t known for loading up their DVDs with lots of extras, but on their latest release, Maniac (a truly Z-grade flick, BTW), they include video of their recent appearance at San Diego Comic Con. After riffing on an instructional short video (all about how to purchase food), they took audience suggestions for a movie they should do this year. Audience members lined up behind a microphone, each one stating the nominated film and their reasons. Amid a flurry of such candidates as Zardoz (“Sean Connery in a diaper!”), one audience member suggested they riff on Blade Runner.

The audience was sort of stunned, its reaction a mix of gasps, groans, and silence (for you kids, that means they collectively thought, “WTF?”), and the Rifftraxers quickly dispatched the person who suggested the film. Blade Runner, you see (and you probably already know, since you’re the type of person who actually reads a blog post about an 18-year-old science-fiction film magazine), is a classic.

The Ridley Scott adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story wasn’t widely known before its release. There had been a bit of talk in the months before it came out; in one interview, star Harrison Ford was asked about the movie for which he was reported to be bald (fans were reassured that he wasn’t going to be bald; instead, the story required a very short haircut). But when the movie came out in 1982, it blew people away with its visual imagery of a multicultural, dark, and dirty megalopolis of the future. Moviegoers rewarded it by staying away in droves, and it flopped at the box office. Don’t blame me; I saw it with my brother and some friends at a drive-in theater (for you young ’uns, a drive-in theater was an outdoor parking lot where they showed films).

The film would live on, helped in no small part by the fact that every six months or so, Ridley Scott would release another version of it. (Okay, I’m exaggerating with that “every six months” bit, but we own the blu-ray Ultimate Collectors Edition, which features no less than five different versions of the film.) With this issue, Starlog puts Blade Runner on its cover again, 10 years after the film was originally released. It would once again feature Blade Runner on its cover for the movie’s 25th anniversary; but that’s issue #359, and we’re quite a ways away from it. For now, this issue, which includes interviews with many Blade Runner creators and participants, will do quite nicely. But I suspect that Starlog will have to come back from the dead so it can feature Blade Runner’s 50th anniversary in 2032, which would kind of make it the zombie magazine featuring the zombie movie – two creatures that wouldn’t die.

Starlog #184
88 pages (including covers and four un-numbered pages)
Cover price: $4.95

On page seven of this issue, the magazine announces a new kind of in-person relationship with readers: Starlog the Science Fiction Universe is the name of a new retail store opened up in Ridgewood, New Jersey. Featuring everything you’d expect from the publisher of Starlog, Fangoria, and Comics Scene, the store sells magazines, posters, videos, comics, toys, models, and more. Publisher Norman Jacobs soon expanded the stores in a nationwide franchise and even spun it off as a publicly listed company. I still remember visiting the Starlog store that was located in a suburban Aurora, Illinois, mall when I lived in Chicago in the 1990s. (I bought a couple old Starblazers videos.) But the venture would not last, as much as I thought it was a neat concept. After expanding nationwide and even in the United Kingdom, the whole thing went bust, but not before it endured some legal brouhahas (see here and here). By the late 1990s, the Starlog Franchise Corp. had new leadership and was no longer selling science-fiction stuff; it had transformed itself into a candy retailer. Can’t make this up.

In other new productions, this issue Starlog announces the upcoming publication of three new one-shot magazines: Dracula: The Complete Vampire (which was a great publication, in my opinion), the official posterbook for The Addams Family (the animated TV series, not the movies), and the official Star Trek: The Next Generation FX Makeup Journal. And in one last production note about this issue of Starlog, there are four additional color pages in this issue that are not numbered; all four are filled with ads, but many other pages also feature ads and they are included in the page-count, so I’m not sure why these aren’t. Big deal, I know.

The rundown: On the cover, it’s a collage of Blade Runner photos, but on the contents page, they’re using the same photo that appeared on the cover of Starlog #58. In David McDonnell’s Medialog column, there’s a short note that Ridley Scott says he’s working on a sequel to Blade Runner, plus there are a couple photos by Norman Jacobs of his brand-spanking-new retail store in New Jersey (the only photos credited to Jacobs during the entire run of the magazine, if I’m not mistaken; that trivia will get you far in life, I promise).

In Gamelog, Michael McAvennie reviews a number of role-playing games; Communications letters include lots of readers slagging on Alien3, plus one reader from Russia telling us how happy he is to be able to legally subscribe to Starlog there now that the Soviet Union is no more, and Mike Fisher’s Creature Profile features ED-209; classic Twilight Zone releases are highlighted in David Hutchison’s Videolog column; the Fan Network pages include, as usual, Lia Pelosi’s ongoing directory of fan clubs and publications, and the listing of fan conventions; Booklog reviews Dark Sky Legion, Black Steel, Ray Bradbury Presents Dinosaur World, Raft, Chains of Light, and Captain Jack Zodiac; and in his From the Bridge column, Kerry O’Quinn goes on a roller coaster journey.

It! The Terror from Beyond Space was a movie that became a comic book, and this issue writer Mark Ellis tells Tom Weaver all about the four-color version; and veteran correspondent Lee Goldberg interviews writer/producer Robin Bernheim about Quantum Leap, though she also talks about other programs she’s worked with, including Star Trek: The Next Generation, Remington Steele, and Houston Knights, which she calls a “crappy show.”

Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier contribute five articles that comprise the Blade Runner cover story: an interview with writer and executive producer Hampton Fancher, who says the story is about “that discover of [Deckard’s] own soul, falling in love with the thing he had to kill”; co-writer David Peoples, who says “it’s a detective story all right, even more than it is SF”; designer Syd Mead, who informs us that “originally, the film’s ambience was going to be cold, but they found out what the cost was going to be to ship all the sets to Michigan or Wisconsin to get them to freeze. So, instead, it became misty, hot, with sweltering rains.”; production designer Lawrence G. Paull, who said the look of the film “was a combination of what I had said, Ridley [Scott]’s input and Syd [Mead]’s own ideas” (Paull was nominated for an Academy Award for art direction for his work on the film); and Ridley Scott, who says that when it comes to designs in his films, “I get inspiration from Moebius all the time! I think Moebius is possibly one of the greatest comic strip artists ever!“.

In non-Blade Runner articles, Stan Nicholls talks to the lesser-known half of the supermarionation fun couple, Sylvia Anderson, who discusses the creation of fan classics such as Thunderbirds, Supercar, and Fireball XL5; Tom Weaver contributes a talk with actor William Schallert, who talks about his roles in The Man from Planet X, Twilight Zone: The Movie, “The Trouble with Tribbles” episode of Star Trek, and others; Stan Nicholls interviews novelist Stephen R. Donaldson (The Gap seris, A Man Rides Through, etc.); Marc Shapiro checks in with the stars and creators of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures, a very short-lived TV spinoff of the famed/infamous Bill & Ted movie comedies; and editor David McDonnell talks journalistic pursuits of Blade Runner, going back to his days working with Jim Steranko at Prevue (his haunt before joining Starlog).
“One of the things that has happened in the years since Thunderbirds is that it has gotten rather tainted by whining on a personal level. With [former husband and former business partner] Gerry, I mean. I object to that. I think it should be kept professional. We’re no longer husband and wife, but we were professional partners, and I would like to keep that going.”
–Sylvia Anderson, interviewed byStan Nicholls: “Dance of the Supermarionettes”
For more, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent site.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Chinese New Year Daily Small Parade in San Francisco

San Francisco's Chinatown has a small daily parade during the extended Chinese New Year observance.