Monday, April 5, 2010

The Starlog Project: Starlog #56, March 1982: Triffids and SFX Secrets

I said there'd be a big change this year (1982) at Starlog, and here it is. Previously, Starlog had carried about a 50-50 mix of coated (glossy) pages that could show full-color images and uncoated pages for just black-and-white. With this issue, Starlog replaces about half of its color pages with more black-and-white ones, presumably to contain costs. A year ago, the magazine's cover price had risen from $2.25 to $2.50, but a $2.75 cover price would be awkward (not unheard of, but awkward and unusual nonetheless). Whether it was an attempt to hold on until they could make the eventual leap to a $2.95 price, or if costs were just rising too fast, or if it was due to some reason altogether different, I don't know. But the reduction in color was noticeable. Oddly, this was the first issue I received as a new subscriber; I ludicrously entertained the thought -- very, very briefly, mind you; I wasn't simpleminded -- that subscribers received this lesser version of the magazine, and somehow newsstand buyers were still getting the normal Starlog in all its multi-colored glory. But a couple minutes later, I wised up and accepted the economic facts of life. On the other hand, this issue sees the first in a series of two-page posters in the magazine, a feature kicked off with a shot from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Starlog #56
68 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $2.50

Despite the presence of fewer color pages, it was still the same Starlog. Still the same writers and editors and artists covering movies and TV and authors. But alas, this issue comes up weak for a different reason: there just weren't strong articles. The cover story was a collection of short "special effects secrets" about 10 movies, but a good rule of thumb for magazine readers is that articles based on lists are often a crutch for editors. They are usually easier to prepare than those that require research and interviews. Oh well, it was an excuse to put Darth Vader on the cover.

Kerry O'Quinn checks in with his pal Chesley Bonestell in his From the Bridge column; Communications letters include followups to David Gerrold's column on ending world hunger, a note from Leonard Nimoy disputing reports that he had asked for Spock to be killed off in the Star Trek sequel, views of The Greatest American Hero, and more; short news in Log Entries includes a report that Isaac Asimov's Foundation stories have been optioned for the big screen, news that Sheena, Queen of the Jungle was getting ready to invade multiplexes, a roundup of cable TV SF programs, and more.

Bill Pearson and David Hirsch report on a new BBC production of The Day of the Triffids; Sam J. Maronie provides a retrospective of Zardoz, a Sean Connery-starring film from 1974 that sounds tailor-made for Mystery Science Theater 3000; David Gerrold brings back his quote-meister Solomon Short, only to kill him off; James H. Burns interviews Ken McMillan about Hearbeeps; Bjo Trimble recounts being part of a roomful of extras (along with David Gerrold and former Starlog columnist Susan Sackett, among others) on Star Trek -- The Motion Picture; an unbylined article profiles the art of painter Steven Vincent Johnson; the centerfold is filled with the "Starlog Science Fiction Classic #1" poster of 2001: A Space Odyssey; David Hutchison and David Everitt spill the beans on short special effects secrets from Forbidden Planet, The Time Machine, This Island Earth, War of the Worlds, The Thing, The Empire Strikes Back, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Invisible Man, The Black Hole, and Things to Come; James H. Burns interviews Ken Shapiro, the director of the Chevy Chase comedy Modern Problems; Sam J. Maronie and Scott Davis pen a two-page retrospective of the original Day of the Triffids; part three of James Van Hise's Star Trek bloopers article features both classic Trek and The Motion Picture era; Ron Miller's Futures Past column looks at Jules Verne's works; and Howard Zimmerman wraps it up in his Lastword column by asking readers to "Leave Nimoy Alone" about the whole killing-off-Spock thing.
"The oatmeal was whipped up on a Friday and set aside so that the effects crew would be able to shoot the scene first thing on Monday. What Warren and Chang failed to take into consideration was the weather. Over the weekend, the temperature soared and the oatmeal consequently fermented."
--David Hutchison and David Everett, writers, "Effects Secrets from 10 Classic SF Films: The Time Machine"
To view previous Starlog issue descriptions, click on "Starlog Internet Archive Project" in the keywords below.

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