Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Starlog Project: Starlog #64, November 1982: Now Let Me Tell You What I REALLY Think

In its past six and a half years, Starlog only rarely included movie reviews. The most famous, of course, was Harlan Ellison's extensive taking-apart of Star Trek -- The Motion Picture. But there were others, such as David Gerrold on The Empire Strikes Back or various editorials from editor Howard Zimmerman and publisher Kerry O'Quinn. But for issue #64, the magazine changed policy in a big way, putting out an extra-pages issue featuring many reviews of the past summer's science-fiction films, written by big names in the field as well as some of the magazine's senior staff. The magazine had always had -- and largely would continue to have -- a policy of reporting on SF media, having commentary on it, but not being a review magazine; in other words, let the readers decide on their own if they liked a movie or TV show or book. They explain their seasonal change of heart with this issue by noting that by mid-fall, people have already had lots of chances to see all of the films reviewed in this special issue, so they weren't likely to be affecting someone's enjoyment (or dismay) in the audience, but could offer additional thoughts that would enrich the reader's contemplation of the film. I've always thought that was a sensible approach, and I wish they had continued it after the three years in which they published these special review issues.

And for those of you minutiae-watchers, this is the first issue of the magazine that sports the little "Starlog Press" circular "S" logo that would adorn the covers of almost all (but not all) Starlog Group magazines for nearly the next three decades.

Starlog #64
100 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $3.95

This is also the issue in which Starlog does a long-form report on Ultimate Fantasy, an attempted spectacular science-fiction convention in Texas that featured lots of cast and crew members from the Star Trek franchise and even boasted Starlog publisher Kerry O'Quinn as MC. But the event was a bust, poorly organized and poorly attended, and Starlog includes three separate articles in this issue explaining what happened, how everyone involved dealt with it, and why things like this take place. One note: In some quick online research, I find that Jerry Wilhite, the gentleman who planned the event and expected to be made rich from it, is now a Christian minister.

The rundown: Kerry O'Quinn's From the Bridge column kicks off the issue with "The Con of Wrath," giving some background of what he was promised about the Ultimate Fantasy convention and how Starlog probably got snookered more than anyone; Communications letters include TV producer Alan Spencer on Star Trek, various readers on Blade Runner, E.T., Conan, and Trek, and more; Log Entries short news items include a preview of George Romero and Stephen King's Creepshow anthology movie, word of Airplane II, news from Kenneth Tobey, and more.

David Hutchison describes the creation of the "Genesis effect" SFX in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; Bjo Trimble provides plans for convention mass letter-writing efforts to support the space program; Robert Greenberger interviews The Greatest American Hero producer Frank Lupo, writer Babs Greyhoskey, and story editor Patrick Hasburgh; Susan Adamo interviews Peter Barton, the young actor starring in The Powers of Matthew Star; David Hirsch compiles an episode guide to Doctor Who's 1982 season; and David Hirsch reviews the film scores to the summer SF lineup.

A one-page introduction leads off the summer film review section and introduces the reviewers; Alan Spencer pens a list of spurious secrets of Hollywood; David Gerrold reviews Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; Robert Greenberger reviews Conan the Barbarian; cartoonist Phil Foglio contributes a page of SF cinema-themed comic strips; Alan Dean Foster gives us his thoughts on E.T.; Norman Spinrad reviews Blade Runner; Ed Naha tells us what he thinks of Tron; Ron Goulart grades Poltergeist; Alan Spencer (yes, his third appearance in this issue) reviews the new production of The Thing (with a sidebar written by Steve Swires, in which Kenneth Tobey, actor in the 1951 version of The Thing, gives his comments on the remake); another page by Phil Foglio continues his cartoon look at summer cinema; and Fangoria editor Bob Martin reviews The Road Warrior, and he writes one of my favorite lines of the issue: "And since I begged the editor of this magazine for the opportunity to say some nice things about the film (after all, it is the only film I know of that closes with a grateful acknowledgement to Mack Trucks), I am definitely going to take advantage of the opportunity."

Steve Swires interviews Tron and Time Bandits star David Warner; Martha Bonds writes a long article (sprawled over 10 pages), "Ultimate Fantasy Report," giving a behind-the-scenes look at the failed convention; Kerry O'Quinn pens his own report, "From My Eyes Only," about what it was like to be caught in the center of the hurricane; and Howard Zimmerman wraps up this great issue with yet more thoughts on E.T., plus some explanation for why "a magazine that never prints reviews is printing eight of them in one issue."
"Whether you love or hate E.T., it can't be denied that it works on its audience. Spielberg and Mathison have told the tale they intended to tell. Me, I loved it, because I've shared the same dream since I was a boy. There are times when adult cynicism needs to be put aside and we all need to feel like a kid again."
--Alan Dean Foster, reviewer, "E.T., The Extraterrestrial"
To view previous Starlog issue descriptions, click on "Starlog Internet Archive Project" in the keywords below.


Unknown said...

Yeah, I really wished that they had continued to have notable writers review films. I thought that this issue was going to usher in a more critical phase with STARLOG but no dice. I guess they must not have gotten a good response from readers.

Love this blog and your STARLOG Archive project. I love this magazine and used to collect it religiously when I was kid back in the 1980s. These posts bring back some very fond memories.

jzipperer said...

Thanks for the response.

Yes, they only did three annual review issues, and I guess they either didn't get a good response from readers or they were more difficult to put together than a regular issue. Dunno. I still think it's a great idea.

robtmartin said...

I barely remember ever writing anything for Starlog, but I do remember how pleased I was with the Mack Trucks line as I wrote it.