Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Lucas Has 50 Episodes Written for New Star Wars TV Series

AV Club reports that Star Wars creator George Lucas has 50 scripts on hand for episodes of a new Star Wars television series, though he is waiting for the development of the right technology to help him make the series before he actually starts filming.

That's pretty big news, though it's hard to learn much about it when so much of the fanboy reporting on the subject is couched among snarky anti-Lucas comments in many places. (Seriously, if they hate Lucas so much because they hate the special editions and prequels, why do they keep reporting on Lucas Star Wars productions?) But at least AV Club has the basic news.

No ETA on the new series yet, naturally.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Independent Newspaper Legend Frank Wood, RIP

This past Friday, May 27, Frank Wood passed away at the age of 82. He was a professor and small business owner, but most significant was his decades of work as a publisher of a string of local newspapers in Wisconsin and Illinois.

For all of you publishing exec-wannabes (like me), it is useful to know that Wood became smitten with newspaper publishing when he served in the Allied occupying armies in Germany after World War II. In the early 1960s, he and his wife bought their first newspaper, the Denmark Press. They eventually bought or started more, until they had a string of them, most of them modestly profitable, along with a successful printing operation.

But it was the Green Bay News-Chronicle that defines his legacy for many of us. The morning paper started as a strike paper by employees of the much-larger Green Bay Press-Gazette. When Wood bought the fledgling paper, he brought in additional talent, including my mother and the man who eventually became my stepfather. (I can remember my mother working into the evenings to help oversee the production of the little daily paper.) The Chronicle grew into a scrappy independent voice in the Green Bay area, almost always losing money but subsidized by the profits made elsewhere in the Wood family publishing company.

Eventually, the losses at the paper became unsustainable, and when the Gazette switched from afternoon to morning distribution, that was the death knell for the Chronicle, which went into a circulation tailspin. Eventually Wood sold the paper and most of his company to Gannett, which owned the Gazette and against which Wood had fought bravely for decades. The story of that war was the subject of Richard McCord's 1996 book The Chain Gang.

The above cartoon was created by Lyle Lahey, my stepfather and for about 25 years the daily editorial cartoonist for the News-Chronicle.

More info at the Green Bay Press Gazette obituary.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Complete Table of Contents for Galaxis: The Worlds of Science & Science Fiction

Here's the complete list of contents in the premiere issue of Galaxis: The Worlds of Science & Science Fiction.


String Theory's Father: Q&A with Leonard Susskind, science rock star

Scientist on a Mission: In an exclusive interview, Michio Kaku talks about the future – that's being built today

The Long March of Star Wolf: David Gerrold's classic space war novels deserve to be filmed

The Paper Rumor Mill: How fans got their news before the internet

Remembering Moonbase Alpha

Heart-to-Heart Talk: Deepak Srivastava talks stem cells

When 14-Year-Olds Saved Humanity: How Gundam puts U.S. animation to shame

A Larger View: Photo essay on how NASA has broadened our universe

The Lathe of Heaven: Ursula K. Le Guin's brainy SF classic on TV

Michael Medved & Robot Monster

Real Space, Real People: It's finally happening: Real people in space


Viewscreen: Introducing Galaxis; science fiction and science are already everywhere

Launch Tube: Galactica back x2? Can America still be a futurist technology leader? And more news

Question Time: Author and anthropologist Mary Doria Russell

Discoveries: Where can you see a real dinosaur today? We've got the photos to show you.

Reviewscreen: Science fiction and fact from around the world: K-20: The Fiend with Twenty Faces, The Secrets of the Chess Machine. Plus: Potter, Kaku, and Eerie Publications

Next Issue: The future in Galaxis

All of that can be found in the July 2011 issue of Galaxis (volume 1, number 1!). It's easy to get your hands on it: You can view and download a free digital copy of the magazine at issuu or you can buy a print-on-demand copy from MagCloud.

Let me know what you think about the magazine. I am already hard at work on the second issue.

Leonard Nimoy's Retirement: He Won't Be Spock Again

Actor, director, photographer Leonard Nimoy is set to end his public career and made what he calls one of his last public appearances when he is a guest at Phoenix Comicon on May 28, 2011.

He told College Times that he would be heading into retirement, but would not by any means be doing nothing:
The actor and science-fiction legend says he just doesn't feel the need for it anymore, emotionally or financially, and that he would rather focus more on his photography. "Several museums now hold my work around the country," he says. "But the most important [reason] is my family. I have a great family life, with wonderful people that I love dearly. I've had a great, great run and I'm a very grateful guy."
That's a more positive story to tell than Harlan Ellison told about what he called his final convention appearance last year.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Galaxis Now Available on MagCloud Print-on-Demand

My new magazine, Galaxis: The Worlds of Science & Science Fiction, is not only available on issuu but now you can order a printed copy via our pals at MagCloud. I just received my copy, and it looks very nifty.

Click on the button below to learn more.

Number 1
Galaxis Issue 1: Number 1
The premiere issue of Galaxis: The Worlds of Science and Science Fiction includes interviews with Michio Kaku, Fred Barzyk, Mary Doria Russell, Leonard Susskind, & others, plus a retrospective of Star Wars magazines, David Gerrold's Starhunt books, Virgin Galactic's private space fleet, and much…

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.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bookless in San Francisco

In the past few years, downtown San Francisco has lost all of its big bookstores. Most recently, in the wake of Borders' bankruptcy, we saw two Borders stores close downtown. A year or so earlier, we lost the large independent Stacey's bookstore and the Virgin Megastore (which wasn't primarily books, but it had a large books section). And before that, in 2007 we lost a large Cody's Bookstore.

All of those stores were within a relatively short walking distance of my office. If I wanted to pick up a book or new magazine, or if I just wanted to browse, I had many choices.

Now, there is no large downtown San Francisco bookstore. None. In fact, within the downtown area proper, how many bookstores of any type are left? Ignoring the stores on the periphery of the business district (and there are some good, unique small bookstores, such as Kayo Books) and a couple in Chinatown (you can quibble over whether Chinatown is in "downtown" or if it's a neighboring district), there's only one store that I know of: Alexander Book Company on Second Street off Market. It, too, is a nice bookstore. But it is not a giant one, and it is not large enough to be an anchor bookstore for a major city's downtown.

Will Barnes & Noble set up shop in any of the vacant space? That company currently only has one store in the city, off in the somewhat hard-to-access Fisherman's Warf area. A prime downtown store near the Powell Street subway station or Union Square could be a coup. Then again, B&N is reportedly up for sale, and it might not be in an expansionary mood.

Will an independent company set up a large store downtown? That would be a wonderful occurrence, but getting funding for a bookstore in the current economy is likely to be difficult, to say the least.

It looks more likely that this busy downtown area, filled with over-educated people, will go forward for the foreseeable future being severely bookstore-deprived.

And Now, Just Read Galaxis. Here. Free.

Free Galaxis and Magma Magazines for Your Android Mobile Devices -- from Issuu.com

Issuu.com, the free digital publishing platform I use for my magazines, has created a nifty mobile app that lets you download and view digital magazines from its online newsstand.

Galaxis is my newest publication, and it features articles, interviews, and reviews from the worlds of science and science fiction. You can read it at Issuu. Magma is my other publication, produced earlier this year and focused on the magazine industry. It is also on Issuu.

You can read (and download to your computer) both magazines at Issuu on your computer, or you can now download the entire magazines to your Android mobile device. It's all free. The mobile reader lets you view the entire page on your screen; to zoom in to read the text, you just double-tap on the text and it comes up in a clear text reader. I tried it, and it's very quick, cool, and easy to use.

You can get the app either by going to m.issuu.com on your phone's browser, or do what I did and get the free Issuu app from the Android Market on your phone (just open the Market application, and search for "issuu").

As for you iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch users, you'll have to keep holding your breath. Issuu says it's been trying to get Apple to approve a version for its mobile devices, but Apple keeps rejecting it. I have an iPod Touch that I like very much, so I hope they can get on board the Apple express in the near future.

PS: I should have some exciting news from the world of MagCloud to announce within the next week.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

New Free Digital Magazine: Galaxis – The Worlds of Science & Science Fiction

I'm proud to unveil the premiere issue of my new digital magazine, Galaxis. Subtitled "The worlds of science & science fiction," the premiere issue features an exclusive interview with famed physicist Dr. Michio Kaku, plus Q&As with writer Mary Doria Russell, physicist Leonard Susskind, critic Michael Medved, and heart specialist Deepak Srivastava.

Also in this issue is a colorful look at the days when science fiction magazines were the place to find out about your favorite genre films, background on Mobile Suit Gundam, David Gerrold's Starhunt books, a look back at the TV adaptation of The Lathe of Heaven, and more.

This new quarterly magazine is a free digital magazine that you can read online or download. Check it out today.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Philipp Rösler Elected Leader of Germany's Free Democrats

Just the latest sign of dramatic and welcome changes in Germany: Earlier today, the Free Democrats elected Philipp Rösler as its leader, succeeding Guido Westerwelle.

It's a first following a first, if you will. Westerwelle, who will remain as the country's foreign minister, is openly gay. Rösler is straight, but he was born in Vietnam before being adopted by German parents.

The Free Democrats are the junior party in the conservative government of Angela Merkel (who, for the record, is Germany's first female chancellor). Despite a strong economy, they are currently rather embattled in the polls, and it was as a result of their drop in popularity that Westerwelle stepped aside as party leader and the party elected new leadership. Rösler is also switching over from leading the health ministry to heading up the all-important economics, and he will assume from Westerwelle the role of Merkel's vice chancellor.

The fact that the Free Democrats selected the handsome 38-year-old doctor Rösler is just the latest sign of that party's classical liberal (in the European sense) leanings. Now we'll find out if he has the ability to reverse his party's slide in the polls and help buck up the CDU-led coalition government in Berlin.

[Photo from fdp.de]

Fangoria Announces Bloody Best of Gorezone Special Edition Magazine

In its weekly newsletter, horror magazine Fangoria announced a sort-of resurrection of Gorezone magazine, a dormant sister publication published by the Fango staff in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The Blood Best of Gorezone magazine will feature reprinted articles from the dead (now undead?) magazine. But don't rush to your local Barnes & Noble; the magazine will only be available at Comic Con and through the Fangoria web site.

Gorezone was one of the horror magazines – along with the even shorter-lived Toxic Horror – that Fangoria's former publisher, Starlog Group, produced in an attempt to suck up newsstand space from competitors. Gorezone (not to be confused with the unrelated British Gorezone magazine that is published today) was sort of like Fango's messier little brother, covering more edgy and bloody films than even Fango covered (which is saying something, because Fangoria earned its fame by being the bloody, new wave horror film mag of the 1980s). Aside from the requisite film reports, it included some things Fangoria didn't, such as posters, short fiction, and a number of critical columns.

According to Fangoria, this Bloody Best of Gorezone is the brainchild of current Fango editor Chris Alexander, who had teased the project on his Facebook page a while back. It's just the latest welcome thing Alexander has done to shake up the Fangoria franchise.

Will it lead to a full-scale, ongoing return to print of new Gorezone issues? Fango didn't say, but its reception at Comic Con and online could be a good indicator to the current publisher of reader appetite for the magazine.

Hint, hint.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs: The Starlog Project, Starlog #193, August 1993

The cover of this issue of Starlog doesn’t lie. It promises “DINOSAURS! DINOSAURS! DINOSAURS!” and it really delivers. Smart dinosaurs, classic dinosaurs, mutant dinosaurs, violent dinosaurs, comic dinosaurs. Even a dinosaur in a Hawaiian shirt. All in there.

And that’s not all. Editor David McDonnell notes that Starlog Press has just published a one-shot magazine called (originally enough) Dinosaur. It was edited by McDonnell’s colleague, Tony Timpone, the editor of Fangoria. McDonnell praises it highly, as do I. Fun magazine. Not to be confused with the same-named Dinosaur magazine Starlog published around 2000, which was the official, licensed movie magazine for Disney’s Dinosaur film.

Starlog #193
84 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $4.95

A while ago, Starlog announced the opening of the first of its Starlog: The Science-Fiction Superstore retail locations. There is an advertisement for the Ridgewood, New Jersey, store in this issue on page 71, near the classified ads. Interestingly, tucked among the classified ads is this notice in the Miscellaneous category: “LOOKING TO BUY: Star Wars, Empire & Return of the Jedi toys in original boxes. Send description to Norman Jacobs, Starlog, 475 Park Ave. South, 8th Flr., NYC, NY 10016.” I’m figuring that those toys were being sought for resale in the Starlog stores. What do you think? Or was Jacobs just looking for a really cool gift for his nieces and nephews?

BTW, on a very minor note, around the time of this issue, Starlog started including “design and layout” credits on each of its articles, presumably to give its overworked art staff some more recognition. I assume this was an initiative of McDonnell, because I don’t recall seeing it in any of the Starlog Group publications that were not edited by him. I also don’t think I’ve ever seen it in any other magazine published by any other company. That’s neither good nor bad; just noteworthy – at least to magazine nerds like me.

The rundown: The cover is packed with photos of dinosaurs (I mean, DINOSAURS! DINOSAURS! DINOSAURS!). Meanwhile, dinos from the comic book Dinosaurs for Hire are on the contents page. In his Medialog column, David McDonnell reports that Skyvision is planning a 22-episode TV series based on the RoboCop movies. Michael McAvennie reviews GURPS Conan, Capcom USA’s The Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse, and other games in hs Gamelog column. And the Communications pages include Mike Fisher’s Creature Profile (featuring Rodan), readers picking apart the Space Rangers series, the required letter about Star Trek, and more, including people fretting about the cancellation of Quantum Leap (plus someone actually being helpful: a letter writer from Canada corrects a scene from that series in which someone experiencing a seizure is “helped” by Sam trying to stop him from swallowing his tongue. As the letter writer correctly notes, it’s physically impossible to swallow your tongue – seriously; try it – and attempts to stick something in the person’s mouth could actually result in harming the person undergoing the seizure. That’s your public service announcement of the day, courtesy of someone who knows whereof he speaks.)

In his Videolog column, David Hutchison describes how physicist Stephen Hawking ended up making an appearance on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Booklog reviews The Hammer of God, By the Sword: Magic of the Plains, More Whatdunits, Predator, Beggars in Spain, Glory, Warpath, Peter Nevsky and the True Story of the Russian Moon Landing, and Jadium. Scott Brigg’s directory of fan clubs and publications, along with the convention listings, fill up Fan Network. And in his From the Bridge column, Kerry O’Quinn lets his Texas roots show with a big wet kiss for AggieCon.

Interplanetary Correspondent Michael J. Wolff really gets the dino-party started with a five-page overview of dinosaurs and related giant scary lizards in genre history. (Illustrations by George Kochell.) The magazine finally tracks down actor Christopher Lloyd, and Bill Warren gets him to talk about his roles in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Addams Family, Star Trek III, the Back to the Future movies, and more. Kim Howard Johnson previews the Malibu comic book series Dinosaurs for Hire, which is where you'll find the Hawaiian shirt-clad dino. Marc Shapiro chats with Arnold Schwarzenegger about his latest film, Last Action Hero. And Bill Warren gets the scoop on Jurassic Park from stars Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldbum.

Pat Jankiewicz provides a one-page chat with director Steve Miner about the filmmaker's attempt to make an American Godzilla movie. Tom Weaver chimes in with two articles: a Q&A with screenwriter Charles Bennett (The Secret of the Loch, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and others) and a profile of the late filmmaker Eugene Lourie (The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Gorgo, and more). Marc Shapiro interviews production designer and art director David Snyder, who discusses his groundbreaking work on Blade Runner and other films, such as Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey and Brainstorm. And in his Liner Notes column, editor David McDonnell returns to the topic of dinosaurs, admitting that he's "always found dinosaurs the most intriguing of all bygone beasties."
“Although the citizens of Tokyo, London and New York may have trouble believing this, Godzilla, Gorgo and the Deadly Mantis would have eventually died without proper medical supervision by trained veterinarians. The same problem applies to the other giant beasts which thrived after World War II, such as the mutant ants which roamed the New Mexico desert in Them! (1954), or the giant arachnid created by Professor Deemer in Tarantula (1955). Our world is ecologically different from that of the Mesozoic. Any creatures from that time which might still exist risk eventually being driven out of the safety of their fossil zones and forced into an environment they’re no longer able to tolerate. Small wonder many of them, especially the theropods, rampage.”
–Michael J. Wolff, Interplanetary Correspondent, “The Season of the Dragons”
For more, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent site.

Michio Kaku: Master of Time and Space – My Latest Northside San Francisco Column

Michio Kaku describes the laws of physics
that will determine our future. Photo: Ed Ritger
My current Common Knowledge column in Northside magazine features physicist Dr. Michio Kaku and his thoughts on the future of the Bay Area, which is where he grew up.

Common Knowledge 
Master of Time and Space 
By John Zipperer
Renowned physicist Dr. Michio Kaku has seen the Bay Area change from the open fields of his childhood to the insatiable metropolis of today. Now he’s offering a look at what it will be like in the future, and it might make a few people wish for the open fields once again. 
The very busy Kaku is professor of theoretical physics at CUNY and the co-founder of string field theory. He has authored many books, including the current bestseller Physics of the Future; he hosts two weekly radio programs and has hosted numerous science television series; and he frequently appears on national news programs to share his expertise on scientific matters, most recently on the Japanese nuclear crisis.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Catching Up

Sorry; I haven't blogged for a week. I've been busy with numerous other projects (almost all of them good).

So let me get caught up with my news and views:

1) Even after listening to (or reading) all of the concerns about feeling good that Osama bin Laden was killed, I still feel good that Osama bin Laden was killed.

2) Let Greece exit the eurozone. Dragging this process out forever is just making everyone (markets and national voters) uncertain, which increases the costs of doing business.

3) What? Justin Bieber is called a "brat" by a co-star? Imagine that. A Johnsonville brat?

4) Jezebel reports that an ultra-religious Jewish newspaper Photoshopped U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton out of the famous situation room photo, which showed President Obama and his national security team following progress in the commando raid on bin Laden (again, I still feel good about that raid). The reason? "The religious paper never publishes pictures of women, as they could be considered 'sexually suggestive.'" Uh, right.

5) Wisconsin's right-wing governor, Scott Walker, put out a video praising public employees. Yep, the governor, whose name you know only because of his questionable efforts to strip public employees of rights and benefits, says he likes them, really likes them. He'd just like them to be poorer.

6) I should have my newest digital magazine available online by next weekend. If you like science and science fiction, you might want to check it out. I'll have more info on the weekend.

7) Still feel good about the terrorist's death. I don't care if he was behind a human shield, if he had a weapon, if he was watching American Idol.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Unidentified Schwarzenegger Object: The Starlog Project, Starlog #192, July 1993

Over the nearly two decades of its existence, Starlog has occasionally reported on the UFO phenomenon. Except for its film-related reporting (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, for example), the magazine was blessedly free of the gullible reportage of much of the popular press. Unlike Omni magazine, for example, Starlog never drank the Kool-aid. Instead, it published articles such as James Oberg's intelligent examination of flying saucer claims. That was back in issue #12 in March 1978. The late 1970s were a cyclical high point of alien visitation claims, but things calmed down for a while after that time.

In the July 1993 issue, though, former publisher Kerry O’Quinn takes the bull by the horns (he’s from Texas, see) and lambasts claims that aliens are landing in Alabama and mutilating cows. About midway through the column, O’Quinn writes, “Whenever I meet someone new, and they learn that I am involved in science fiction, their first question is usually, ‘Do you believe in UFOs?’ To me, this is insulting. Let me make myself absolutely clear – NO, I do not believe in flying saucers, alien abductions or little green people from beyond our solar system who have the incredible technology to travel light years to our planet, sustain themselves somehow with endless fuel and food while they play cat-and-mouse games in our cloud layers….”

Sometimes a bit of controversy can be a positive spark for a magazine. When it comes with a dose of rationality, it is like a welcome cup of water to a desert wanderer.

Starlog #192
84 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $4.95

This is Starlog’s 17th anniversary issue, which is celebrated with all of the pomp and circumstance of the royal wedding, except for the pomp and circumstance part. In fact, there are no extra pages or special features or any indication at all that it’s an anniversary issue aside from a badge on the front cover and the editor’s column at the end of the magazine. What, are they ashamed of being a 17-year-old magazine? Or is it because Starlog would suffer a premature death at the age of 33 in 2009, so the mag's editors and publishers somehow realized they had reached publishing middle-age?

The rundown: The cover features Arnold Schwarzenegger and his Last Action Hero co-star Austin O’Brien; a slightly different take on that same pose is on the contents page (the change is so slight, it might require many readers to look closely to see how the two images are different). A neat touch, that. Meanwhile, in his Medialog column, David McDonnell notes that early discussions have taken place about a feature film version of the old Lost in Space TV series. Michael McAvennie’s Gamelog reviews a number of Star Wars games, including Super Nintendo’s Super Star Wars, Game Boy’s The Empire Strikes Back, and others. And reader letters in the Communications pages include an official response from the Sci-Fi Channel regarding hopes and fears Starlog readers have expressed about the new channel, plus there’s an unbelievably long letter about Beauty & the Beast, and Mike Fisher’s Creature Profile features Gorgo.

In the early 1990s, VHS video cassettes were the relatively cheapest and easiest way to experience your favorite movies and old TV shows in the comfort of your own home. As David Hutchison notes in his Videolog column, various episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation as well as the Trek movies are available for just $14.95 each, but that was in the days before commentary tracks and hours and oodles of hours of extras packed onto DVDs and Blu-rays. Booklog reviews Isaac Asimov’s Forward the Foundation (reviewer Jean-Marc Lofficier loved it), as well as Caliban, Dreams Underfoot, Path of the Hero, The Wall at the Edge of the World, A Sword for a Dragon, Redline the Stars, Retro Lives, The Element of Fire, A Wizard in Absentia, Warlords of Jupiter, Athyra, and Sandman, Sleep. The fan network includes Scott Briggs’ directory of clubs and publications, plus the convention calendar. And, as noted, Kerry O’Quinn shoots down UFOs, in his From the Bridge column.

Speaking of questionable claims, on page 21 of this issue, there is an advertisement for L. Ron Hubbard’s Battlefield Earth. Among the blurbs promoting the book is this from novelist Frederik Pohl: “I read [Battlefield Earth] straight through in one sitting although it’s immense … I was fascinated by it.” Really? According to Amazon.com, the book’s 1,004 pages long. I’m not calling Mr. Pohl a liar, but surely he was mistaken when he said he read it entirely in one sitting. Was he on some strange drugs that kept him awake long enough to reach the last page? Even if he could read a quite-fast 60 pages an hour, it would still take more than 16 hours. Any slower than that, and it soon takes a full day and night to complete this sucker. I’ve never read Battlefield Earth – nor any other book attributed to Hubbard – though I did sacrifice $9 that never did anything wrong to me so I could see the film made from it. The movie felt like it was 16 hours. But I have a good friend who is in no way a devotee of Hubbard’s religion who nonetheless says this book was a hell of an enjoyable novel, so I will grant the possibility that Pohl, too, found the book fascinating in some non-ironic way. But to spend anywhere from 16 to 24 hours “in one sitting” reading it? I guess I am calling him a liar.

Anyway, back to the issue. Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Data, actor Brent Spiner, is interviewed by Joe Nazzaro. Author (and climate change skeptic) Michael Crichton is interviewed by Bill Warren, discussing the Steven Spielberg adaptation of his book Jurassic Park as well as other adaptations of his work, such as Runaway and Rising Sun. Marc Shapiro visits the set of Last Action Hero. He talks to the director, John McTiernan, and others involved in the movie, including star Schwarzenegger, who admits that it is “not necessarily the most challenging role I’ve ever had,” and that “I’m the first one to laugh at the silliness of the films I’ve done.” Kim Howard Johnson profiles producer Robert Solo and his Body Snatchers film. And Dan Yakir previews Super Mario Brothers, the $42 million film starring Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo.

Stan Nicholls and Michael McCarty separately interviewed legendary writer (and reader!) Frederick Pohl, and Starlog combines their two interviews into one quite interesting six-page article. Pat Jankiewicz talks with screenwriter Jon Povill, who discusses his many projects (with a resume that is quite Trek-heavy), but the article starts off with a fascinating story about how he and Gene Roddenberry got involved with a group of people who claimed to be in telepathic contact with aliens. And editor David McDonnell wraps it all up with an anniversary Liner Notes column, citing numerous people responsible for the magazine reaching the magic age of 17.
“I was in Paris in August 1945, and I was getting a haircut in a barber shop. ... I was looking over the shoulder of the man next to me, and he had a newspaper with a big headline, ‘Le Bomb et Amique.’ And the first thing I thought was that these crazy French will print anything in their papers. And then when I looked a little closer and realized it actually had happened, I felt – well, I knew it all along and I had. Everybody who read science fiction knew that this was a good possibility. There are several kinds of science fiction that you can’t write anymore. You can’t write about the first intelligent robot, the first trip to the Moon or the first nuclear war, because they’ve happened, but the consequences of all these things are just getting clearer every day.”
–Frederick Pohl, novelist, interviewed by Stan Nicholls and Michael McCarty: “The View from a Distant Star”
For more, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent site.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

President Obama's Excellent Speech on Osama bin Laden


Remembering Osama's Hatred of Mankind

On this day, when Osama bin Laden has been reportedly killed at long last, I think it's time to remember just one of his crimes, just one of his many, many crimes and murders, the awful days of 9/11 in Manhattan, where I was living at the time.

Osama Bin Laden Dead

The reports coming out of Washington are that evil al Qaeda mastermind/fanatic Osama Bin Laden is dead and his body is in U.S. custody. As I write this, I am awaiting President Barack Obama's public speech on the topic.

So, until the president speaks, let me just note how welcome this news is. One does not have to glorify in death to be happy when a mass murderer is dead. I hate killing and war, but Osama Bin Laden is about as far from an innocent or from a correctable criminal as one can get. So, if the reports are true and the awful Osama is dead, then that's great news. It doesn't mean al Qaeda is no longer a threat, but it puts the biggest spanner in their operations that we've yet seen, and they do remain a lethal threat, even to relatively minor military nations.

Osama, may you never rest in peace.