Friday, September 23, 2011

And You Thought I Was Dreaming: Is the Magazine's Savior Already on the Market?

My sister, who works in the book business, let me know about the above video. The video's intended for publishing industry people who might buy the machine, but I post it here because it represents an exciting advance in print-on-demand and on-the-spot retailing. It is being pitched as a way for book publishers to keep their backlist available to customers without having to risk printing and distributing thousands of copies.

Readers of this blog know that my focus is more on the magazine business, and I think this could be similarly helpful for publishers of current magazines.

As I wrote a few years ago, I don't think the magazine business model has collapsed; it's the magazine distribution market that's collapsed. Retailers are carrying many fewer titles, fewer distributors even exist, and newsstand publishers still have to print untold copies of each issue that will never be sold but will instead end up in the shredders after they sit unsold on a magazine rack for a week or month. The cost of those over-print quantities is of course added to what customers pay for the copies they do buy. Therefore, I predicted that the salvation of the hard-copy print magazine will come from continued advances in personal printer technology, so that one day you can download and print out a fully bound, high quality magazine that's identical to one you would have picked up at the possibly non-existent newsstand or retailer. And those still-existing retailers could have such printers in their stores, where they print and sell copies as they need them.

If the magazine that this Espresso Book Machine can produce can be sold at a reasonable price, it could not only help all of us domestic publishers, but it could spawn hundreds of new publishers, and it could make it possible for a small magazine retailer to sell far more magazine titles than they can normally stock on their shelves; they could sell publications from all around the world, current copies and back issues.

There's probably still more development to go before this could be utilized for magazines (after all, photo-heavy magazines would require different paper, inks, and resolution than an all-text book interior), but magazine publishers and editors and advertisers and designers and writers and readers should start clamoring for it now.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Time to Blame Helmut Kohl for Europe's Problems?

The German parliament in Berlin.

Recently, former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl took to task current Chancellor Angela Merkel for her handling of the European debt crisis. "She's destroying my Europe," Der Spiegel quotes him as complaining.

 Kohl later disowned some of the comments he'd made and clarified, "It is true that I -- like many people -- am worried about the development in Europe and of the euro. I also see it as urgently necessary that the supposed euro crisis isn't regarded and discussed as a structural crisis of the euro per se, but as what it is: The result of homemade mistakes and challenges for both sides -- Europe and the national states."

The British press in particular likes to display great impatience with the way the fiscally responsible states (led by Germany, but also including smaller northern European nations) have dealt with the – there's no kind way to put it – disastrously fiscally irresponsible states. (One of the more intelligent articles of this type ran in the Financial Times.) The answer seems to be that the responsible states should just take on the burdens created by the irresponsible ones, without forcing the bad apples to rectify the structural problems that led to this disaster in the first place. I think Merkel has been slow and, yes, unimaginative, but she has also been largely correct: She has staked her reputation and political future on saving the eurozone, but she is also dedicated to forcing Greece, Italy, and others to learn to live like adult countries and not like teenagers who've just scored their parents' credit card for the weekend.

But we are still left with the ungenerous conclusion that Kohl himself should shoulder much of the blame. He, with France's then-President Francois Mitterand, cooked up the euro scheme as a way of mollifying European nations (France among them) that were worried about German reunification. It wasn't all a matter of that, because the European Union had been growing and solidifying for years, extending a zone of prosperity and law across a continent that had been destroyed countless times by conflict. So a common currency was a likely development at some point. But it's early introduction was intended to tie Germany closely enough to its neighbors that it theoretically would not go off marauding through the neighborhood again.

As such, it wasn't a bad idea. An unnecessary one, perhaps; there is absolutely zero appetite in Germany for fighting wars. But still, an understandable idea nonetheless.

What is not understandable is how Mitterand and Kohl, two veteran politicians who supposedly learned from the mistakes of the past, could concoct a system that is structurally illogical. Economic union without some sort of political union to enforce it is a recipe for disaster. This disaster, in fact. It could lead to large countries forcing their policies down the throats of smaller countries, which is what Merkel is being accused of doing by trying to get the poor performers to reform their economies and politics to make themselves competitive; or it could lead to poor countries overspending and expecting the rich countries to bail them out, which is the situation that has happened and that Merkel is trying to rectify.

Merkel is trying to clean up the mess that Kohl created.

If the euro was the first price Kohl and Germany paid to get reunification, then Greece, Ireland, and Italy have just presented the official invoice.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Tim Burton’s Nightmare: The Starlog Project, Starlog #197, December 1993

According to Wikipedia, director Tim Burton’s mother ran a “cat-themed gift shop.” We can all resist the temptation to declare that the feline connection explains Burton’s weirdness; for that matter, I write many of these Starlog Project reports with my cat Charlie camped out next to my computer. So you will have to look elsewhere to explain Burton’s unique style and outlook.

And whether you like his work or not, I think it is difficult to argue that he didn't make a number of standout films in his career, starting with Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, his breakout Beetlejuice, his Batman reboot, and many others. When one heard that Burton was preparing another film, one almost started playing guessing games: What would be the angle? What would be weird about it (I mean, it’s Batman, right? Cape, tights, crazy villains – how could you possibly do that differently than past productions? Oh...)? Again, whether or not you liked his final film, it did have his vision stamped on it, and he managed to break out of a lot of the writing and styling straightjackets of so much big-budgeted Hollywood output of the 1980s and early 1990s.

Well, he did it again with The Nightmare Before Christmas, which Starlog gives the cover feature treatment this issue. Actually, Burton created and produced this film, which was directed by Henry Selick. This stop-motion holiday film not only revived a dormant puppetry art form but twisted the usual holiday expectations around and around until you didn’t know what to expect and you just reveled in being shown something new and innovative.

Oh, and we should note that the mayor’s car in Nightmare has a cat-shaped ornament that wails when its tale is pulled. Or so says Wikipedia.

Starlog #197
92 pages (including covers)
Cover price: $4.95

This issue, Starlog announces its newest spinoff publication, the odd-duck Starlog Platinum Edition. It was a neat basic idea: Devote each entire issue to one topic; the first issue is devoted to writers, including a tales-from-the-front article by Starlog’s new assistant editor, Marc Bernadin (who would eventually become the magazine’s managing editor, and is today a comics writer). Anyway, the Platinum concept either wasn’t a success or the editors grew bored with it; after all, the first issue is devoted to writers, the second to actors, and third to “makers of science fiction,” and there aren’t that many more single-issue topics you can use when your topics are that broad. So the single-topic idea was soon dropped, and with issue #6, Starlog Platinum Edition was relaunched and renamed Starlog Science Fiction Explorer. This new incarnation was nicely done, in my opinion, with some very nice designs and interesting articles. But as editor David McDonnell wrote a decade later, Explorer was really just “more Starlog” and wasn’t different enough from its mother magazine to make it on its own. It died with issue #11.

But enough of Platinums and Explorers. What about Starlog #197?

The rundown: On the cover is Jack Skellington as the Santa who’d really frighten the kids at the mall; a different fantasy image – a painting by Michael Whelan – is featured on the contents page. In his Medialog column, David McDonnell tells us that The Invaders is returning to the TV screen with a new series, allegedly as a Fox show. Michael McAvennie’s Gamelog column reviews Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Dragon Strike, and other games. The Communications section includes Mike Fisher’s Wolf Man Creature Profile, plus some interesting letters about sex roles in Star Trek: The Next Generation. David Hutchison’s Videolog column notes the release of a bunch of additional Next Generation cassettes, plus a nonfiction turn by Patrick Stewart as narrator of The Planets. And Booklog reviews A Night in the Lonesome October, Chanur’s Legacy, Berserker Kill, Crossover, Empire Builders, Empire of the Eagle, The Sharp End, The Dream Machines, Winds of Fury, White Queen, Healer, The Hammer and the Cross, and Sam Gunn, Unlimited.

Over the years, Creature from the Black Lagoon got a lot of love from Starlog, often in the form of interviews by Tom Weaver of its stars. This issue the mag goes back to the well once again, only this time writer Pat Jankiewicz steps up and provides an interview with Harry Essex, Creature’s screenwriter. Essex also talks about some of his other projects, including It Came From Outer Space and even I Dream of Jeannie. Marc Shapiro examines a less-exhalted piece of science-fiction cinema in an interview with actor Wesley Snipes, who talkes about his role in Demolition Man. Veteran fantasy artist Michael Whelan is profiled by managing editor Maureen McTigue. And actor Robert Burke chats with Kim Howard Johnson about Burke’s role as “This Year’s RoboCop.”

Dan Yakir writes the cover story, “‘Twas the Night Before Halloween,” about the Nightmare Before Christmas. Director Henry Selick notes that “I’m personally very influenced by both Dr. Seuss and a lot of Eastern European animation. When I was a kid, I used to see the films of German animator Lotte Reininger, who actually did the world’s first animated feature, The Adventures of Prince Ahmed: It was all black cutout figures, silhouettes. This is the same kind of background Tim Burton came from.” That, and cats.

Meanwhile, Joe Nazzaro talks to actor Peter Davison about his place in Doctor Who history. Bill Warren interviews teen actor Jonathan Brandis, who probably didn’t make Wil Wheaton happy when he said, “Wesley Crusher?! Oh, no, no, no, no. I rarely ever save the seaQuest.” Of course, he later notes that “I’m a big fan of Wil Wheaton’s stuff – he’s a good actor.” Peter Bloch-Hansen chats with actor Famke Janssen about her role in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Perfect Mate.” Marc Shapiro talks to actor Bruce Campbell about his move from films to his new Fox TV series The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. and notes, “I’m used to getting away with murder. It’s interesting now to be in a world where I have to abide by certain restrictions.”

The Fan Network pages include the usual SF clubs and publications directory, the convention calendar, and a gaggle of comics. Kerry O’Quinn’s From the Bridge column looks at efforts to find planets outside our solar system – something that would become much more common a decade and a half later. Pat Jankiewicz visits the set of Monolith. And editor David McDonnell uses his Liner Notes column to present one of his look-at-all-the-new-mags-we’re-selling-today previews. The amazing thing is that most of them were edited by McDonnell, who was simultaneously running Starlog, Starlog Platinum Edition/Explorer, Star Trek: The Next Generation licensed magazine, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine licensed magazine, and Comics Scene. And I’m probably leaving some off that list. It’s pretty impressive when you consider just how much of the magazine rack in the TV/movie section of the time were products of that overworked editor.
“Of course, everybody [pities the Creature.] I do many of my movies that way. In another movie I did, He Walked By Night, Dick Basehart is roaming the streets, gets stopped by a policeman, so he kills the cop. I made everybody love the cop killer by doing strange things. It was kind of a game, ‘I can make you love this man!’ ‘No, you can’t, he’s a killer!’ I made him a loner, he has an animal – a cat – and he’s stealing milk for this cat. Then, he does a surgical thing where he tries to take a bullet out of himself. He spends five minutes trying to dig out that bullet. The audience beings to feel that pain and wants him to get away!”–Harry Essex, screenwriter, interviewed by Pat Jankiewicz: “Bard of the Black Lagoon”
For more, click on Starlog Internet Archive Project below or visit the Starlog Project's permanent site

Borussia Dortmund and Zeit Magazin: This Week's Cool Magazine Cover

In this week's look at random but well-done magazine covers, I present these three handsome gentlemen on the cover of Germany's Zeit Magazin.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Revenge of the Jedi Kittens

More light-saber cat fights, courtesy of FinalCutKing:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Complete Contents of Galaxis October 2011 Issue

Now that several hundred people have already sampled the second issue of Galaxis, my digital magazine devoted to "The Worlds of Science & Science Fiction," it's time to share the entire contents with you.
The Great Starship Challenge (help NASA and DARPA plan an interstellar spacecraft)
Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Episode Guide (to the reimagined series)
The Old German Future (a look at forgotten German science fiction)
Prometheus Unbound (a critical examination of the free-for-all attempts to publicize secrets about Ridley Scott's new film)
Bunky's Odd Friends (Lyle Lahey's 1970s comic strip rediscovered)
Perry Rhodan Starts Over (rebooting the German SF series)
Trips to the Moon (possibly the very first SF story ever written)
Saturn's Secrets (photo guide to the ringed planet) 
Viewscreen (when politics and SF meet)
Launch Tube (short news about Schwarzenegger and the next Terminator, remembering Martin H. Greenberg, Star Trek updates, and more)
Worldly Things (these are a few of our favorite things)
Webbed (websites of interest)
Compendium (event listings – exhibits, conventions, space launches, lectures, and much more)
Mail (reader reaction)
Reviewscreen (reviews of The Magician King, The Windup Girl, The Host, the summer's superhero onslaught, and more)
Plus, of course, a look at the next issue.
All of that is in one colorful 60-page magazine, which I've designed for people who love science fiction and science, and particularly for people looking for something a little different, a little deeper, than they get from other magazines in the field. Won't you join us?

Remember, you can read or download a free digital copy of Galaxis from here, or you can purchase a print-on-demand copy here.

The Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Copyediting

 As often is the case when I write a post about magazine covers, this is apropos of nothing particularly significant.

This morning I found online the above cover of a 1992 issue of Omni magazine. I immediately figured I should order a copy, because it features an article on Mystery Science Theater 3000, one of the great TV shows of all time. Except ... Omni mistitles MST3K on the cover text: "Laughing at the Future with Mystery Science 3000."

It would not be the last time that MST3K was incorrectly identified on a genre magazine cover. Four years later, Starlog would announce the MST3K motion picture by shouting on its cover, "Joel, Tom Servo & Crow make a movie!" Which would have been great, except that creator and host Joel Hodgson had left the show some time earlier and it was his successor, Michael J. Nelson, who made a movie with the help of his robot friends.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Chinese "UFO" Videos

So either China has been recognized even by aliens as the new alpha nation worth visiting, or digital videography has achieved widespread popularity in Guangzhou

We'll probably learn soon enough that this was all just a publicity stunt for an upcoming Chinese science fiction movie.

Friday, September 9, 2011

My Interview with Immigration Attorney Lavi Soloway

Lavi Soloway (photo by Klaus Enrique Photography)
There have been some momentous developments in the nation's immigration laws lately. After journalist Jose Antonio Vargas spoke at The Commonwealth Club (where I work) about his life as an undocumented immigrant, I talked with well-known immigration attorney Lavi Soloway about what it all means and where it might be heading.

Read it on The Commonwealth Club of California's blog

I think I'm going to have to buy this issue.

10 Years Later, Still Fresh

As we head into the 10th anniversary weekend of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, I offer up some memories that I've posted here before:
Remembering 9/11 in New York City 
I can only imagine what this time of the year is like for the people who lost loved ones in those plane hijackings and the destruction of the office towers and part of the Pentagon. My connection to it is merely one of my memory starting with walking to work in Manhattan. The offices for Internet World magazine were located just a couple blocks north of Union Square, which means that if one went to a north-south street, one could count on seeing the twin towers. Read the entire post

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Galaxis #2 Now Available on MagCloud Print-on-Demand

Galaxis: Galaxis
New! Complete episode guide to the new Battlestar Galactica series, plus a look at the lost worlds of German science fiction, a Cassini visit to Saturn, Perry Rhodan starts over, Bunky comics, SF from the Roman empire, reviews of The Magician King, and so much more!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Galaxis Issue Two – Now Available

The free digital edition is available at

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Looking at Wookies: This Week in Cool Magazine Covers

Apropos of nothing whatsoever, I serve up for you today two covers that feature the same cool photo of Chewbacca from The Empire Strikes Back.

The Fantastic Films cover on the left is the September 1980 issue, one of approximately 4 zillion Empire-themed covers that FF published. (Hey, you go with what sells newsstand copies; no argument there.) The cover on the right was actually not an external cover; it was inside the July 1980 issue of competitor Starlog, serving as the intro page to its special anniversary section.

Though I take second place to no one when it comes to over-the-top Starlog appreciation, I have to give first-place honors here to the Fantastic Films cover. It's colors are better, and even the piling on of endless cover text works in the manner they did it. Either way, we need more Wookies on magazing covers.

Click on the image to biggie-size it.