Tuesday, April 14, 2009

So Long, Starlog...

I'm a day or two behind on this news, but Entertainment Weekly's Pop Watch reports that the 33-year old genre magazine Starlog is "temporarily" folding as a print publication in 2009 (though the online site will continue). This is sad and unwelcome news for the genre, and for me too. Personally, I will forever gaze back on Starlog with nostalgia and great affection .

The magazine was first published back in August 1976 (with a beautiful Star Trek cover) and the periodical looked at the state of the genre -- film and TV -- with great detail, love and intelligence. Starlog was around for the heyday of Space:1999, Star Wars, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Alien, Battlestar Galactica, The Black Hole, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and so many other landmarks of the disco decade.

In the eighties, the mag covered everything from Doctor Who and Blake's 7 to Highlander, Aliens and the Star Trek feature films. I had a subscription to the magazine in the 1980s and early 1990s, and spent the early part of the Reagan Era avidly collecting back issues at Englishtown Flea Market (where I could purchase each issue for $2.00).

I especially remember reading and enjoying David Gerrold's columns in Starlog over the years ("State of the Art," and "Rumblings"), plus David Hirsch's great updates about the Gerry Anderson universe (called "Space Report"). I also recall with affection issue #33, which featured reviews of Star Trek: The Motion Picture by Harlan Ellison, editor Howard ("Lastword") Zimmerman and Gerrold. Over the years, I enjoyed reading extensive interviews and detailed retrospective pieces from great writers like Lee Goldberg and Jean-Marc Lofficier. Every summer for a while, Starlog ran a must-have summer review issue too, and had the likes of Ben Bova, Theodore Sturgeon, Arthur C. Clarke, Alan Dean Foster and Robert Bloch penning critiques.

Sure, there was occasionally stuff to complain about in Starlog. For instance, the coverage of Space:1999 seemed particularly jaundiced; I remember how every Star Trek cast member and writer interviewed by the magazine felt compelled to slag it off, even when it wasn't the topic of the interview. But that's water under the bridge. What Famous Monsters represents to the older generation, Starlog surely represents to the Star Wars generation (my generation...Generation X).

I can't tell you exactly why, but I stopped reading and collecting Starlog sometime in the early 1990s, after I graduated from the University of Richmond. Yet every time I spotted a fresh issue at a newsstand or in a book shop, I felt happy and content to see that a cherished old friend -- one which did so much to ignite my love of the genre in film and television, not to mention journalism --- was still going strong.

All good things must come to an end, I suppose, even Starlog. For today I simply want to toast the 33-year old magazine that started so many of us off on our fantastic odysseys. Thanks for all the memories, Starlog, and job well done. If you can, come back to print soon...bigger and better than ever.

You know, just thinking about the magazine makes me want to get my back issues out of storage and read 'em all again
...


11 comments:

  1. Crazy fact: the one issue of Starlog that I own (other than their Platinum Edition special about writing for television) is the one with that Darkman cover that you posted.

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  2. I actually have both issues you have posted. I used to love this mag and never missed an issue back in the 1980s. I fondly remember the two-part Harlan Ellison interview where he described BACK TO THE FUTURE a "piece of shit" and the mag received all kinds of hate mail from that one.

    They really did a great job back in the day of covering genre films and they are responsible for developing my deep love of science fiction and fantasy.

    I felt that the mag kinda lost some of its luster and appeal in the mid-90s and I jumped ship for CINEFANTASTIQUE, which was incredible in its own right.

    I wanna dig some back issues out of the archives as well!

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  3. Good memories, J.D. and Nate.

    You know J.D., you brought up something important there with Cinefantastique: they were doing those great double issues in the 1990s and well, that's where I headed too! I cherish my collection of Cinefantastique as well...

    And yeah, I remember the Starlog interview with Ellison you brought up! There was also some kind of kerfuffle over a Fred Freiberg interview and David Gerrold, as I recall...

    I also cherish my Starlog with detailed coverage of...Megaforce!

    -JKM

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  4. Ah, MEGAFORCE! Loved that film as a kid, but man does it look pretty corny now.

    I also loved how STARLOG covered films by Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton quite heavily, always interviewing them when they had a new film out.

    I still cherish an issue they dedicated to STAR WARS, a retrospective look after the first three films came out. Some lovely articles in that one.

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  5. J.D.:

    I remember that Star Wars issue!

    Gosh, lots of stuff starts coming back the more I think about it. Leading up to the Star Trek: The Motion Picture premiere, there was a column (by Susan Sackett?) with updates on filming, etc. I ate that stuff up.

    And I remember the 10 year anniversary celebratin of Star Wars, not to mention Starlog's exuberant coverage of stinkers like Night Flyers (a cover story!) and The Creature Wasn't Nice.

    Circa 1980, there was a 3-D issue that came replete with 3-D Glasses..

    ...And a Planet of the Apes retrospective in 1986 was GREAT...

    ...I could go on and on...great memories; great magazine.

    -JKM

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  6. Bless you John for bringing up Megaforce! You know I remember Starlog and another favorite of mine from the time Fantastic Films generously covering that . . . and pumping me up to see it : ) Those two magazines are in part responsible for my wholly inexplicable devotion to Bostwick and company's proud effort. As always, deeds not words!

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  7. WOW! This is pretty sad. Starlog was good when it first came out - it covered Space:1999 and Trek...

    I read every issue in those early years. Then things started to falter for me - less and less coverage of Space:1999/Gerry Anderson and more and more Trek. It almost became a Trek-subsidiary.

    I also lost a bit of interest in contemporary science fiction (mid-80s thru 1990s?)...seemed like nothing that great was being released. So, I stopped my love affair with Starlog.

    It is too bad they've stopped publishing though.

    BTW, John, in case you're not aware,there was a trading card collection of Starlog covers released a few years ago (actually maybe a decade). I had it for a while but traded it off as I didn't recognize the majority of the covers since I had stopped reading/collecting Starlog back in the '80s. But it was neat! Check for it on eBay.

    Thanks for the news, John.

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  8. Just fracking great! I was about to subscribe when I heard about this. Now what will I read? I suppose Fangoria is also gone too. Farewell to both.

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  9. Hey Jim --

    I LOVED Fantastic Films too! I still have many issues in storage. A great magazine that died before its time.

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  10. Anonymous8:47 PM

    As a kid, the very first Starlog I spotted on the newstands was a shocker. The cover announced that Space:1999 (my favorite show) was cancelled! Fortunately the show was kept alive in the pages of the magazine for years. Interviews with its stars, designers, model makers and for a while "Gerry Anderson's Space Report". Reading back issues from the magazine's early days really is like a wonderful trip back in time. That brings up another thought. Back in the 90's, the magazine stopped publishing letters from readers. Starlog's readers really did loose a valuable connection to the magazine. Also, I think the magazine lost a bit of its "soul" when Kerry O'Quinn left.

    As with many readers, I think I just outgrew the magazine. There's no way I could have enthusisam for the teen-oriented flicks coming out now. The retro-articles still held appeal. The mag you write articles for, FilmFax, does much better in that area. Starlog didn't really change with the times either. SFX magazine (and others) are just splashier and "hipper".

    Still, it's sad to see the demise of a magazine that formed a part of so many happy childhood memories.

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  11. Anonymous,

    I remember that issue of Starlog announcing the cancellation of Space:1999. I was devastated! (Still am...).

    I enjoy reading (and writing for...) Filmfax. They've got good people there and some terrific articles.

    I haven't read SFX lately.

    best,
    JKM

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