Saturday, April 11, 2009

Starlog Logs Off

The downturn in magazine publishing has taken another victim. On Wednesday, the publisher of Starlog, the 33-year-old slick magazine about science fiction films, TV and print (in that order), announced that the magazine will cease print publication and become a Web-only magazine.

Although I haven't bought or read an issue of Starlog in years, it's one of those seminal publications (like ORIGINS OF MARVEL COMICS or THE VISUAL ENCYCLOPEDIA OF SCIENCE FICTION) that fired my enthusiasm and shaped my interests when I was a kid. I picked up my first copy (the seventh issue, I believe) in the summer of 1977. That's when a magazine that had started surfing on the crest of Star Trek fandom and had bobbed with movies such as Logan's Run hit a monster wave: Star Wars, and the slew of SF movies that followed. I took the issue with me on a family road trip to Southern California, and read it cover to cover a few times. It had a photo spread on Star Wars (when I loaned the issue to a friend, he cut out all those photos, much to my chagrin.) It had a cover feature on stop-motion animation, something I hadn't thought much of before. It featured an interview with Harlan Ellison, which led me to start reading Ellison's books; he became one of my favorite writers. It featured ads for novelizations of something called Doctor Who; that was my introduction to that venerable British SF franchise. In that issue, and in many issues to come, Starlog's combination of journalism and fannish enthusiasm hooked me.

I picked up Starlog's fits-and-starts comic book news spinoff,COMICS SCENE, and occasionally its sister publication FANGORIA (which started out dedicated to both horror and fantasy films, before the horror took over everything). I also picked up several of the Starlog imitations from other publishers, none of which could match Starlog's Methuselah-like resilience.

In the early '80's, Starlog took on a new dimension for me: A family dimension. I was surprised to see the byline "Lee Goldberg" on several articles. What were the odds of a Starlog writer having the same name as one of my cousins? Pretty good, it turned out; it was my cousin. On his blog, Lee discusses his own history with Starlog, one of his earliest writing gigs, and one that eventually led to his marriage.

I'd like to say that being related to the prolific Starlog journalist brought me derivative fame, fortune, and romantic luck. Actually, what it got me was a comp subscription to Starlog (until the publisher cut it off) and a rainbow-foil BRAINSTORM sticker that I put on the door of my dorm room at UCLA.

I also recall the convention Starlog put on in LA in the mid-eighties. I wrote a letter to the Starlog publisher with a critique of how the con was run. I got back a two-page, single-spaced typewritten letter from the publisher responding point-by-point to the criticism. (Didn't the guy have enough to do around the office?)

In recent years, when I picked up a Starlog on the newsstands (that is, when I could find it), I found less enthusiasm in it; it seemed to become more a forum for press releases than a font of fannish delight. Maybe it's because I was an adult, and Starlog would always be directed toward the adolescent or the adolescent at heart.

Of course, Starlog isn't gone; it'll still be around as a Web magazine. But it'll be one of zillions of Web pages, and could easily disappear in the crowd. We'll have to see if a leaner economic profile will help it continue to survive.


Jason's Psyche said...

Wow - that's surprising about Starlog. It was one of my favorites as a kid. Do you know who Charles Beaumont was (writer for the Twilight Zone)? We just finished a documentary about him. Guess we won't be publicizing in Starlog...

Danny Barer said...

Yes, I know who Charles Beaumont was. Starlog still (apparently) exists, albeit in electronic form, so it might be more open than ever to publicizing projects.