Tagged: SF

Read Every Issue of Starlog for Free

Starlog 7The complete run of Starlog magazine has been scanned and made available over at archive.org. For those unfamiliar with the publication, it began life as a one-shot magazine about Star Trek. After art directors Kerry O’Quinn and Norman Jacobs were left high and dry by the publisher, they took all the existing material and decided to turn it into a magazine celebrating all science fiction on television and film. O’Quinn reached out to his friend David Houston to edit the new publication, dubbed Starlog and it debuted in the first half of 1976.

At the time, other publications covering the field appeared infrequently or failed to gain newsstand distribution in sufficient numbers to thrive. These included The Monster Times, Castle of Frankenstein, and Cinefantastique. Covering only aspects of science fiction was Warren Publications’ Famous Monsters of Filmland so there was a niche to be filled.

Starlog’s approach was to mix episode guides with news and features, interviews and columns covering books to conventions. Houston set the tone and handed off the reins to Howard Zimmerman as sales figures showed increases so the mag went quickly to a monthly schedule. As a result, there was an audience in place a year later when 2th Century Fox’s latest offering, Star Wars, opened in May 1977. The issue sold out and the magazine’s place in the hearts and minds of fans was cemented.

Much as Star Wars ignited a new round of SF on film and the small screen, Starlog’s arrival signaled a new round of magazines, both domestic and international, to cover the genre. Over the course of its life, Starlog presented fans with their first looks at upcoming events and studios used it to tease fans. As a result, they were the first to have images from Paramount Pictures’ first Star Trek feature film and again were the first show off designs for the Enterprise-D.

Its success led to other titles such as Cinemagic for budding filmmakers and Future Life for those who liked hard science with their daily dose of fiction. The most successful of the new launches was 1979’s arrival of Fangoria which dared to go deeper in its coverage of horror and gore than FMOM. They were the first nationally distributed newsstand title to cover comic books, comic strips, and animation with Comics Scene. Starlog Press also developed a thriving back issue and mail order business along with guidebooks and other one-shots.

The company became a launching pad for many writers and artists as Ed Naha went to Hollywood where he cowrote Honey, I Shrunk the Kids; and DC Comics became the next destination for editors Robert Greenberger, Eddie Berganza, Mike McAvennie, and Maureen McTigue.

After Zimmerman stepped down as editor, Dave McDonnell, who joined staff in 1983, took over and ran with the title through good times and bad until the company was sold off and the print edition shut down. He gamely ran a web-based version of the title until that too was closed. The digital archive is a treasure trove of things that never were, columnists whose opinions stirred up sharp debate, and ran deep interviews that went beyond the basics. It never evolved with changing times and technology thanks to short-sighted business decisions so spinoffs such as a radio program, retail store chain, and branded direct-to-video films died aborning.

The magazine ha been rediscovered by fans through John ZIpper’s Weimar World Service which recently did an issue by issue blog.

REVIEW: Star Trek The Original Topps Trading Cards Series

Star Trek: The Original Topps Trading Card Series
By Paula M. Block and Terry J. Erdman
216 pages, $19.95, Abrams ComicArts

large-DCD617610Few fans today recall that Star Trek has been the focus of several trading card sets through the years, beginning with the Leaf Brands series prior to the better known Topps cards from the late 1970s, launching just prior to the first feature film. The far better card series came much later, but as a part of Abrams ComicArts’ series of books focusing on different genre sets from Topps, that series is the one receiving the focus in this attractive book.

The series, which began with Wacky Packages and has included the legendary Mars Attacks and Bazooka Joe, is a worthy examination of the oft-overlooked time capsules of earlier eras. Topps produced cards based on numerous television properties alongside their popular baseball cards since the 1950s, notably their four amazing Batman sets based on the TV series, so it is a reminder of how minimal Star Trek’s impact was during the 1960s by virtue of the fact they didn’t have cards for a decade.

When the card set was finally released, the 88 cads and 22 stickers were culled from whatever Paramount Pictures had lying around, not yet having a fully functioning licensing department with archival graphics. As a result, Topps worked with what they had on hand and that meant all 79 episodes were not represented. And in a bizarre turn of events, George Takei’s Sulu is never seen full-on, instead glimpsed at his station only once.

Paula Block and Terry Erdman, who have mined Star Trek lore in numerous other book projects, have little fresh to reveal about those episodes and wisely devoted their text, accompanying each card in the set, to a little contextually information and quotes from Gary Giani, who wrote the text for the cards and the headline for the front of each. His use of titles of obscure SF films or episodes of Twilight Zone and Outer Limits episodes is subtle and clever, so identifying their sources here makes for fun reading.

In their breezy introduction, they set the stage for the cards and Trek’s place in the pop culture firmament. Giani and Topps’ Len Brown provide context along with fans turned professionals such as Steven M. Charendoff, founder of Rittenhouse Archives.

After nearly 40 years of neglect, Takei gets his due as one of the several newly created cards packaged in the back of the book. This is a nice touch and makes the book all the more desirable. While you won’t learn much new about the show, this is a nice addition to anyone’s library.

REVIEW: Fantastic Voyage

Fantasdtic VoyageAfter a decade of low-budget cheesy special effects science fiction films, the early 1960s was particularly quiet, ceding to television series such as Star Trek and The Time Tunnel. But, also released in 1966 was an eye-opening spectacular that had a plausible premise, strong cast, and the next generation in film special effects. Fantastic Voyage may be remembered today for Raquel Welch in a tight outfit, it is also a step forward in cinematic SF. Thankfully, it preceded 2001: A Space Odyssey by two years.

At a time when miniaturization was making home technology smaller and more sophisticated, the idea of inserting a tiny sub full of humans into the body of an ill scientist seemed the next logical step. The body in question was the victim of an assassination attempt and his knowledge and life had to be saved so a daring experiment was to be undertaken. Forget that the sub is nuclear-powered and the physics doesn’t quite make sense, but this is an ambitious leap forward in man’s quest to understand himself.

Once entering the body they have to contend with antibodies, foreign matter, and a ticking clock. So of course things go wrong en route to the blood clot located in the man’s brain. Harry Kleiner’s screenplay (from a story by a story by Otto Klement and Star Trek’s Jerome Bixby) ignored the original intent for being a Jules Vernesque escapade and dashed the sense of wonder in favor of a dated Cold War vibe.

Richard Fleisher, a skilled and versatile director who helmed Barabbas, Doctor Doolittle, Soylent Green. and yes, Conan the Destroyer, brings his A game to the film, never letting the mind-blowing special effects overwhelm the adventure. He let his cast, led by Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch, Edmond O’Brien, and Donald Pleasence, actually act and treat this as a plausible mission. Harper Goff, who gave us the Nautilus in Fleisher’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, provided the designs for the Proteus while Ernest Laszlo  made the blood stream a hallucinogenic treat. Leonard Rosenman made a conscious decision not to add music until the crew was inside the scientist’s body so it added to the unreal feel of the location. All told, the film worked better than anyone expected earning it Oscars for Best Art Direction – Color  and Best Special Effects.

The film’s unheralded star was actually Isaac Asimov, who wrote the novelization and corrected numerous logic and medical flaws which were later incorporated into the film, keeping it from being silly. His work was fast while the filming was repeatedly delayed so the book was out a full six months ahead of the film making many think it was an adaptation of his work.

FVAll told, though, today’s CGI easily beats the traditional special effects, automatically making the film feel old. The Cold War stuff distracts from a human adventure and the writing is stiff in places while the direction is leisurely compared with today’s quick cut culture. But this was a pioneering effort that restored a modicum of respect for the genre, paving the way for Kubrick and those who quickly followed. As a result, the film is well worth watching.

Therefore, it’s good to see that the transfer to high def was pretty solid although not perfect. The mono mix is transferred nicely so both add up to a pleasant viewing experience at home.

As for the extras, an incomplete collection from the Cinema Classics Collection DVD are repeated here, including

Most but not all of the supplements from the Cinema Classics Collection DVD have been ported over to this Blu-ray release. They include: Commentary by Film and Music Historian Jeff Bond; Lava Lamps and Celluloid: A Tribute to the Visual Effects of Fantastic Voyage (17:40)which is a useful tutorial on how they accomplished it all; Whirlpool Scene: Storyboard to Scene (2:22); and the Trailer and TV Spots (13:07). Additionally, there is an  Isolated Score Track With Commentary from Bond, who knows his stuff accompanied by Jon Burlingame and Nick Redman.

Today On Amazing Stories

Today on Amazing Stories:

an interview with Tanya Tynjala by M. C. Carper (en espanol) http://amazingstoriesmag.com/2013/07/conociendo-a-tanya-tynjala-escritora-de-cf/

an essay on Early Readers by Monique Jacob

the first installment of a personal discovery of SF by B. Morris Allen

a STRONG endorsement of reading publishing contracts from Cedar Sanderson

a bit about the Ray Palmer biography from Keith West

and a philosophical discourse from Geoffrey Wakeling

and all on (obviously) www.amazingstoriesmag.com/blog

Richard Matheson: 1926-2013

Richard-MathesonRenowned science fiction, fantasy, and horror writer Richard Matheson died June 23, 2013 at his home at the age of 87. Matheson is the author of classic SF novels I Am Legend (1954) and The Shrinking Man (1956), among numerous other books. Many of his iconic works have become abiding parts of popular culture, and many of them have been adapted into comics by IDW Publishing. Adaptations of his works included I Am Legend, adapted by Steve Niles and Elman Brown, Blood Son, adapted by Chris Ryall and Ashley Wood, and Duel by Ryall and Rafa Garres.

Matheson’s writing has always been popular for film and TV adaptations, with several of Matheson’s works being adapted, notably film versions of I Am Legend including The Last Man On Earth, The Omega Man, and I Am Legend. The Shrinking Man was filmed as The Incredible Shrinking Man (adapted by Matheson and winner of a Hugo Award for Outstanding Movie). Other novels that inspired films include A Stir of Echoes, Hell House, World Fantasy Award-winning romance Bid Time Return (filmed as Somewhere in Time), and What Dreams May Come.

His horror story “Duel” was the basis for one of the first films directed by Steven Spielberg, with a script by Matheson. He also wrote 14 episodes for The Twilight Zone, including classics “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Steel”; the latter was adapted again as film Real Steel. He adapted his story “The Box” (1970) for an episode of the revived Twilight Zone in the ’80s called “Button, Button”, and the story also inspired film The Box (2009). He also wrote episodes for Star Trek (“The Enemy Within”) and Night Gallery, plus TV and feature films, including horror movies with director Roger Corman.

Matheson was a prolific author of horror, SF, fantasy, Westerns, suspense, and mainstream novels. His most recent books are Other Kingdoms and autobiographical novel Generations.

Matheson’s first genre story was “Born of Man and Woman” in 1950, winner of a Retro Hugo in 2001. His short work and scripts have been collected in many volumes, notably Born of Man and Woman: Tales of Science Fiction and Fantasy and World Fantasy Award winner Richard Matheson: Collected Stories.

Richard Burton Matheson was born February 20, 1926 in Allendale NJ. He grew up in Brooklyn and served in the infantry during WWII. He earned a journalism degree from the University of Missouri in 1949, and relocated to California in 1951. He married Ruth Ann Woodson in 1952, and they had four children, three of whom are writers — Chris Matheson, Richard Christian Matheson, and Ali Matheson.

Matheson won the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1984 and a Stoker Life Achievement award in 1991. He was named a World Horror Grandmaster in 1991, an International Horror Guild Living Legend in 2000, and in 2010 was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2010.

Our condolences to his family, friends, and fans.

John Ostrander: Old Friends

Ostrander Art 130526There are so many books yet to read – classics, mysteries, SF, fantasy, history, biography, comics and so on. All unread, so many of them of such high quality and I really want to read them. There are, however, only so many hours to the day and so many things that need doing in those hours, including writing this column.

Yet I often find myself returning to books that I’ve read before. For several years, right around Memorial Day, we’d go to a mass out by where my father was buried and that would be a key for me to start re-reading Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. There was the return to Middle-Earth and all the locations, all the characters – good and bad – that inhabited it. I’ve often returned as well to A. Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories and Victorian/Edwardian England.

I watch a lot of movies over and over again, but I think books are different. There’s a greater investiture of time in re-reading a book, usually, and it demands a greater investiture of me. Don’t get me wrong; I love movies but it is a more passive activity. You have to use your imagination more with reading; you have to be actively engaged. You’re translating two-dimensional words on a page (or screen these days) into images in your mind, into a sensory experience. You control the pace of the storytelling to a degree; you read fast or you linger. You go back or maybe skip forward, sometimes to the end if you’re cheating and want to know that first. They’re very different experiences.

When I read something for a second time, it’s a different experience than the first. The first time, I want the story. I want to know What Happens Next, how is it all going to turn out. It’s fresh, it’s new, and (if the story is good) exciting.

On subsequent reads, unless I’ve forgotten the plot (which happens more and more as I grow older), I know all of that. I may discover a bit I had not gotten before or the story yields a new pleasure that I had missed in my rush to find out What Happens Next.

So why keep going back when I can keep reading something new, get that first time feeling over and over again? I think its because the story stays with me and it was well told. I’ve never gone back and read a book I disliked or even one to which I was simply indifferent. I had to love that story. I go back, not expecting the same pleasure I had the first time, but simply because it’s a friend. I had a good experience with that friend and I enjoy being in its company. For me, the fact that it’s a repeated pleasure simply deepens that pleasure for me.

I try to balance out the two; reading something new along with reading something familiar. It keeps me sane – or what passes for sane these days. I think I’ll go find an old friend this summer and renew my acquaintanceship. It’s a good time to do it.

On a different note: since this is Memorial Day Weekend, we should remember the reason why the holiday exists. It’s not simply the start of summer, it’s about remembering those who served their country, especially those who died. Our respect and our thanks.

And if you’re traveling, safe journey.




REVIEW: The Best of Both Worlds

STTNG Best of Both Worlds“The Best of Both Worlds” is a strong piece of television drama and was a defining moment for Star Trek: The Next Generation. The spinoff of Star Trek had been a ratings bonanza for Paramount Pictures, which syndicated the show and reaped huge profits. The fans, though, were slow to warm to the show and its characters, thanks to incredible infighting that sapped the inaugural season of coherence and left it to season two to show the series’ real potential. Season three, which is also out this week on Blu-ray, came to life thanks to a solidified writing staff under Michael Piller’s tutelage and the actors finally getting comfortable with their roles.

After eschewing two-parters, producer Rick Berman allowed Piller to end the season with a cliffhanger and as has been chronicled repeatedly, Piller wrote the first part thinking he was leaving the show. The resolution would be someone else’s headache. The plan was upended when Gene Roddenberry convinced him to stay on staff and he had to figure out the second half on his own.

Riker & ShelbyAs a result, the first half is far stronger with most of the action left for the second part, draining it of the emotional drama we had come to expect. The Borg had been teased in a second season episode so their arrival was not unexpected, just earlier than hoped for. Lt. Commander Elizabeth Shelby (Elizabeth Dennehy) is brought to the Enterprise to help the flagship investigate a world devastated by, they believe, the Borg. She has been coordinating Starfleet’s plans to deal with the approaching threat but admitted their weapons planning needed eighteen to twenty-four more months. Along the way, she is all enthusiasm and arrogance, seeing First Officer William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) as being in her way towards a command spot of her own. Riker, for the third time, had been offered his own captaincy and was near-Shakespearean in his indecision.

Riker, Shelby, HansenRiker was speaking for Piller, who was also conflicted about staying or going while Shelby reminded Riker what he was like as an eager First Officer, out to prove himself. Most of the cast is given something meaty to think about and discuss, including Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg). As a result, it felt like change was coming to the crew but first, they had to deal with the arrival of the first Borg cube in Federation space. Things are ratcheted up when the Borg ask for Picard (Patrick Stewart) by name and then abduct him. When he next is seen as the Borg named Locutus, you know this is not a dream, hoax or imaginary story. Left with little choice, Riker ends the season with the command to “fire!”

Fans spent the summer waiting to see what would happen. The fall of 1990 brought about the eagerly anticipated finale and Picard was of course rescued, Riker chose to remain in place, and the threat neutralized – at least for the moment. But the stakes have been raised for all concerned and nothing will be the same. As a standalone episode, the episode is totally devoid of the sort of the character-based drama that made the first half so rich and entertaining. No one is given a real moment to reflect on what is happening or at the end what has happened to them and their friends.

BestofBothWorlds2This beautiful transfer and upgrade is edited into a single 85-minute episode, making this disc unique. Yeah, it’s a bit of a money grab from Paramount but they at least sweeten the deal with some nice extras not found elsewhere.

Regeneration: Engaging the Borg (29:40) features Dennehy, Frakes and others from the cast along with makeup supervisor Michael Westmore and director Cliff Bole talking about the making of the episodes. They tell good stories and Dennehy in particular is honest in her 28 year old naiveté when she auditioned. Frakes, who had performed with her father Brian Dennehy, reveals that the actor had his qualms about her being on an SF show.

You also get additional insights in the all-new commentary from technical consultants Mike and Denise Okuda, Dennehy and Bole. There is an episode specific gag reel (5:28) as well.

It holds up thanks to the strong hand of Bole, a cast up for the challenge, and a real threat. The high definition upgrade makes it both an audio and visual treat.


New Pulp Author Win Scott Eckert shared the cover and table of contents for the upcoming TOC: Tales of the Wold Newton Universe by Philip José Farmer and Others.

Tales of the Wold Newton Universe

A collection of Wold Newton-inspired short stories by Farmerphiles, experts, and the Grand Master of SF himself.

I am pleased to announce that Titan Books has settled on the final Table of Contents for the Wold Newton Anthology, Tales of the Wold Newton Universe. The book collects, for the first time ever in one volume, Philip José Farmer’s Wold Newton short stories, and also includes tales by other writers.

The Introduction by Win Scott Eckert (coauthor with Farmer of the Wold Newton novel The Evil in Pemberley House) and Christopher Paul Carey (coauthor with Farmer of the Khokarsa novel The Song of Kwasin) will provide an overview of Farmer’s Wold Newton Family and Mythos. In addition, Eckert and Carey will provide brief introductions to the stories themselves, explaining why each entry is a Wold Newton tale.

Tales of the Wold Newton Universe is available for preorder at Amazon, AmazonUK, and B&N. As with all the Farmer books from Titan, there will also be an eBook version.


Introduction by Win Scott Eckert and Christopher Paul Carey

The Great Detective and Others
“The Problem of the Sore Bridge–Among Others” by Harry Manders Philip José Farmer

“A Scarletin Study” by Jonathan Swift Somers III Philip José Farmer

“The Doge Whose Barque Was Worse Than His Bight” by Jonathan Swift Somers III Philip José Farmer

Pulp Inspirations
“Skinburn” Philip José Farmer

“The Freshman”   Philip José Farmer

“After King Kong Fell” Philip José Farmer

Wold Newton Prehistory: The Khokarsa Series
“Kwasin and the Bear God” Philip José Farmer and Christopher Paul Carey

Wold Newton Prehistory: John Gribardsun & Time’s Last Gift
“Into Time’s Abyss” John Allen Small

“The Last of the Guaranys” Octavio Aragão & Carlos Orsi

Wold Newton Origins / Secrets of the Nine
“The Wild Huntsman” Win Scott Eckert

The Comics Buyer’s Guide: 1971-2013

TBG_finalcoverIn the early days of comic book fandom, it took its cues from science fiction fandom since there was quite a bit of overlap. The early SF zines included names and addresses so as others began publishing, they knew where to find eager subscribers. The first pure comics zine, Richard Lupoff’s Xero, didn’t arrive until 1960 but it merely ignited a new wave of comics-only zines. By the time I discovered fanzines or 1960 or 1970, you sent some money and/or some stamps and they sent you a zine.

My best friend Jeff and I wisely took our meager allowances and one of us subscribed to Don & Maggie Thompson’s Newfangles and the other ordered Paul Levitz’s The Comics Reader. This way, we could share the only two authoritative sources of comics news. By then, we were aware that a growing back issue market was fueled by RBCC, formerly known as the Rocket’s Blast Comics Collector, but as its editor GB Love’s health meant that venerable title had to end, the market for a publication for buyers and sellers remained strong.

Enter Alan Light, now a respected music writer. Back in 1971, he gave us The Buyer’s Guide for Comic Fandom , a weekly tabloid that was chock full of ads. Over time, though, Light added columnists, giving us something read between ads. Columnists begat news and news begat reviews and suddenly, The Buyer’s Guide became the source for information about comics post and present along with a handy way to order things of interest. Within a year it went from monthly to biweekly and the Thompsons brought Newfangles back, renamed Beautiful Balloons making the free paper a must read. Of course, with success came a demand for more content and in 1972 the paper went to a subscription model but no one complained. It had become too vital a source for information and collectors. As a result, it went weekly in 1975.

CBG 2TBG offered us exclusive news and interviews with gorgeous original cover artwork. It broke news and ran pictures from conventions around the country. Flipping through the back issues would be like sifting through a time capsule of the industry. Companies retrenched and crumbled, others rose and fell in a blink of an eye. While credited with inventing the direct sales market in t1975 or so, Phil Seuling didn’t start advertising for his own Sea Gate Distribution until 1977, a significant step in the evolution of the importance the comics shops would become.

Murray Bishoff joined Light as an assistant editor but to readers, his news columns were vital. When Cat Yronwode took over in 1980, her Fit to Print became the Bleeding Cool of its day and turned her into a force to be reckoned with (and led to her successful work at Eclipse Comics just a few years later).

Light, just 29, sold the publication to Krause in 1983 and turned management of the newspaper over to the Thompsons who lovingly put their own imprint on the publication starting with Comics in Your Future, the first TV Guide-style listings of comics since the passing of TCR just a few years earlier. But as comic publishers grew in number at this point, the listings were essential.

CBG 4Yronwode left but other columnists came including Tony Isabella and Bo Ingersoll while Peter David’s But I Digress joined the roster in 1990. Tony and Peter have been contributing ever since, without fail, their pieces always entertaining.

Don’s passing in 1994 was a shock to all but Maggie persevered and kept the publication a place for people who loved all manner of comics. On the other hand, it was being pounded by new competition, notably Wizard magazine, which was slick, glossy, snarky and available on newsstands. It wasn’t long before that became the Must Read title and TBG, renamed the Comics Buyer’s Guide, or CBG, suddenly seemed quaint and old-fashioned.

And just as the 24/7 immediacy of the Internet made Wizard irrelevant, it spelled the slow agonizing death for CBG. It dropped pages, it went monthly and became a magazine in 2004, too little too late.

MAGGIE_200x300Today, it was announced that issue #1699, out in March, will be the final issue. You would think they would go out in grand style with #1700 but Krause management never seemed to appreciate the quirky world it inherited when it bought Light’s dreamchild.

Maggie had been working reduced hours for some time and when we chatted in San Diego, she was looking ahead, enjoying the free time afforded her and looking forward to moving ahead with new skills or new projects. She’s boldly striding towards tomorrow but let’s all pause for a moment and look back.

We’ll never see something like this again. There will never again be that sense of thrill and wonder when the new issue arrived in your mailbox and it cast a spotlight on a the behind-the-scenes world of comics. It carried generations of readers and its passing should be noted. Raise a glass on high and let’s give a toast to The Buyer’s Guide, last of the great fan publications about comics from the first age of comics fans.

John Jackson Miller gives a long history of CBG here. Maggie Thompson’s blog post appears here.

REVIEW: “Emperor Mollusk Versus the Sinister Brain” by A. Lee Martinez

Martinez has been writing humorous SF novels for close to a decade now, all of which have looked like fun to me, but Emperor Mollusk versus the Sinister Brain is the first one I managed to actually read. It’s the SFnal story of a world-conquering squid from Neptune (a super-genius squid from Neptune) in a very comic-booky universe, where every planet in the solar system has an indigenous race with their own high technology.

Emperor Mollusk narrates his own story, starting well after he’s conquered Earth (for its own benefit; he’s a very benevolent tyrant) and mostly focusing on his battle with a new would-be conqueror, who may be even smarter than he is. It’s quick and zippy and colorful and amusing, filled with quips and explosions and last-minute escapes and triple reverses and more high-tech gadgets than all of the Bond movies put together.

And if I even wanted to do a serious critical take on it — and who would want to do such a thing to a book like this? — I read it too long ago to remember any of the pertinent details. Emperor Mollusk is fun, and smart about its generic materials, and thoroughly amusing. I’d be very happy to read more by Martinez if this is the way he usually works.