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Saturday, May 28, 2011

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Although this is - according to the YouTube poster - from 1984, and a little bit past my usual Space: 1970 chronological cut-off, I just had to post this television commercial for Starlog magazine.

When the print edition of Starlog ceased publication in April of 2009, it hit me pretty hard. I hadn't read the magazine in years, but I still felt its loss. It was like a childhood friend had passed away....

Back in the mid-1970's, being a science fiction fan just was not cool. Prior to Star Wars, anyone admitting to liking science fiction – at least in the rural Maine schools I attended – was subject to ridicule and occasional physical abuse. As far as the adults in my life, they were all practical New England yankees who had no time for or thoughts to spare for make-believe fantasy stuff about spaceships and aliens. I felt very much alone in my obsession, hiding my James Blish and Alan Dean Foster Star Trek paperback adaptations from my schoolmates, and keeping my thoughts about the short-lived Planet of the Apes and Logan's Run (both of which I loved as a eleven year-old) TV shows to myself.

But sometime around 1976, while browsing the comic book shelves at the local Mr. Paperback bookstore while my mother shopped for groceries next door – the same Mr. Paperback store where I had bought most of my Blish Trek books – I spotted a colorful painting of Kirk and Spock on the magazine shelf above the comics. Normally those shelves were off-limits to me, but certainly this particular magazine had to be okay – it was Star Trek.

Better – it was Starlog.

I was a regular reader from that day until around 1990, when I moved on to magazines like Cinefantastique and Filmfax. For many years, the magazine was my best friend in a way; my only link to the unknown others around the country who shared my love for the fantastic. As Famous Monsters of Filmland was to the "Monster Kids" of the 60's, Starlog was my lifeline in the 70's and 80's. Not only did Starlog cover all the major science fiction blockbusters from Star Wars on, they also covered B-movies, classic films, current and vintage TV shows. They interviewed not only stars, but writers, directors, authors and – especially – special effects wizards. The writers never wrote down to the readers and they opened my eyes to all the wonders of science fiction media. Even now, I will occasionally stumble across something on DVD that I've never seen before but recognize because Starlog covered it 20 years ago. And then I usually buy it.

It was Starlog that introduced me to shows and movies of the decades before my birth – shows like The Invaders, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Prisoner, and movies like This Island Earth, The Time Machine, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Buck Rogers and the Ray Harryhausen classics. Because I read about them in the pages of the magazine, I sought them all out, and I can't imagine my life without having experienced and enjoyed them.

And it wasn't just TV and film; the magazine introduced me to SF authors, too – folks like Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Harlan Ellison, Richard Matheson, David Gerrold, Ray Bradbury. I was first exposed to the artwork of pulp illustrator Virgil Finlay through an article in an early Starlog and Ron Goulart's articles on SF comic strips gave me my first exposure to Alex Raymond's work on Flash Gordon.

Like I said above, I haven't read the magazine since around 1990, but I still lament it's passing. It was one of my most important childhood friends....


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