The Eleven Coolest Things in Starlog #004: Fantastic Stinkers in 3-D, David Gerrold Gets Critical, and Starlog Wants Your Stuff.

Friday, August 9, 2013 at 6:00 am

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The fourth issue of Starlog came out on January 13, 1977, the first of the eight-times-a-year issues. There are more advertisers, more words and more angry nitpicks from the readers.

As always, if you'd like to read along at home, the full run of Starlog is available over at the Internet Archive, and here are the previous installments of this series.



1. Circus Magazine Wants You To Rip Them off.

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After the back cover KISS ad in the previous issue (which also adorns the back of this issue), Starlog's rock cred continues apace. Still, ignoring for the moment that it's not strictly a magazine's fault when people stop reading - people have had short attention spans since long before MTV allegedly ruined everything - Circus doesn't make itself sound all that different from Rolling Stone, beyond the fact that Rolling Stone would not have invoked the Beach Boys to attract readers in 1976. Still, talk about trying to cover as much ground as possible with lots of arbitrary capitalization by involving Star Trek and the King Kong remake, with "a two-part article on Abortion" in the middle. Yikes! I guess if it were a one-part article on Abortion, we wouldn't take them seriously.

2. In Other News...

From the "Log Entries" section:

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Y'know, sort of fly the Enterprise. Just not in space. I imagine someone had to be behind the wheel (stick? yoke?) during the shuttle Enterprise's test runs in Earth's boring ol' atmosphere, but nobody would ever get to fly the Enterprise in space, and I'm apparently still bitter about that. Are you still an astronaut if you don't actually go in space, especially by 1976? Maybe that's why it's called the "Astronaut (pilot) Candidate Program, or Astronaut (mission specialist) Candidate Program" - the devil is in the lowercase (parenthetical) details.

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An early instance of what would become desktop publishing: one of the first fanzines done on a computer. Also important is that The Pacific Communicator was by Michael Okuda, who would go on to be responsible for the look of the props and especially the computer screens for every Trek series from Next Generation onwards; when we think of Trek computers and readouts, we usually think of Okudagrams.

The fact that he was a fan before he got professionally involved with the show is probably why he and his wife Denise (also a Trek designer) are have always been so generous and supportive of fan sites like Ex Astris Scientia and TrekCore..

Sadly, Okuda's Pacific Communicator fanzine has never found its way online, at least not as far as my Google Fu can detect.

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Bubble Gum Cards, exciting enough for an exclamation point! The full run of the cards and their text can be seen on Wixiban's Star Trek Trading Cards Guide, and though there are certainly nits that can be picked - Sargon, Zargon, whatevs - I'd say that Starlog contributor Gary Gerani did a pretty good job, considering that a lot of it was probably done from memory and unofficial sources (like The Pacific Communicator, perhaps).

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Getting there! Wookieepedia has a comparison between the book (ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster) and the final film. Fun fact: this novelization is the first time the word "Sith" is used, in that the word is never actually spoken aloud in the film. It's all over the stage directions in the script, sure, but people watching the movie aren't reading the script. As a fairly casual Star Wars fan, I wasn't even aware of the word "Sith" until I saw The Phantom Menace - not the best introduction, all things considered. (I discuss the "Sith" question a bit more in my article about the original Star Wars trading cards.)

3. Mr. Gerrold Has Some Things to Say.

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David Gerrold's monthly column begins with a rumination on that lowest form of life, the critic.

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(Little did he know how much that plethora would grow in the coming decades.) Never one not to turn the awesome power of his Deprecation Ray on himself, Gerrold then describes his new role at Starlog:

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And speaking of the power of words...

4. Stop Saying Things how I Don't Want You to Say Them!

A reader has an urgent complaint:

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I can only imagine how much her teeth gnashed when the Sci-Fi Channel became "SyFy" a few years ago. (Probably as much as ours did.)

People had been writing in to complain about things in Starlog for the few issues that there'd been a Starlog to complain about, and the editors tended to respond in very diplomatic, thanks for pointing that out!-type responses. For this one, though, a degree of oh, you cannot be serious weariness leaps right to the front.

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Or, to put it in a parlance that wouldn't be invented for another thirty-four years:

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5. Star Trek Galore Makes You Crane Your Neck

The cover story was about Richard Anderson, who played the cyborgs' boss Oscar Goldman on The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman; his character was the forerunner to The X-Files's Skinner or Fringe's Broyles, particularly in how popular he became. (Broyles is popular, right? It's not just me?) This is the first mention of those shows that doesn't shoehorn Bigfoot into it, but what's important is this ad, which appeared halfway through the article.

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It's the only such vertical ad I've come across so far, one where you had to turn the magazine to read it. (Topless Robot and Voice Media Group accept no responsibility for whatever might happen if you try to rotate your computer.) For such a boldly placed and oriented ad, it's rather passive in its pitch; it's merely "like" across the board, no "love" for Trek and/or Galore. Therese's TrekkerScrapbook has an easier-to-read Galore ad, including a listing of their actual merchandise. There are tribbles, naturally. Everyone was selling tribbles in those days.


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