Starlog Magazine: Crazy movie rumors before the Internet

Mike Ryan has a fun article about Starlog magazine in The Huffington Post.

"Starlog" was a glorious publication. In the mid-1980s, at a small-town newsstand in mid-Missouri, I had my first experience with "Starlog." This particular newsstand often carried back issues of comic books (most often "The Flash," for whatever reason), but one day I discovered a box full of "Starlog" magazines from the late '70s and early '80s that were practically being given away. Darth Vader himself was on one of the covers; I just had to own these.

Ryan spent the day at the library going through Starlog magazine and pulled some choice tidbits:

April 1979: As for why Chewbacca doesn't receive a medal at the end of "Star Wars," this is as good of an explanation as any other.

I think the reason the wook [sic] didn't get a medal was because Princess Leia simply isn't that tall. He could have received his after the ceremony.

April 1979: In an interview with Mark Hamill, he gives us an early view of the grumpy Harrison Ford we would all come to love. (Of course, it's hard to blame Ford in this situation.)

The problem was that we had been booked on a Sunday morning financial show. This guy was only interested in how the picture affected 20th Century Fox's stock, and to him we were just three dumbbell actors who got a lucky break. He finished up by saying, "I don't want to put you on edge or anything, but let me sum up by saying that it's certainly not Ingmar Bergman." I looked over at Harrison, and I could see the veins on his neck popping out.

June 1979: Author Harlan Ellison is not a fan of Mark Hamill.

Mr. Hamill's confusion about my attitude toward the little film in which he appeared is touching. Equally touching is his understanding of the unimportance of his opinions; would that have more of us had the sense and nobility to perceive our limitations. Since Mr, Hamill is, by his own admission, one who does not read books, I take it as a gesture of magnanimity not to further ridicule him: As a functional illiterate, Mr. Hamill does a good enough job on himself.

'Starlog' Magazine: Crazy Movie Rumors Before The Internet


  1. Choose a ‘S.W. Trilogy’ scene and I will create a custom, color drawing for you in return for your $25 donation to my indiegogo campaign:

  2. Oh MAN! Back in the early / mid 70s “Starlog” and the spinoff mag “Future” (I think?) were must-reads. In the geek-unfriendly 70s, any kind of genre publication was rare, and a slick one doubly so.

    The first “Starlog” issue bought, and I may actually still have it, has the Six Million Dollar Man on the cover and an advert for a KISS album on the back.

    After a few years, I learned valuable lessons from reading “Starlog.” How to handle bitter disappointment, and how to take wild claims with a grain of salt. The magazine hyped things so much, and made so much of sparse rumors!

    I think it was in reaction to “Starlog’s” hype that I really got serious about written SF. I started getting my sense-of-wonder fix from Larry Niven and Poul Anderson and (!!!) Olaf Stapledon.

    1. The magazine hyped things so much, and made so much of sparse rumors!

      Unlike blogs nowadays that make sure they get the facts straight before they hype things to death?

      Seriously, Starlog was great & fun to read. But I knew few people who actually bought copies but rather they would read them at the newsstand or borrow a friends copy.

  3. I like Ellison’s writing, but he paws at controversy the same way he paws at female science fiction authors’ breasts. HAYOO. I like to imagine Hamill having the last laugh over Ellison’s denigration of Star Wars as “little”, preferably in his Joker voice.

    1. Harlan Ellison might come off that way, but there are tons of authors out there who behave the way he does. The difference is that in the science fiction world, his “joie de vivre” towers above the somewhat better contained egos of others.

  4. I went to an English-language high school in Rome and used to take the bus downtown once a week to get my mail at the embassy; there was a little newstand by the mail room and the tiny lady who ran it would order one single copy of Starlog just for me. Every time I went in I’d stop by and see if the latest issue had arrived. If it had I’d consume it cover to cover for every crumb of information about the latest sci-fi movies and tv shows – all the stuff I was missing. I still think of it as a kind of teenage lifeline to my nerdy special interests…

  5. Starlog had a big impact on young science fiction fans like myself, because even though there were SF magazines before it, they were mostly either pulp story periodicals or fanzines run off a mimeograph in someone’s basement. This was a real magazine, with glossy photos and everything, and was the first place where I saw stills from Star Trek. The seventh issue had pictures from an upcoming film called Star Wars. Incredible stuff.

    Also, I’m glad that I didn’t read that excerpted bit from Harlan Ellison, because, man, what a condescending dick, and I was still a fan of his back then.

  6. Unexpectedly relevant here is the trick that Penny Arcade’s Gabe used to make a fool of Harlan: pretend to be stupid, then slip in the knife.

    So Tycho and I are up in front of the audience with Harlen, and Hank presents us with some jester hats (“Fool’s caps”). … Harlen – who is apparently too cool for school – refuses to wear his. I turn to him and say, “Don’t you want your hat?” and he tells me to fuck off. This caught me off guard, I mean I have no clue who this fucking coot is. Then he points to a pad of paper he has and asks if I’m aware that his paper is also called foolscap. Now, I’ve never heard that term before, I pretty much just call it paper so I shake my head “no.” … So then he asks me if I even attended college and I say “No, I did not.” Then, he says “did you at least finish high school?”

    I said that I had, but you couldn’t really hear me because the audience is laughing at me along with Harlen. So once they stop, I turn to him and I say, “While I’ve got you here I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed the Star Wars stuff you wrote.”

    1.  An excerpt of Harlan’s take on the Penny Arcade interaction.

      The surly teenager then asked me, not very loudly, “Don’t you want to wear your hat?”

      As there WAS NO HAT for me, I pretty much let slide the gibe.

      Well, two aspects of the moment that followed:

      1) Someone in the audience said something to ME, DIRECTLY, that I now understand as not having been heard or linked properly, by the surly teenager. I can’t remember what it was, but it was a remark made my someone I knew, in a jocular vein, and I tossed over my shoulder the pro forma fuckyou or gofuckyerself or whatever it was. It was no more serious or rude a fuckyou than a Bart Simpson bite me or eat my shorts.

      But it wasn’t addressed to the surly teenager, who had already made snotty remarks at me, not once, but twice.

      If the surly teenager misheard and thought he was EVEN IN THE EXCHANGE, I was unaware of it.

      Till I got home and saw the foofaraw here.

      I was, thus, neither rude nor disrespectful to him.

      So he misinterpreted from the git-go.

      Which invalidates everything that he says followed. Most of which took place in that arid wasteland between his ears.

      Next, I replied to him: “There’s no hat for me. HERE is my foolscap, and I held up the pad. He stared at it, slack-jawed, uncomprehendingly. I repeated the word, trying to indicate that writing paper for a writer was originally, and has been traditionally, known as “foolscap,” not an unknown word to me, any more than it is to any of you here; nor was its double-entendre lost on the audience, who also knew the word.

      (One of the most troubling aspects of the cultural ignorance of surly teenagers is that though they are tabula rasa about most everything but what Shakira is wearing these days, they are insulted and defensive and arrogant and dismissive and rude when one tries, however innocently, to educate them, whether it’s about something as minuscule as “foolscap” or something as powerfully important as that the Holocaust really happened. They all have ipods, but very little information.)

      (To point out this reality, of course, only imbeds the deeper, the urban legends that anyone old enough to remember FDR simply cannot get “into” the venue of the young. It ain’t the young, mi amigos, it’s the iggerunt.)

      So the surly teenager was clearly as unfamiliar with this common term as he would be of hubris, the Elgin Marbles, Kilroy, and Eddie Cantor. Not to mention Marta Toren, Gertrude Ederle, Jesse Owens, Benito Mussolini, and El Greco. Not STUPID, merely ignorant. Two different things, as I must have pointed out a hundred times in other contexts during my many panels and lectures. I asked him, then, not realizing he must have an instant flee-or-fight reaction-formation to anyone questioning his intelligence–whether in reality, or as he perceives it–if he had gone to college. I was merely making chat. The conversation was between us, and the audience COULD NOT POSSIBLY have heard the interchange, thus putting the interpretatiuonal lie to his assertion in his posting that everyone was laughing at him.

      Everyone was laughing. But not necessarily at him.

      And definitely not because of our “college” interchange.

      He replied, no, he hadn’t gone to college.

      Now–and he never even considered THIS–I wanted to know what his educational background was. Here was a fellow whose work at PA was accomplished…

      …and unlike the arrogant stupidity of those who say they’ve never heard of me, and never read me, and never will, snarky tots and brain-dead gamers, I’m forced to conclude…when I was apprised many months ago that my co-Guests of Honor were Gabe & Tycho, I familiarized myself with their site, their work, their contributions in the community, and the wide audience they had…

      1. Having seen Ellison in person, I still have difficulty reading his non-fiction writing without hearing it read in the voice of Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons.

  7. I remember stumbling over a copy of Starlog published just after The Empire Strikes Back came out. The letters page was full of outraged screeds demanding to know how Luke could possibly believe the vile lie that Vader was his father – Obi Wan said Vader killed Anakin, and Obi Wan would never lie!

    1. To be fair, Luke & Leia also full-on tongue kissed in that film… And then in 1983 it’s revealed they are brother & sister… George Lucas had 100% nothing mapped out…

      1.  I have always believed that the Luke/Vader relationship was planned almost from the beginning, at least subconsciously “Vader” is so close to “father” it had to be in the back of someone’s mind.

        As for the letter writers in Starlog, didn’t Vader ask Luke to use The Force to confirm it was true, and that Luke did so? The big “Noooo” was not saying Vader was lying, it was an expression of how much Luke wished it wasn’t true.

        1. Ehhh… Maybe… But I genuinely believe his method of movie making really involved understanding what button he should push at the right moment.  The whole “Vader” meaning “father” in German doesn’t fly for me since a lot of the iconography of the Empire in Star Wars was based on Nazi concepts.  So the whole “fatherland” idea seems to supersede any “telegraphing” on George Lucas’ part about Vader being Luke’s father.

          Which is all meaningless: Please explain that Luke & Leia kiss.

        2.  Oh yeah, the letter writers were fully aware that Luke believed it – they just didn’t believe it themselves and were outraged that Luke had somehow been fooled.

          I believe the same issue had a piece speculating on the origin of Vader. The writer – working through the evidence logically piece by piece – reached the conclusion that he had been badly injured by falling into a volcano. I’m not sure if this is a startling piece of precognition, or merely proof that George Lucas liked to read Starlog.

    2.  I made the tragic mistake of picking up and reading the novelization of “Empire” *before the fucking movie came out*. Totally spoiled the “I am your father” scene for my 15-yr-old self.

      Why did they release that book before the movie? WHHHYYYYYY??? *cries*

    1. I had better luck.  I met him twice in the early 90s under genial circumstances and came away glad that I’d met him.  To this day I’m a bit awestruck by his writing talent, and though he certainly has his faults, I’m forced to admit they’re no more manifold nor fatal than mine own.

      Just louder.

      1. As a lifelong fan of the man’s work, and fully acknowledging his shortcomings, I would gladly buy the man a beer for the understanding, and perhaps less often, joy, his writing has brought me.

        Whether Ellison is a good man or not is infinitely less interesting to me than what he has written.

        It distresses me that we are beginning to demand that our artists also be heroes.

        1. Personally, I kind of expect people who are extremely talented at one thing (such as writing) to be severely deficient at something else (such as human social interaction).  I have no demands ^_^

  8. Oh man. I loved this mag back in the day. I can’t remember which came first – Star Wars (when I was 12) or a box set of Heinlein books (eight of them with those acid-trippy cover paintings) my cousin gave me at one point, which I took to summer camp and just TORE through.

    But it wasn’t long after these two milestones that I discovered Starlog and started getting a copy every month. I forget when I quit getting that mag – and despite hanging onto them for a while, my collection is sadly long gone.

  9. To me, Starlog -WAS- science fiction in the 70’s.

    I had the first issue, and awaited each, and they were better than TV, and nothing could compare with the magazine.

    I still have my collection of Future Life magazine by Starlog Press, which I liked even better than Starlog, during it’s brief run.

    When it started, Starlog was the only magazine of it’s kind, back when a single magazine could report on all new SF movies and things, just as SF took off before Star Wars, with the likes of Space: 1999, Logan’s Run, and Futureworld.

    It’s nice to see that Kerry and the others from Starlog are getting some recognition.  They
    played a big part in the popularization of modern science fiction in the mainstream.

  10. I’m pretty sure that it was in an issue of either Starlog or Future Life that I saw a story about a proposed movie of Zelazny’s Lord of Light with Kirby concept art. Of course, it was only this year that I learned about what really ended up happening with that…

  11. I subscribed to it for one year. Didn’t bother renewing, but I did get an official slipcover to keep those 12 issues in, and I still have them.

  12. I have kept as many issues as I possessed. I think my dad bought the first few copies and when I was old enough to buy them I continued the tradition.
    I don’t quite remember using them as a rumor source, more as a discussion of the stuff that had been released— making ofs, interviews, etc.
    Great magazine. We should all scan our back issues lest they disintegrate.

  13. I remember the Harlan Ellison jab at Mark Hamill very well; the fact is, Mark had actually stated he had never read Harlan’s books, and Harlan, like the pompus jackass he always is, intentionally misrepresented the comment to claim that Mark didn’t read, period.

  14. My brother and I subscribed to Starlog for years, along with Cinemagic and Fangoria. Couldn’t be a kid-in-the-know during the late 70’s / early 80’s w/o them. Fueled much speculation as well as provided inspiration for our own Super-8 “masterpieces”.

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