In keeping with the Star Wars theme of this week, I thought, I'd thought I'd take a sidestep away from gaming for this installment of my retrospective series to focus on another huge influence on me when I was a younger person -- Starlog magazine.
Living in 2010, it's hard to remember what it was like to be a kid in 1978. There was no Internet, cable TV was practically unheard of (and in any event only had a handful of channels anyway), and people actually read newspapers and magazines. And there were many, many magazines devoted to all sorts of special interests of which Starlog was a good example. The magazine had exclusive interviews, photos, and other features dealing with current and upcoming sci-fi movies and TV shows. Back then, reading a magazine like Starlog was one of the few ways you could learn about "Star Wars II" or the next Star Trek feature film. There simply were no other options available at the time.
I never subscribed to Starlog, but I picked up a lot of issues over the period between 1977 and 1984 or so. I'd dutifully walk down to the corner store every month to see if the latest issue had anything about movies or TV shows I liked, with particular attention paid to Star Wars. I still remember the incredible feeling or euphoria and confusion I had upon picking up an issue that included early stills from the still-unreleased The Empire Strikes Back. I'd spent several years imagining what another Star Wars movie would be like and nothing that I saw in those stills was at all like I expected. I remember being quite unnerved by a still depicting Han Solo frozen in carbonite. What was going on in this movie? I was even more excited -- and frightened -- of seeing it now, thanks to Starlog.
What's interesting is that, because Starlog was primarily intended to promote interest in the films and TV shows it covered in its articles, there wasn't a lot of criticism of them. Based on what I read back then, everything looked cool, with photos chosen to give that precise impression. I wish I could remember now how often I was duped into believing that some silly Star Wars knock-off film was actually cool, based solely on the article I read about it in Starlog, not that it mattered. Back then, I was so starved for information about science fiction films and television shows that I didn't care whether or not Battle Beyond the Stars was a good movie (it wasn't). There were lots of cool photos and they inspired my imagination, which is all that mattered to me in the end.
I can't say that I miss Starlog. I have a certain nostalgia for it and remember it as a big influence on me when I was younger, but I don't think it was a great magazine. Its primary virtue was that it was a major source of information I wanted at a time when such information was not otherwise readily available. I wouldn't want to go back to those days of information scarcity, even if they did make me better appreciate what little information I did manage to get hold of. Certainly there's virtue in mystery and upcoming movies were generally plenty mysterious in the late 1970s, when there weren't websites updated daily cataloging every single thing revealed by any means about every single movie in production between now and Doomsday.
I suspect another reason I retain fond memories of Starlog is that, despite all the dreck it covered, it also covered a lot of movies and TV shows from an era when science fiction was still lots of fun, at least from my perspective. I realize that's a purely subjective thing, of course, but it's something I genuinely feel nonetheless. I guess I am getting old. Ah well, it happens to us all.