You can’t tell a book by its cover, the whole adage goes. That’s particularly true of Starlog where the articles, interviews, photos and cartoons inside the magazine (or "book" in publishing jargon) were (I believe) of a higher, consistent quality than the covers, so frequently compromised by factors beyond my control as Editor. In a previous post, I revealed Strange Starlog Cover Stories (re: issues #1, #3, #114, #130, #135, #138, #147, #162, #175, #291). Let’s round up more.
Issue #173 (on sale November 1991) inaugurated the "Worlds of Star Trek" idea, encircling DeForest Kelley, Jonathan Frakes and Teri Garr (of TOS "Assignment Earth" unsold pilot). This unusual three-ring circus template was an effort to "equate" three different interviews in similar sized spaces and thus create a larger, saleable cover story. Next Gen guest Carel Struycken (pictured as his Addams Family alter-ego, Lurch) deadpans from the corner cover photo box, adding a fourth Trek celeb to the menu.
At that time, Zimmerman and I separately wrote sets of coverlines for each issue, subject of a group discussion (refereed by Smith) where we chose the strongest one (one from Column HZ, one from Column McD) or created all-new contenders. Our main line here ("The Klingons Return to Sabotage The Search for Spock") is more informational than sensational. We could have done better. Amid the too many (11!) coverlines, there’s a puzzling omission. We were so pleased to picture Lloyd on the cover, yet we didn’t bother to mention his name anywhere thereon!
Unbelievably, this was our onlyTrek III Starlog cover. Issue #83 hosted Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. And #84, out in June alongside Trek III’s premiere, was Starlog’s Eighth Anniversary, triggering our traditional multiple-image Anniversary cover (which I thought bollixed up summer movie coverage annually) and the self-congratulatory Anniversary salute section. Eventually, we terminated such traditions.
Our second Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home cover came with #116, two months after the film’s November 30, 1986 launch (and #114, cover-featuring director-star Leonard Nimoy). Looks nice, eh? I’m still blue about it. The original cover idea: "The Women of Star Trek IV" (which may be sexist now, but didn’t seem so decades ago) with photos of Nichelle Nichols, Catherine Hicks, Robin Curtis, Majel Barrett Roddenberry and Grace Lee Whitney (all interviewed inside) and quotes from each. However, Publisher Jacobs vetoed that plan. He believed SF fans were more interested in hardware; that’s why, per company lore, Starlog #17 (with Battlestar Galactica hurtling at the reader) sold so well. Trek IV introduced a brand-new Enterprise (NCC-1701-A) so that had to be the cover, Jacobs insisted, not a bunch of faces. Well, who can argue with that? Now Starlog’s Editor, I did, but nonetheless I lost, because, you know, Jacobs (co)-owned the company.
Issue #124 heralds Star Trek: The Next Generation’s fall 1987 debut with our very first Next Gen cover. In my memory, it’s a moody, blue-light cast shot, better looking than its cold reality (as I study it today): a grainy photo haunted by first season anomalies (beardless William Riker, initial Worf makeup, Deanna Troi’s bad hair days, early costumes, Tasha Yar). The issue’s most intriguing coverline is: "Special Feature: The episode that saved Star Trek." It refers to "Where No Man Has Gone Before," the second TOS pilot which sold the series and therefore spawned this whole saga. Inside, there’s a trio of "No Man" interviews: writer Samuel A. Peeples, director James Goldstone and guest star Gary (2001: A Space Odyssey) Lockwood.
Other Unintended Consequences? I never again arranged advance screening access for publishers when a cover was on the line. The Running Man was upgraded to the #125 cover slot, creating a vacancy. Man was a box office hit whereas Bride not so much. Maybe the publishers were right after all? Inconceivable! Today, of course, one picture’s forgotten; the other’s a beloved classic, often quoted by its fans. Fairy tale over!
That’s why just two months after its premiere, Next Gen is back, filling that vacancy and emerging as our default cover subject (whenever something else fell through, 1987-94). "Secrets of Star Trek: The Next Generation" sounds promising as a coverline, but it’s just hype; inside #126, we don’t especially reveal any secrets (sorry). LeVar Burton, Marina Sirtis and Brent Spiner are featured in another moody photo (and not as famous here in December 1987 as they’ll be later, they’re identified via cover caption near Marina’s shoulder) although there’s only a Sirtis interview inside (provocative quote: "I’m not the new Spock").
After all, that was the goal: to persuade new and casual readers to pick up the book and look beyond the cover. All that coverline clutter is there to hook you. Inside, I’ve always felt, there were enough diverse features to satisfy your interest. But, how to round you up to begin with? In 1996, Publisher Jacobs had an enticing, more expensive concept, derived from gimmick-happy paperbacks where die-cut circles (and other shapes) engraved into a front cover offered a partial glimpse inside to a second cover underneath (a painting/photo seen in its full glory when the book’s opened). Why not do that on a magazine? So, cue Starlog #233 and the soon-to-premiere Star Trek: First Contact.
Had Paramount provided the very same Borg shot as late as that Friday morning, we could have used it, and had a better, Borgier #233 cover. And why not service the image to Starlog? Our printing schedule ensured that USA Today (a far more important media outlet than Starlog) would still publish the photo first, an entire month before issue #233 hit newsstands. Non-exclusive use of that same shot woulda been fine with me.
Unintended Consequences! I was overseas in November when First Contact screened for the press. When I got back, I was still so bloody annoyed by that Borg photo SNAFU, I simply didn’t bother to see the movie. For years! Inconceivable? No, just a strange but true cover story.
Copyright 2015 David McDonnell