02. Inverted Pyramid

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I decided to become a writer on a whim in the eighth grade, and I’m pretty sure I decided to get into journalism on a whim while I was in the early days of university. That’s not to say that I had no interest in it before—I read plenty of journalistic and otherwise non-fiction writing—but it never crystallized into a possible career path in my mind before I was actually placed in a journalistic position. I was already there, I reasoned, why not go all the way with it? So, all things considered, when I was handed the news editor position, I decided to take it very seriously—although that didn’t necessarily mean I did the best job, either, but I tried at least. Still, let’s just say that as much effort as I brought to the position, I really shouldn’t have been surprised when my journalism career didn’t take off later (still, I can at least be satisfied that some of the reporters I worked with did go on to respectable journalism careers.)

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01. Bulldog Edition

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If nothing else, I know my name will live on in one capacity: my seven-year stint at the student newspaper of my alma mater, which officially began ten years ago. It was one of the only times in my life where I could feel that I was contributing to and building on something greater than myself and my own short-term concerns, although I don’t think that really sunk in until about halfway through, when the sheer history of a hundred-plus-year-old institution cascaded over me. To be sure, though, the feeling of linking yourself to hundreds of other people and decades of history could easily be undercut by the everyday conditions of a university extracurricular activity, which feels intentionally ephemeral and obviously has a high turnover rate by their very nature; that I ended up as the veteran, the source of “institutional knowledge”, was due to circumstance, but also my determination to make that seemingly disposable and unstable product into something to be preserved and cherished.

But I had to get to that point first.

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Starlog Log #9

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I chose not to read the Starlog archives in any particular order—I thought it’d be more interesting to jump around to different years and understand the changes to the magazine and the fandom more gradually. I generally use the default option of ordering the individual files by views, which also gives me insight into which issues people reading the archives are interested in. Of course, early issues and especially early coverage of The Big Stuff dominate the early goings, with special anniversary issues (at one point a yearly thing for the magazine, which must have been exhausting) and the odd entry from later in the run (the second most-viewed has The Mask and The Shadow share a cover, the first and last time those two movies will ever be spoken of in the same breath) dropping in between, which only means that my fellow archive diggers are interested in the older historical artifacts, especially when they’re about things they know (not as many people reading when its Nightflyer or Brainstorm on the cover—or Suburban Commando, or Time Trax…) When it was an era of big movies (like Star Wars or Alien) or big TV shows (like Star Trek: The Next Generation), it’s pretty understandable that many are interested in seeing just how people reacted to those things when they were entirely new.

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Starlog Log #8

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Success came to SF when it broadened itself—or, to be more accurate, when SF ideas were being draped over more broad-minded formulas, high adventures and comedies and horror stories. These combinations (and many others) had existed for as long as SF has, of course, but for whatever reason they didn’t really become the centre of the whole enterprise until the beginning of the blockbuster film era, when Star Wars, Alien, Superman and the like came and made space stuff mainstream in a way it never had been before. With a ton of money to throw around, you can have all the crazy stuff onscreen you could ever want, married to plots and characters that a general audience can get a grip on—compared to earlier of the seventies, when SF was mostly inscrutable, heady enterprises where action and romance were a rarity, and what was there was usually delivered in way that was either cheap or bizarre and off-putting. All those things made those movies feel closer to actual SF literature (although they still ended up being more clumsy than profound, generally), but maybe that was the lesson the movie business had to learn—the key to making SF a financial viability is to make it look as little like established SF as possible. In the following decades, most, if not all, of the most films that made it big that were “SF” were usually followed by a hyphen—Back to the Future is mostly a comedy, after all, as is Ghostbusters, and something like Robocop is primarily an action movie (although it’s also a comedy…man, is there anything Robocop CAN’T do?) Spielberg didn’t even want to call Close Encounters of the Third Kind SF, and in the case of E.T this may have played a part in the decision to focus the movie’s publicity entirely on mainstream media while leaving genre publications like Starlog out (which led to month after month of consternation in Starlog’s editorials in 1982.)

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Starlog Log #7

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As an aside, if you’re looking for a more detailed and ordered history of Starlog’s run, I recommend this site, which goes issue-by-issue and provides a very interesting timeline of how it developed as a publication over time.

SF is a literary genre—the written word is where it began, where it’s purpose and method were developed, and even if visual media has jockeyed itself into being the mainstream face of SF, well, those movies and TV shows still have to steal all their ideas from somewhere. Although it’s much easier to avoid SF in its basal book form now, whole swathes of fandom have ended up going back to the literature for a host of reasons; for example, using the ubiquitous tie-in novel to tide you over until a beloved series returns (if it ever does.) There remains some kind of reverence for written fantasy, going all the way back to the early days of the genre when literature (be it a novel or a short story) was one of the only games in town, and was certainly more consistent in wild imagination (and quality) than the movies and TV shows of the earlier eras—eventually the movies would catch up in terms of what could appear on screen, and there was a transition period where the forerunners of then-modern SF were still venerated and given prime real estate at conventions, because if you liked movies like Star Wars, you still had to thank Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, Dick, and way too many others for helping develop what you liked about the genre.

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Starlog Log #6

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I’ve read enough of Starlog to have seen two decade transitions—from the seventies to the eighties and from the eighties to the nineties, and with them came a number of changes to the world of SF fandom, though it usually took a few years for people to notice. That tends to be the way we view these sort of cultural eras retroactively: the trends (or stereotypes) that define those decades take a few years to really make their mark, and the first few years resemble the previous decade more often than not.

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In The Meantime, Keep Your Profile Low*

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This is the 100th post on Scrapbook Infinity, which may or may not be an achievement. Have I ever reached 100 posts on previous blogs? Almost certainly. But I feel like this pseudo-project has been especially fun for me for the past year-with-change, so doing something a little different for this occasion feels appropriate. Here, then, is something very different from what I have been tackling on this site since the beginning, and something I’ve pretty much avoided doing for the past several years: personal writing.

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