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From Timesstar.com

These sci-fi magazines are out of this world (tru mention)

By Sharon Eberson

Monday 12 April 2004, by Webmaster

For sci-fi readers, these magazines are out of this world.


TO most of us, the word "genre" conjures up a certain type of literature or film. But to fans of science fiction, genre is their word, specific to the otherworldly realm of space travel, fantasy and horror that they inhabit — at least in their imaginations.

Well before the phenomenal film success of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, this realm of books, movies, television shows, animation, comics and FX/CGI had lived a long shelf life and prospered, but perhaps never more than right now.

For movie buffs, in particular, has there been a more exciting time? Even before the anticipated summer blockbusters "Van Helsing," "Spider-Man 2" and "Shrek 2" hit the screen, "Hellboy" and "The Punisher" (the latter two comic-book based) will have kept genre fans busy.

"Scooby-Doo 2" and its not-so-spooky monsters opened at No.1 last month. And for a good scare, there are the "Dawn of the Dead" remake and Stephen King’s "Secret Window" with Johnny Depp. Critical darling "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" may be a love story at heart, but even that’s based on a science-fiction concept (a low-tech memory eraser).

And those are just the tip of the special-effects iceberg.

For those of us who can’t get enough of the stuff, it’s all covered by a wide selection of glossy, handsomely produced magazines.

I recently stopped at a Barnes & Noble and grabbed one of each that I had bought at one time or another to keep up with a favorite TV program, actor or author. It turned out to be a bigger group than I had remembered (and I wonder where all the loose change has gone at the end of the week!), even with two missing.

Readily available were Starlog, Starburst, Fangoria, CFX, Sci Fi and Dreamwatch. AWOL were SFX (I still have last year’s issue that dared to pick the top 100 genre characters of all time) and Cinescape, which has the cachet of sponsoring the Saturn Awards, an Emmy/Oscar combo for the sci-fi set.

On a recent return visit, SFX, dated March, was on the rack with something no one else offered: Former "Buffy" slayer Eliza Dushku of "Tru Calling."

It’s worth noting that among this group occupying the same rack were March, April and May issues and magazines that appear monthly, every other month or quarterly, yet most featured the same two films — "Hellboy" (which opened last week) and "Van Helsing" (May 7).

The unpredictable nature of the timing of some of these magazines, some produced in London, is why I’ve never subscribed but often check the contents before I buy. So, from the choices on the shelves the last week in March, let’s thumb through a few.

Fangoria (April issue, $7.99)

As the name suggests, this is a horror/slasher/monster mag, which its cover readily reveals. The focus is on "Hellboy’s" Ron Perlman — no Hugh Jackman in heroic pose as "Van Helsing" here. Instead, we get one of Dracula’s long-in-the-tooth — literally — brides representing that movie (in the May issue now on newsstands, where "Van Helsing" is the cover focus, we’re assaulted with Dracula full-frontal fangs).

Fangoria includes a "Van Helsing" set visit similar to other magazines.

Starlog (May, $7.99)

From the same publisher that brings us Fangoria comes a science-fiction magazine that throws in Disney’s animated "Home on the Range" for no particular reason and a long feature on "Hidalgo" because its star is a king among sci-fi actors, "The Return of the King’s" Viggo Mortensen. Jackman dominates the cover, with some of his co-stars given smaller billing, and there are nods to "Hellboy" and "The Punisher." There’s also an interview with pretty boy Orlando "Legolas" Bloom from the set of "Troy." Whether or not "Hidalgo" or "Troy" fit the genre doesn’t really matter. Once a genre star, always a genre star.

Mortensen and Bloom’s co-star in "The Lord of the Rings," John Rhys-Davies (Gimli), is interviewed, and there’s a feature on FX wiz and Ray Harryhausen disciple Phil Tippett, hard at work on the "Starship Troopers" sequel.

Television shows get short shrift on the outside, but inside, there’s an interview with John Billingsley, Dr. Phlox on the fast-fading "Star Trek: Enterprise," and the most interesting news from my standpoint: Brian Henson has just wrapped a four-hour miniseries of "Farscape," which had been canceled by the Sci Fi Channel without a resolution.

Starburst (March, $6.99)

It may say March, but Starburst, out of the United Kingdom, is as up-to-date as any genre magazine on the shelves. It repeats Starlog’s Jackman photo on the cover, but covers the cancellation of the WB’s "Angel" inside and has a first look at "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow," a stylized film that inserts its megacast — Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie — into CGI settings.

This magazine is a feast for the eyes, and not just because it features Jackman and co-star Kate Beckinsale. The paper stock is top-notch, adding to the image quality, and the layout is less cluttered than in many genre mags.

Also, the live-action "Thunderbirds," due this summer with Ben Kingsley and Bill Paxton and based on the 1960s marionette series, gets a big boost here.