End of an Era

Some time after joining Starlog in 1980, I began chatting with a freelance writer named Dave McDonnell. Dave was living in Pennsylvania and working part-time at Jim Steranko’s Mediascene, the occasionally published magazine. Dave wanted to write for Starlog and we began talking which led to his doing a few pieces.

More importantly, Dave was the first person on my mind when an opening occurred on staff. He bused over from Pennsylvania, impressed one and all and was added to staff. This was, amazingly, 27 years ago.

Starlog has had only three editors: David Houston, Howard Zimmerman, and Dave. When Howard left staff, Dave was its managing editor and was best suited to help the magazine grow while maintaining the journalistic integrity he learned while at Bethany College.

Dave worked tirelessly, editing not only Starlog, but countless other one-shots and miniseries for the company. He maintained good working relationships with the studios and networks so whenever the company bid on a license, it was understood the property would be in good hands.

Given the small staff maintained by management, Dave was also called upon to proofread and pitch in on Fangoria and some of the other titles, without comp time or additional compensation. His countless hours at work meant I got to see less and less of him through the years but we’d have long phone calls and more recently, chatty e-mails in order to keep in touch.

In March, it was decided by the current collection of clueless owners that the print incarnation was dead; leaving many writers owed money for their efforts. The brand was moved to the web and Dave gamely learned how to adapt.

And now that’s done. Dave is leaving staff, pretty much turning off the light on a property that a generation or two of us grew up on as the primary source of news and interviews before the Internet eventually sounded its death knell. When Starlog debuted in 1976, I bought that first issue; never imaging I’d one day work there, let alone bring Dave on board. Starlog and its sister publication, Fangoria, were the successors to Famous Monsters of Filmland, embracing color and design, filling its pages with information you weren’t likely to find elsewhere on your local newsstand.

Dave was overworked and underpaid, a fact never fully appreciated by the mag’s founders or its current owner. He’s been an excellent editor and writer plus a loyal and steadfast friend. Whatever he plans to do next is being eagerly anticipated at least in one corner of cyberspace.

6 comments

  • Wow. I used to buy every issue of Starlog.

  • Wow, indeed. I’m sorry to read that. I hope McDonnell ends up somewhere good and gets the opportunities and recognition he deserves.

  • I still don’t understand the decision to move it to a web-only publication. I get that with the internet, a lot of the news in these magazines is already old news by the time it reaches the stand. But there isn’t a US magazine like Starlog. Even growing up in the UK, Starlog was one of the magazines I read. Starlog as a magazine brings a ton of credibility versus a lot of these websites. And seeing all the Twilight/star trek/Torchwood magazines on the stands, I find it hard to believe that they couldn’t keep it going. I too hope that Dave McDonnell will find an outlet that really will appreciate his efforts.

  • TAC

    Starlog, a.k.a. Dave, gave me my first professional sale. (See link: http://hab1.com/HabFiles/Starlog/July1986.html)

    A fan first and a friend second. They, and by extension we, are going to miss him more than they know.

  • Mary Anne Espenshade

    That’s sad to hear. I’ll be watching for Dave’s name in other publications. I started subscribing to Starlog with issue 9 and have a copy of every single issue. I was still a subscriber at the end, and never recieved any kind of notification that the print issues stopped. Reading it on the web just doesn’t work for me, it was always the best source of advance movie news and nothing general has replaced it. Everything now is single topic, special issue magazines, which I rarely buy. I’ll have to rely on the “Bob and Howie Show” at Shore Leave for my movie news now!

  • Mark Perry

    I always went straight to the last page of each months Starlog to read Daves “Liner Notes”. Good luck Dave. How about a yankee version of SFX?

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