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The British media sf magazine market is currently in a kind of flux, with two new magazines having appeared recently, Science Fiction World (which looks, to me anyway, as if it will fold after only a few issues) and Starlog UK (which has a lot of money behind it and, even though it is actually not that good, probably won’t), and the more established magazines on the market currently engrossed in the process of revamping, many having increased their page-counts and changed their font styles and layouts in an attempt to look more ‘cool’ and hence gain more readers. Many of these changes have actually, in my opinion, rather spoiled the charm of magazines that I have been reading for some time, with FHM-style prose (replete with oh-so-hilarious post-modern ‘wit’) becoming the order of the day and even journalists in sf magazines being reluctant to associate themselves with anything more sad than Buffy. Starburst has, for some time, been a magazine very much in decline anyway, and of the many media sf magazines I bought was, up until a year ago, the one I would have most probably stopped buying had financial or time constraints started to impact upon me. I was rather unimpressed, therefore, when Starburst changed its format, too, along with all the other magazines, introducing an extra 30-odd pages and a slightly smaller font-size (and a higher cover-price to cover it all, of course). And at first, my suspicions that Starburst would very soon become a magazine not worth buying seemed to be being borne out. Then something wonderful happened: the magazine changed editors! The new editor, Andrew Cartmel, former script editor on Doctor Who and the author of a pretty good sf novel called ‘The Wise’ [Virgin Worlds, 1999], seems to have really turned the magazine around, mainly because, I believe, he seems to be relying on his own tastes in science fiction rather than the yuppie appeal the other magazines seem
to be aiming for. Consequently, in a time when other magazines are dumbing down and featuring endless interviews with the stars of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and similar ‘hip’ series (the contents of which are always, and I mean always, banal in the extreme), Starburst has begun to actually reduce the number of interviews within its pages and increase the number of features, a large percentage of which are actually retrospectives covering such a host of subjects as Nigel Kneale, Hammer sf and fantasy films and Val Guest’s ‘The Day The Earth Caught Fire’. And despite one of the most ridiculous statements I have ever heard (the editor apparently thinks that Buffy is the best thing to happen to sf since Blade Runner [insert sounds of me copiously vomiting here]), he has managed to reign in those baser urges and not to have every issue filled with full-page, full-colour snapshots of Sarah Michelle Gellar. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like some of the new wave of ‘teen’ sf shows, such as Buffy, Roswell, Charmed, etc., etc. However, it is my opinion that the level to which most magazine editors have saturated their contents with coverage of these series is absurd. What was needed was a safe haven from this insanity, somewhere where people could read about a whole variety of science fiction. Thankfully, that safe haven has arrived in the form of the new, revamped Starburst and, while the magazine still has the odd flaw, such as the tendency to entrust reviewing to a very small number of people, it is rapidly becoming my favourite media sf magazine. Get it now.