SPACE : 1995

SFX launch edi­tor Matt Bielby re­mem­bers the year it all be­gan…

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Space: 1995 -

When we launched SFX, in 1995, the genre wasn’t the all­con­quer­ing colos­sus it is now – A Game Of Thrones was a year away, the first

Harry Pot­ter novel was still be­ing re­jected by pub­lish­ers, and Doc­tor Who was in the mid­dle of its decade- and- a- half in the dol­drums – but we had rea­sons to be cheer­ful nonethe­less.

Though we only half- re­alised it at the time, a golden age was stut­ter­ing into life. Cy­ber­punk may have had its day as a lit­er­ary sub­genre, but its in­flu­ence was ev­ery­where; ditto Ja­panese an­i­ma­tion; and a mix of old and new spe­cial ef­fects tech­nol­ogy was mak­ing af­ford­able, im­pres­sive re­vamps of old, dead gen­res like the alien in­va­sion movie ( In­de­pen­dence Day) or the dis­as­ter movie ( Ar­maged­don) sud­denly vi­able again. Soon, if you could imag­ine it, it would be pos­si­ble to bring it in con­vinc­ing enough fash­ion to the big screen, a first in movie his­tory.

And other stars were align­ing too. There’d be a revo­lu­tion in tele­vi­sion, with am­bi­tious new shows bring­ing new au­di­ences – teenage girls! Age­ing lit­er­ary SF fans! – to the me­dia SF& F space in ever- in­creas­ing num­bers. And on the book­shelves, fan­tasy in all its flavours – from Pratch­ett through Rowl­ing and Martin, to the ur­ban fan­tasy of the Anita Blake books – was start­ing to es­tab­lish a main­stream ap­peal that SF has rarely en­joyed.

The mid-’ 90s was – though we didn’t fully re­alise this at the time ei­ther – the last great boom pe­riod for the news­stand mag­a­zine in­dus­try: tech­nol­ogy made them cheaper and eas­ier to put to­gether than ever, the in­ter­net hadn’t eroded their mar­ket yet and ex­cit­ing stuff was hap­pen­ing all over. Loaded and the mod­ern in­car­na­tion of FHM had just launched; Wired was huge in Amer­ica;

Wall­pa­per was on its way; and busi­ness for re­cent cre­ations like Max Power, Men’s Health and Four

Four Two was boom­ing. A few years be­fore or a few years af­ter, and no­body would have risked cre­at­ing an in- no- way- a- sure- thing propo­si­tion like SFX – but the Goldilocks mo­ment was now.

No­to­ri­ously SFX be­gan with the Tank Girl film on the cover – cool, cultish, edgy, and now largely forgotten – which not every­body loved, but th­ese days it seems the right de­ci­sion. It set out our stall early, it said we’d talk about the in­ter­est­ing and quirky as well as the main­stream hits, and helped give the whole pro­duc­tion a bit of Bri­tish spunk and vim. ( And be­sides, the early sum­mer’s two big­gest SF movies – Judge Dredd and Bat­man

For­ever – weren’t ready for us yet, didn’t know who we were, or prob­a­bly both. They be­came our next two cov­ers – and if they’re bet­ter re­mem­bered than

Tank Girl, they’re not bet­ter loved.)

The X- Files. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Baby­lon 5. Lois & Clark. Each of SFX’s four big early shows had, in dif­fer­ing de­grees, largely en­sem­ble casts, se­ries- long story arcs, de­tailed mythol­ogy, a nearob­ses­sive need to jux­ta­pose vi­o­lence and threat with ban­ter­ing wit, and end­less fore­shad­ow­ing and ev­ery­thing- you- thought- was- true- is- wrong plot twists – the build­ing blocks of mod­ern TV. Even the pub­lic­ity shots, with their casts stand­ing at an­gles to each other star­ing into the mid­dle dis­tance, be­gan with th­ese shows.

And so did a newly rein­vig­o­rated form of fandom. Char­ac­ters like the X- Files’ Scully were bring­ing more women into sci- fi than ever be­fore; cre­ators like Baby­lon 5’s J Michael Straczyn­ski en­gaged with those watch­ing ( though Usenet news­groups, not Twit­ter!) in un­prece­dented fash­ion; and ev­ery­one – not least one Rus­sell T Davies – was in­spired by the new pos­si­bil­i­ties of genre.

Oh, science fic­tion and fan­tasy were still cultish, still geeky – or what­ever you want to call it. But the big hits of our world were now be­com­ing cul­tural touch­stones too, and SFX was here – just in time – to chron­i­cle it all.

Af­ter a six- year break, James Bond re­turned in Gold­enEye in our first year. Bat­man For­ever didn’t quite make our de­but cover.

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