Entry updated 30 June 2014. Tagged: Publication.
US letter-size (semiprozine) published by Aesir Press, Richmond, California and edited by Eric Vinicoff; eight quarterly issues, Summer 1981 to Summer 1983. Rigel described itself as a Small-Press Prozine, because its payment rates were within the professional range recommended by SFWA at that time (up to 3¢ a word). The magazine was at the forefront of desk-top publishing and Vinicoff, along with co-publisher James Ware and art director John McLaughlin did a creditable job. Rigel was neat, easy to read and presentable, but at that stage of dtp lacked any design finesse, particularly in the treatment of its artwork, so still looked fairly basic. In fact it took a step back in production quality with the second issue and did not get to grips with a fully presentable package until the fifth issue (Fall 1982) which also had a full colour cover. Rigel, though, demonstrated the limitations of dtp at that stage, and is historically important for highlighting the transition that was happening during that period.
Its fiction, nevertheless, was highly professional. Vinicoff, who had been a contributor to Analog was seeking to produce an equivalent magazine concentrating on Hard SF and attracted a number of like-minded writers, including Greg Bear, Gregory Benford, David Bischoff, Tom Easton, Alan Dean Foster and Joseph Green – though Rigel did not restrict itself to the technophiles. Michael Bishop, Richard A Lupoff, Karl T Pflock and Jack Wodhams all appeared in the first four issues, and their work was also slanted towards the scientific rather than sociological. To further emphasize this, from the second issue Dean R Lambe introduced a column about the science in sf, "Science and Sense". Vinicoff also strove to include stories that were primarily upbeat, fighting against the 1970s trend for sf to be pessimistic. Later issues contained material by Stanley Schmidt, Charles Sheffield and Timothy Zahn further emphasizing the Analog-style content. One story, though, "Pet" (Winter 1982 #6) by Jack Wodhams upset several readers for its portrayal of a human female as a "pet" kept by an interstellar soldier who has been mentally reshaped so as to have no emotion. The story, and the cover illustrating it showing a woman in a guinea-pig wheel, was seen as demeaning and anti-Feminist, and may well have had a detrimental affect on the magazine's readership.
Besides the fiction, and the usual review columns for both books and films, all but one issue featured an interview, invariably interesting. Interview subjects included Ben Bova (#1), Jack Williamson (#2), Anne McCaffrey (#3), Alan Dean Foster (#4), Poul Anderson (#6), Michael Moorcock (#7) and Barry Longyear (#8).
Rigel was, on the whole, a competent magazine with a good range of stories. Its ending was sudden: a ninth issue was planned and announced but never appeared. [MA]
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