Book Review: WAVELENGTHS Hits the Right Frequency

Wavelengths: Covering Sci Fi in Every Reality
Written by Daniel Dickholtz
Published by Daniel Dickholtz
September 7, 2023
Paperback, 248 pages

Those of us that are “of an age” will remember the heady days of the magazines devoted to our niche: StarlogFangoriaCinefantastiqueComics Scene, just to name a few — many of them were held in high regard by fans, and even though a lot of them are gone, we still have the nostalgia of what came before the internet pretty much ruined it all…

And we’re also very familiar with the concept of the multiverse, thanks to a Hollywood machine that just won’t let them go away. But when you combine those two things, you actually get something worthwhile: Wavelengths.

This book gives us a look at different variations of the universe — called “frequencies” here — wherein there exists a magazine called Wavelengths, which is Starlog in another skin. The book offers up a collection of articles from the 501st issue, dated November 2019, across three frequencies. This gives us a look at several “what might have been” scenarios in science fiction and horror entertainment. It’s like Harry Turtledove edited Starlog. Some things are the same, but other things are just slightly skewed in a completely different direction.

The challenge with a review is in deciding how much to spoil — enough to intrigue without ruining the experience of discovery — so let’s leave broad strokes here and if you want more depth, keep reading after the jump past the interview I did with Dan.

  • What if Star Wars hadn’t been a massive success?
  • What if Gene Roddenberry’s career had been launched by Genesis II instead of Star Trek?
  • What if Roddenberry had discovered Tom Selleck?
  • What if Charlton Comics had survived?
  • What if Kenneth Johnson had saved Star Trek?
  • What if the Barsoom movies were hits?

Just a few items among many, and some of the nuggets are deep dive items, things that only long-time and in-depth fans will recognize. But if you’re not that familiar with some of these behind-the-scenes stories, that won’t keep you from enjoying the “What If…?” aspects of the book. And for those of us who grew up reading magazines like Starlog and have combed the internet for those deep cuts, the knowledge of what could have been in this reality will give you further appreciation for what came to pass in those other frequencies.

Dan deftly weaves together things that actually happened with things that didn’t happen with things that might have happened in a mix of narratives that’s both fun and inventive.

Those who are familiar with Starlog will recognize the style of the writing, with both the convention coverage articles and the notes about current and upcoming productions. Plus: one of the editors being named “Don MacDavid” is a clear nod to Starlog editor David McDonnell.

SciFi4Me Interviews STARLOG’s David McDonnell!

From the casual, conversational tone of the op-eds from editor “Ed Carson” to the articles collecting and reporting the latest developments and rumors swirling about upcoming film and television projects, Wavelengths really does feel like a collection of lost Starlog issues. If the magazine had continued past 2009, it would feel very much like this. Of course, it would have been reporting on Taylor Kitsch as John Carter instead of Tom Cruise, but still…

You will not be disappointed by the attention to detail in this book. Dan’s research has given him the opportunity to mix and match a lot of different “What If…?” scenarios with actors and filmmakers that almost were matched up over here in this frequency, projects that almost happened over here, and careers that zigged when they almost zagged. Blending the alternate histories with things that actually happened only helps to lend a certain air of authenticity to the various narratives. There was more than one occasion where I found myself wondering at the possibilities, especially the notion that in some universe, there’s a whole series of John Carter movies, Tom Selleck is a sci-fi icon, and Gene Roddenberry had more success with shows after Star Trek.

I’m also wondering what Wavelengths has been reporting over in Frequency 616. Or Frequency 1138. Or Frequency 8675309…

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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