By Lloyd Mangram
Craig returned to the cover for the New Year with Ocean's
Top Gun. It proved quite a popular illustration
with readers, though I thought it suffered from problems
similar to those of the Lightforce painting three
issues earlier - doubtful definition of areas and a
very rough finish which prevented the machine from looking
like polished silver. And it was a single-minded image,
lacking the visual gag which had become so much the
hallmark of CRASH cover paintings.
We now enter a very difficult year for Newsfield, for CRASH,
and for me to describe. I shall linger less on the software,
which is dealt with in my 1987 Lookback, and concentrate more
on the internal affairs of the magazine. As we entered 1987
no-one had any idea the turmoil that lay ahead.
People tend to regard a company as a smooth-working entity,
but that's very misleading. It would be far better to compare
a company to an individual, or even at times to a family.
When you meet someone you know slightly in the street and
they wave hello to you, you never stop to think of the problems
they may have - just like you do. And a company, however familiar
and successful, has problems too. At times Newsfield has been
like a large family, with all the members heading in much
the same direction, yet split by family rifts, arguments,
even feuds. The first upset of 1987 came when Sean Masterson
resigned before Christmas to devote himself to his love of
fantasy gaming; on Frontline he was replaced by Philippa Irving.
But it was far from being the last change.
LM had been launched successfully, yet there were thunderclouds.
It looked like it was going to be a struggle to get the essential
advertising in to support the very expensive publication,
with its large editorial staff and many contributors adding
to the usual costs of typesetting, repro and printing. Against
this worrying background were set the computer magazines'
problems, few of which the public saw.
The biggest concerned CRASH. It was really a magazine without
an editor, which is a bit like a ship without a captain, with
no-one to guide it. Graeme Kidd's time was shared among all
three computer magazines, and CRASH seemed to lose some of
its direction. The spelling mistakes and the typos were slipping
back in, despite Ciarán Brennan's valiant efforts to
stem them. But he was working on ZZAP! and AMTIX! as well,
so there was too much subbing for him to do alone. For the
February issue, Roger Kean was called back from LM's Gravel
Hill office to help sort it out; otherwise the issue would
never even have made it to the printer on time.
In the Art Department, where Oliver was busy designing LM,
there was also a serious problem. Both lan Craig and Dick
Shiner had found they preferred being freelance to suffering
the punishing regular schedules of magazine work, and as this
issue went to press both of them resigned their jobs (though
Dick, who still lives in Ludlow, continued doing some freelance
work for Newsfield). Oliver was faced once again with having
to do all the covers, but for the rest there were four layout
artists, and Gordon Druce became art director of the three
computer titles - it was sufficient.
Discussions about the CRASH reviews had been popular for
quite some time, and as early as August 1986 a straw poll
of the regular reviewers revealed that they would not mind
having their names with their comments. To protect them, this
hadn't been done before; CRASH is unlike most other computer
magazines because most of the reviewers are not professional
writers or critics, but local school and college people. The
anonymity was beginning to irritate readers, however, and
so with the New Year, we changed the system. Ben Stone, Mike
Dunn and Paul Sumner became real names, and to go with it
a mild revamp of the ratings took place, with Use Of Computer
and Getting Started both being replaced by Presentation. It
was to be the first of several changes in the three-year-old