The art of Ed Emshwiller, 1925–1990


Another item brought to light during the Great Shelf Re-ordering and Spring Clean is this 1950 Lancer paperback of The Dying Earth by Jack Vance, a slim collection of six short connected stories, and another favourite book. Despite the sf label this is far more a work of fantasy (science fantasy, if you must), being tales of the bizarre and occasionally grotesque inhabitants of the last days of the earth. Magic is the order of the day, not advanced technology, although Vance hints that the book’s elaborate spells may be a higher ordering of mathematics capable of manipulating reality. I like the simple cover layout of this edition, and Ed Emshwiller’s illustration manages to be sparing yet fully representative of a key scene.


French sf portal Noosfere has recently revamped its artwork showcase and has a substantial collection of Emshwiller’s cover paintings. I’d prefer to see more of his earlier style but the collection includes some striking designs.


Sunstone (1979).

Emshwiller was a very prolific illustrator but from the 1960s on also developed his own style of experimental filmmaking, some examples of which can be found at YouTube. I’d actually seen Sunstone—a very early piece of computer animation—years ago without registering the credit. In addition there’s also Thanatopsis, a strange b&w short which is remarkably similar in tone to some of the films which William Burroughs and Antony Balch were making at around the same time.

The genre artist | Jack Vance profiled in the NYT

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The book covers archive
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The King in Yellow
Ballantine Adult Fantasy covers
Clark Ashton Smith book covers
Revenant volumes: Bob Haberfield, New Worlds and others
The World in 2030
The art of Virgil Finlay, 1914–1971
Towers Open Fire