The artists of Future Life

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My earlier post about Future Life magazine mentioned the regular Portfolio series which featured interviews with illustrators and space artists, the latter group being the people who providing conceptual paintings for astronomy books and government entities such as NASA. Since the magazine files at the Internet Archive aren’t searchable I thought it worth making note of the interviews here, for my own benefit as much as anything else. (This blog has often served as a useful notebook.)

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Issue 1: Chesley Bonestell.

Many of the artists featured in Future Life were receiving their first (in some cases, only) high-profile feature at a time when little attention was given to the producers of this kind of work even in popular science-fiction magazines. The story magazines have always run interviews with writers but prior to Future Life, Science Fiction Monthly was the only magazine that I’d seen with a regular illustration feature, and that title didn’t last very long. Future Life covered some of the same people, Chris Foss, for example, while seeking out the prominent figures of the US illustration world. Not all the art is to my taste at all but the interviews are of interest even if you don’t like the pictures. One surprise was finding an interview in one of the issues that I’d missed with Ludek Pesek, a Czech artist whose views of the Solar System and depictions of the evolution of life on Earth I knew from the Puffin books he worked on with Peter Ryan. Those books were aimed at a young readership and were great favourites of mine before I’d seen anything by Foss and co. Another of the space artists interviewed is David Hardy, a British contemporary of Pesek’s whose view of an alien planet will be familiar to Hawkwind enthusiasts on the back cover of Hall Of The Mountain Grill. Another notable feature of the series is the lack of women artists, although this isn’t so surprising given that women creating pictures of space hardware are few even today. All the same, they might have featured Rowena Morrill, a popular cover artist for SF and fantasy novels at the time, and someone whose work I prefer to many of the people they did profile.

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Issue 3: Boris Vallejo.

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Issue 4: Robert McCall.

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Issue 5: Shusei Nagaoka.

A Japanese artist best known in the West for his album-cover art for ELO, Earth, Wind and Fire, and many others.

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Issue 6: Ron Miller.

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Issue 7: The Brothers Hildebrandt.

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Issue 8: David Hardy.

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The City of the Singing Flame

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Wonder Stories, July 1931. Illustration by Frank R. Paul.

Looking over Bruce Pennington’s artwork this week sent me back to some of my Clark Ashton Smith paperbacks, many of which sport Pennington covers. One of my favourite Smith stories, The City of the Singing Flame, is also one of his finest pieces, and a story that Harlan Ellison has often referred to as his favourite work of imaginative fiction.

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Tales of Wonder, Spring 1940. Illustration by WJ Roberts.

The story as it’s known today was originally a shorter piece, The City of the Singing Flame, followed by a sequel, Beyond the Singing Flame; both stories were published in Wonder Stories magazine in July and November of 1931, then as one in Arkham House’s CAS collection Out of Space and Time in 1942. The two-in-one story is now the definitive version.

Smith’s tale concerns the discovery of a dimensional portal somewhere in the Sierras. Beyond this there lies a path leading through an otherworldly landscape to a colossal city peopled by a race of mute giants. A temple at the heart of the city protects the prodigious green flame of the title, an eerie and alluring presence whose siren call draws creatures from adjacent worlds who prostrate themselves before the flame before immolating themselves in its fire. A narrator, Philip Hastane, give us details of diary entries from a friend who discovered the portal, and who subsequently has to decide whether to resist the lure of the mysterious flame or follow the other creatures into the fire. More than this would be unfair to divulge if you’ve never read Smith’s remarkable piece of fiction.

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The monstrous tome

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So it arrived at last, yesterday in fact, the colossal volume that is A Lovecraft Retrospective: Artists Inspired by HP Lovecraft from Centipede Press. Calling this a book is like calling the Great Pyramid of Cheops a pile of stones, technically accurate but the words somewhat fail to convey the existential reality. This is the heaviest book I’ve ever come across, 400 pages of heavy-duty art paper at BIG size. (Amazon gives the dimensions as 16.1 x 12.6 x 2.3 inches or 409 x 320 x 580 mm.) The photo above shows the scale beside an old Mountains of Madness paperback (Ian Miller‘s cover art appears in full in the new book) and my own Haunter of the Dark collection. The cover art is by Michael Whelan, a detail from his wonderful 1981 HPL panoramas.

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The Virgil Finlay section showing The Colour Out of Space and his definitive Lovecraft portrait.

The range of contributors past and present includes JK Potter, HR Giger, Raymond Bayless, Ian Miller, Virgil Finlay, Lee Brown Coye, Hannes Bok, Rowena Morrill, Bob Eggleton, Allen Koszowski, Mike Mignola, Howard V. Brown, Michael Whelan, Tim White, Frank Frazetta, John Holmes, Harry O. Morris, Murray Tinkelman, Gabriel, Don Punchatz, Helmut Wenske, John Stewart, Thomas Ligotti and John Jude Palencar. The introduction is by Harlan Ellison and there’s an afterword by Thomas Ligotti. Many pages fold out to reveal spreads like the Giger ones below. Print quality is exceptional, of course, but then ladling the superlatives is pointless when it’s obvious this is a sui generis masterpiece of Lovecraftian art. Naturally I’m very happy indeed to be a part of it.

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New things for April

Several disparate pieces of news worth mentioning recently, so here they are gathered together.

• Some of my Lovecraft art is to be featured in a lavish limited edition volume from Centipede Press.

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Artists Inspired by HP Lovecraft
Centipede Press is now accepting pre-orders.
A unique art book available in a cloth slipcase edition and leather deluxe edition.

• Cloth edition in slipcase—2,000 copies—400 pages, four color, sewn with cloth covers, enclosed in a cloth covered slipcase. Front cover image, black embossing, two ribbon markers, fold-outs, detail views.

• The first 300 orders will receive a numbered copy with a special slipcase and a hardcover folder with an extensive suite of unbound illustrations. $395 postpaid.

• Leather edition in traycase—50 copies—400 pages, four color, sewn with full leather binding, enclosed in a giant size traycase. Front cover image debossed on front, two ribbon markers, fold-outs, detail views, signed by most living contributors. $2,000 postpaid.

This huge tome features over forty artists including JK Potter, HR Giger, Raymond Bayless, Ian Miller, Virgil Finlay, Lee Brown Coye, Rowena Morrill, Bob Eggleton, Allen Koszowski, Mike Mignola, Howard V Brown, Michael Whelan, Tim White, John Coulthart, John Holmes, Harry O Morris, Murray Tinkelman, Gabriel, Don Punchatz, Helmut Wenske, John Stewart, and dozens of others.

The field has never seen an art book like this—indeed, it is an art anthology unlike anything ever published before. Many of these works have never before seen publication. Many are printed as special multi-page fold-outs, and several have detail views. The book is filled with four color artwork throughout, all of it printed full page on rich black backgrounds. A special thumbnail gallery allows you to overview the entire contents of this 400-page book at a glance, with notations on artist, work title, publication information, size, and location, when known.

HP Lovecraft fans will simply have to have this book. Because of its sheer size and scope, this book will never be reprinted and will sell out very quickly. Twenty years down the road people will be paying huge prices for this book because of its scope and the quality of reproductions. This is the HP Lovecraft fan’s dream come true. Don’t miss it!

Yes, it is indeed expensive but this is a book for serious collectors.

Bryan Talbot‘s new book, Alice in Sunderland, is finally out. Read a review of it here.

Arthur Magazine is being summoned back from Avalon, which is excellent news. To celebrate, Jay Babcock has posted Alan Moore‘s history of pornography in its entirety here.

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left to right: Donald Cammell, Dennis Hopper, Alejandro Jodorowsky & Kenneth Anger.

One of my favourite photographs of all time shows four directors at the Cannes Film Festival in 1971, all dolled up in their wildest afghan-and-ascot, hairy-hippy finery, and all of them on the cusp of what should have been majestic, transformative, transgressive careers in cinema that by and large never came to fruition. It was not to be—if only it had been.

John Patterson tell you why we need Jodorowsky as much as we ever did.

Update: And while we’re at it, Eddie Campbell also has a new book out, The Black Diamond Detective Agency. Great playbill cover design.