Wednesday, May 4, 2011

SF Memories

Over at the always excellent blog Space: 1970, Christopher Mills has posted some artwork by Vincent DiFate, including this one, which once graced the cover of a spiral notebook I had in elementary school:
It would be a gross understatement to say that I like SF artwork in this style; the truth is I adore this style of SF artwork. It represents to me what I'd call "pre-Star Wars" sci-fi art, which combined a wide-eyed Golden Age of SF sense of wonder with an Apollo era esthetic. Don't get me wrong: I actually rather like look and feel of Star Wars; that's something even the prequels got right in my opinion. But the Star Wars look is not the only one for SF and this artwork by DiFate is a reminder of at least one other take on the genre -- one I happen to like very much.

(And let me add, before someone chimes in on this: much of DiFate's work, including this piece, postdates Star Wars. To my mind, this makes it all the more remarkable, as it's keeping alive a style that quickly fell out of favor in the wake of George Lucas's masterpiece and has been out of favor ever since.)

29 comments:

  1. Most of the covers to John Scalzi's Old Man's War series have features art like this, yet another reason I love the books so much.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Bob Eggleton does some fine work in this vein as well.

    VerWord: opyon: (n) An elementary particle of Ron Howard

    ReplyDelete
  3. Reminds me of the 'Terran Trade Authority' series, I loved those at school, c1982.

    ReplyDelete
  4. My favourite pre Starwars Scifi Art was the discovery of a huge Alien object that looked like an exhaust manifold. Of course I know now it is a Hyperspace Gate and you open the door by creating black holes in some vessel designed to do so pulling spacetime out of the gate...

    ReplyDelete
  5. The link doesn't seem to work ?

    ReplyDelete
  6. The 'Terran Trade Authority'. That would be an awesome Movie and Scifi TV Series.

    ReplyDelete
  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Weird - just last week I was trying to find sci fi art of this type. Who are some other artists in this genre?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Reminds me of the 1967 version of Disneyland's Tomorrowland -- before it was camp and got all ironic! The 1967 motif was irresistibly optimistic. Any futuristic art that instantly evokes that rose-tinted retro-vibe is priceless...that kind of contrast holds a special place in my heart!

    ReplyDelete
  10. While it's a big site, you might find more than a few things you like in David Szondy's Tales of Future Past. It's a collection of art and ideas he's picked up (and often teases, like the idea of uranium batteries worn on one's back) of how the future was supposed to play out in the mind of luminaries and idea-men and -women from the late 1890s to the 1970's. As you can imagine, the spread makes it hard for me to say you'll definitely find something you'd like, but there's so much that I'd be surprised if you didn't.

    http://davidszondy.com/future/futurepast.htm

    ReplyDelete
  11. I love that style of art, and I know it was covers like those that drew me to pick up science-fiction books when I was young. (And Spacemaster modules when I later got into gaming; they often had covers in a similar style.)

    ReplyDelete
  12. I'm another fan of that style.
    I never thought of it as particularly 'optimistic' though... a lot of it keeps me in mind of the difficult/dangerous nature of space travel... not something I get from Star Trek or Star Wars.
    Stuff like this is close to my mental illustrations for Traveller when I first started reading those (VERY sparsely illustrated) LBBs.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Ah, what a timely post! The other week I was trying to remember the name of a book I had as a kid consisting of sci-fi paintings paired with text explaining the depicted technology. Everything from orithnopters to ringworlds was in that book, and all I could think of was it was called "Encyclopedia of something, something." It was in fact "Di Fate's Catalog of Science Fiction Hardware" by Vincent Di Fate and Ian Summers.

    ReplyDelete
  14. @Jeff, i still have that one sitting on my shelf!

    I agree, I love this style of art. It's better suited suited for some of the "retro" games coming out like "Stars Without Number."

    ReplyDelete
  15. I agree, I love this style of art. It's better suited suited for some of the "retro" games coming out like "Stars Without Number."

    Most definitely. Though I never told any of the artists I hired for the Thousand Suns rulebook to use illustrations of this sort as a guide, I kind of wish I had ...

    ReplyDelete
  16. When I saw the image, it reminded me very much of this book:
    http://www.amazon.com/Mechanismo-Harry-Harrison/dp/0891695044
    Looks like used copies can be had for under $10 US. I used to stare at the book for hours, letting my mind wander.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I like the style. That second image on the S1970 link looks similar to a lot of John Berkley's work.

    ReplyDelete
  18. That fine Vincent DiFate cover was done for Analog magazine in the 1970s. I believe it was for the first installment of Joan D. Vinge's first novel, "The Outcasts of Heaven's Belt," which her SFF.net bibliography ( http://www.sff.net/people/jdvinge/jbib.htm ) says was serialized starting in February 1978. DiFate did a new, similar cover for the 1978 paperback edition: http://www.librarything.com/work/134109/editions/

    ReplyDelete
  19. Boll and yellowdingo: There is apparently a TTA roleplaying game. I don't know anything about it, other than that it exists, and it seems to have updated the timeline by setting it 100 years further on (the particular book regarding spacecraft is titled Spacecraft 2100-2200AD).

    ReplyDelete
  20. I love these types of SH art - thanks for posting. They immediately reminded me of the cover art for the re-release of Glen Cook's "The Dragon Never Sleeps" from 2009:

    http://www.nightshadebooks.com/cart.php?m=product_detail&p=27

    Compare to the original cover art from when the book was released in 1988:
    http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/c/glen-cook/dragon-never-sleeps.htm

    ReplyDelete
  21. Indeed, the asthetic is very reminiscent of the Terran Trade Authority artwork.

    John Berkey was certainly one of the all-time greats too.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I'll second John Berkey, his art is exotic and gorgeous!

    @Anthony, "Stars" is retro? I never got that vibe. It seemed much more straight-up future to me.

    I think of Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Captain Nemo, and even George Jetson as "retro".

    ReplyDelete
  23. Well, the system is retro. The setting seems to me to be similar in some ways and that's the feel of this style of art to me. YMMV. :)

    ReplyDelete
  24. I respectfully disagree that the Star Wars prequels got ANYTHING right. :op

    Otherwise, I agree 100% with your post. I really like the odd combination of Buck Rogers and real world 1960's spacecraft seen in this style.

    ReplyDelete
  25. That does bring back memories - I had 3 folders in school that used very similar "space art" and that was one of them. Wow, that has been awhile.

    Oddly enough. the 4th edition of Traveller used a similar style of artwork and I hated it, maybe because it wasn't similar enough.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I'm surprised no one has mentioned Chris Foss yet; his work is visually staggering.

    When Asimov's fiction was being published through Panther all the paperbacks were given Foss pieces as their coverart. One of his pieces was even cut into three for the original 'Foundation' trilogy - each cover was a picture in its own right but line the books alongside each other and this whole space panorama revealed itself, simply wonderful.

    Not to mention the age of this line means they all have that lovely musty 'been-in-a-shed-since-the-70s' smell!

    ReplyDelete
  27. I disagree. This art screams Traveller to me. To this day, I am engaged in a losing battle to make Traveller more Hard SF. If the art of Traveller had been more like this, I think, we could really build the sense of wonder - so needed in SFRPGs. But, these were expensive pieces and Traveller art migrated to cheaper appearances until late in its development - by that time the window had passed and Star Wars colonized the imagination.

    Can we get our imagination back? I think so, which speaks the importance of good art like this do dominate SFRPGs.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Can we get our imagination back? I think so, which speaks the importance of good art like this do dominate SFRPGs.

    I'm of two minds about this myself, but, in general, I do agree that good art can be of huge benefit to one's imagination. The big problem comes when the art becomes so omnipresent that it crowds out one's imagination ...

    ReplyDelete
  29. God damn it: I had that same notebook! I had forgotten it until I saw this. Gee, I wonder what I wrote in it those eons ago?

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.