Fantastic Science-Fiction Art: 1926-1954 by Lester Del Rey (book review).

October 20, 2020 | By | Reply More

For those of you wanting to complete your SF cover art collection, Lester Del Rey’s 1975 book, ‘Fantastic Science-Fiction Art: 1926-1954’, is still out there and I was surprised how reasonably easy it was to get a mint copy. I say ‘reasonably’ simply because reviewing a copy here might reduce the number of copies available. That is assuming you’re going to rely on my text and me avoiding copyright infringement by putting pictures of the covers here.

In the opening text, Del Rey gives a history of the early American SF magazines and the artists who did the covers. It’s hardly surprising that Frank R. Paul did so many of them as he was very prolific. The last two in this 40 picture selection are the famous pair by Frank Kelly Freas, the little green man looking through a keyhole and the one the rock band Queen later borrowed.

Looking at these early covers, so much was a guessing game as to what kinds of spaceships and spacesuits were required. When you compare to what we know today, it’s inevitable we have a different slant on things. No one wondered about keeping the astronaut cool and how much protection against radiation was needed. Back in pre-WW2 times, so much more was down to the imagination of both writers and artists who interpreted them.

From a historical perspective, seeing the various authors noted on the covers, it should also make you realise how many writers there were beyond the more notable ones from that period. You would have to wonder how many of them tried to make the break into novel format and failed. In that respect, I don’t suppose things have changed too much and there is still a measure of look associated with that.

Even if you already own pictures of some of these covers, having each one on a page does give them more space. It’s a shame in some respects that the cover credits are on the adjacent page to the art rather than on the art page to allow more covers to be shown. However, I suspect that was the way books were done back then and possibly an eye on fans who would cut the pages out to go on their walls. Luckily, that habit didn’t materialise too much and SF fans preferred to treasure their books as books. Well, unless they bought two copies.

Intrigued? Complete your collection.

GF Willmetts

October 2020

(pub: Ballantine Books/Random House, 1975. 96 page illustration softcover. Price: I pulled my copy for £ 8.00 (UK). ISBN: 6454-24731-0-595) in the UK from https://amzn.to/2HrWw96 and USA from https://amzn.to/3kdc2nD

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Category: Books, Illustration, Scifi

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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