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

February 25, 2015 | By | Reply More

From time to time here, I like to find and pick up earlier artbooks. Other places tend to focus on new releases and forget that there are a lot of books out there that have been neglected or forgotten. You might even have come across them when looking at the secondary market and not quite sure what to make of them rather than buy for a look.


The title ‘Fantastic Science-Fiction Art: 1926-1954’ should tell you what’s inside the covers. Writer Lester Del Rey, in an extended introduction, tells you a little of the history of the early SF American pulp magazines but focuses on the cover artists who encouraged the sales. Del Rey points out that unlike other magazine covers, there was no template for SF mags and the artists had to find their own way as to what became the key selling points beyond being a little, shall we say, fantastic. Initial artists like Frank R. Paul relied far more on technology but when you consider that he works for Hugo Gernsback that shouldn’t be surprising.

This book is a sampling of the art from not only Frank R. Paul, but also the likes of Leo Morey, Earle K. Bergey, Robert Fuqua, Howard V. Brown, Hubert Rogers and, of course, Frank Kelly Freas. Le Rey points out that with only three colour plates and not even a separate black, often the covers looked a little washy. As the covers paintings here are shown on the actual covers, including the odd wear and tear, although that’s mostly the odd wrinkle, you’re actually seeing a bit of history.

Back in 1975, books such as this followed a particular formula with art on the right page and the credit on the left page and a lot of wasted space which could have been used for more pictures. However, the pictures are of a respectable size and one to page so less distraction.

If you have a liking for early SF cover art then adding one of these books to your collection isn’t a bad idea, even if it’s only for the Kelly Freas’ famous covers of the robot with the bleeding human in its hands or the green alien looking through the keyhole as they were in print.

GF Willmetts

February 2015

(pub: Ballantine Books/Random House 1975. 96 page softcover. Price: about £ 8.50 (UK) if you look around the secondary markets. SBN: 345-24731-0-595)


Category: Books, Illustration

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About UncleGeoff

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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