The Immortals Of Science Fiction by David Wingrove (book review).

March 8, 2017 | By | Reply More

You might be forgiven for thinking that David Wingrove’s 1980 book, ‘The Immortals Of Science Fiction’ was about authors than their creations. To tell the truth, I wasn’t sure what to expect neither as I was investigating the art which has the vague ‘Young Artists’ to signify who they are that airbrushed the mostly double-page spreads. Quite why they don’t get a proper credit, even when looking up on google is a mystery. The blandness of the skin tone does tend to suggest that it’s all air-brush. Very popular in its days before digital could do most of the same tricks.

What Wingrove has done is select ten characters from various books and posing as a time and inter-dimensional/reality traveller visit each of them to give a brief account of their lives and interview them. Well, all but one. Winston Smith in ‘1984’ wasn’t exactly available.

At the back of the book is a list of which books and authors they came from, so let’s use that as the introduction of who to expect:-

Character                               Stories                                                 Author

Susan Calvin                           Robot stories                                       Isaac Asimov

The Illustrated Man              The Illustrated Man                            Ray Bradbury

Slippery Jim Digriz               The Stainless Steel Rat                       Harry Harrison

Oscar Gordon                         Glory Road                                            Robert Heinlein

Lewis Orne                             The Godmakers                                     Frank Herbert

Esau Cairn                              Almuric                                                   Robert E. Howard

Beowulf Shaeffer                   Known Space stories                            Larry Niven

Winston Smith                       1984                                                        George Orwell

Winston Rumfoord               The Sirens Of Titan                             Kurt Vonnegut

Howard Lester                       The Philosopher’s Stone                     Colin Wilson

Of them, I only recognised five of them without looking at the back of the book and only four in particular that I’ve read. It does raise an interesting question on how these characters were selected. Was it by permission or availability or both? Thinking back to that time, I would have thought there might have been better choices for some, even from these samr authors. Paul Atreides from Frank Herbert or Lazarius Long from Heinlein for instance. Certainly, Poul Anderson’s Nicholas van Rijn character should have been in the running up to that point.

We can play mind games like this for a pastime. The art is interesting but not exactly inspirational although that depends on your personal taste and interpretation of what you think these characters look like back in the 1980s. If anything, the book is more of a curio these days. The real test will be whether or not if you buy this book will it inspire you to look at the source material.

GF Willmetts

March 2017

(pub: Mayflower Books, 1980. 113 page large square softcover. Original Price: $11.95 (US) but can be bought a lot cheaper now. ISBN: 0-8317-48880-X)

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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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