Wonderworks: Science Fiction & Fantasy Art by Michael Whelan (book review).

One of the great joys of the Internet is being able to locate books you wish you’d bought or even missed through poor circulation at the time. ‘Wonderworks: Science Fiction & Fantasy Art’ is the very first book of artist Michael Whelan’s book cover art back in 1979 and was on my list to get at some point. Back last year, I pulled this one and a later one of Whelan’s books and only now managed to fit this one into my reading schedule.


I shouldn’t have to explain to any of you who are into SF art who Michael Whelan is and you would certainly have seen his covers over the years, even if most of them have appeared in the USA. Whelan is also one of the few artists who reads the books before designing a cover and as the late Anne McCaffrey points out, listened to her description contributed to making his cover of ‘The White Dragon’ a recognised classic cover across the world and on this book’s cover. Indeed, he has references from writers Poul Anderson, C.J. Cherryh, Alan Dean Foster and Michael Moorcock and horror anthology editor Gerald W. Page as well here, as well as editors Polly and Frank Kelly Freas. There was nowhere in our genre that was untouched by his painting and I never realised how much he’d done in fantasy and horror as well as Science Fiction.

Whelan’s cover art started off in 1976 and looking at the art here, I have to wonder if he painted them as muted as shown here or the fault of the printing process back in 1979. In many respects, we are spoilt by book production today or where digital art can be passed through a digital process to enhance colour and brightness. Interestingly, the right side page wasn’t left blank, often featuring sketches and other text from Whelan himself.

Looking back over thirty plus years, you can see how his art has evolved but it also shows how the likes of Michael Whelan have influenced the current artists.

There are only a few of these books in the secondary market and if you collect our genre artbooks, then this is one you really ought to add to your collection.

GF Willmetts

February 2015

(pub: Ballantyne/Del Rey, 1979. 119 page illustrated softcover. Price: about £11.00 (UK) if you know where to look although prices do get higher. Originally, it was $12.95 (US). ISBN: 0-91544-274-4)


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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