Worlds Beyond Time: Sci-Fi Art Of The 1970s by Adam Rowe (book review).

I’m not quite sure how I missed out on this book, Worlds Beyond Time: Sci-Fi Art of the 1970s, in 2022. Its author, Adam Rowe, is doing what the cover says. He’s looking at mostly book covers from the 1970s with and without titles, looking at themes and particular artists. Obviously, the usual name artists are covered, but there are also names you might not have come across as well. There’s also a bit of history about the evolution of the SF book covers in the 1950s, when Penguin didn’t see the point of them as a selling point and other companies did. Going back to my youth, when I got books from the library, many of them had yellow cover sleeves, so you really had to look at the inner sleeve as to whether it was worth reading. In many respects, we genre fans are like magpies, attracted to a pretty cover, although I will look up the content as well before deciding to buy. With this one, unless you have access to a bookshop, you can’t even do a page flick.

The book is divided into eight sections by subject category. It does seem a bit odd that Rowe’s own text has an odd font and is double-spaced, when that associated with the artists is more standard. Equally, with the various sizes of the various pictures, it seems like whoever designed the book liked having a lot of white space. There are some full-size page pictures, but it does seem odd to have so many much smaller-sized pictures here where there’s a bit more space to fill up.

There is some respect to the history of the covers in context, but it’s a toss-up whether it should have been done before the release date, but that’s the usual route. I believe a more comprehensive discussion about the evolution of fictional spacecraft design from one artist to another, and their mutual influence, could have been beneficial.

Probably the most famous SF painting that was repainted by its artist, Frank Kelly Freas, to move across to album covers was for Queen’s album cover for ‘News of the World’ in 1977. Here, we see the original showing the robot’s legs, the album cover, and a later picture using the same robot. The only thing missing is Freas’ quote from his own book with the robot saying, ‘Can you fix it, Daddy?’

These kinds of books are so useful for finding artists you might not have seen before and seeing if they’ve ever had their own books out there, in case you’ve missed any. Did I do it? What do you think? I suspect the supply of Chris Moore’s ‘Journeyman’ and ‘The Art of Clyde Caldwell’ books will quickly diminish.

There are some surprises, and if you connect to what the writers have said, join the dots. On page 157, the Analogue cover by John Schoenherr shows a long-necked Pern dragon, and I can see why Anne McCaffrey never wanted to see such a sight again. To be fair, a lot of the artists who followed and made a similar mistake never made it this long or less serpentine.

On page 179, we have the famous painting by Frank Frazetta showing the four polar bears guiding a sleigh, and I hadn’t realised until now that they weren’t harnessed to it. It shows the power of Frazetta’s art that you can overlook that detail.

It’s rather interesting and a reminder of how Rowe points out the source of the wookies that so much of George Lucas’ ‘Star Wars’ is derivative that you have to wonder, other than the mix, what truly was original in it.

As a reviewer, part of my job is to pick up on obvious mistakes, so I would like to know which version of ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’ TV series featured a four-armed sasquatch!

This is a great book to read. If you didn’t know all the SF artists before, then you would certainly know after. I do wish other decades were covered in a similar fashion, or it would give the impression that the 1970s were the only decade of great art. A lot of the artists also worked before and after the 1970s, so that art shouldn’t be neglected.

GF Willmetts

April 2024

(pub: Abrams, 2022. 224 page illustrated indexed large hardback. Price: varies. ISBN: 978-1-4197-4869-1)

check out website: www.abramsbooks.com


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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