Such writers as HG Wells, Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein defined the way we thought about technology and the future, but in many cases, it was the work of an army of cover artists who got us to pick up their books in the first place.
Whether their work graced the front of a first edition dust jacket or a pulp magazine, these illustrators – often working in relative obscurity – gave colour and shape to the author’s future visions. Not all readers will be familiar with Chris Foss, say, but they’ll more than likely recognise the exotic, airbrushed ships and space scenes that he created for Asimov, Philip K Dick, AE Van Vogt, Arthur C Clarke and numerous other writers.
Thanks to authors Adam Roberts and Graham Sleight, and the crowdfunding platform Unbound, a new book is set to shine a long-overdue light on a vibrant artform. Wonders And Visions: A Visual History Of Science Fiction will collect together dozens of covers, from 1800s cloth-bound books, to the crumbling pages of Weird Tales, Astounding Stories and other pulps, to the comics, paperbacks and dust jackets of the late 20th century and beyond.
Its 350 pages will take in the famous and familiar – the eye-catching artwork for John Wyndam’s Day Of The Triffids, say – to the more obscure yet no less captivating. As well as the illustrations, the accompanying text will provide a handy guide to an evolving artform, and how its style changed to reflect the tastes and fears of their times.
Now looking for funding on Unbound, Wonders And Visions can be obtained for the reasonable sum of £35 for a physical copy – and you’ll even get your name listed in the back as one of the volume’s supporters. If you’re a fan of science fiction, it’s well worth your consideration.