Everybody knows the "Star Wars" trilogy, "Alien," and "Independence Day" as well as the words of science fiction authors like Bradbury, Wells, and Ellison. Now meet the visionaries whose art has helped inspire the ideas and images behind the classics of our time. Vincent Di Fate's new book, Infinite Worlds: The Fantastic Visions of Science Fiction Art, is the ultimate guide to the world of science fiction art and the artists responsible for creating such images.
With an introduction by Ray Bradbury and nearly 700 beautifully reproduced illustrations from more than 150 years of artwork, including many of the finest examples of science fiction art ever made, Infinite Worlds is a must-read for science fiction fans. The book is organized into two sections to present the broad spectrum of science fiction art in a manageable manner.
The first section, "Doorways to the Future," is an illustrated history of the development of science fiction art. Di Fate starts with the Renaissance, covering Leonardo da Vinci and Hieronymous Bosch and their influence, and continuing on to include such great art as H. R. Giger's character designs for "Alien." Di Fate comprehensively covers the history of science fiction art, following the impact of the 19th-century industrial revolution through the explosion of American pulp magazines of the early 20th century.
In the second part of the book, "Masters of the Infinite," Di Fate profiles more than 100 of the most influential artists in the field. He combines interesting text about an artist with stunning illustrations showcasing that artist's finest works.
Some of those included are Frank Kelly Freas, the peerless dean of science fiction artists, adored by fans and devotees of the form; Frank Frazetta, one of America's most respected illustrators as well as one of the most famous artists in the genre, who was the key driving force in heroic fantasy; James Warhola, Andy Warhol's nephew and a rising star in science fiction art; and the author himself, who is one of the world's most renowned illustrators of futuristic themes.
For anybody interested in science fiction and the art that has brought so many covers to life and inspired the ideas and style of such universally recognizable blockbusters like "Star Wars" and "Star Trek," this is the book for you. p>
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About the Author
Ray Bradbury hada career spanning more than seventy years, and has inspired generations of readers to dream, think, and create. A prolific author of hundreds of short stories and close to fifty books, as well as numerous poems, essays, operas, plays, teleplays, and screenplays, Bradbury was one of the most celebrated writers of our time. His groundbreaking works include Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Dandelion Wine, and Something Wicked This Way Comes. He wrote the screen play for John Huston's classic film adaptation of Moby Dick, and was nominated for an Academy Award.
Before the live bn.com chat, Vincent Di Fate agreed to answer some of our questions: Q: What is your reaction to the resurgence in popularity of science fiction?
A: Having been a science fiction professional for nearly 30 years and a fan of the genre for considerably longer, I'm of course delighted by the expanding interest in a subject that has been so much a focus of my life. My commitment to SF stems from an earnest conviction that this unique literature and the images it generates are essential to the future of the human race. In Richard Rhodes's extraordinary Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Rhodes traces the development of the bomb to ideas advanced in H. G. Wells's 1913 science fiction novel, The World Set Free. Certainly no event had a more far-reaching impact on the course of the last part of the 20th century than the creation of that awesome weapon, for its fearsome presence gave rise to the arms race, prompted the competition to reach the moon for a presumed strategic advantage, and dominated the social landscape of our time with the perilous politics of the cold war.
SF stories fired the imaginations of such scientific thinkers as Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Percival Lowell, Robert Goddard, Herman Oberth, Wernher von Braun, and countless others. One can only guess what direction their careers might have taken had their minds not been filled with the wonder of speculative fiction and the vast universe it opened to them.
The coming millennium is certainly a major factor in this resurgence of interest in SF, as it was at the turn of the last century. Today, however, we have evolved into a global community formed by a virtually instantaneous communications network that simply didn't exist then.
Q: Are you an "X-Files" fan?
A: I have high regard for "X-Files" and a great respect for Chris Carter, who not only created the show but managed to dissuade the Fox Network from canceling it for its first few seasons while it slowly but steadily cultivated its following. Unfortunately, I lack the time and opportunity to watch it faithfully. As a youngster I watched such TV fare as "Captain Video," "Tom Corbett Space Cadet," and "Space Patrol" religiously, and later, in the 1960s, was an avid follower of "The Outer Limits" (which to my mind is still the best SF show ever to have aired on television), the early "Star Trek," and Quinn Martin's original "The Invaders."
The fact is, however, that SF in the media has been and largely remains substantially different from written SF. And ironically, while SF TV and films degenerate into a dreary sameness of high-tech explosions, vacuous characters, and trite and pointless plots, the best SF stories, with only the barest handful of exceptions, remain untapped by Hollywood.
Q: Who are some of your favorite science fiction authors?
A: I have many literary heroes in the genre. Certainly H. G. Wells is very near the top of my list, not merely for the commanding authority of his writings and his vivid imagination, but time has proven him to be one of the most remarkably consistent prophets in all of SF. Verne is near the top, too, although true Verne devotees inform me that his writings in English-speaking worlds have long been compromised by inferior translations.
Heinlein, despite the now political incorrectness of his apparent elitism, certainly earned his right to the title of Dean of Science Fiction Writers by virtue of such marvelous works as The Star Beast, Red Planet, The Puppet Master, and that gem of a short novel, Double Star. In the simpler times of the immediate postwar era, those writings seemed entirely acceptable and remain thoroughly engaging.
Bradbury is a consummate storyteller and the greatest of stylists. The same is true of Brian Airless. Arthur C. Clarke is one of the few authors who can evoke instantaneous word pictures with great stylistic economy and is always a joy to read as well as to illustrate. Other favorites include Alfred Bestor, Frederik Pohl, Algis Budrysa, Charles Sheffield, Greg Benford, Dean Koontz, R. A. Lattery, Ursula LeGuin -- my goodness, the list goes on!
Q: Have you read anything recently that you would strongly recommend to a friend?
A: The Kim Stanley Robinson Mars novels, and especially his latest, Blue Mars, are wonderful, and Arthur C. Clarke's 3001: The Final Odyssey is a real triumph (although I admit never having been much of a fan of the Kubrick film "2001"). I like just about anything by Charles Sheffield, who is a newer writer of the caliber of Clarke and Heinlein, but with a stunning command of scientific details. I've had the good fortune recently to have illustrated the covers for an ongoing series of "Heinleinesque" juveniles that Sheffield has been participating in for Tor Books called the Jupiter series. I suspect older readers might possibly overlook these novels due to their intended audience, but they're really quite excellent and most evocative of that earlier era when it was still acceptable to view the universe with a wide-eyed sense of wonder.
Q: Who are some artists that have influenced your work?
A: Again, the list would be endless. There are many in the realm of fine art and in the mainstream of American illustration, but just limiting my answer to SF artists, I see four key figures who defined the shape and direction of the field. They are, in chronological order: J. Allen St. John, who formulated an approach to heroic fantasy art that would be further developed and popularized by the likes of Frank Frazetta and others. Frank R. Paul, who, while working for the pulp magazines in the '20s and '30s, distilled and formulated the basic iconography of SF by creating images that generations would instantly come to recognize and identify with the genre. Chelsey Bonontell, though not strictly an SF artist, expanded that visual vocabulary by tempering it with informed scientific speculation, while introducing mainstream aesthetic values to the genre in the process. And Richard Powers, an American surrealist most active in the postwar paperback market, who with his virtually abstract images elevated the level of artistic sophistication in the genre and paved the way for the assimilation of more decorative art in the field.
Other highly influential artists and personal favorites include Earle Bergey, Hubert Rogers, Stanley Meltzoff, Paul Lohr, John Schoenherr, James Bama, Frank Frazetta, Dean Ellis, John Berkey, Ed Valigursky -- all of whom are represented with extensive portfolios in Infinite Worlds. In all there are 138 artists whose works are included in Infinite Worlds, 103 of which are profiled in Masters of the Infinite, the book's gallery section. At least 137 of them are included because they have contributed significantly to the development of the genre or will, in my estimation, do so soon. The one for whom I reserve judgment is myself, and I left it to Murray Tinkolman, a brilliant interior artist and professor of illustration at Syracuse University, and our designer, Roger Gorman, as to whether or not I would be represented and the selection and placement of whichever images of mine might be included.