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‘Worlds Beyond Time: Sci-Fi Art of the 1970s’ (review)

Written by Adam Rowe
Forward by Vincent Di Fate
Published by Abrams

 

After school in the late 1970s, my favorite haunt was the local used bookstore.

Comic books were the draw, but my attention would often wander to the science fiction shelves.

Although the words inside those books were still a few years ahead of my elementary school reading comprehension, the stunning covers spoke to me immediately: starships, swashbuckling Martians, awe inspiring vistas, and mind-bending perspectives.

Worlds Beyond Time: Sci-Fi Art of the 1970s is a celebration of the glorious commercial artwork that adorned science fiction books, magazines, albums, and posters of that period and which continue to inform the visual vocabulary of the genre today.

The 224-page oversize volume is packed with more than 400 stunning color illustrations and supported by extensive commentary.

Author Adam Rowe has crafted both a love letter and a manifesto to this influential body of work.

For over five years, Rowe has curated the multi-platform 70s Sci-Fi Art blog. He is a senior writer at Tech.co and a former contributor to Forbes, iO9, Popular Mechanics, Tor.com, and the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

Rowe’s introduction encapsulates and contextualizes the history of sci-fi artwork and sets his purpose to identify the 1970s as the peak of the form. Rowe organizes the material in broad categories like “The Abstract, Surreal, and Otherworldly” and “Sci-Fi Cities and Landscapes” and then picks apart the common themes, tropes, and subject matter within each such as “Domed Cities” or “Gunfights in Space.”

Along the way, Rowe spotlights more than 30 significant individual artists including John Berkey, Chris Foss, Syd Mead, and Frank Frazetta.

Rowe’s deep knowledge of his subject and thoughtful analysis offer a rich overview of the history of science fiction artwork, the artists who collectively shaped the form, and the marketplace that both fueled and extinguished this distinctive visual aesthetic.

True to its title, every page of Worlds Beyond Time brought me back to that used bookstore of my youth.

Hugo Award-winning painter and Science Fiction Hall of Fame inductee Vincent Di Fate provides the forward.

 

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