By John Lester - images & text © 2011
If you read science fiction in the 70's and 80's, you are familiar with Chris Foss' work. His art adorned the novels of Isaac Asimov, E.E. 'Doc' Smith, Philip K. Dick, Arthur C. Clarke and hundreds of others. It appeared in the Terran Trade Authority books, too - well I remember being snared by the colorful covers, and then by the page after page of dazzling spaceships within, of those books sitting in the bargain bin at the K-Mart on 23 Mile and Van Dyke.
Foss was (and is - he's still painting as of this writing) prolific, and seemingly everywhere, back then. He painted covers for all sorts of books, from sci-fi to military thrillers. He illustrated the original Joy of Sex and painted countless advertising illustrations. He did concept art for Alien (which wasn't used) and Superman (which was), as well as a planned movie version of Dune that died on the vine.
^ Dune concept art
Image: More Dune
^ Cathedral Battleship, for Games Workshop
^Harry Harrison book cover.
Some of that work has been collected in previous books (21st Century Foss, Diary of a Spaceperson). This book, however, is the definitive collection. . A fair amount of the art is new to this book, including dozens of illustrations restored from book covers (with Foss' approval) where the original paintings have long since disappeared.
After brief introductions by Rian Hughes (book designer), Imogene Foss (daughter), Jean Giraud and Alejandro Jodorowsky, the art begins. There are over 100 illustrations from the Dune project, plus other movie conceptual art. Then comes the book covers and advertising pieces. These span the entire gamut of vehicles - there are aircraft, tanks, trains, ships. Some are historical, some are fictional. And oh, yes - the spaceships. Page after page after page of space craft, plus giant mobile cities, robots, alien landscapes and more. Most pages have 2 or more illustrations. Organization is rather loose; most of the airplanes, for instance, are grouped in a section towards the front, followed by ships and subs and then some more aircraft.
One word of caution: there is the very occasional picture that includes a nude or nearly nude woman. Nothing graphic, but if that sort of thing upsets you, you'll want to skip maybe 5 pages out of the 240.
Whether you are simply a fan of imaginative art or a modeler seeking inspiration for your next bid, you can't go wrong with this book. I'll let the pictures do the talking - I'm going to stop writing and start thumbing through the pages again.
Image: Thar she blows!
Image: Walkers small and big
Image: Cities and structures
Image: Space station