THE ART OF THINGS TO COME, PART 4: 1964-1966

THE ART OF THINGS TO COME, PART 4: 1964-1966

Science Fiction Book Club mailer from 1964, featuring From the Twilight Zone. Art by Virgil Finlay

As I related in the first three installments of this series (parts One, Two, and Three), like tens of thousands of science fiction fans before and after me, I was at one time a member of the Science Fiction Book Club (or SFBC for short). I joined just as I entered my teen years, in the fall of 1976, shortly after I’d discovered their ads in the SF digests.

The bulletin of the SFBC, Things to Come – which announced the featured selections available and alternates – sometimes just reproduced the dust jacket art for the books in question. During the first couple of decades of Things to Come, however, those occasions were rare. In most cases during that period, the art was created solely for the bulletin, and was not used in the book or anywhere else. Since nearly all of the art for the first 20 years of Things to Come is exclusive to that bulletin, it hasn’t been seen by many SF fans.

In this series, I’ll reproduce some of that art, chosen by virtue of the art, the story that it illustrates or the author of the story. The first installment featured art from 1957 and earlier, while the second installment covered 1958-1960 and the third installment dealt with 1961-1963. In this fourth installment I’ll look at the years 1964-1966, presented chronologically.

[Science Fiction Book Club members — click the images for bigger versions.]

Virgil Finlay art for the Winter and March 1964 issue of Things to Come

As I’ve noted in prior installments, the artists who contributed to these early bulletins are often unidentified. That’s usually the case during this period as well.

The notable exception to that rule is the great Virgil Finlay, who kicks off our tour with his illustration for Fifth Planet by Fred Hoyle and his son, Geoffrey Hoyle (misspelled as Goeffrey) from the Winter and March 1964 issue of the bulletin. The original of this lovely piece still exists in a private collection.

Art for Robert A. Heinlein’s Orphans of the Sky, from the April-May 1964 issue of Things to Come

Next up is an illustration for Robert A. Heinlein’s early generation ship novel, Orphans of the Sky, from the April-May 1964 issue. This combined two of his earlier works that had appeared in Astounding Science Fiction in 1941, “Universe” and “Common Sense.”

The artist is unidentified, but whoever they were, they were a regular in the bulletin during this period.

Virgil Finley art for The Hopkins Manuscript by R.C. Sherriff (June-July 1964)

The following issue of the bulletin, June-July 1964, finds us with Finlay once again, this time for The Hopkins Manuscript by R.C. Sherriff.

Moving forward to the next issue of the bulletin, August-September 1964, the interior selection was Poul Anderson’s Trader to the Stars. This features great vintage rockets by an artist identified only by the initials “A.S.”

August-September 1964 Things to Come bulletin for the
Science Fiction Book Club, featuring Poul Anderson’s Trader to the Stars

Both Alex Schomburg and Amos Sewell sport those initials, but it’s not either of them and I’ve yet to identify any likely culprits. The book was a collection of novelettes about Anderson’s well-known series character, Nicholas Van Rijn, set in his Polesotechnic League universe.

October-November 1964 Things to Come,
featuring The Seventh Galaxy Reader. Art by Virgil Finlay

The cover of the October-November 1964 issue brings us back to Finlay. This time his illustration was for an anthology The Seventh Galaxy Reader, edited by Frederik Pohl.

October-November 1964 Things to Come, featuring Farnham’s Freehold. Art by Finlay

Inside that October-November 1964 issue, another Heinlein novel makes its appearance. Farnham’s Freehold was a post-apocalyptic tale which had been serialized earlier that year in the digest magazine, Worlds of If. As with the cover selection, the illo was by Finlay – during this period, the art for both selections that featured in an issue of Things to Come was always done by the same artist.

December 1964-January 1965, featuring The Rest of the Robots

As 1964 gave way to 1965, the December 1964-January 1965 issue of the bulletin offered members The Rest of the Robots by Isaac Asimov, a collection of his classic robot tales. The artist is sadly unidentified.

December 1964-January 1965 also featured The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch

The selection inside that December 1964-January 1965 issue was the second novel by Philip K. Dick offered by the SFBC, after The Man in the High Castle in the November-December 1962 bulletin (see the third installment of this series for that art). Again, the artist who provided this illo for The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch remains unknown.

April-May 1965, featuring The 9th Annual of the Year’s Best SF. Art by Finlay

The 9th Annual of the Year’s Best SF edited by Judith Merril leads off the April-May 1965 issue. The accompanying Finlay art, and variations on the alien creature he created for it, would be used on several SFBC advertisements over the next several years. As one example of those, here’s a SFBC mailer from 1965 showcasing this intrepid alien explorer.

Science Fiction Book Club mailer from 1965, featuring Virgil Finlay art

Back in the 1940’s, A.E. van Vogt was viewed as one of the Big Three of science fiction, along with Heinlein and, usually, Asimov (though some would substitute Ray Bradbury or Arthur C. Clarke for the third).

October-November 1965 Things to Come, featuring Rogue Ship. Art by Finlay

His novel Rogue Ship (adapted from three of his earlier stories) was the cover selection for the October-November 1965 issue of the bulletin; the accompanying Finlay illo displays the classic Finlay spacesuit.

The October-November 1965 Things to Come also included The Corridors of Time. Art by Finlay

Poul Anderson’s time travel novel, The Corridors of Time, also was graced with a Finlay illo inside that October-November 1965 issue.

December 1965-January 1966, featuring Three by Heinlein

The December 1965-January 1966 issue features Heinlein’s Three by Heinlein. This was one of the multi-novel collections that SFBC became known for, collecting The Puppet Masters, Waldo and Magic, Inc. The artist is unidentified.

February-March 1966, featuring Twice Twenty-Two. Art by Finlay

Ray Bradbury’s collection, Twice Twenty-Two, was available to members in the February-March 1966 issue of Things to Come. Finlay provides a great illo to accompany the offering.

June-July 1966, featuring Earthworks. Art by Finlay

Next up, another piece by Finlay, this time from the June-July 1966 issue for Earthworks by Brian W. Aldiss.

Summer-August 1966, featuring The Crystal World. Art by Finlay

The Summer-August 1966 issue of the bulletin kicks off with another of the gorgeous women that Finlay is best known for, promoting J.G. Ballard’s The Crystal World.

We’ll bring our look at the art of Things to Come for 1964-1966 to a close with a look at another Finlay illustration. This one is for Asimov’s novelization of the film Fantastic Voyage (which actually was released six months prior to the movie), inside the Summer-August 1966 issue.

Summer-August 1966 also featured Fantastic Voyage. Art by Finlay

But while that issue brings to a close our look at Things to Come for this period, don’t adjust your dial! Just ahead, we’ll look at a couple of SFBC bonuses. And to help make up for the long delay between the third installment and this one, I’ll then have a special Finlay surprise!

During the 1964-1966 period, the SFBC didn’t run many ads in the SF magazines, relying more on direct mailings to SF fans. But they did run a few ads, and I’ll show two examples of those here.

Science Fiction Book Club ad (Analog magazine, November 1964)

First up is an interior ad from the November 1964 issue of Analog. This was during the period when it was a full sized magazine, rather than a digest, with ads and some other content printed on better paper. In keeping with that, the ad is more sedate than the usual SFBC ad.

Next on deck, from the back cover of the December 1966 issue of Galaxy comes this ad, which was also then running in Analog. It features some of the Finlay art that he’d done for The Foundation Trilogy in the September-October 1963 issue of Things to Come (see the third installment of this series for more info on that and related ads; further research has revealed that those ads started in late 1966).

Science Fiction Book Club ad (Galaxy, December 1966)

As mentioned, during this period the SFBC relied much more on direct mailings than ads. I’ve already shown one of those, above. During 1964 and 1965, their ads focused heavily on The Twilight Zone.

Things to Come, April/May 1964, featuring From the Twilight Zone

Just prior to that legendary TV series’ close on June 19, 1964, the SFBC offered the anthology From the Twilight Zone by Rod Serling in the April-May 1964 issue of Things to Come. This was heavily promoted by the SFBC, and they tapped Virgil Finlay to do the art.

SFBC art for From the Twilight Zone by Vigil Finlay

In late 1963 they commissioned Finlay to do this envelope, which was used in 1964. Inside was a large, double-sided brochure featuring Finlay art (as you can see on the front of this piece, which comes from his files, Finlay noted that the original was not returned to him), together with three smaller inserts and various stamps. This stamp concept was used by the SFBC throughout the mid-1960’s; the idea was that you’d affix the stamps to the card you sent back joining the SFBC, indicating your selections.

SFBC 1964 Twilight Zone mailing envelope. Art by Finlay

SFBC 1964 Twilight Zone mailer inserts

SFBC 1964 stamps

Later in 1964, another brochure invited readers to “Delve into the TWILIGHT ZONE of Space and the Future,” but the artist on this is unknown.

SFBC 1964 Twilight Zone mailer excerpt

In April 1965, they reworked the mailing envelope to create a hole in it where they’d previously had a large eye. This now became a window, and on the letter which was inserted (featuring new Finlay art) a lenticular eye was positioned to fit into this opening; the image shifted a bit depending on the angle it was viewed at.

That letter is shown here, as well as the reworked envelope with the new eye shining through. Also reproduced is a handwritten letter from John Lisco (art director for the SFBC) to Finlay discussing the project.

SFBC 1965 Twilight Zone mailing envelope. Art by Finlay

SFBC 1965 Twilight Zone mailer insert

SFBC 1965 Twilight Zone letter by John Lisco to Virgil Finlay

And now, for the Finlay surprise. At this time, Doubleday was running not just the SFBC, but several other book clubs as well. They commissioned Finlay to do work for several of these. Since this work is likely unfamiliar to most, I thought I’d run a few examples of it here, even though it’s not SF.

The Complete Book of Home Freezing, art by Virgil Finlay

I’ll start with the most mundane – an illustration Finlay completed on March 12, 1966 for the July 1966 issue of Cook Book News, the bulletin of the Cook Book Guild. This was for The Complete Book of Home Freezing by Ann Seranne. I’ll confess that not even the Finlay illo could entice me to buy this book.

Best In Children’s Books Robin Hood envelope (1964). Art by Finlay

Next up is a mailer and insert that Finlay did for Doubleday’s Best in Children’s Books series, sold through various of their book clubs.

As is immediately apparent, these are for Robin Hood. The interior piece, which was a painting, came with a green feather taped to it. These were completed by Finlay in December 1963, and distributed by Doubleday early in 1964.

Mailer and insert for Doubleday’s Best in Children’s Books. Art by Virgil Finlay

Finally, on April 27, 1966 Finlay completed a piece depicting Scheherazade of One Thousand and One Nights fame. This appeared later that year in brochures for the International Collectors Library. The original of this still exists in a private collection (sadly, not mine!) and it’s stunning in person.

International Collectors Library 1966. Art by Finlay

With that extra look at some rare Finlay work, this installment comes to a close. In our next installment, I’ll bring the decade of the 1960’s to a close, covering Things to Come from 1967 through 1969. Until then, keep watching the skies!

Previous installments in this series include:

Part One: 1953-1957
Part Two: 1958-1960
Part Three: 1961-1963


Doug is a collector of pulps, as well as of pulp, science fiction and fantasy art. He co-founded and co-organizes the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention. For many years his Tattered Pages Press published the pulp fanzine Pulp Vault, as well as other books on the pulps. He was one of the authors of The Adventure House Guide to Pulps, and has edited several pulp anthologies, including the Best of Adventure series. His book, Uncovered: The Hidden Art Of The Girlie Pulps, an in-depth study of the spicy pulps and their art, was named ForeWord Magazine‘s 2003 Popular Culture Book of the Year. In 2013, Bob Weinberg, Bob Garcia and he collaborated on The Collectors’ Book of Virgil Finlay, a collection of Finlay’s gorgeous art. The Art of the Pulps, which he co-edited with Bob Weinberg and Ed Hulse, won the 2018 Locus Award for Best Art Book. At the Worldcon in 2022, Doug and his wife, Deb Fulton, were presented with the Sam Moskowitz Archive Award from First Fandom.

Doug’s last article for Black Gate was A Preliminary Look At Daw Books.

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[…] is now available; this one covers 1964-1966 and includes seldom seen work by Virgil Finlay. “The Art Of Things To Come, Part 4: 1964-1966” at Black […]

Barry Traylor

And once again you have brought back wonderful memories for me. This is a few years after I joind the SF book club.

John ONeill

Thanks Barry. Did you keep any of those issues of THINGS TO COME? They’re highly collectible now!

Bob Roehm

The December 1965 issue, featuring Three by Heinlein, was my first selection. I have all of the bulletins since then and a smattering of earlier ones mostly accumulated because they were tucked into SFBC edition that I bought used. Thanks for bringing all this back!

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