Browsed by
Category: Art

An Adventure to be Had: A Journey Through the Art of Darrell K. Sweet

An Adventure to be Had: A Journey Through the Art of Darrell K. Sweet

The Arrival of Gandalf, Darrell K. Sweet (2010)

“A Sweet cover promised an adventure to be had.” — Irene Gallo, Tor.com

Growing up a child of the late 60s, I stumbled my way into fantasy novels in the dying years of the 70s and through into the 80s. Across this time, there was one man who influenced the books I chose to read more than any other, and by quite a significant margin. No, it was not a particularly skilled author, or a philanthropist uncle who funded my addiction, nor was it a sibling or friendly role model who led by example. The man who guided me through the fantasy/sci-fi landscape of my youth was Darrell K. Sweet, a cover artist.

Read More Read More

Beautiful and Repulsive Butterflies: An Interview with M. Stern

Beautiful and Repulsive Butterflies: An Interview with M. Stern

Photo Credits: H. Lindberg

We have an ongoing series on Black Gate discussing “Beauty in Weird Fiction.” We corner authors to tap their minds about their muses and ways to make ‘repulsive’ things ‘attractive to readers.’  Recent guests on Black Gate have included Darrell Schweitzer, Anna Smith Spark, & Carol Berg, Stephen Leigh, Jason Ray Carney, and John C. Hocking. See the full list of interviews at the end of this post. This one covers emerging author M. Stern who writes weird/horror fiction and sci-fi. He has had stories appear in Weird Book #44, Startling Stories#34, and Doug Draa’s clown anthology Funny As a Heart Attack. There’s some strange and complicated beauty to be found in all of those. He also has published in several other markets including  Lovecraftiana: The Magazine of Eldritch Horror and flash fiction that deals with aesthetics and transgression in Cosmic Horror Monthly #19.

Read More Read More

Vintage Treasures: Through the Reality Warp by Donald J. Pfeil

Vintage Treasures: Through the Reality Warp by Donald J. Pfeil

Through the Reality Warp (Ballantine Books, 1976). Cover by Boris Vallejo

Donald J. Pfeil had a brief and mostly undistinguished literary career. He’s chiefly remembered today as the editor of the well-regarded SF magazine Vertex, which ran for three years in the early 70s. He wrote some short fiction (all published in Vertex), and four novels, including a Planet of the Apes tie-in with the undisputed greatest title of the 1970s, Escape From Terror Lagoon. (If I could dream up titles like that, the entirety of Western Civilization would be helpless before me.)

His best-remembered book is Through the Reality Warp, a dopey science fiction adventure featuring a ballsy soldier named ‘Billiard’ (get it?) who’s shot into an alternate dimension to smash stuff and seduce space babes. It has a dismal 2.67 rating at Goodreads (and some heartily entertaining 1-star reviews), but that’s beside the point.

The point — and the only reason this book is remembered at all after 45 long years — is that eye-popping Boris Vellejo cover, featuring a gorgeous alien landscape, a virile space hero. a slavering alien fiend, and…. oh, wow. A cringeworthy amount of exposed space butt, courtesy of an all-male art department.

Read More Read More

A Hero Named Mayhem

A Hero Named Mayhem

Johnny Mayhem, man of a thousand faces, leaping from body to body, putting right things that had once went…no wait! That’s the television show, Quantum Leap, which ran from 1989 to 1993. Never mind. Decades before Sam Beckett went leaping through time, there was another bodiless adventurer doing much the same thing. His name was Johnny Mayhem.

Illustration from “My Name is Mayhem,” (Amazing Stories, September 1955). Artwork by Kotzky.

Read More Read More

Weird Tales Deep Read: January 1945

Weird Tales Deep Read: January 1945

Weird Tales, January 1945. Cover by Margaret Brundage

This time we’re jumping ahead in our deep read of the Unique Magazine, to the January 1945 issue. The old guard has largely changed. Howard has been dead for almost six years, Lovecraft out-lived him less than a year. C. L. Moore hadn’t published in WT since 1939, Clark Ashton Smith longer. (Reprints not considered,) That doesn’t mean there were no familiar names. Seabury Quinn, August Derleth, Edmond Hamilton, and others continued to contribute. New writers, like Ray Bradbury, were coming on. Though the Golden Age was definitely over, that doesn’t mean the magazine didn’t publish quality material.

Read More Read More

Forry Ackerman’s First SF Art

Forry Ackerman’s First SF Art

The Midnight Mail Takes Off for Mars, by Elliott Dold.
From Miracle Science and Fantasy Stories, April-May 1931

I’ve written from time to time about original science fiction art delivered to us by our Friendly Neighborhood Mailman.

Among the various original black and white interior illustrations we own from the science fiction pulps, this is our earliest, appearing 90 years ago. By artist Elliott Dold, it ran as a frontispiece in the April-May 1931 issue of Miracle Science and Fantasy Stories. It was not for any particular story; instead it was a one page feature showing “An Incident of the Future: The Midnight Mail Takes Off for Mars.”

Dold was the art editor of this short-lived title; the April-May 1931 issue was the first of only two. He appears to have been the editor as well, though some sources state that Dold’s brother, Douglas, was the editor. Both Elliott and Douglas, as well as the publisher of Miracle, Harold Hersey, had worked together previously over at the Clayton pulp chain. Elliott and Douglas each had a story appear in Miracle; Douglas’ in the first issue, Elliott’s in the second, dated June-July 1931. In an interview in the October-November 1934 issue of Fantasy Magazine, Elliott discusses how Miracle was his brainchild – he’d talked Hersey into publishing it, and obtained all the stories, as well as doing all the art. He blamed its cessation on an illness which made it impossible for him to work on it. Perhaps coincidentally, during this same period his brother Douglas passed away, on May 6, 1931.

Read More Read More

First Impressions: Tim Kirk’s 1975 Tolkien Calendar

First Impressions: Tim Kirk’s 1975 Tolkien Calendar

Gandalf and Bilbo

How does the old saying go? “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” It’s often true that the first encounter has an ineradicable effect, whether the meeting is with a person, a work of art, or a world. It’s certainly true in my case; I had my first and, in some ways, most decisive encounter with Middle-earth before I ever read a word of The Lord of the Rings. My first view of that magical place came through the paintings of Tim Kirk, in the 1975 J.R.R. Tolkien Calendar, and that gorgeous, pastel-colored vision of the Shire and its environs is the one that has stayed with me. Almost half a century later, Kirk’s interpretation still lies at the bottom of all my imaginings of Tolkien’s world.

There had been two Tolkien calendars before Kirk’s. The 1973 and 1974 editions used Tolkien’s own illustrations, some of the same ones that Ballantine (which also published the calendars) used on the covers of the “authorized” paperback editions of the novels, the ones that were carried around like books of Holy Writ in high schools and colleges during those years when fantasy felt like a secret and the news of what it was and what it could do had yet to spread very far.

Read More Read More

Conan in the Land of the Rising Sun

Conan in the Land of the Rising Sun

The Coming of Conan (SF 14), Japanese edition (1971). Cover by Takebe Motoichiro

Although everyone’s favorite Cimmerian trod a wide path in his adventures, Conan never sailed to the shores of the ancient equivalent of Japan. Or at least he never did so in the tales penned by Robert E. Howard. I’m not versed enough regarding every pastiche or comic adaptation to know if he might have ventured there in one of those.

However, this didn’t stop Japanese editions of the Conan stories from appearing in the early 1970’s. I’d been unaware of these until late 2017, when I received a set of them from the estate of Glenn Lord. For decades, Lord had been the literary executor of the Howard estate, and some of his collection was going to be auctioned at the 2018 Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention. I’m one of the folks that runs that convention, and I was in charge of preparing that auction.

Read More Read More

The Art of Things to Come, Part 3: 1961-1963

The Art of Things to Come, Part 3: 1961-1963

Science Fiction Book Club brochure (1961)

As I related in the first two installments of this series (Part One: 1953-1957, and Part Two: 1958-1960), 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. In this third installment I’ll look at the years 1961-1963, presented chronologically.

Read More Read More

A Tale of Finlay, Part 2

A Tale of Finlay, Part 2

“The Conditioned Captain” illustration by Virgil Finlay
(from Startling Stories, May 1953)

In last week’s Finlay post, I told the tale of how, back in the last week of March 2005, I’d acquired 15 Virgil Finlay originals from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was an incredible purchase, but within six weeks it led to my acquisition of five more Finlay originals. Needless to say, that six week period was the greatest Finlay run of my collecting career.

I’d bought the Midsummer Night’s illos from California bookseller Peter Howard of Serendipity Books. At the time I bought them, he told me that his consignor on these had a few other Finlay originals which he thought he’d be handling for him. A week later, on April Fools’ Day, I received an email from Howard offering three more Finlay originals.

Read More Read More