Greco-Roman Mummy Masks in the Egyptian Museum

Wednesday, February 20th, 2019 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

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Mask of a boy named Heraklion, Roman Period 2nd century AD.
This painted plaster mask covered the head and chest of the
mummy. Heraklion offers a bunch of grapes to a small bird.

Visitors to Egypt tend to want to see the great sites of the Old, Middle, and New Kingdoms. The pyramids, the Valley of the Kings, and the splendid temples around Luxor are all well worth a visit, but Egypt’s later periods are of interest as well. I just went on one of my semi-regular trips to Egypt with the specific intent to study the Greco-Roman period. It plays a role in the third book in my Masked Man of Cairo neo-pulp series and there’s no better inspiration than actually seeing the sites and artifacts themselves.

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Treasures of the Archaeological Museum, Córdoba, Spain

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

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Funerary stela, Roman, middle of the first century AD

In past weeks we’ve looked at the historic city of Córdoba, Spain–its famous mosque/cathedral, its castle, and other sites. To wrap up this miniseries, let’s look at the city’s excellent archaeological museum. Like many local museums in Spain, it covers a broad range of history from the Paleolithic to the Renaissance. It is especially strong in Roman artifacts, and is in fact built on some Roman ruins that can be seen in the basement.

I love these local museums because you get to see just how long people have been living at some of these places. The museum in Córdoba is especially well presented and has some interesting pieces from the city and the surrounding countryside. I’ll let the images speak for themselves.

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Artzybasheff’s Robots

Wednesday, January 16th, 2019 | Posted by Steve Carper

Mechanix Illustrated Oct. 1954, 84 Boris Artzybasheff Brings Machines to Life

Boris Artzybasheff is one of my favorite science fiction artists. He’s one of my favorite artists, period, but I put it that way because most people never think of him as a science fiction artist. Look at his work through that modifier, though, and it snaps into place. Perhaps no other artist sees the alien in the everyday as much or depicts it as well as Artzybasheff.

Born in Russia in 1899, he fled to New York in 1919 after having fought with the White Russians. He didn’t speak a word of English. Nevertheless he was a working illustrator by 1922 and supplied the art for the Newbery Award winning Gay-Neck, written by Dhan Gopal Mukerji in 1928.

That early art was stylized but mundane, in the f&sf usage of the word. Nevertheless, publishers saw his true strengths from the beginning. Few mainstream presses released fantasy before WWII but those who did made Artzybasheff their go-to artist. He did the covers for classics like The Worm Ouroboros, The Incomplete Enchanter, and Land of Unreason.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Titan Cover Art, by Paul Lehr

Thursday, January 10th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Paul Lehr

Cover by Paul Lehr

Cover by Paul Lehr

Cover by Paul Lehr

Cover by Paul Lehr

Cover by Paul Lehr

Peter Graham is often quoted as saying that the Golden Age of Science Fiction is 12. I was reminded of this quote last year while reading Jo Walton’s An Informal History of the Hugo Awards (Tor Books) when Rich Horton commented that based on Graham’s statement, for him, the Golden Age of Science Fiction was 1972. It got me thinking about what science fiction (and fantasy) looked like the year I turned twelve and so this year, I’ll be looking at the year 1979 through a lens of the works and people who won science fiction awards in 1980, ostensibly for works that were published in 1979. I’ve also invited Rich to join me on the journey and he’ll be posting articles looking at the 1973 award year.

The Analog Award was launched in 1979 for works published in the magazine in the preceding year. The Best Cover category was added in 1980, so this was the first year the award was presented. The award has been given every year since then with the exception of the year covering works published in the magazine in 2002, when the award was replaced, for one year only, with a cover artist award, when it was won by David A. Hardy, who painted two covers for the magazine (May and December issues).

Paul Lehr painted the cover for the first installment of John Varley’s four-part serial for the novel Titan, which ran from the January to the April issue of Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact.

The artwork from the January 1979 issue of Analog seems to depict the spindle that runs up the center of the torus moon discovered in orbit around Saturn. The tower looks like a mixture of organic parts, wires, and high tech platforms growing out of a small globe and inside a massive dome. The night sky with other moons of Saturn can be seen through windows and a rainbow-like arc stretches behind the tower.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Stephen Fabian

Sunday, January 6th, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Cover by Stephen E. Fabian

Cover by Stephen E. Fabian

Cover by Stephen E. Fabian

Cover by Stephen E. Fabian

Cover by Stephen E. Fabian

Cover by Stephen E. Fabian

Peter Graham is often quoted as saying that the Golden Age of Science Fiction is 12. I was reminded of this quote last year while reading Jo Walton’s An Informal History of the Hugo Awards (Tor Books) when Rich Horton commented that based on Graham’s statement, for him, the Golden Age of Science Fiction was 1972. It got me thinking about what science fiction (and fantasy) looked like the year I turned twelve and so this year, I’ll be looking at the year 1979 through a lens of the works and people who won science fiction awards in 1980, ostensibly for works that were published in 1979. I’ve also invited Rich to join me on the journey and he’ll be posting articles looking at the 1973 award year.

In 1972, the British Fantasy Society began giving out the August Derleth Fantasy Awards for best novel as voted on by their members. In 1976. The name of the awards was changed to the British Fantasy Award, although the August Derleth Award was still the name for the Best Novel Award. A category for Best Artwork was created in 1977 and ran for three years until 1979. Stephen Fabian won the award in its second year. In 1980, the Artwork Award was replaced by an award for Best Artist and Fabian won the inaugural award. The category has remained part of the awards to the present day, although a re-alignment in 2012 means the awards are now selected by a jury rather than the full membership of the British Fantasy Society. In 1980, the awards were presented at Fantasycon VI in Birmingham.

Fabian was born on January 3, 1930 in Garfield, New Jersey. Fabian was self-taught and heavily influenced by Edd Cartier, Hannes Bok, and Virgil Finlay. He began creating sketches for fanzines in the mid-1960s, but it wasn’t until he was laid off from a job due to the oil embargo of the 1970s that he turned his skills towards professional artwork. On the day that he received word of the layoffs, he also received invitations from Sol Cohen and Jim Baen to submit work for their consideration for inclusion in Amazing Stories (Cohen) and Galaxy (Baen). His first paid work was a cover for Robert E. Howard’s Western The Vultures.

His work was also championed by book collector and publisher Gerry de la Ree, who published several portfolios of Fabian’s work, bringing him to the attention of both fans and publishers who were able to give him work.

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Strolling through Córdoba, Spain

Thursday, December 20th, 2018 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

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The Calahorra tower, on the far side of the Guadalquivir River
from Córdoba, protects access to the Roman bridge. It was
originally built in the Islamic period and rebuilt in 1369

Last week I wrote about the magnificent mosque/cathedral of Córdoba. While that’s the city’s main draw, there’s plenty else to see in this historic place. In fact, the entire city center, where most of the old buildings are, is one big UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The area, next to the Guadalquivir River, has always been inhabited. Evidence of Neanderthals has been found, as well as all the major phases of prehistory. A small prehistoric settlement became a city under the Carthaginians, who called it Kartuba. When the Romans conquered it in 206 BC, the name morphed into Corduba. Under the Romans, the city thrived, becoming the cultural and administrative center of Hispania Baetica. Seneca the Elder, Seneca the Younger, and Lucan all came from Córdoba. It was briefly under Byzantine rule from 552-572 AD before falling to the Visigoths.

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Steve Carper on the Solo SF Art of Leo Dillon

Sunday, December 16th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Leo Dillon Galaxy art 2-small Leo Dillon Galaxy art-small

Art for Stephen Barr’s “The Back of Our Heads” by Leo Dillon (Galaxy, July 1958)

Leo Dillon, who passed away in 2012, was one half of the famous husband-and-wife art team of Leo and Diane Dillon, who won back-to-back Caldecott Awards in 1976 and 1977, and the 1971 Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist for their work on Terry Carr’s Ace Special covers. They created some of the most iconic SF and Fantasy cover art of the 20th Century, including Harlan Ellison’s Deathbird Stories and Strange Wine, John Brunner’s The Traveller in Black, and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. But before he began to work with Diane, Leo had a career doing interior art for Galaxy magazine from 1957-60. BG blogger Steve Carper unravels some of their fascination history at his blog Flying Cars and Food Pills.

Even though they had been working full-time as illustrators in the publishing industry, they were neither wealthy nor famous nor much recognized in the science fiction community in 1968… They knew Harlan Ellison, though, having done covers for his books as early as 1961, and he naturally recruited them for the cover of his monumental 1967 anthology Dangerous Visions. There weren’t supposed to be any interior illustrations but Harlan, being Harlan, suddenly decided he wanted them. On the Friday before the book was to go to press on Monday. He hied over to the Dillon’s brownstone in Brooklyn and they stayed up the entire weekend taking inspiration from Harlan’s synopses of all 33 stories. For some reason Harlan brought Terry Carr with him…. Diane [recalled]: “After that, Terry began giving us assignments for book jackets, the Ace Specials.”

Read the article here, complete with generous samples of Leo Dillon’s interior art, and a lengthy listing of his art for stories by Poul Anderson, Theodore Sturgeon, Clifford D. Simak, Fritz Leiber, H. Beam Piper, Frederik Pohl, Zenna Henderson, William Tenn, Robert Sheckley, and many others.


A Massive History of D&D Culture: Art and Arcana by Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, and Sam Witwer

Thursday, December 13th, 2018 | Posted by Steven H Silver

Art and Arcana-small

Art and Arcana is a massive book that satisfies a strong sense of nostalgia for those who played Dungeons and Dragons in the 1970s and 80s, as well furnishing a history of the game and, to a lesser extent, the people and companies behind it. Focused primarily on the artwork that has helped define the game from its earliest days, authors Michael and Sam Witwer, Kyle Newman, and Jon Peterson have provided a beautiful look at the game’s first forty-five years, with an emphasis on the first few editions.

Even the endpages of this 440 page book indicate what is sandwiched between them. The opening pages show a map of the Village of Hommlet from the classic T-1 dungeon, while the closing pages are a reproduction of a classic piece of Erol Otis’s artwork from Deities and Demigods. A foreword by Joe Manganiello points out that “in [the 1980s], Dungeons and Dragons wasn’t cool.” As someone who began playing the game in 1980 (in Glenview, where the Witwers were from, although I didn’t know them), Manganiello’s comment is an understatement. At the time, the concept that stars like Manganiello and Sam Witwer would be involved with a book about Dungeons and Dragons would have been mind-boggling, as would the idea that the host of a late night talk show like Stephen Colbert would admit to playing it, or that people could make a living as a Dungeon Master and charge people to watch their games.

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The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba, Spain

Wednesday, December 12th, 2018 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

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The mosque interior, showing the famous series of double arches.
The column on the left has a Corinthian capital reused from a
Roman building. The one of the right has a Moorish capital.

I am fortunate to live in a country that has preserved remains from a wide variety of civilizations. From Roman cities to medieval castles, Spain’s got it all. One culture that has left an enduring legacy on Spanish architecture, cuisine, and language is that of the Moors. For much of the Middle Ages, large portions of the Iberian Peninsula were ruled by Muslims from North Africa and the Levant, who built one of the country’s most beautiful buildings.

Invading Muslims took Córdoba, then a rather minor Visigothic city in southern Spain, in 711 AD. They destroyed most of it but spared the church, which was then divided and used as a house of worship for both faiths. The city languished until the arrival of Abd al-Rahman I in 756, who took power in Muslim Spain and made Córdoba his capital. In 784 AD he ordered a great mosque to be built on the site of the church. Later Muslim rulers expanded it until 1236, when Córdoba was recaptured by the Christians and the building was converted into La Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption).

The result is an amazing hybrid of various periods of Moorish and Christian architecture.

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Ancient Galicia: Exploring Spain’s Celtic North

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

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The Stele of Castrelo de Val, showing a shield and chariot.
This Bronze Age stele is similar to those found in Ireland,
Denmark, Sweden, and the Mediterranean.

When one thinks of Spain, one generally thinks of sun-soaked coastlines and arid stretches of plain, but Spain’s northern coast is a green, hilly region with a strong Celtic tradition. The westernmost region, just north of Portugal, is called Galicia. Here you’ll find cider instead of wine, bagpipes instead of castanets, and a rich archaeological heritage.

GALAICOS. Un pueblo entre dos mundos at the Museo Arqueológico Nacional in Madrid explores the ancient history of this region from the Bronze Age to the arrival of Christianity. It reveals a well-populated archaeological region that was connected to the Phoenician and Greek trade routes along the Atlantic coast to the tin mines in Britain. The exhibition shows some interesting examples of artifacts making their way along the trade route to Galicia from Italy, Greece, and North Africa.

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