Here’s an unexpected mini-history of science fiction illustration from the early sixties to the mid eighties: a selection of brochure illustrations for Things to Come, the newsletter and monthly catalogue of the Science Fiction Book Club. The scanned images are available over at The Golden Age.
I called it unexpected, but it’s one of those things that just makes all kinds of sense now that I’ve seen it. The Science Fiction Book Club printed inexpensive hardcover editions of popular and once-popular books with new cover art and sometimes with illustrations. I particularly remember the Mars series by Edgar Rice Burroughs with illustrations by Frank Frazetta. Their monthly newsletters always featured cover art and spot illustrations.
Several of these brochures came through my own mail slot in the early seventies. Book clubs were fraught with tension and excitement: if you forgot to send back the card that opted you out of this month’s top selection (“Man-Eating Orchids of the Stratosphere”, anyone?) then you’d receive the book automatically. This was a business model that probably worked very well.
It’s never occurred to me what a wonderful time capsule these brochure illustrations would make. We’ve got everything here from Virgil Finlay (shown here) through Freas and Frazetta to Richard Corben, George Barr, Michael William Kaluta, Don Maitz, and Michael Whelan.
I still have some of those books, like Philip K. Dick’s Ubik, Zelazny’s Jack of Shadows, and a couple of the Burroughs books. The brochures? Well, no. But thanks to the unflagging scanner of Mister Doortree at the Golden Age blog I can page through the illustrations anyway. And so can you!