Or: praise of futures past

A few weeks ago I picked up a book in the bargain bin at Strand titled Mechanismo. When the guy ringing me up at the checkout counter came upon it in my stack, he stopped, flipped through it quickly and somewhat sheepishly, and alerted a buddy standing a few registers down. They admired it together. I remember thinking, “Well, guess that one is Nonist worthy.” The book, published in 1978, is essentially a collection of essays by the venerable Harry Harrison on all things science-fictional. What makes the book standout, however, is the bounty of 70’s era sci-fi illustrations contained within, and it’s some of these that I’d like to share with you.

Artist: Jim Burns.

Artist: Colin Hay.

The Dynamometer, originally created by Alfred Jarry in his novel Supermale, as envisioned by artist Russel Mills.

Artist: Jim Burns. Detail (click here for full image).

Illustration from Necronomicon by artist H.R. Giger.

Artist: Jim Burns.

Womandroid. Artist: Jennifer Eachus.

Artist: Angus McKie. Detail (click here for full image).

Artist: Mike Wilkes. Detail (click here for full image).

Detail of The Perpetual Motion Machine, from Alfred Jarry’s Supermale, Illustrated by Russel Mills (click here for full image).

And let’s not forget that enigmatic architectural face, or “Cybertectural Animot,”  which began the post. It is a detail of a piece depicting walking cities by artist Mike Wilkes, and you can click here to see the full image.


You might look at these images of the future and find them stylistically dated, and they are 30 years old at this point, literally images of futures past, so I wouldn’t argue with you. I do think, however, that in a very palpable way these images, and images like them from the late 50’s all the way through the early 80’s, represent something which, in sci-fi’s drive toward the future, and possibly more to the point its drive toward “respectability,” the marketers of the genre have let slip away. That thing being Style.

A critique of the current face of science fiction and fantasy, as embodied in its book covers, is a voyage I plan to undertake, enthusiastically, in a future post. So I’ll just leave it at that for now.

In the meantime I hope you enjoyed these at least as much as those Strand cashiers seemed to, and I hope the sensation of feeling nostalgia for decades old visions of the future which have not nor may ever arrive is not to off-putting. Likewise I hope deeper reflection on the oddity of such a feeling does not leave any ugly bruises on your brain.

Until next time…


01.12. filed under: art. books. science. space. 13