Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Visions of tomorrow

with 4 comments

As I’ve mentioned here before, one of my few real regrets about Astounding is that I wasn’t able to devote much room to discussing the artists who played such an important role in the evolution of science fiction. (The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that their collective impact might be even greater than that of any of the writers I discuss, at least when it comes to how the genre influenced and was received by mainstream culture.) Over the last few months, I’ve done my best to address this omission, with a series of posts on such subjects as Campbell’s efforts to improve the artwork, his deliberate destruction of the covers of Unknown, and his surprising affection for the homoerotic paintings of Alejandro Cañedo. And I can reveal now that this was all in preparation for a more ambitious project that has been in the works for a while—a visual essay on the art of Astounding and Unknown that has finally appeared online in the New York Times Book Review, with the highlights scheduled to be published in the print edition this weekend. It took a lot of time and effort to put it together, especially by my editors, and I’m very proud of the result, which honors the visions of such artists as H.W. Wesso, Howard V. Brown, Hubert Rogers, Manuel Rey Isip, Frank Kelly Freas, and many others. It stands on its own, but I’ve come to think of it as an unpublished chapter from my book that deserves to be read alongside its longer companion. As I note in the article, it took years for the stories inside the magazine to catch up to the dreams of its readers, but the artwork was often remarkable from the beginning. And if you want to know what the fans of the golden age really saw when they imagined the future, the answer is right here.

Written by nevalalee

January 11, 2019 at 7:25 am

4 Responses

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  1. Huzzah! Continued congratulations!

    Jim Gilbert

    January 11, 2019 at 1:00 pm

  2. Great article and incredible artwork! Oh the nostalgia…

    By the way, I ran into a great site with more of the Dianetics 1950 connections at

    (You may be familiar with this great resource already.)

    Glad you didn’t wait a full month before posting on the blog!


    January 11, 2019 at 9:23 pm

  3. In his One hundred years of science fiction illustration, Frewin described the creatures on the Lovecraft cover as ‘part lobster, part vacuum cleaner and part citrus fruit’.

    I agree that the cover art is far more enjoyable today than most of the fiction from those times. This is especially true for Paul, who illustrated the creaky stories for pre-Campbell mags. For example, possibly my single favourite cover (despite flaws noted at the URL) in Frewin’s book is the Dec 1935 Wonder Stories (Frank R Paul). Let’s see if I can find a link … . (Also,


    January 13, 2019 at 5:55 pm

  4. I see your upside-down battleship over New York in WONDER STORIES in 1935 and raise you a US nuclear submarine with antigrav retrofit heading to touchdown on Mars in ASTOUNDING in 1960 —

    Mark Pontin

    January 14, 2019 at 3:49 am

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