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Jane Frank



525pp/$135.00/February 2009

Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists of the Twentieth Century
Cover by Robert Fuqua

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

It often seems as if science fiction and fantasy artists are the black sheep of the community.  All too often, the artwork on book covers is unattributed. the reader left to guess by style who created the artwork, or to cipher out the tiny, occasionally reversed signature that may appear in the corner of the art.  Over the years, Jane Frank, at World of Wonder, has done her best to see that science fiction and fantasy artists receive the credit that is due them.  In Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists of the Twentieth Century: A Biographical Dictionary, Frank has managed to put speculative fiction artists in the limelight so often reserved only for the genre's authors.

The volume opens with two essays which bring the field of speculative fiction art into perspective, with Robert Weinberg covering the period up to 1975 and Jane Frank focusing on the last twenty-five years of the decade, when the art really began to be seen as worthwhile in its own right.  These two essays set the stage for the main part of the book, which allows the reader to have a better understanding of how the various authors described fit into the field as a whole.  The reader also sees how far the field has come from the days when art was routinely tossed aside after being used and how far it still has to go.

The main part of the volume is devoted to short biographies of artists from Chris Achilleos to John Zeleznik. These not only describe the artists' life and training, but also have contain short discussions of their style and influences, further putting  them into the context of the century as provided by the two introductory essays. While it was not feasible to include illustrations demonstrative of each artist in the volume, at the end of each entry, Frank does include a listing of some of their published work, whether in book form or magazine covers.  This will allow the interested reader to search out samples of their artwork.

One key point of the book is that it focuses on the twentieth century.  Several of the currently hot artists are, therefore, not included since they didn't actually break onto the scene until after the turn of the century. Stephan Martinière, for instance, may have been working in Hollywood before 2000, but his artwork didn't begin to grace book covers until the past few years.  Similarly, John Picacio didn't begin to illustrate professionally until the twenty-first century.  While these artists, therefore don't fall under the chronological period of the book,, their absence is striking, especially since the award winners listed in the appendices go up through 2006. 

The book isn't perfect.  In some cases, there are occasional minor mistakes, such as Frank's note that Lisa Snellings-Clark exhibited "her Dark Carnival works at the Worldcon, Millennium Philcon, in 2000." Millennium Philcon, however, took place in 2001, which is where Snellings-Clark's work was displayed.  Unfortunately, although minor, simple errors like these do make the reader wonder about the accuracy of larger claims or information which the reader doesn't already know the answer to.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists of the Twentieth Century: A Biographical Dictionary offers a thorough, although not comprehensive, look at a part of the science fiction creative community which has, for the most part been ignored.  Following in the footsteps of books like Curtis C. Smith's Twentieth Century Science Fiction Writers or the John Clute/Peter Nicholls The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Frank's book looks to become a major reference in the field.

Purchase this book from Amazon Books.

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