Behold! The pulpy beauty of retro sci-fi book covers

For anyone that grew up dreaming in pulpy sci-fi art, a new project from Unbound publishing looks like it will spark a few phantasms. The crowdsourcing site has opened the doors for funding of a visually spectacular compendium of science-fiction book design.

Wonders and Visions will be compiled and written by award-winning authors Adam Roberts and Graham Sleight, and will cover the development of science-fiction cover art from the 19th century to the current day.

As a blurb for the project explains: “
Wonders and Visions will be a beautiful assertion of the fact that science fiction is an under-appreciated but important area of modern art. Its pages will feature over 350 full-colour images, exploring decades of 
visual experimentation by such celebrated and influential artists as Richard Powers, Jim Burns, Chris Foss, Chesley Bonestell, Hannes Bok, Frank Freas, Judith Clute and Ed Emshwiller.”

The book also sets out to show how these artworks have influenced real-life space travel, while a brief video for the pitch talks about these book designs as a “subterranean history” of 20th-century art.

“It will reveal the unsung influence of science-fiction arts on such movements as Modernism, surrealism, abstraction, op- art and postmodernism,” says Graham Sleight. “It will also examine the intriguing relationship between the art of fiction and real-life space travel in its earliest days, a time when most people would never actually be able to see the spacecraft and equipment being used – let alone the destinations of space missions – so relied on artists for images of the heavens.”

Adam Roberts adds that, while the book will celebrate the finest work of the genre, it will also “wallow in the most unusual, beautifully bizarre, spectacularly misjudged and, in some cases, downright crass examples of the genre”.

Sounds fun. Crowdsourcing is open now over at Unbound.

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