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The Face of Science Fiction In 2007

…you’re kidding me, right? I’m as big a fan of Charlie Stross as anyone, but if you delete the date and author names off this cover… couldn’t this cover have been published at any time since 1977? In fact, mightn’t it have looked a bit dated in 1977? (Unless you were still listening to Yes or something, I suppose.)

Published in researchmaterial


  1. Robert Robert

    I had a poster of that image when I was in elementary school, it was a freebie from a bookstore, some time in the early 80’s…..strange to see it again.

  2. Warren Ellis Warren Ellis

    That’s more Edgar Rice Burroughs. But, yeah, retro abounds…

  3. Robert Range Robert Range

    I think this is Michael Whelan image; I distinctly recall it being in Works of Wonder, a book of his art (Being at work, instead of at home, though, I really can’t check right now…)
    I was surprised to see it on the newsstand the other day…

  4. Matt Matt

    Yah, it’s a Michael Whelan piece; “L’Echelle”, if memory serves. I think Waldenbooks gave away prints, back when they had a specific SF/Fantasy book club.

    I may have lived too long.

  5. Dave Dave

    You’re not being fair on claiming this is the face of Sci fi nowadays. I believe you’re looking at something that speaks not about a unknown future but of a comfortable past…
    I mean, people that buys this magazine needs to be reminded of something that happened many years ago.
    They don’t want to be frightened.
    Or challenged.
    This is a device-souvenir of “better times”.

  6. It’s Asimov’s 30th Anniversary year, and as part of the celebration they’re doing retro covers. Their sister mag _Analog_ retains more modern covers.

  7. I’ve edited science fiction magazines, anthologies etc etc. I don’t think anyone has produced a ‘modern’ looking science fiction magazine since Analog produced the bedsheet issues back in the ’60s. I literally don’t think anyone who’s connected with SF these days has any idea *how* to create a 21st century sf magazine design. There are a bunch of reasons why. First, these mags are all text, all the time. That’s just not a very 21st century magazine kind of thing. Second, SF is so caught up in it’s own nostalgia that it can’t see to what’s actually “new”. I did, at one time, wonder what kind of SF magazine Dave Eggers might have designed. I don’t like him much as a writer, but he’s an interesting magazine designer.

  8. Warren Ellis Warren Ellis

    Yeah. I don’t especially like that art piece, but there’s an actual design aesthetic in play on that cover.

    I think NEW WORLDS may have been the last modern-looking sf magazine, though INTERZONE definitely had its moments — Ian Miller’s period of involvement, for instance —

  9. Joe Hayes Joe Hayes

    Waldenbooks gave away posters of that image in the early to mid-eighties, along with a contest to win the original painting. I remember this b/c I actually won the contest. It was about the only time in my life I remember receiving a a registered letter, and I was about 13 at the time. I ended up turning down the prize, though b/c the painting was valued at something like $13000, and I would have had to pay the tax on it. Waldenbooks did send me a framed copy of the print, though. A few years back I saw it in a volume of Michael Whelan paintings, and there were comments that the rights had reverted back to him.

  10. I think Interzone, on and off over a long period, has produced some wonderful art. There was time, at the very beginning of the 90s, when they were using beautiful cover stock and at was all matte finished and gorgeous, when it was all you could hope for in an SF magazine. Here’s a question back at you: what should a 21st century SF magazine look like? I don’t know that any top artist or designer has actually been given a shot at designing one. Certainly, neither Asimov’s, Analog or F&SF have looked to significantly change their designs in the past twenty years.

  11. No modern looking SF magazines?

    The lamented SF Age had a contemporary design, and was full colour throughout. It did OK, that is, it made a profit, but not as much profit as the other, non-fiction magazines of the same publisher, and was therefore discontued.

    The latest incarnation of Amazing stories had a modern design, and was full of illustrations (also full colour throughout). Paizo discontinued it because (see above) its gaming magazines made more money than Amazing Stories.

    Since our 200th Anniversary issue Interzone has gone full colour throughout, and we’ve modernised the design. The modernisation of Interzone was met with shock and dismay by a lot of its older readership (or what was left of it), and by most other editors in the SF magazine field, who all – at the time – thought the change was too abrupt: people were feeling futureshocked (yes: we’re talking people that are supposed to be Science Fiction readers here). Our very first cover (IZ #194) by Ed Noon was denigrated for being too anime-like.

    We are constantly trying to upgrade Interzone’s looks with the means (and budget) available, which unfortunately are not that big. But keep in mind that a huge part of the older SF readership is deeply conservative. I mean try printing white letters on a black background, or try anything slightly adventurous or playful (that is: anything were text is *not* black letters on white paper), and then hear all those ‘forward-looking’SF readers complain. People even complained about the fact that issue #200 through #206 were gloss laminated throughout. You know, like *all* your glossies have been for years.

    The old Interzone hardly had any design to speak of. Its stock was made of the cheapest paper available, so much there were different paper qualities in a single issue. The covers of the old Interzone have *never* been matte finished, they weren’t even sealed. Don’t get me wrong, the old Interzone had great stories (and I was a lifetime subscriber), but design-wise it was never much of a high flyer.

    We have tried to catch everybody’s eye by upgrading Interzone’s look. From #200 onwards we were full colour throughout, full gloss, burst bound, and we have tried to improve exterior and interior design all the time. Due to changes in the UK postal rates we had to change the format in order not to fall into higher mailing costs, but we still are full colour throughout, and we still try to have a modern design.

    We’re the only SF fiction magazine that has interior, full colour art with every story (likewise, Realms of Fantasy is the last fantasy fiction magazine doing that). Obviously, though, people that do receive the magazine regularly hardly take note.

    People hardly notice: see SF Age, see Amazing Stories, see Interzone.

  12. Warren Ellis Warren Ellis

    I need to get me some recent copies of INTERZONE.

  13. Mark R. Kelly has done a wonderful service to illustrators by putting up a gallery of covers from 2006, both magazine and book covers, on the site at:

    I’m curious, Warren, what you think of contemporary SF book cover illustration, which is IMHO more representative of the “face of science fiction in 2007” than the digests, whose readerships are on the decline. Two illustrators I would call attention to: John Picacio and Stephan Martiniere.

  14. Warren Ellis Warren Ellis

    I’ve loved John Picacio’s work for years — I even have a signed print from him around here somewhere.

    This whole thing came about from simply surfing over to the ASIMOV’S site from Charlie Stross’ site and seeing that dumb cover. I’m a couple of years out of date on the genre in general.

    But that link is marvellous. Thank you.

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