(Did you get the reference?)
Amazing Stories is relaunching, and I got to do the new cover!
This is of course a great honor and privilege. Amazing Stories is the first Science Fiction Magazine (there had been random SF stories in general fiction mags or even in Gernsback's pseudo-science and radio magazines, but this was the first magazine dedicated to SF). After it launched in 1926, its covers (at first all done by Frank R. Paul) were the first SF images seen by Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clarke and Forry Ackerman and a whole generation that would grow up to envision traveling to the stars - and eventually get there (well, at least to the moon). As I've noted before, at a time when most Americans didn't even own a telephone, Paul was depicting starships that could plow the intergalactic depths.
Frank R. Paul is a great hero to me - the first man to ever make a living drawing spaceships - and when the first Worldcon was held, he was the one and only Guest of Honor. His crazy visions - which he described as having "too much of a muchness" have constantly inspired me over the years, so much so that I created the official Frank R. Paul website (as sanctioned first by Forry Ackerman and later, when I found them, FRP's relatives, including my pal, FRP's grandson Bill Engle). There aren't many of us in fandom who are dedicated to tracking down all the old magazines that have FRP's artwork but we find each other (a lifetime goal is to compile a list of all 800 or so of the interior pieces FRP did over his life - and that's a conservative guess, no one knows the exact number). But that combined with the hundreds of covers makes over one published piece a week for your entire life, not counting vacations (if FRP ever took one).
FRP's cover for the first issue of Amazing in 1926 is typically insane:
OK, we have these people iceskating on some planet (there's a breathable atmosphere and a flat horizon so it's too large to be a moon). With a Saturn-like planet in the background - but NOT actually Saturn. I say it's not Saturn, because Paul was a stickler for details (e.g., he accurately depicted the storms of Jupiter on an Amazing cover a couple years later). Yes, yes, I know that the image Gernsback published was actually an unfinished draft (just like the image of the new planet at the end of the 1951 "When Worlds Collide" was an unfinished draft, too), but I assume that Paul would have put the details in the draft, too, if it were Saturn, or at least got the color right (Saturn is more of a milky yellow).
But... but... but... the craziest thing, the thing I've been avoiding discussing is those... sailing ships. !!! Why are they mounted up on top of ice spires? Did they land there? Were they placed there by giants? Were they dropped by (unseen) alien flying saucers? Did FRP in some fugue state envision Shackleton abandoning his Trans-Antarctic Expedition and saying, WTF, let's go ice-skating on the south pole?
And now it was my turn.
When Steve Davidson, editor of the new incarnation of Amazing, commissioned me for the first cover, we quickly decided that we wanted to do an homage to the first Paul cover.
The Saturnian planet I kept as essential.
Though people are boring to draw. (Unless they give me money to draw them - then they're AWESOME!) So I did dinosaurs instead.
And you can see a cameo of Guidolon ice-dancing with Commander Holiday from Revolution 60
in the URHS (upper right hand side).
But I couldn't wrap my brain around the sailing ships. I originally thought of giant catapults slinging into the heavens, steampunky dragon-shaped airships with under-slung sailing ship hulls. But, well, that just didn't work right with the composition.
So I decided on the giant laser tank instead of the sailing ships. Which I designed and built in 3D with a program called Inventor Fusion. It's like a simple and easy version of Maya - which is a 3D program so complicated it feels like I'm piloting the space shuttle and if I touch the wrong button the computer will explode. But they basically took all the modeling controls - and only modeling - and simplified it so dumbies like me who aren't computer geniuses like my wife Brianna can still make stuff like this:
(This laser tank is available at actually 3D prints you can hold in your hands - up to two feet long!
And so we see my final cover here:
And so I've been chasing FRP my entire life - trying to draw like him, trying to do hardware like him - even trying to get into the same publications as him. One of my first gigs was in "Fantastic Stories" magazine, which had FRP's art on several covers, and now I follow him at Amazing.
But here I'm doing something that - as far as I know - FRP never did. Which is to make a, perhaps obtuse, political statement. Many who know my art know that I like to slide hidden messages in from time to time. The hidden message here is about the Afghan war. At the time I was doing this piece, several months ago, we had crossed over the 12-year mark (making it America's longest war) and 2000 Americans killed (plus untold Afghans, allies and others). And here was this bloody, gruesome quagmire .... and no one was talking about. It wasn't like Vietnam, where there were songs, movies, rallies - even if you didn't mention "the war" specifically, it was constantly on people's minds. But Afghanistan? Not so much.
That is why the dinosaurs are so blissfully going about this business - the two right above the T-rex are on a first date, and the chain of parasaurolophi on the left are just out from church - completely ignoring the fighting and dying going on right next to them. Weird.
But now Obama has promised that the end of the war is wrapping up sooner than expected, and American troops are switching from combat to advising and support. And coming home. Whew. Praise God.
I'll still have hidden images in some of my pieces, but I won't have to paint about this war anymore.