Throughout the 1970s, science fiction paperbacks were graced with attention-grabbing cover art that often possessed shockingly complex detail. Even in the 21st century, these ornate compositions and vivid color palettes still percolate into major franchises such as James Cameron’s Avatar series or the 2016 video game No Man’s Sky. Adam Rowe chronicles the development of this instantly recognizable style in Worlds Beyond Time: Sci-Fi Art of the 1970s. This thorough collection traces a connection between ’70s cover art and influences that include 1920s iconography by Frank R. Paul (“underwater explorers, human-eating plants, future ice-age apocalypses, dinosaurs fighting laser rays”), surrealism, psychedelia and even the competing genre of fantasy.
Rowe writes, “In my unvarnished opinion, ’70s sci-fi is the peak of artistic achievement, though I’ve heard good things about the Renaissance.” It’s a bold statement, but one that is difficult to refute as one traverses the vibrant pages of Worlds Beyond Time, which does a superb job of cataloging the nuances of artists and their unique styles, from Angus McKie’s hazy cities and space stations, to the elegant dreamscapes of Bruce Pennington. In addition to spotlighting an exemplary art style, Worlds Beyond Time demonstrates the stunning vastness of science fiction as a literary genre.