Today the future turns seventy. Well, not quite, but for SF fans of a certain vintage, one name is synonymous with the look of the future – at least, the look of the spaceships of the future – and that name is Chris Foss.
We recommend you go have a look at Paul McAuley’s post about spaceships on 1970s British SF Paperback covers for an erudite view of the art of Chris Foss (and others!). You should also stop by Alastair Reynolds‘ blog for his take on the importance of Chris Foss to British SF in general and to Al’s induction into it, in particular. As a card-carrying Chris Foss fanboy, I’d agree with Al on both the allure of a Foss cover and the fact that knowing what was depicted on the cover was vanishingly unlikely to appear between the covers was so much less important than the sheer sense of wonder Foss evoked.
On numerous occasions I’ve written about James Blish’s The Testament of Andros and its stunning cover – classic Foss – but the cover that burns brightest in my mind is probably still Foundation. Do any of the scenes depicted on Foss’s wonderful triptych of covers for the Foundation trilogy actually happen in the books? No. No, they don’t. Does that matter? No. No, it doesn’t. Did those covers with their magnificent spaceships – all rivets and visible panels and patches of colour – hanging suspended in glorious disbelief in the aether make my pick up a book whether I’d heard of the author or not? Hell, yes!
It’s now almost three years since Chris Foss was Artist Guest of Honour at London’s Worldcon, and where I was lucky enough to meet him and enjoy a brief conversation. And I do not care even a jot if it marks me out as an incredible nerd that, having purchased a print of his classic Foundation Trilogy triptych – upon which he added an original pencil sketch and a signature – I then bounced back to the Gollancz table, babbling semi-coherently and showing off my new purchase like a schoolboy.
Yes, of course I’m supposed to be a grown man and a publishing professional BUT IT’S CHRIS FOSS! The day I stop being excited to meet a living legend is the day I have no place calling myself an SF fan.
Happy birthday, Chris – and thanks for the future!