Sci-Fi Paintings Book?
June 13, 2005 10:39 AM   Subscribe

As a kid, I had a coffee-table size book of sci-fi paintings. Each page was ostensibly the specs and history of a given spacecraft, and the paintings were quite detailed and in the "realist" mode. As you read about each craft, however, a narrative unfolded about a galactic war. The story arc was sussed out in little details dropped about each ship, famous engagements it took part in, etc. The only ship I remember was an "enemy" ship, the Tarantula, which would ambush victims by hovering up out of a pit suddenly. Anybody know the title, artist or illustrator?
posted by everichon to Media & Arts (34 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I had this book and LOVED LOVED LOVED it. Now I'm on a mission to find you the title. I have no idea what happened to it, but my mom was a die hard garage sale holder, so I'm sure it was sold long ago. This had to have been one of my favorite books when I was a kid.
posted by spicynuts at 10:56 AM on June 13, 2005

Awesome! I had this book as well. And was obsessed with it. Can't wait to see who comes up with the title.

Have you ever played Homeworld 2? I think its art must have been influenced by this book.
posted by felix betachat at 10:59 AM on June 13, 2005

I had that same book as well, and loved it (especially the Tarantula you mentioned!)

I *think* the one you want is Spacecraft 2000-2100, A.D. by Stewart Cowley, although it could easily be one of the other Cowley books, as I had most of them, and don't specifically remember which particular one had the Tarantula in it. They're all worth getting though, as they're all similar. I think the paintings (or many of them) were originally made fro scifi novel covers, and the Cowley books used the original paintings and made up stats and stories about them.

There's also a copy on ebay that shows a scan of the cover.

Also try these other Cowleys:
Great Space Battles
Spacewreck: Ghostships and Derelicts of Space

posted by NewGear at 11:13 AM on June 13, 2005 [2 favorites]

ohmigod ohmigod ohmigod. I had totally forgotten about that book. I had that book and it was SO my favorite.
posted by dersins at 11:20 AM on June 13, 2005

NewGear has it right. I've got the Spacewreck book still -- it's great. I don't recall which has the Tarantula, but all of the books are of the same style.
posted by ewagoner at 11:20 AM on June 13, 2005

Yep those were likely the Terran Trade Authority Books - I love those books.
posted by Tenuki at 11:21 AM on June 13, 2005

Upon cruising around the web, I've discovered a WONDERFUL resource that details where all the paintings from Cowley's books originally were used.

Check it out!

And yes, it says the Tarantula was in "Spacecraft 2000-2100 A.D.", so off you go to grab it, everichon!

On preview, Tenuki found the reference site before I did! Good work!
posted by NewGear at 11:28 AM on June 13, 2005

Man, I got nowhere with google on this. Thank god for the rest of you. I really wish I still had that book. That and the Dungeons and Dragons "Deities and Demigods" was like critical reading for a couple summers of my youth.
posted by spicynuts at 11:33 AM on June 13, 2005

Thanks, all of you, that is SO it. I didn't know there were other TTA books! *gibbers with excitement*
posted by everichon at 11:45 AM on June 13, 2005

Fantastic question and answers!

I, too, remember these books. I remember going to the public library, checking them out, and then walking downtown to get my haircut. I'd pour over these books while I waited. I've thought of them from time-to-time, but never had the wherewithall to research them.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

(Fellow geeks: check out this site that I found during a google search on this subject. Pretty cool)
posted by jdroth at 11:47 AM on June 13, 2005

This page from the above-referenced site indicates that Crowley produced several more of these books under a pen name (Steven Caldwell) for a different publisher.
posted by jdroth at 11:54 AM on June 13, 2005

Another page with 3D modeling of some of the ships from the books...
posted by jdroth at 12:09 PM on June 13, 2005

I wonder if he also did this Vangelis album cover.

In the same vein check out this book that was dear to me as a child.
posted by sourwookie at 12:13 PM on June 13, 2005

I had this book, but ripped out the art and framed it for my old apartment.
posted by Kickstart70 at 12:25 PM on June 13, 2005

Wow, there were more of those books? I had "Spaceships 2000-2100 AD" when I was a kid and loved it. I did feel a little let down when I realized that the story was made up to fit the paintings, and not the other way 'round, but it was still one of those things that I could stare at for hours, letting my imagination run.

sourwookie: I'm certain that painting was in the book.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:46 PM on June 13, 2005

I still have this book. It is, indeed, friggin' awesome.
posted by unreason at 1:26 PM on June 13, 2005

I wonder if he also did this Vangelis album cover.

Probably. The space ship on the right with the long neck is from the book.
posted by unreason at 1:32 PM on June 13, 2005

When I was 7, I went into a section of the school library that was basically never used - it was a collection of books donated to the library by the family of a kid who had died (or something, I was 7, not sure if I have the story correct), and the collection had it's own section, (with a seperate catelogue I think) instead of being absorbed into the rest of the library. It was mostly boring old books, so none of us kids ever bothered to look there. Kids would be all over the library, but that part was always empty. Library catalogues were paper cards in those days, so searches would not turn up books in that section unless you searched in it's own catelogue, which no-one did.
Anyway I was bored and looking in that section when I found THAT book. I got it out, and soon other people saw it and wanted to look at it. We'd have group sessions flipping the pages announcing whether each spaceship was "cool" or not :-) (Most were cool :-))
After that, the book was impossible to get - it was always out of the library, so many people wanted to get it out. I saw it from time to time as people brought it to school, but I think I only managed to get out again one other time.
I had that secret satisfied little 7-year-old feeling of having "discovered" it. Something I don't think I've admitted to until now :-)

Also, when I tried to track down the book years later (which was years ago now), I found that "Chris Foss" was credited as being a pioneering artist of this style of spaceship art. It didn't help me find the book - I haven't seen it until this thread, but I thought I'd throw that in. Apparently at some point he outgrew spaceships and discovered girls because he's now better known for illustrating The Joy Of Sex :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 1:49 PM on June 13, 2005

Wow, Aliens in Space was a favorite of mine as a wee youngn', one of the few things I've kept since then. I didn't know of his other name, and other books.
posted by dong_resin at 1:54 PM on June 13, 2005

Apparently at some point he outgrew spaceships and discovered girls because he's now better known for illustrating The Joy Of Sex.

Maybe he could combine the two in order to create some sort of fantastic alien kama sutra!
posted by jdroth at 2:04 PM on June 13, 2005

Maybe he could combine the two in order to create some sort of fantastic alien kama sutra!

In 1990 Foss published a book titled Diary of a Spaceperson. It’s a collection of color spacecraft paintings, black and white sketches of partially clothed women/aliens and fictional diary entries.

From the back cover: “This book is a facsimile of parts of a diary discovered during the excavation of the New Venice site. It charts the extraordinary adventures of a typical student who refers to herself simply as ‘J’. In her own inimitable language she describes and illustrates her sensual and spiritual odyssey through time and space as she is buffeted by circumstances and chance encounters.”
posted by Tenuki at 2:38 PM on June 13, 2005

Wow, I remember this from my childhood too. I'd totally forgotten about it, but thanks for bringing back the memory.
posted by ontic at 3:08 PM on June 13, 2005

This is really cool. I have never heard of Cowley before. But I used to love Chris Foss's book covers in my younger days. I used to live in another country at that point. At some point I looked around to see if I could find a collection of his works. But did not find any. I did not know of his "other" works either!!

Looks like I have to get hold of some Cowley book and rediscover my childhood.

Is there a web page of Foss's paintings or book covers somewhere ? If I remember correctly his spacecrafts had a slightly softer edges around all that wierd geometry. I think remember them from some of the Asimov paperbacks.

Just to make sure I get it - Foss and Cowley are not the same guy? correct ?

awesome resources..
posted by flyby22 at 3:19 PM on June 13, 2005

actually the Vorlon and other spaceships from B5 reminded me of Foss's works..
posted by flyby22 at 3:22 PM on June 13, 2005

Here's a Chris Foss gallery
posted by Tenuki at 3:53 PM on June 13, 2005

A trip down a dim section of memory lane for me as well. Thanks!
posted by furiousthought at 3:55 PM on June 13, 2005

My favorite artist from those books was Peter Elson. I just Googled him and found this website, with what looks like pretty much every one of his illustrations for the TTA series. So so great.
posted by schoolgirl report at 6:30 PM on June 13, 2005

Oh, and flyby22, Cowley compiled the illustrations and wrote the stories. I don't think he contributed any art of his own to the series.
posted by schoolgirl report at 6:32 PM on June 13, 2005

Holy crap, I just realized that site I linked to above is a gallery of all of the artists used in the TTA books, and then some! Total sci-fi cover art freakout!
posted by schoolgirl report at 6:35 PM on June 13, 2005

this has been one of the coolest threads.. I remember buying Homeworld games just because of my fascination with such art work. I am not much of PC gamer. However only the last game in the series looks decent on my widescreen HDTV. However my HTPC I think overheats.. have not got a chance to play the game. But I can just stare at the cool graphics forever!
posted by flyby22 at 7:24 PM on June 13, 2005

great link schoolgirl report
posted by flyby22 at 7:26 PM on June 13, 2005

from Tenuki's link, interesting tidbit
posted by golo at 8:54 PM on June 13, 2005

I have a "Caldwell" right here in my hot little hands, Worlds at War and one by the unknown to the thread Steven Eisler (apparently also a pseudonym.)

I particularly was fascinated by the blueprints seen in, if I recall, both books.
posted by mwhybark at 9:39 PM on June 13, 2005

In 1990 Foss published a book titled Diary of a Spaceperson

This is bizarre - that seems to be the date given, yet I remember finding that one at a school library, and I left that school in '88. I think I'm going to have to search for an earlier publish date... otherwise I'll need to revise/reinvent some memories...
posted by -harlequin- at 9:49 PM on June 13, 2005

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