The selection of images are as impressive as the introduction and the foreword. The texts accompanying each image failed to do them justice, but then...moreThe selection of images are as impressive as the introduction and the foreword. The texts accompanying each image failed to do them justice, but then again, I've never been one for the lingo of art history.(less)
“Explain to me why you like it,” I ordered my partner. He, a moderate sci-fi fan and a wonderful feminist, had just received it from a good friend of...more“Explain to me why you like it,” I ordered my partner. He, a moderate sci-fi fan and a wonderful feminist, had just received it from a good friend of ours who is a bigger sci-fi fan and just as wonderful a feminist. I note that they are feminists because, if they weren’t, I would have simply rolled my eyes and found no reason whatsoever to open the book a crack. That they are the sort of sci-fi fans who also enjoy art and literature outside the genre was another factor inspiring me to imitate such open-mindedness. (Hardcore fanatics are rarely the ideal ambassadors to convert a skeptic.) And after I’d examined every page, first alone and then accompanied by my partner and his explanations, my concepts of art had been enlightened, while some prejudices against sci-fi had been cemented.
I am rarely allured by CGI art aiming at illusions of 3D since its synthetically flawless, sterile appearance too often feels like a crime against nature; environmental rape and eugenics quickly spring to mind. However, some of the images subtly integrate its benefits into the warmth of hand-drawn creation, enhancing in the way cosmetologists say makeup should go undetected. And, as my partner pointed out, the sterile quality of the cities is intentionally dystopian. Like much of modern art, it’s the beauty of the concept represented by the image and not of the image itself. I can dig it.
Many of the characters’ faces emit the same tired stereotypes of heroic romanticism all too common in sci-fi: the macho warrior baring his teeth, the femme fatale castrating you with her glare, the trophy girl begging to be banged with every illustration of her ludicrous body. However, several images surprisingly evade such caricature and, unlike the classic sci-fi fan, do look you in the eye, communicating something more subtle than a screech or a battle cry. The robots and aliens also range from blank to evocative, sometimes crippled by the endlessly calculated concepts heaped on by their creators, sometimes shyly but surely asking the audience where humanity begins and ends. I must admit I get a philosophical joy out of the sci-fi sport of sticking eyes onto the most unassuming forms. I can dig it.
That there is an entire chapter entitled “The Sirens of Sci-Fi” is pathetically unsurprising, although it would have been more appropriately named, in the words of one of the artists, “Space Babes.” Save for three or four sweet representations of Yoshimi-like women, vaginophobia runs rampant, sending every owner of said anatomy the message: “If you like sci-fi, you’d better deal with it.” Just three of the 80+ artists in the book are female, and while much has been said online about the misogyny of sci-fi culture, almost nothing has been done about it. Some compensating males undoubtedly consider the repellant nature of these fantasies to female viewers a success, because why put up with the concerns of real women when escapism is both your work and your hobby? But those wishing their female partners and friends wouldn’t roll their eyes and instead excitedly accompany them to sci-fi events need to grab the reins of emancipation with the same enthusiasm they approach the joystick. Either inject some anatomic feasibility and bad-ass agency into your dream girls, or, if shallow is the order of the day in sci-fi, get over your homophobia and give us some barely-clad boy toys to ogle into submission. I can dig it, as long as it’s fair.
It was enough that my partner rolled his eyes along with me while flipping to the cities. Such feminist cred got me to open it and, as any book of real value should, it opened my mind. (less)
Despite the plot indicated in the title, it is one of Gorey's most fluid tales. The puppetmaster of poetry and pictures, Gorey proves once again to be...moreDespite the plot indicated in the title, it is one of Gorey's most fluid tales. The puppetmaster of poetry and pictures, Gorey proves once again to be the definitive auteur of literature and the term "in a class by himself" dodges cliché with a swerve of the handlebars.(less)
Stephen Alcorn’s latest book is a collaboration between the printmaker and history itself. What discerns one book of quotations from another is the se...moreStephen Alcorn’s latest book is a collaboration between the printmaker and history itself. What discerns one book of quotations from another is the selection; either by subject or, as seen here, by speakers. What makes this collection quite unique is that the speakers have been chosen not for their ethnicity, gender, or profession, but for their ability to inspire an artist such as Alcorn to set his carving knife in motion. As a writer who often takes a notepad to museums and scrawls rapidly between paintings, it’s interesting to see a printmaker prove that a word is worth a thousand colors.
With each portrait reflecting both thought and thinker, the original art almost outshines the quotations. Lennon and McCartney are the Kings of Hearts. James Baldwin stares through eyes like caves. Ray Charles is a fountain of sweat. Nina Simone’s scratched cheeks are the treasure chest where her voice is kept. Billie Holiday’s portrait is an exact replica of her famous wailing profile but for a tear on her cheek and a skull in her hair. Sometimes, that’s all there is between mediocrity and mastery.
Everyone from Michelangelo to Madonna is here, making the readers swim through the classical and the contemporary. For this reason, it is an excellent primer for kids, and Alcorn is a seasoned guide for children in the worlds of art and history. (See I, TOO, SING AMERICA and THE BOOK OF ROCKSTARS.) However, there is no way an adult could dismiss an image of Karl Marx emanating from a smoke stack or the line “…what is done in love is done well” as juvenile.
Many have noted that the book is difficult to categorize and indeed, what it does best of all, simply by example, is question so many of our modern assumptions about art and the arts. Who says Shakespeare fans don’t listen to Johnny Cash? Why do we so rarely see women represented this well in history books? And when did illustration get restricted to children’s literature, no matter how masterful? As Queen Latifah and Gandhi and the other beaming subjects know, "hard to categorize” is a quality necessary for brilliance.(less)
Fab photos of the Berlin U-Bahn and the pack of cards known as the passengers. I would have preferred a larger format for better viewing each image, b...moreFab photos of the Berlin U-Bahn and the pack of cards known as the passengers. I would have preferred a larger format for better viewing each image, but the sensation of being overwhelmed in a lax atmosphere is admittedly authentic.(less)