Lena's Reviews > Another Science Fiction: Advertising the Space Race 1957-1962

Another Science Fiction by Megan Prelinger
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's review
Mar 01, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: non-fiction

In the midst of the current debate over the importance of NASA, historian Megan Prelinger has brought forth a fascinating glimpse into the early days of space development in the US. The unique lens through which she examines this period is the advertisements the aerospace industry used to advance its cause in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.

In this stunning book, 200 images originally run in such publications as Missiles and Rockets are gathered together for the first time. Topics examined include both the vision and reality behind our first satellites, the fantastical early dreams of the human body in space, ideas of the crafts we’d need to bring us back and forth, images and landscapes of space itself, and the modernist influenced graphic art that graces many of the ads.

With expensive programs to sell to the public and the government, early advertisers drew heavily from the imaginings of science fiction in envisioning this future world. Despite the advances that have been made in the intervening half-century, many of their visions are overly optimistic even by today’s standards. Yet other interim successes are made obvious when viewing the focus of particular pieces: it’s hard not to smile when seeing an ad promising the miracle of being able to watch live television from anywhere in the world, or noting that an imagining of the first human footprints on the moon had realistic enough looking dust but also had the astronauts wearing wing-tips.

What surprised me the most about this book, however, was just how artistically striking many of these advertisements were. A company called Martin Denver drew heavily from the abstract modernist movement and regularly produced images I would be thrilled to have on my walls today. For those interested in the cultural history of the cold war years, science fiction and the space race, this book is a delicious collection of fascinating ephemera.
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