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The Science Fiction Artwork of John Harris
January 8, 2008 2:50 PM   Subscribe

John Harris's science fiction artwork is stunning. Much of it attempts to capture scale and the hugeness of relative comparisons in the universe. From the book Mass that looks at his work: "From skyscapes to lost cities, planetary bodies to megalithic structures, Harris's concepts are truly colossal, conveying not just the sheer scale that the edifices of future-fantastical technology might attain, but also the awesome-ness, even terror, of their presence." His work has graced the covers of many science fiction books, which you may have recognized. Interestingly, there's no wikipedia article about him.
posted by SpacemanStix (25 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
When I started clicking the links, I recognized the work, and it immediately made me think of the Mile Tower being designed in Jeddah... and this amusing graph about it.

Neat images.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 3:12 PM on January 8, 2008


A more detailed biography can be found about him here.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:13 PM on January 8, 2008


Cool, Chris Foss has a website.
posted by Artw at 3:44 PM on January 8, 2008


I love the sci-fi art posts, keep 'em coming.
posted by everichon at 3:47 PM on January 8, 2008


Does anyone know who did the cover for Radio Freefall? Theres nothing in the actual book that says.
posted by TheJoven at 3:55 PM on January 8, 2008


Radio Freefall was John Harris, too.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:59 PM on January 8, 2008


a kinda sorta post on on sci-fi art previously :P

reminds me of berkey!
posted by kliuless at 4:23 PM on January 8, 2008


Bah, googling for the old maplin catalogue covers birngs up only this post, by a guy looking for the same thing, which reveals the guy who did them was Lionel Jeans. The guy appears to be google-proof, and has no wikipedia entry. Internet, you have failed me!
posted by Artw at 4:35 PM on January 8, 2008


Very cool. I have a 1980 cover of his which bears your "megalithic structures" pic, and I didn't know who it was by until this post. I agree with everichon, keep these posts coming!
posted by misha at 4:53 PM on January 8, 2008


I like these a lot. When I recognized the Ender's Game series paperback covers, though, I was reminded of my irritation with how little they seemed to bear on the substance of the books.

Hrm.
posted by grobstein at 5:12 PM on January 8, 2008


I'm fond of his work, personally.

I'll tell you a story. When I was writing The Ghost Brigades, Tor sent me a picture of a John Harris painting of a planet with a ring system around it. "This is your cover," they said. "Wow," I said. "I guess I better put a planet with a ring system into the novel." So I did. And it worked out rather well for the story, I have to say.
posted by jscalzi at 5:20 PM on January 8, 2008 [5 favorites]


This is cool. Thanks!
posted by P.o.B. at 5:29 PM on January 8, 2008


Heh. Grobstein, we're on the same wavelength.

I remember reading all of the Ender's Game sequels and wondering what the hell those monolithic space-towers had to do with the story.
posted by Oxydude at 5:35 PM on January 8, 2008


Nice. They have the mystery that I loved about old sf paperback cover art of the late '50s and '60s. Those tiny, anonymous figures and inexplicable masses and fearless use of predominant color seem to draw you in the way the more literal and descriptive covers don't.
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:46 PM on January 8, 2008 [2 favorites]


The book Mass by Harris includes pictures that are really fantastic. I enjoy the ones that I linked to in the OP, but the book contains pictures that really play well with relative sizes of huge objects that make you feel really, really small. I haven't seen the images anywhere else on the internet, and the book talks about how some of the originals deteriorated over time, because of the materials that were used to paint them. It's one of the books that I own that I'll never get rid of, aside from having it pried from my cold, dead fingers.
posted by SpacemanStix at 6:41 PM on January 8, 2008


The "ruined city" link is the cover for Cities in Flight in the utterly excellent SF Materworks series, practically all of which have great cover artwork of the the "Big SF" kind.
posted by Artw at 11:26 PM on January 8, 2008


(With some small exceptions, of course)
posted by Artw at 11:33 PM on January 8, 2008


I always liked the images on the cover on Omni and the Asimov books. I like art that makes large space craft seem tangible.
posted by mattoxic at 3:00 AM on January 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Great. Btw, reminds me of an old book by Tim White I used to read when I was a kid. Pictures.
posted by nicolin at 5:23 AM on January 9, 2008


nicolin - I had that book when I was a kid too. Great stuff. Every so often I'd spot it repurposed as cover art for a videogame.

He also did the covers to the first Lovecraft collections I encountered.
posted by Artw at 11:19 AM on January 9, 2008


Don't blame John Harris for the fact that the cover of Ender's Game doesn't illustrate a scene in the book. That painting was bought by Tor as "stock art" and put on the book. Now it's strongly identified with the book, so it's stayed on subsequent editions.

I personally love Harris's work; I've been nominating him for the Hugo Award forever.
posted by pnh at 3:22 PM on January 9, 2008


It's always annoying when someone with the same name hits it big.... Him != me.
posted by JHarris at 5:43 PM on January 9, 2008


I thought it was just a style of book cover—you mean there's one guy to blame? The colors and grandeur are pretty, but the actual subject is never appropriate, and I prefer plausibility to mere greebling. "All spaceships pretty much have spikes and fins and stuff; here you go," doesn't do it for me.

And responding to jscalzi's post: I very much liked the book. My thought upon first encountering it in a store, though, was, "It's a shame about the pretty but silly and generic cover art." Which raises a question: is it often that the cover art precedes even a substantially completed manuscript? Old Man's War at least had an old man on front.
posted by sidb at 1:14 PM on January 11, 2008


I understand that it's long been custom in SF for the cover to rarely have anything to do with the story.
posted by lhauser at 1:24 PM on January 11, 2008


Well, Scalzi's previous book by the same publisher, to which Old Man's War was a sequel, did have appropriate art. But yeah, random images are common.
posted by sidb at 11:15 AM on January 13, 2008


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