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The Science Fiction Art Of Vincent Di Fate
Paper Tiger hardcover £20

review by Christopher Geary

A genre illustrator for more than 30 years, Vincent Di Fate worked for legendary SF magazine editor John W. Campbell, and is the author of Infinite Worlds (1997), an invaluable study of art in science fiction. This book, as you would expect from a gifted artist who is also a writer, features four essays on various aspects of SF in addition to over 100 pieces of artwork - from small black and white spot illustrations and draft sketches to full page, and two-page spreads, reproducing Di Fate's vivid paintings.
   Two of the essays are about Campbell's influence on the development of SF and the publishing of classic short stories, and the other is about Di Fate's favourite sci-fi movies from the 'Golden Age' of the 1950s (including Creature From The Black Lagoon, and The War Of The Worlds). All of these are accompanied by an impressive range of drawings and covers produced for books and magazines, but, what may be of greater interest to Di Fate's many fans who are already familiar with many of these excellent works, are the further galleries that make up the book's second half.
   In particular, the section titled 'Future Real' showcases some superb astronomical art and striking depictions space hardware, which the artist produced for several educational texts. There are 10 pages devoted to fascinating examples of Di Fate's work in the fantasy and horror genres, though a number of these lean towards the symbolic rather than the representative. Somewhat likely to be a contentious issue with many SF fans, is the penultimate chapter, 'Shadows On The Sky' (which, oddly, is not listed in the main contents), recounting the early history of UFOlogy, because although Di Fate make his scepticism clear from the start, the whole debate regarding the Roswell mystery and other such events is one of the things which gives legitimate SF a bad name.
   Still, the closing pages of this collection return to proper genre material with an extra sampling of imaginary futures. My favourite pictures in the volume are from the 1990s. 'The Good Stuff' (p.36) shows a gigantic alien spacecraft lifting an entire city and big chunk of land from Earth. 'It Came From The Drive-In' (p.45) realises the quirky idea of a dinosaur stepping out of the screen to menace parked cars, as if to escape the outdoor cinema's apocalyptic movie, and 'Star Swarm' (p.109) has a squid-like monster attacking a Nautilus styled submarine in some otherworldly sea.
The Science Fiction Art Of Vincent Di Fate
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