#Art of Fantasy 93: Ken Barr (Legends)

I know, I know. I skipped a week and I’m late again this week. Since starting “Art of Fantasy,” I set out to never to skip a week and I’ve been successful at keeping to my routine for 92 weeks. However, October threw so many things at me I dropped the ball(s). I could handle looming deadlines, looking after the kids and cooking, and a new job–but my wife and all three my kids succumbing to stomach flu at the same time? And another family member suffering a heart attack? That got me. That got me good. October, and especially the last two weeks have not been pleasant.

But things seemed to have stabilized now. My kids are eating and drinking again and the fevers are gone. A few minutes ago I learned my mom’s husband is out of ICU and stabilized and will come home this afternoon. My wife is still sick, though, but I’m positive she’ll be better by Friday (I hope). I’m surprised the stomach flu didn’t get me. Must be my mutant-like healing ability. Or I’m just too plain stubborn to give in.


Anyway, “Art of Fantasy (Legends)” is back this week and we kick off with Ken Barr, (17 March 1933 – 25 March 2016). A Scottish artist, Ken illustrated DC and Marvel comics and magazines, specifically Doc Savage covers, and science fiction and fantasy novel and magazine covers.

After completing his National Service in the Army in Egypt, Ken established himself as one of the top artists in the graphic art and comic industry early on. His first covers appeared on the British magazine Nebula Science Fiction in the 1950s which launched his career. Ken produced a vast and wide range of art for many of the top companies, including Star Wars and Star Trek covers.

From the 1970s onwards, he created hundreds of book covers for many of the leading book publishers such as Avon and Random House; and drew dozens of film posters like The Wind and the LionTerminal ManThunderbolt and Lightfoot and several horror and fantasy films.

A trading card set reprinting some of his best fantasy and horror artwork, The Beast Within, was issued in March 1994 and a book featuring a collection of his work, titled The Beast Within: The Art of Ken BarrThe Beast Within: The Art of Ken Barr, was published in 2007.

Below is a small collection of his work. Each image links to the place of origin. Enjoy!












Ken Barr illustrated some of the covers of DC Thomson’s Commando: War Stories in Pictures books which I read back when I was a kid, although I did not know it at the time. I would only realize this much later after seeing his Doc Savage and Conan work.

I’ve mentioned on here before that along with fantasy and science fiction novels, I also read comics: Marvel, DC, 2000 AD, and a host of others, and Commando falls squarely within “others.”  It was a black and white war comic that fed that part of me that had become obsessed with World War 2 stories. Sadly, from my very large collection I only have a dozen or so of these little books left and I haven’t read any in years.





Sources: here, here, here, and here

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 | official trailer #1 (2017)

Art of Fantasy (Legends) should be live by tomorrow night but in the meantime, and because I’m so nice and excited myself, here is the first trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy 2. They don’t show that much, but enough to bring back that old spark that made the first one so great. Plus, we see baby Groot. Did you know that Groot in Afrikaans means big?




Attack of the Deadlines

4759472692_0c8b5fe166_bIt’s been a crazy couple of weeks. You probably noticed I posted Art of Fantasy really late last week. That is because I’ve been working on another flash anthology with the folks over at Kōsa Press.

It’s scheduled for the end of the year if everything works out. So far the collection promises an exciting ride. And, as you probably guessed, last week was deadline time for story submissions. This continues until the end of the month as we put our stories through different rounds of editing and proofreading before we send it to our editor. I’m currently doing rewrites after the first round of proofing. Perfection may never be obtained but we sure as hell will give it our best shot.

Nothing makes you disappear into that writer’s trance so fast than seeing Time racing towards a deadline at breakneck speed. Sometimes you’ve no choice but to grab inspiration by the neck and drag it with you as you race to intercept.

I’m also starting a regular writing gig on Monday here in town, which means I’m rejoining the world of adults again. This is good. I’m glad. It gets me out of the house and keeps my writing muscles occupied while lessening the financial stress that has burdened me of late. But then, being a writer and money worries goes hand in hand.

It also means I’ve more things to balance on my already overloaded plate. This too is good. It keeps your mind active and your tools honed, and–trust me on this–allows you to focus far more sharply.

I’m listening to Laila Samuels‘ “Afterglow” as I write this blog post. I’ve never heard of her until today, but she’s on my “Discover” list on Spotify and this song made me stop writing and listen. So  here you go, now you can listen, too.



#Art of Fantasy 92: Bruce Pennington (Legends)

1350074422-1A lot has happened this past weekend which contributed to this week’s post being late. I’ll talk a little about that in a separate post.

This week I’m featuring Bruce Pennington. His first cover illustration appeared in 1967 for the New English Library 1970 paperback edition of Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. During the 70s Bruce’s art appeared in Horror fiction for authors such as Arthur Machen, H.P. Lovecraft, August Derleth and Clark Ashton Smith. He continued to illustrate science fiction, fantasy and horror novels like the Dune series by Frank Herbert and works by Edgar Rice Burroughs, including Philip Jose Farmer, Gene Wolfe, Eric van Lustbader, and A.E van Vogt.

Below is a small but iconic collection of his work. Each image links back to the site of origin. Enjoy!












Because each artist possesses a style that is uniquely their own it influences perception of a book. As such, it sometimes conflicts with the voice of the writer or, appear at odds with the story’s tone inside. Or, if you’re like me, it colors it. It adds depth and mood that enhances the story. The same is also true of Bruce’s illustrations, and why I consider him one of the contributors of that onslaught of awesomeness that reigned during the 70s and 80s in fantasy and science fiction.

From his Wikipedia entry: “Pennington’s works are largely characterized by bold, daring colours; rich pinks and blues sustaining his continuing motifs of speculation as well as precise brush strokes, harmonious pigment blending as well as the acute concentration in the detail of his depicted subjects, usually landscapes of other times or worlds.”

Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below and remember to check out this week’s Art of Science Fiction over on Kōsa Press.




#Art of Fantasy 91: Michael Whelan (Legends)

michael_whelan045Today’s legend is still active but I’m listing him here because, well, he truly is a living legend, and because his book covers took me on so many fantasy adventures as a kid during the 80s. I used to fantasize about the covers and the characters before I even read the stories inside. That is how much weight I used to–and still do–place on cover art. So, without any further nonsense, let’s get to it.

American artist Michael Whelan has illustrated science fiction and fantasy covers for over 40 years. His awesome cover paintings have appeared on more than 350 books and magazines, including many of Stephen King’s books and the interior illustrations for The Gunslinger and The Dark Tower series of books. Michael also illustrated most of the Del Rey editions of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series, Piers Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality series, the Del Rey edition of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars seriesMelanie Rawn‘s Dragon Prince and Dragon Star series, the Del Rey editions of H. P. Lovecraft’s short story collections, the DAW editions of Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melniboné books, many of Robert A. Heinlein’s novels, and Brandon Sanderson‘s The Stormlight Archive.

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame inducted him in June 2009, and as far as I am aware, he is the first living artist so honored. According to his Hall of Fame citation,

Michael Whelan is one of the most important contemporary science fiction and fantasy artists, and certainly the most popular. His work was a dominant force in the transition of genre book covers away from the surrealism introduced in the 1950s and 1960s back to realism.

Interestingly enough, and considering the subject of my previous post, Michael met Neal Adams through a mutual acquaintance at the Lunacon convention art show in New York. Adams would later call the art director of Ace Books, paving the way for Michael’s first assignment at Ace. In 1975, he painted the cover illustrations for ten books, eight from DAW and two Ace reprints.

In 1979, Del Rey/Ballantine Books commissioned Michael to paint new covers for Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars novels, succeeding Gino D’Achille‘s 1973 series. You can check out those covers here.

While working for science fiction and fantasy publishers such as DAW, Del Rey, and Ace, Michael quickly gained a solid reputation as “a talented, imaginative, and dependable cover artist.” He considers the 1978 publication of Anne McCaffrey‘s best-selling The White Dragon featuring his cover art as a turning point in his career. The SF Hall of Fame apparently agrees.

Michael won his first Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist in 1980 at the World Science Fiction Convention in Boston. As of 2010, he has won fifteen Hugo Awards. He has also been awarded the World Fantasy Award three times and received 13 Chesley awards from the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists.  The readers of Locus Magazine have named him Best Professional Artist 30 times in their annual poll (including 2014) and the Spectrum Annual of the Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art named him a Grand Master in 2004.  Other noteworthy awards include a Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators, a Vargas Award, a Grumbacher Gold Medal, and the Solstice Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America.

Below is a small collection from this legend’s oeuvre. Each image links back to the site of origin. Enjoy!














by_dnmcal05wall1280_whelanmichael_dragonlordAs a rule, Michael read the entire book of a commission–sometimes even twice–before he painted the cover because he wanted the story to determine the approach and subject matter. Fantasy author Michael Moorcock once wrote of Michael, “I am more than usually grateful for an artist who not only depicts him [Elric] as I imagine (and describe him) but who also manages to capture some of the appropriate atmosphere.” Science fiction writer Anne McCaffrey praised him and said, “Fortunate indeed is the author who has Michael Whelan for an illustrator.

I wholeheartedly agree with these sentiments. Just like a story possess a unique voice, so too does art capture a certain tone or atmosphere. And whenever the twain shall meet, magic happens.  Michael’s style is known as“imaginative realism” which at first glance contradicts itself, but then, we’re dealing with fantasy and science fiction here and the purpose of storytelling in these genres, mostly, is to make the unbelievable as believable as possible, and that is a big part of why I am so attracted to Michael’s covers. His talent is such that the worlds and characters he paints seem real enough and authentic, giving your imagination license to explore freely.

And that is that for this week. My apologies for being a wee bit late. We are working on the next volume in the Inlari Sagas slated for 2017 and preparing another collection of flash from that same universe for later this year, plus I’m editing a short story for submission to Beneath Ceaseless Skies.






#Art of Fantasy 90: Neal Adams (Legends)

ws_the_art_of_neal_adams_1024x768We kick this special spotlight on legends off with American comic book artist, Neal Adams. Born on June 6, 1941, Neal began his career with Archie comics and slowly worked his way up the ladder, doing commercial work here and there. It took a while but his unique style began drawing attention and in 1962 he started working for the NEA newspaper syndicate on the Ben Casey comic strip.

He later moved on to Warren Publishing’s black-and-white horror-comics magazines and from there he took the jump to DC comics. His steady climb to legendary status continued uninterrupted from there.

Neal co-founded the graphic design studio Continuity Associates in 1971, and as a creators-rights advocate, he helped secure recognition and pensions for Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

As a kid reading comic books, Neal’s art easily stood out for me. The way he drew his characters, their faces and proportions and angles were so alive with action and energy, so different from the others. His illustrations possessed a distinct flavor, a tone that was all its own, and which I enjoyed a lot. Trying to remember the effect his art had on me is like recalling a memory with the ambiance and emotion intact. Sometimes you just feel it. Not everything requires words.

Neal also illustrated paperback novels for the Tarzan series from Ballantine Books and Marvel’s Conan the Barbarian, which I really loved, and the chief reason I’m featuring him today.

He was inducted into the Eisner Award‘s Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1998, and the Harvey Awards‘ Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1999.

Below is a small collection of his work. Each image links back to where I found it. Enjoy!











From what I’ve read, Neal promoted sword & sorcery comics back when the genre was barely recognized or known in the comic book industry. He was one of the early artists who worked on Howard’s Conan. Savage Sword of Conan #1, published in 1974, featured a Red Sonja story written by Roy Thomas with Neal as the inker and penciler. Neal later also contributed to Conan the Barbarian #44 – #45 (November-December 1974), and Wulf the Barbarian #2 (April 1975). He did the covers for Savage Tales and the Conan comics, and in Savage Tales #4 (May 1974), Neal was one of the inkers on “Night of the Dark God.”

Another interesting and awesome bit of fact is that Neal worked as a storyboard artist on the film, Conan the Barbarian (1982). Clearly a Conan fan, Neal has done many book illustrations of Conan, and given that this blog favors fantasy in all its guises, he is a welcome addition to Art of Fantasy (Legends).



(Sources: 1, 2, and 3)


Who was Sir Julius Vogel?

julius_vogel_ca_1870sA couple of months ago I mentioned that my three stories in These Broken Worlds received a nomination for a Sir Julius Vogel Award. For those who don’t know, The Sir Julius Vogel Awards are held each year at the New Zealand National Science Fiction Convention to celebrate and recognize achievement in New Zealand science fiction, fantasy, horror, and science fiction fandom.

Alas, I never made the short list, but being nominated felt awesome. I wrote this at the time in response:

My first ever nomination for words I wrote. I know it’s just a nomination and that the number of nominations will decide who lands on the final ballot, but as I write this blog, glee pumps through my veins and it’s a good feeling.

Which brings me to today’s post. I want to give you some context to the award by talking about the author it is named after. As a speculative fiction writer, I found the history interesting and I hope you do too.

Sir Julius Vogel was a prominent New Zealand journalist and politician who was also elected Prime Minister of New Zealand twice during the 1870s. Historian Warwick R. Armstrong said this about Sir Vogel’s strengths and weaknesses as a politician:

“Vogel’s politics were like his nature, imaginative – and occasionally brilliant – but reckless and speculative. He was an excellent policymaker but he needed a strong leader to restrain him….Yet Vogel had vision. He saw New Zealand as a potential ‘Britain of the South Seas’, strong both in agriculture and in industry, and inhabited by a large and flourishing population.”

148846_1Not so strange then, perhaps, that this politician also enjoys the status of being the first New Zealander to have published a science-fiction novel. Anno Domini 2000, or, Woman’s Destiny, published in 1889, predicted a utopian world where women held the top positions of authority in government.

And wouldn’t you know,  New Zealand became the second country to entrench women’s right to vote, after the Isle of Man in 1881. In 1893, Elizabeth Yates became Mayor of Onehunga, the first time such a post had ever been held by a woman anywhere in the British Empire at the time. From 1998 to 2008 New Zealand continuously had a female Prime Minister. In fact, at one stage all five highest government positions (Queen, Governor-General, Prime Minister, Speaker of the House and Chief Justice) were simultaneously held by women.

As for Anno Domini 2000, it tells a futuristic story in which women rise to positions of power and citizens travel freely in aluminium ‘air-cruisers’. Vogel wrote the novel after stepping down as New Zealand’s Premier, a role in which he promoted a future where men and women would enjoy social and political equality.

In features Hilda Fitzherbert, the 23-year-old Imperial Prime Minister of the British Empire, who is caught between a villainous Australian republican and Emperor Albert, the dashing young ruler of the Federated British Empire. The future of the world is at risk when an Anglo-American war breaks out.

Generally not my cup of tea, not that I even drink tea, but then, I am also not of English stock, so I’ll reserve my opinion until I have read the book.

In his introduction to the 2000 edition, academic Roger Robinson listed some of Vogel’s other predictions. I’ve reproduced a few here:

  • Australian politicians move to secede from United Britain to establish a wholly independent republic
  • Europe becomes fully federated
  • British royalty is strengthened by marriage between the ‘Emperor’ and a commoner woman of great charisma
  • The news media and their inveterate interest in celebrity gossip exert considerable political influence
  • A social welfare system provides living comforts even for the poor, including subsidised accommodation in ‘splendid edifices of many storeys, with constant self-activating elevators.’
  • Electricity is the prime source of domestic light and heat and most houses in hot climates have air conditioning.
  • Air travel is universal, in lightweight aluminium ‘air-cruisers’ powered by ‘quickly revolving fans’. (This was 14 years before the Wright Brothers’ flight).
  • There is instant communication technology in the form of ‘hand telegraph’ or ‘noiseless telegraph’, which politicians have fitted to their desks and journalists use to transmit copy directly to their newspapers.

515yqpppgflRobinson’s overall impression of Vogel is that the man was “…a utopian prophet of rare percipience.” Unfortunately, the novel did not sell well but later received posthumous recognition for its accurate representation of a future New Zealand. The book was reissued with an updated cover in 2001, and in 2002 the University of Hawaii Press published the very first American edition.

Hurricane Press released an ebook version in 2013, but whoever is responsible for the ebook’s atrocious cover should be chained to a metal chair and forced to watch the Kardashians for 48 straight hours without bathroom breaks. At least the ebook includes a retrospective chapter describing the origins of the book and the early newspaper reviews.

I don’t normally involve myself in politics, for various reasons, none of which I’m willing to elaborate on here (I’m neither left nor right). Besides, this blog is about fiction and art and books and word adventures. My reasoning for sharing this tiny piece of New Zealand history is simply because I thought you might find it interesting. At the very least, it puts the Vogels in context.

And there you have it. Tiny bits of information about the speculative fiction community this side of the world.