Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Diary of a Spaceperson Identification Guide

A while back I posted a couple of galleries of illustrations from old 1970s SF paperbacks. At the time I mentioned that I was a huge fan of Chris Foss who was responsible for me picking up and reading a wider range of authors simply because he was the cover artist. When I was working on the SF Art book, I dug out as many old SF paperbacks as I could find in the house. Although I could recognise most of the work that appeared in 21st Century Foss, there was quite a few images in Diary of a Spaceperson that I didn't recognise. After trawling the internet, I compiled the gallery below. Most of the scans are from various sites around the web, amongst them Foss's own website where you can find some interesting variations on the artwork that appeared in Diary. I've identified what books I can and I'd be very interested to hear from anyone who spots a cover I'm not aware of. I've made a few educated guesses in places.

Diary of a Spaceperson, for those of you who haven't seen a copy, is essentially a collection of Foss's artwork from the 1980s, a lot of colour plates threaded together with a linking storyline and a lot of black & white sketches of the female lead who appears in the text (the illustrations are new to the book).

I had a fantastic time putting this together... a real trip down memory lane to the days when you could wander into Clarks in Chelmsford and find 250 paperback SF novels and collections and anthologies on their shelves. Nowadays, thanks to publishers wrongly believing that every book has to be a 'blockbuster' with the dimensions of a brick, bookshops can barely squeeze 50 titles in the same shelf space. I miss the days when every novel and collection Isaac Asimov wrote was in print, not just a movie tie-in edition of I, Robot. Surely I'm not one of the last generation who had the chance to read Robert A. Heinlein, A. E. Van Vogt, John Brunner and dozens of others whose titles you rarely see nowadays outside of one of the 'SF masterworks' type series. Heinlein should be up there on the shelves next to Hemingway and Sturgeon on the same shelf as Steinbeck.

But that's a rant for another day.

Each image has the page number from Diary immediately below it, with an i.d. of where it originally appeared where known. I've noted variations where I've spotted them.

(* I'd like to thank everyone who has posted suggestions of where these pieces appeared. My thanks especially to Mark Applin who supplied a great many titles and details that I wouldn't have otherwise known.)

00 (cover) (extract from illustration on pp. 30-31)

10-11 Farmer, Philip Jose, Dayworld Rebel, Grafton 0246132663, 1988 h/c , and 0586201084, 1989 p/b (aka Venice / La Towers). Lower version from Chris Foss Net.


14-15 Futuristic Oil Tanker, 1970, a.k.a. Red Oil Tanker. Lower image from Chris Foss Net.

18-19 Pringle, David, Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction: An A-Z of Science Fiction Books, Grafton 026123159, 1990 h/c, Grafton 0246136359, 1990 p/b (aka Icebergs in Space). Lower version from Chris Foss Net.

20 Ernsting, Walter & Kurt Mahr, Perry Rhodan 4: Invasion from Space, Futura 7805, 1974.


25 Dick, Philip K., I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon, Grafton 0586074155, 1988.

26-27 Turner Spaceship. Lower version from Chris Foss Net.

28 Anderson, Poul, Conquests, Grafton 0-586-05041-8, 1981.

30-31 Travelling Cities (1981), first published as an illustration to a Sunday Times supplement article. Lower version from Chris Foss Net.

36 Asimov, Isaac, Earth Is Room Enough, Grafton [1980s edition]


42-43 Nicholls, Peter, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Granada/Panther 0586053808, 1981. p/b edition.

45 Asimov, Isaac, The Naked Sun, Granada 1016, 1985.

46 Asimov, Isaac, "X" Stands For Unknown, Grafton 0586059427, 1986 (aka X Is For the Unknown). The lower version, from Chris Foss Net, differs greatly from the DSP version.

48-49 Harrison, Harry, In Our Hands, The Stars, Arrow [poss. 1981 printing] (aka Our Hands in the Stars).

55 McCollum, Michael, Antares Passage, Grafton 0586205276, 1989.

56 Dying of Light (possibly Dying of the Light by George R. R. Martin, Panther 4613, 1979). Image from Chris Foss Net.

58-59 Asimov, Isaac, The Stars Like Dust, Grafton 0246129204, 1986 h/c (aka Captain Nemo's Castle).

62-63 (Floating Cities) first published in a Sunday Times supplement.


66-67 (first published in a Sunday Times supplement)

68-69 Anderson, Poul, The Trouble Twisters, Panther 0586028714, 1974 [or possibly a later edition?]

70 Smith, E. E. with Stephen Goldin, The Omicron Invasion (Family d'Alembert vol.9), Panther 058604342X, 1984 (aka Shooting Zero). Lower version from Chris Foss Net.

72 Smith, E. E. with Stephen Goldin, Planet of Treachery (Family d'Alembert vol.7), Granada 0586043403, 1981.

73 Lupoff, Richard A., Sun's End, Grafton 0586070982, 1987. Cropped in DSP. The lower version is from Chris Foss Net.

74-75 (Untitled). Lower image from Chris Foss Net.

76-77 Blue Space Wreck.

78 Smith, E. E. with Stephen Goldin, Revolt of the Galaxy (Family d'Alembert vol.10), Grafton 0586043438, 1985. Image from Chris Foss Net.

79 Smith, E. E., Second Stage Lensman, Panther 3846, 1973.

80-81 Asteroid Collision. Lower version from Chris Foss Net.

82 Heinlein, Robert A., Orphans of the Sky, Grafton, 1987.

88 Asimov, The Subatomic Monster, Grafton 0586058443, 1987 (aka Sub Atomic Monsters). Lower version from Chris Foss Net.

89 Campbell, John W., The Best of John W. Campbell, Sphere (aka Sub-Atomic Monsters II). Lower version from Chris Foss Net.

90-91 Vance, Jack, The Killing Machine, Grafton 0586073086, 1988. The DSP version, the lower of the two, is cropped.

92-93 (b/w)


96-97 Vance, Jack, Star King, Grafton 058602476X, 1988. The upper (DSP) version is cropped. The second version is from Chris Foss Net.

98-99 Atlantis 1. Image from Chris Foss Net.

100-101 (Fireball, 1989)

102 O'Donnell, Jr., Kevin, Ora:cle, Grafton 0586066772, 1986.

103 Asimov, Isaac, The Winds of Change, Panther 0586057439, 1984 [possibly also Granada h/c 0246119241, 1983]

104 Antares Dawn II ("originally painted as a poster" -- Chris Foss net); Cooper, Edmund, The Overman Culture, Coronet 0340178604, 1974.

105 Asimov, Isaac, The Caves of Steel, Granada 0835, 1985.

108 Asimov, Isaac, Robots and Empire, Granada 2367, 1985.

110 Wilson, Colin, Spider World: The Delta, Grafton

111 Asimov, Isaac, The Robots of Dawn, Grafton 2304, Feb 1984.

112-113 Wilson, Colin, Spider World: The Tower, Grafton 7288, 1988.

114 Blish, James, The Night Shapes, Arrow 918400, 1978.

115 Mahr, Kurt, Perry Rhodan 10: The Ghosts of Gol, Futura 7869, 1975. Lower image from Chris Foss Net.

116 Dick, Philip K., The Preserving Machine, Grafton 6938, 1987. Cropped for DSP. Lower image from Chris Foss Net.

117 (b/w)

118 (b/w)

119 Asimov, Isaac, Nine Tomorrows, Granada 0246125330, 1985 h/c.

120 Asimov, Isaac, Pebble in the Sky, Grafton 0586069526, 1986. [poss. also Grafton h/c 0246129190, 1986]

121 (Untitled). Image from Chris Foss Net.



126-127 The Probe. Lower version from Chris Foss Net.


132 Asimov, Isaac, The Complete Robot, Granada 1923, 1982 [h/c ?]

133 Smith, E. E. & Stephen Goldin, Eclipsing Binaries (D'Alembert vol. 8), Panther 4341, 1984.


135 Mace, David, Demon-4, Panther 0586058559, 1984.

136 Clarke, Arthur C., The Sentinel, Panther 6343, 1985.


139 Mace, David, Fire Lance, Grafton 6453, 1986. Lower version from Chris Foss Net.

140-141 Scheer, K. H. & Kurt Mahr, Perry Rhodan 1: Enterprise Stardust, Futura 7008, May 1974. Lower version, in which the image is reversed (and entitled First Spaceship on Quator), is from Chris Foss Net.



Unidentified Pieces found at Astrona blog
The following pictures I found here. I've no idea what books these relate to, so if you can identify any of the covers, please let me know.

McCollum, Michael, Antares Dawn, Grafton 0586205268, 1989.

Napoleon's Submarine, 1972

Plowright, Teresa, Dreams of an Unseen Planet, Grafton 0586209328, 1990 (aka Voyage to the Forbidden Planet)

Easter Island, 1988. Lower version is an alternate version from Chris Foss Net.

Asimov, Isaac, The Bicentennial Man, Panther 0586047255, 1978 (aka Gargantua).

Anthony, Piers, Ghost, Grafton 0586200401, 1988

Vance, Jack, The Book of Dreams, Grafton 0586200231, 1988 (aka Beyond the Hills of Peace)

Untitled (Breaker's Yard)

Smith, E. E. & Stephen Goldin, The Clockwork Traitor, Panther, 1977.

Untitled (Space Exhausts) (This is concept artwork for the unproduced Dune movie which appeared in 21st Century Foss)

Untitled (Fleeing Snow-Cat)

Gargantua, Untitled (Breaker's Yard), Clockwork Traitor and untitled (Fleeing Snow Cat) all originally appeared in Science Fiction Art, a poster portfolio of Foss's work published in 1976 by Hart-Davis MacGibbon with an introduction by Brian Aldiss. Two (Gargantua, Clockwork Traitor) were subsequently used as book covers; the other two were not.

(* All artwork
© Chris Foss.)


  1. I agree Robert Heinlein should still be on the shelves. I was a little - well, more than a little - surprised that no one brought out the original 'Starship Troopers' when the film was released.
    I've seen the Perry Rhodon covers.
    Harks back to a time when Sci-Fi and Fantasy books had great artistic covers.

  2. Thanks again, Steve, for sharing such a great collection. Your memories resonate with mine: I used to relish the inevitable bewilderment gleaned from venturing to the SF shelves in the local Preedies. Nowadays, a trip to Waterstones leaves me numb: just one 2inch thick black spine after another...

  3. Brilliant post. I got the Diary of a Spaceperson book in a second hand bookshop (long since closed down) and its one of my favourite books of all time.

    I remember several of Jack Vance's books used to have Foss covers.

    There is some good recent sci-fi out there like Ken Macleod, Stephen Baxter etc but the covers are generally just so dull. Bring back Foss et al to liven up the shelves and make you want to devour some sci-fi books again.

  4. Agreed Derek. The trouble with SF (and general) novel covers these days is what I call the Curse of Photoshop. There are far too many publishers keen to save costs / cut corners / reduce lead times by employing layout artworkers to stuff together some stock photography. The same thing has happened to movie posters. I bemoan the decline in proper illustration.

    Photoshop is an excellent tool abused by people who reckon it turns them into artists.

  5. Absolutely Ken, there are some brilliant digital artists out there too like Sparth or Stephan Martiniere who can actually draw great covers its just like you said, editors and art directors want to cut corners.

    plus there seems to be some embarrasment-by-proxy from book editors, I got this quote from author Brent Weeks from another blog referring to his editor and the choice of fantasy art "you want to pass the public transportation test: you want an adult to feel okay being seen reading your book"

    Personally I couldn't care less what some mongo on the train or tube thought of my choice of book!

  6. Great blog - really interesting, Steve. Decent artwork began to disappear decades ago - I remember seeing colleagues (now long gone unfortunately) with magnificently drawn and coloured posters in their teaching magazines but photos began to take over - not just partially but totally. Ladybird Books used to have wonderfully drawn pictures but those that still exist are a pale reflection.

  7. Gargantua is from the Asimov book The Bicentennial Man.

  8. *One* of the reasons that illustration featured so strongly in days of yore, especially in publications that educated children (Ladybird, encyclopedias etc.) is that bold paintings often reproduced better than colour photographs. Another reason is, well, take the example of depicting a Mongolian herdsmen with his yaks, it was easier to get an imaginative artist to illustrate that rather than go across and take a picture. Remember, burgeoning photo libraries did not exist.

    Fast forward to the 21st century, and we've gone too far the other way. Advertising, book covers, posters, and yes, Ladybird - where are the illustrators?

    There *is* still hope. Children's story books still feature imaginative work (Ross Collins, Adrian Reynolds et al), and higher quality newspapers and mags still carry illustrations to support lengthy editorial. Not enough, though, not enough.

  9. "Venice / La Towers" was used as a cover for the novel "Dayworld Rebel" and "Icebergs in Space" was used for David Pringle's "Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction".

    Thanks for a great blog, by the way - always worth reading!



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