Tuesday, May 24, 2016

21st Century Foss

21st Century Foss (1978) is a collection of artwork from acclaimed artist and science fiction Illustrator Chriss Foss.

My own copy of 21st Century Foss

Ehrm, let me say like this: If you have picked up a sci-fi novel somewhere, written by a genre heavy weight like Isaac Asimov (or lighter stuff like the UK versions of Perry Rhodan ) and with a cover as colorful as a Australian dollar bill....then Chriss Foss probably made that cover.

Foss` artowork for the Foundation series.

The UK version of Perry Rhodan with cover from Foss.
Alejandro Jodorovsky  managed to get Foss on his team for the (failed) filmatization of DUNE for concepts of vehicles, spacecraft and whole worlds.

The mad emperors artificial palace (DUNE)
The movie was never made, but Foss` brilliant artwork and visions of how the DUNE universe should have looked like still live on in this book.

Spice freighter.
After (Jodorwsky`s) DUNE, Foss went on making concepts for the first Superman movie and also the movie Alien.

Jodorowsky on Foss:
"Dune had to be made. But what kind of spaceships to use? Certainly not the degenerate and cold offspring of present day. American automobiles and submarines, the very antithesis of art, usually seen in science fiction films, including 2001. No! I wanted magical entities, vibrating vehicles, like fish that swim and have their being in the mythological deeps of the surrounding ocean.The "galactic" ships of North American technocracy are a mouse-gray insult to the diving, therefore delirious, chaos of the universe. I wanted jewels, machine-animals, soul-mechanisms. Sublime as snow crystals, myriad-faceted fly eyes, butterfly pinions. Not giant refrigerators, transistorized and riveted hulk; bloated with imperialism, pillage, arrogance and eunuchoid science. (WHAT?!)"

Phew....big mouthful huh?

But he (Jodorowsky)  goes on:
"I affirm that next to the soul the most beautiful object in the galaxy is a spaceship! We all dreamed of womb-shops, antechambers for rebirth into other dimensions, we dreamed of whore-ships driven by the semen of our passionate ejaculations. The invincible and castrating rocket carrying our vengeance to the icy heart of a treacherous sun, humming-bird ornithopters which fly us to sip the ancient nectar of the dwarf stars giving us the juice of eternity. YES! But far more than that: angielic splendor! We dreamed of caterpillar-tracked hot rods so vast that their tails would disappear behind the horizon!"

Oh wow....

But yes, Foss` art is that great...and I keep finding more and more details over the 25 years I own this book.

Monday, May 16, 2016


"Khartoum" (1966)  is number 2 on my list of "going native" movies.

During the Mahdist War (1881-1899) in Sudan,  a British lead Egyptian army gets destroyed by the troops of the "Mahdi", a Muslim religious leader.

The British Government is reluctant to get involved in a military adventure in Sudan but have commitments to the Egyptian citizens living in Khartoum.

They send General "Chinese" Gordon, who had a hero status due to his fight against the slave trade, to arrange the evacuation of the Egyptian citizens. 

Arriving in Khartoum, Gordon evacuates most Egyptian citizens but refuses to leave himself hoping that this will force the British Government to commit troops to save the besieged city against the Mahdis troops.

A really fantastic movie, I always had a weakness for movies taking place in that time and place.

Sunday, May 15, 2016


 Reed books, softcover 1978. Cover painting Sentry Biot by Jim Burns
  "In MECHANISMO the future has come. In MECHANISMO intergalactic space travel has arrived, biotic robots are a thing of the present, space ports to service the stars and planets are real, space cities are inhabited, fantastic machines, time machines, battle robots and massive computers exist here and now. 
In MECHANISMO you can see a gaussi fighter in full colour and then as an engineer's technical drawing with the armaments, drive power and all specifications given in great detail. Here you will discover the most startling machines illustrated specially for the book: troop carriers, personnel craft, giant time machines, a computer that would fill an entire city and cities built in the image of man, visited by alien races. You will see too the technical drawings for an actual planned NASA space colony, twenty five miles long and two miles in diameter. 
In MECHANISMO you become part of the future and can live through the illustrations in worlds that may one day exist."

That awkward moment when you discover that your collection of rare books and comics has risen more in value than your (audience laughs) pension portfolio.

"Mechanismo" (1978) is a collection of artwork, by several artists, related to known sci-fi stories....and for a great part: Drawings of sci-fi stories that never have been written. The latter are brilliant examples of artwork with captions  more than hinting that they are part of an existing sci-fi universe....and that those stories probably are going to be the best you ever read!

Unfortunately this is not the case and I have been frustrated because of that ever since.

If anyone ever decides to actually write "Gaussi" novels....I shall guild his poo!

My precious.
Front cover by Jim Burns
A good example of the made-up (!) Gaussi universe.
Picture by Jim Burns
by Angus McKie
Plan printout of Gaussi Fighter "Little Nell"
(same as on front cover)
by Brian Lewis
by Bob Layzell.
by Bob Layzell.

by Colin Hay

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Perry Rhodan

This might come as a shock for most: But the worlds largest Sci-Fi series is....German.

This Space Opera is called after its main protagonist (Perry Rhodan) and  has been churned out weekly since 1961, with almost 3000 installments to date.

Not a bad feat, even though the books....rather booklets....only have 68-70 pages

All serious sci-fi buffs refuse to ever have read it, but they would not print that stuff in unprecedented large numbers if not someone would read it....including me. (Yeah, I speak German)

It is a guilty pleasure, the army of writers working on this series did not miss out on any cliche or popular topic in the sci fi genre and sometimes the plots are toe curling...especially when you read the early editions:

A room full of Germans with military background (one nicked "Handgranaten-Herbert") in the early 60ies,  writing science fiction can be a scary thing....

Military background?

At least that could be extrapolated from the "strict"  commando tone in the earlier novels, with the protagonists escalating conflict after conflict, while pilfering any higher technology to support their jolly colonization raid. 

And to top it off: They have not been afraid to include ANY pseudo-science theory regarding aliens, ancient civilizations, "higher" beings etc etc which have been immensely popular in Germany in the 60-80ies thanks to Erich von Däniken

The story starts in 1971 with the first manned moon landing by US Space Force Major Perry Rhodan and his crew.

The stumble over a 500 m large, stranded space ship from the planet "Arkon" with a bunch of decadent aliens on board. What can I say? They use the technology and know-how from that space ship and the two survivors (after the Americans blew the star ship up in a second moon mission)  to "uplift" the entire human race.

From here it goes uphill: They build a "Solar Empire", gain immortality (very early in the series when the publishing house found out the series was a goldmine) granted by a "higher being"........

Yes, it is that bad.

But also weirdly addictive. I have been consuming ("reading" has nothing to do with it)  a LOT of PR novels and stopped doing so when I grew out of it. 

Until the series got rebooted with the plot taking of in the early 2030. It is called "Perry Rhodan NEO" and is running parallel to the old series. I kind of enjoy the stale taste of the 60ies gone and am (secretly) enjoying the stories as audio books.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Mountains Of The Moon

I don`t understand why they don`t show this movie on TV every week...

"Mountains Of The Moon" (1990) is the story of the explorers Richard Francis Burton and John Hanning Speke seeking the source of the Nile in the 1850s.

One of my favorite scenes: The epic battle at the beach

The title , Mountains Of The Moon, refers to a legendary mountain (range) in east Africa at the source of the Nile. A Greek merchant, Diogenes, claimed to have found that source. He reported that the Niles water was flowing from massive mountains into a series of large lakes (and on)  and that the locals called the mountains "Mountains Of The Moon" because of their glacier-caps

The Greek, and later the Romans, thought this was true and in modern times several European explorers tried to identify those mountains.

Anyway, the MOVIE "Mountains of the Moon" is based on the biographical Novel "Burton and Speke" (1982) by William Harrison.

(A book I still need to read..or listen to as Audio book, what- or whichever comes first.)

I love this movie: The description of the two very different characters, who have very few things in common except their upper class upbringing in Victorian Britain and their military background is brilliant.....but....what really takes me away is are the pictures, the settings and the soundtrack.

It is hard for me to watch this movie without catching travel fever.

I wish I had seen this film in cinema...where it belongs!

Here is the trailer;

Director: Bob Rafelson

Richard Francis Burton: Patrick Bergin

Iain Glen: John Hanning Speke

Richard E. Grant: Larry Oliphant

Fiona Shaw: Isabel Arundell (Mrs Burton as from 1861)

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Until The End Of The World

The world is about to end but no one seems to care...

(Personal opinion ahead)

Until The End Of The World is probably one of the best movies/mini-series ever made. It combines several genres with a strong cyberpunky, underlying Science Fiction theme as the main denominator.

To be fair: The mix of genres is sometimes successful and sometimes it is not. The vaudevillian slapstick in a Japanese "shoe box" hotel is toe curlingly bad...but I love this movie because of its ability to induce "wanderlust" in pretty much everybody seeing it in its 3 parts.

The movie follows  protagonist Claire around the world, as she tracks down a man she has helped escape from an aboriginal bounty hunter in France and who is carrying a camera "that can make pictures blind people can see".

She meets and befriends a lot of colorful figures on hear way, including but not limited to two Buddhist bank robbers,  who cause her car to crash in high plateau of the Lozere by accidentally throwing a beer bottle at her.

The movie culminates in the outback of Australia as the paths of pretty much everyone Claire meets on her journey cross....and the world finally comes to an end: And nobody seems to care as they arrange their lives and egos in a secret research facility in an aboriginal reservation. 

The movie has a lot of involuntary funny moments because of the tech, fashion and social structures predicted by a 1991 film instructor imagining a 1999.