The science fiction book art of Richard Powers

Hedonia has a short biography and art gallery of prolific illustrator Richard Powers, whose style defined the look of science fiction paperbacks in the 1950s and 1960s.

Picture 7-33

Ian Ballantine was the first publisher to recognize [Richard] Powers' genius. Ballantine engaged him in 1953 to do the now famous paperback edition of Arthur C. Clark's Childhood's End. While never a great fan of science fiction, Powers nonetheless found endless inspiration in this genre, and single-handedly revolutionized science fiction illustration. Until then, science fiction illustration had consisted mostly of conceivably realistic representations of alien worlds, but Powers unleashed subconscious imagery that explored the endless possibilities of speculative fiction. Over the course of his almost 50-year career as a science fiction illustrator, he produced an estimated 1,400 illustrations.

Contrary to what one would expect from such a seemingly visionary artist, Powers was also a writer of children's books and a keen sportsman, playing semi-pro baseball until a potentially career threatening hand injury forced him to change to become a highly competitive tennis player. His quick temper was evidenced in his poor sportsmanlike behavior on the court when he would lose -- presaging such tennis bad-boys as John McEnroe. One person in particular who incited his wrath was Richard M. Nixon. His son wrote that, "He loathed Nixon as soon as he learned he existed."

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