Heretics, humanoids, & Hitler: The monstrously cool sci-fi & fantasy artwork of Rowena Morrill
10:50 am

The cover artwork by Rowena Morrill for the 1988 edition of Clifford D. Simak’s book ‘Project Pope.’
When Rowena Morrill scored her first book cover as an artist, the year was 1977, and she was one of a scant few women making a name for themselves in the male-dominated world of fantasy and science fiction art. According to the artist, her entrance into the world of fantasy illustration was a happy accident. After relocating to Philadelphia, Morrill found work in a local art gallery taking commissions for customers which mostly consisted of wildlife scenes. Later she would move to New York to work for an ad agency—a gig she detested, prompting her to seek a new job anywhere but there. Ace Books, the highly regarded and longest-running sci-fi publisher in the U.S. gave Morrill a job. The opportunity would result in her artwork appearing in or on over 400 books by authors like Philip K. Dick and Neil Gaiman’s hero R.A. Lafferty. Morrill’s work also appeared on the cover of National Lampoon, horror staple Creepy, Heavy Metal and was even swiped for the cover of an early demo by Metallica, Power Metal. The painting in question originally appeared on the cover of 1980 book Shadows Out Of Hell by Andrew J. Offutt. In a bizarre twist, the image would be one of two by Morrill discovered during the search and seizure of one of Saddam Hussein’s many lavish homes—in this case a tricked-out townhouse in a ritzy area of Baghdad in 2003 (images are at the bottom of this post).

Though news reports noted the paintings hanging on Saddam’s party palace walls were original works of art by Morrill, they were in fact copies, as Morrill had sold the two original paintings to a Japanese collector many years prior. When images from inside the townhouse hit the news, Hussein’s “taste” in artwork was widely mocked. A reporter for The Guardian referred to the paintings as “universal cultural gutter” and “pure dreck,” which is somewhat understandable given the fact that the copies are nowhere near as wonderful as Morrill’s originals. In fact, Morrill’s work has been rightly likened to that of her male counterparts and masters of the genre, Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo.

I’ve posted images of Morrill’s vast body of work below; some are NSFW. Morrill’s art has also been the subject of a few books, including one by Boris Vallejo’s first wife Doris Vallejo, The Art of Rowena (2000).

Artwork by Morrill for the cover of ‘Night Walk’ by Robert Shaw, 1978.

The magnificent artwork by Morrill for the 1977 book by Jane Parkhurst, ‘Isobel.’
More Morrill after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb
10:50 am
A Writer’s Life: Ray Bradbury on writing and the importance of the subconscious

‘A writer moves about, observing, seeing as much as he can, trying to guess how man will play the game,’ Ray Bradbury said in Story of a Writer, a documentary on his life and work from 1963.

‘Constantly measuring the way life is, against the way he feels it ought to be. He is a magnet passing through a factual world, taking from it what he needs.’

Bradbury was always generous with his advice and encouragement, always willing to explain his method of writing to those who wanted to know. Writing was like a love affair.

“You must write every single day of your life… You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads… may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”

Bradbury worked his apprenticeship as a writer in libraries, which he later described as places where:

...anything could happen there and always did. All you had to do was pull a book from the shelf and suddenly the darkness was not so dark anymore.

In the “The Importance of Being Startled,” the afterword to his final novel, Farewell Summer, Bradbury described the process by which he wrote:

The way I write my novels can best be described as imagining that I’m going into the kitchen to fry a couple of eggs and then find myself cooking up a banquet. Starting with very simple things, they then word-associate themselves with further things until I’m up and running and eager to find out the next surprise, the next hour, the next day or the next week.

Surprise is everything with me. When I go to bed at night I give myself instructions to startle myself when I wake in the morning.

As Bradbury explained in Story of a Writer, allowing the ‘subconscious time to think’ was essential.

‘The time we have alone; the time we have in walking; the time we have in riding a bicycle; are the most important times for a writer. Escaping from a typewriter is part of the creative process. You have to give your subconscious time to think. Real thinking always occurs on the subconscious level.

‘I never consciously set out to write a certain story. The idea must originate somewhere deep within me and push itself out in its own time. Usually, it begins with associations. Electricity. The sea. Life started in the sea. Could the miracle occur again? Could life take hold in another environment? An electro-mechanical environment?’

This was the kind of thinking that made Bradbury’s book so irresistible. Anything was possible with Bradbury. He had a joyous, child-like enthusiasm for life that infused his books, with a brilliance and pleasure, that makes them so very, very special.

“Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451.


Posted by Paul Gallagher
09:42 am
Ray Bradbury has died

Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Dandelion Wine, The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles, died yesterday, June 5th, at the age of 91. Bradbury was a colossus of modern fiction, writing everything form fantasy, science-, and speculative-fiction to comedy, crime and mystery. He wrote twenty-seven novels, several screenplays, most notably for John Huston’s film version of Moby Dick, as well as plays, and hundreds of classic short stories.

Bradbury was an immense talent, yet in the early part of his career, his success as a mass market “pulp” author often led critics to overlook the quality of his writing, and its seismic influence on others - his fiction formed the template for future speculative science-fiction and fantasy writers to follow. Bradbury had a beautiful, poetic and lyrical style of writing, most notable in Dandelion Wine, which made his authorial voice unmistakable.

Indeed the quality of Bradbury’s writing helped science-fiction out of the pulp ghetto into the hallowed groves of literature. Though most associated with that genre, Bradbury denied he was a science-fiction writer, instead claimed he was a fantasy writer whose work owed much to the traditions of classical literature:

“First of all, I don’t write science fiction. I’ve only done one science fiction book and that’s Fahrenheit 451, based on reality. It was named so to represent the temperature at which paper ignites. Science fiction is a depiction of the real. Fantasy is a depiction of the unreal. So Martian Chronicles is not science fiction, it’s fantasy. It couldn’t happen, you see? That’s the reason it’s going to be around a long time—because it’s a Greek myth, and myths have staying power.”

Born in Waukegan, Illinois on August 22, 1920, Bradbury grew up in small town America - a world of dusty roads, with few cars, and tarmac avenues with old trolley buses ploughing the metal rails along main street. He also once claimed, in a BBC documentary, that his memory and experience was the source for much of his writing, and said his memory stretched back to his earliest experiences as a baby, being breast-fed in his mother’s arms.

He grew up reading books and watching Flash Gordon serials at the local cinema, and monster movies with Boris Karloff, while following the adventures of heroes in the early garish comics that later went on to deliver Batman, Superman and Tales from the Crypt.

“Libraries raised me. I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years.”

Reading inspired his writing and Bradbury started his own fictions, eventually submitting short stories to pulp magazines in his teens - his first published story was “Hollerbochen’s Dilemma”, which appeared in the fanzine Imagination! in January, 1938. He received his first check of $15 for his story “Pendulum” (co-written with Henry Hasse) in 1941, when it was published in Super Science Stories. By 1942, he was able to have a career as a writer, writing stories for the various pulp magazines that were then available.

He progressed from stories to novels, with first big success being The Martian Chronicles, which was aided by a chance meeting with author Christopher Isherwood, who admired Bradbury’s work, and passed the book onto a critic who gave it a glowing review. From there, Bradbury had a career befitting the talents of such a great and marvelous man.

Bradbury’s influence has infused much of our cultural world - from films to comics, science to the imagined landscape of small town America, which is still very much as he described it in his fictions. Indeed, Bradbury’s vision of small town America was a precursor to Stephen King’s Castle Rock.

I greatly admire Bradbury’s work, and like everyone else grew-up reading his books, and regularly returned to them in my adult years. It seems as we grow older that all we reap is death, and this year has been a harsh harvest. Still, we should perhaps recall Bradbury’s line from Fahrenheit 451:

“Stuff your eyes with wonder. Live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made up or paid for in factories.”

R.I.P. Ray Bradbury 1920-2012.


Posted by Paul Gallagher
01:13 pm
Julie Newmar Asks: “What Turns You On?”
01:26 pm

Julie Newmar: Catwoman, Mayflower descendant, and now, it seems, collector of erotic fantasies.  Meow!

Who was your first turn on?
How old were you two, four, six?
What did he look like?
What was she doing exactly that stopped you dead in your tracks?
That secretly affirmed your romantic future, your love life, the person you married?

Sit down, write one page, re-inspire yourself.

Be part of an exciting book series I’m putting together.

Get to the keyboard and email: Julie Newmar

(Note to myself readers of Dangerous Minds: while Julie Newmar is OK with using Catwoman as “your object of desire,” she’d prefer your fantasy involve something more than claws, whips and leather.)  Ms. Newmar’s very first appearance in the role that came to define her follows below:

(via Julie Newmar)


Posted by Bradley Novicoff
01:26 pm