Thursday, November 7, 2013

Space Wars, Worlds and Weapons by Steven Eisler

I received this 1979 book, a collection of SF illustrations, as a kid and I adored it. I would spend long hours looking at the glossy color reproductions of illustrations by various artists. I would even try to concoct in my mind a cohesive narrative linking the paintings and diagrams of space ships, aliens, and monsters by different hands in disparate styles.

The text of the book is SF criticism by Eisler.  In the pre-internet age this was valuable information for me; it was in this book that I first learned of Moorcock’s Elric, Harrison’s Deathworld, and E.E. Doc Smith’s Lensmen.   Eisler opines about many of the SF greats, Asimov, Heinlein, Van Vogt, Wells, Sturgeon, etc.  I can’t say I agree with all of his opinions. 
Puzzlingly, the captions to the illustrations on every page do not provide information about the artist or books they first adorned.  Instead, we are supposed to pretend this book of SF illustration is a history book from the future, and the pictures are photos of equipment and personages from various alien cultures and future wars.  Sometimes the captions are bizarre jokes – a painting of a stocky man in a space suit, we are told, is a still from “Archie Bunker Goes to the Stars,” the “24th century vidshow.”

This is a great book to own; the pictures are mostly quite good, the captions strange, and Eisler’s criticism interesting.  Recommended.


  1. God, I loved this book. I was 8 years old when it came out, and I loved the caption conceit (once I understood what they were doing there!) This, Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials, and DiFate's Catalog of Science Fiction Hardware were prized possessions on my bookshelf.

    1. I've never seen DiFate's Catalog of Science Fiction Hardware; I'll have to keep my eyes open for it.

  2. I am reading this today! I've had this book in my collection for many years now, and until I found , it was my primary source for SF inspiration.