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Tuesday, 24 May 2011

The Swinging Sixties (1950-style)

One of the things that makes vintage science fiction so appealing is that, while it's supposed to be all about the future, it generally remains firmly rooted in the culture of the time and place it was written. On the face of it, the picture on the left is a case in point -- the heroine of a space opera supposedly set in the far future, yet looking for all the world like a groovy hippie chick of the 1960s.

The only problem is that the picture doesn’t date from the 1960s! It's from the November 1950 issue of Astounding Science Fiction magazine... one of the illustrations for James Schmitz's story "The Truth About Cushgar". And any groovy hippie chick who dressed like that in 1950 would have got very disapproving looks indeed! The 1960s feel extends to the drawing's distinctly "Art Nouveau" style -- which of course enjoyed a massive revival in the 60s, but was still old-fashioned "grandma's stuff" in 1950!

The drawing is signed by "K. Ward" who, if  the Internet Science Fiction Database is anything to go by, did very little other SF work -- illustrating just seven stories, all in Astounding between 1949 and 1951. Maybe he was a time-traveller, or some kind of clairvoyant who foresaw the future! Not all his illustrations are as 60s-looking as the one above, but the following one (also from "The Truth About Cushgar") clearly depicts some kind of psychedelic freak-out!

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