Next Issue: Frank Wu Cover

Quite some time ago, Frank Wu, that fun guy who also happens to be a multi-Hugo-and-other-awards winning artist and the curator of the Frank R. Paul online gallery (which plays a big part in what is to follow) was asked to design a cover for the first new issue of Amazing Stories.

The objective was to create an homage to Frank R. Paul’s original, April, 1926, Volume 1, Number 1 issue of Amazing Stories, but also to make it uniquely Frank.  Wu that is.

What you see below is the result of equal parts Frank Wu’s vision, his love of Paul’s work and his deep and abiding knowledge of what makes fans tick visually.  There’s plenty in there to take a look at – and think about.

The illustration that will grace the cover of Amazing Stories Vol. 75, Issue 1, Whole Number 610.
The illustration that will grace the cover of Amazing Stories Vol. 75, Issue 1, Whole Number 610.

And here, for comparison, are Frank’s cover next to Frank’s cover:

frank and frank

Frank also enclosed a few words about his motivations and goals with the drawing – both initially upon completion of the image and later, upon the beginning of the beta test for the website – which are included here:

I was very excited when Steve Davidson asked me to do a remake of the first “Amazing” cover for his relaunch of this venerable magazine.

That cover, from April 1926, was the first of 38 consecutive “Amazing” covers by Frank R. Paul (until his buddy, editor Hugo Gernsback, lost control of the magazine). FRP is a personal hero of mine. He was the first great pulp science fiction artist, and the only Guest of Honor at the first World Science Fiction Convention. He was the first man to ever make a living drawing spaceships (how cool is that?). His visions of spaceships, robots and aliens inspire me to this day. And as the curator of the online FRP archive [ ] , I was asked to help induct him into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2009. Whatever I am as an artist, I attribute partly to the inspiration of Frank R. Paul.

That first FRP “Amazing” cover is truly bizarre. Sure, I can accept humans skating on a frozen planet orbiting another, Saturn-like world. I say “planet” because the horizon is too flat and gravity too high for it to be a small moon. And I say “Saturn-like” because Saturn doesn’t have bright red and yellow stripes. (And FRP was a stickler for details, as he lovingly recreated the Great Red Spot and turbulent banding of Jupiter for the November 1928 “Amazing” cover.)

But the weirdest part of this cover is the ships. Not rocketships, not flying saucers, just sailing ships. Did our holiday-makers (they aren’t dressed as explorers) sail the interplanetary phlogiston? And what of the ice pillars? Did they rise up under the ships (like those weird rocks at the end of “Star Trek III”?) Or did the ships act as seed crystals, only for the oceans to evaporate around them and re-freeze at a lower level?

In my remake, I kept the Saturnian planet and ice skaters (but I made them dinosaurs because, well, dinosaurs.) The eagle-eyed viewer might also spot the cameo of Guidolon the Giant Space Chicken ice-dancing with Holiday from my wife Brianna and my upcoming videogame “Revolution 60”. You might also notice that the dinos are blissfully ignorant of the giant laser tank battle, mistaking for snow the flecks of metallic debris and shrapnel raining down on them.

This last detail is important because I wanted to slip in a sekrit message (something that FRP would never have done – sorry).

You may see ice-skating dinos and a giant laser tank, but this piece is really about the Afghan war, now with over 2000 American dead (to say nothing of the countless Afghan and allied casualties). Even as it enters its twelfth year, no one seems to care. I can’t remember the last casual conversation I had about this war. Contrast that with Viet Nam. What is going on here? Why doesn’t anyone care?

Frank updates his original statement:

What you just read about the Afghan war I wrote three months ago (a magazine launch like this can have a loong lead time!). Back then, before the 2012 election, there was talk of ending the war, maybe, in two years, possibly with American troops staying indefinitely (the way we are still in Korea, 60 years after that war). But now, just a few days ago, Obama announced that he was speeding up the timetable. The combat role for U.S. troops is ending, and they are shifting to supporting and advising the Afghans. And shortly they will be coming home in numbers, with possibly no troops staying after the war ends. None at all. For the soldiers’ families, for both nations, for the sake of our economy and world peace, I hope, I hope. I hope my words will become outdated again – and soon.

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