Cover Notes by Frank Wu
Steve Davidson asked me to do the cover for the re-launch of Amazing Stories. Whoopee!
AMZ was the first magazine dedicated to science fiction, and my hero Frank R. Paul did all the covers for the first few years. This meant that the first SF images ever seen by the likes of Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clarke and Forry Ackerman were FRP covers.
And what visions they were! HG Wells’ Martian war machines! Rockets to Jupiter! Robots fighting lions! Submarines fighting pterodactyls! At a time when most Americans didn’t even have a telephone, FRP was painting spaceships zooming across the galaxy!
And so my cover would be a tribute to FRP’s first cover for the first SF magazine. His painting, reproduced here, is frankly INSANE. OK, sure, people iceskating on some distant world orbiting a planet that sort of but doesn’t quite look like Saturn (the color is wrong and banding too pronounced). But the weirdest thing? There are sailing ships high on ice spires. Did these astro-Shackletons get to this world… on sailing ships? Floating on interplanetary phlogiston? And how did the ships get onto the pillars? Did unseen Frost Giants put them there?
Notably, the brushwork seems a little rough. This is because Gernsback saw an unfinished draft of the painting and liked it so much, he published it as is. FRP never got a chance to complete it.
So that became my job.
I decided that, if FRP had had a little more time, he would have replaced the boring people with dinosaurs. Ice-skating dinosaurs. Because, why not.
Also, you may notice that I stuck in a cameo of my giant space chicken Guidolon ice-dancing with my wife Brianna’s creation, Holiday from “Revolution 60”. So there’s tiny tribute to love in there, too.
And I replaced the sailing ships with a giant laser tank.
FRP loved stuff that blows up – though, curiously, the first AMZ cover was one of his few pieces without an explosion. So I corrected that. And FRP loved tanks and giant guns, so there you go.
I did do something, though, that as far as I know, FRP never did.
(Now we get real.)
I made a political statement.
The piece is really about the war in Afghanistan.
As I was finishing this up, we crossed over the 12-year mark (making this America’s longest war). 2000 Americans dead, plus untold Afghans, allies and others. And more soldiers coming home every day with PTSD and moral injuries.
During Viet Nam, there were daily protests and marches, a stream of songs, rallies and movies about the war. And during Afghanistan? Not so much.
Most Americans just go about their regular business – iceskating blissfully, if you will – while the war rages and people are dying unseen in the background.
Because, well, why can’t we have a giant laser tank and a hidden political message, too?