Thursday, July 02, 2015

Extraterrestrial Encounters of the Literary Kind

I miss good used book stores. Not the shops that tear half of the covers off or only carry titles  that no one ever purchased in the first place (after all we still have the Dollar Store for those), but stores that sold previously read (and loved) books that were unusual or long out of print. I recently came across some books that had been purchased at a long closed used book store in my neighborhood, the Brown Bag Bookshop. They would carry all genres of unique and hard-to-find titles, some that were of great (intellectual) value. Among those books was one that may may prove very valuable in the alien-invasion-end-days-to-come, Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials: Great Aliens from Science Fiction Literature.

Illustrated by Wayne Douglas Barlow ("the John James Audubon of otherworld creatures," or so the inside cover announces) and written by Ian Summers and Beth Meacham, Barlowe's Guide a comprehensive text and image of fifty alien creatures and worlds from science fiction literature. Drawing from the witting of prominent sci-fi authors such as Alan Dean Foster  and Ursula  K. LeGuin, the trio have crafted a beautiful collection of detailed illustrations and biographical info for a variety of literary alien species. With all the information one would find in a traditional field guide, including a gate-fold "Comparative Size Chart," this collection is a fantastic resource for fans of sci-fi literature as the drawings are based on the source documents from which they spring.

Sadly, this copy had been on my shelf during the time I actually read (or re-read) a number of the novels referenced within, and in some cases the visual would have helped by early comprehension. In other cases, the artist's visual interpretation based on his reading of the boo or story varied from my own, but it was interesting to consider just why that may have been. Looking back, there is a pretty huge spoiler for one of the novel's on the cover which I am glad not to have seen before reaching that point in my reading.With so many class pieces of science-fiction literature represented, and iconic creatures, it was a challenge to choose only of a select few favorites to share here.

Barlowe's Guide, page 68.
Barlowe's Guide, page 70.
Barlowe's Guide, page 98.

Published in 1979 by Workman Publishing, the copy I bought was only $8 in beautiful condition only six or seven years ago. A quick search online reveals that there are quite a few copies of this classic book available at the usual places, for not very much money at all, and many of the images can now be seen on the Interwebs, and a more detailed listing of the species included (along with source documents) within are viewable at it's Wikipedia entry.

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