Emshwiller Infinity X Two: The Life and Art of Ed and Carol Emshwiller PDF Print E-mail

by Fred Patten

Here is another of my reviews from The Flipbook, dated April 10, 2007.

Author: Luis Ortiz
Publisher: Nonstop Press
ISBN; 10: 1-93306508-7
ISBN; 13: 978-1-93306508-3

I have been waiting for fifty years for this book. 

I started collecting science fiction as a teenager in the 1950s.  As s-f art consultant Alex Eisenstein says in his foreword, between 1951 and 1965 “Emsh” was one of the artists who visually defined American s-f.  His eye-catching covers and interior illustrations appeared on virtually every s-f magazine, and on many early paperback books.  Emsh tied with Hannes Bok for s-f fandom’s Hugo Award in the Best Artist category in 1953, the first year the award was presented, and he won it in 1960, 1961, 1962 and 1964.  

His disappearance (with some notable exceptions) from s-f art in 1965 was because he became more interested in experimental filmmaking.  Emshwiller Infinity X Two covers his career as a pioneer in independent cinematography which led to his becoming dean of the School of Film and Video at the California Institute of the Arts, a few years before his death from leukemia in 1990.

Emsh and Carol were married in 1949.  She began writing short stories in the mid-‘50s to participate with her husband in the social world of s-f authors, editors and publishers, but her style was too literary for the commercial s-f field.  It was not until the 1990s that she became a prestigious author of avant-garde and feminist fiction. 

Emshwiller Infinity X Two is a beautifully designed art book and biography.  It contains photographs throughout their lives (including many of Carol posing for Ed’s s-f art), the student art of both, Ed’s s-f paintings, and production materials from his films including significant frame sequences.  The book is printed on glossy thick paper so the art (on every page!) is sharply detailed.  56 of the 173 pages are in full color and most of Emsh’s s-f covers are concentrated there. 

The book is a detailed biography of the two Emshwillers, a comprehensive gallery of Ed Emsh’s commercial art (who knew that he also illustrated such men’s adventure magazine stories as “The Singapore Slut and the Sunken Treasure” and “Death Orgy of the Doomed Vice Queens”?), and a behind-the-scenes look at the s-f publishing industry and experimental filmmaking world of the late 20th century.  There are such revelations as that Emsh had often wanted to make his s-f art more modernistic and surrealistic -- it was his editors who insisted on realistic space scenes – and that the model for two 1950s s-f covers was a neighborhood boy, Bill Griffith, who grew up to become the creator of the Zippy the Pinhead newspaper comic strip.  This book presents the first full biography and art collection of a major s-f artist.

Last Updated ( Monday, 12 September 2011 )
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