Likhain’s Artist Guest of Honour Speech at Continuum 13

Likhain’s artwork above was used by Continuum 13 on t-shirts and the programme book.

[Editor’s introduction: Likhain is a Filipina artist and writer from Manila who now lives in rural Australia with her partner. And she is a 2017 Hugo nominee for Best Fan Artist. The guest of honor speech she gave this weekend at the Australian National Convention is posted here by permission.]

Thank you all for coming; I’m privileged to be here before you today. To begin I would like to acknowledge the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation, the traditional custodians and caretakers of the land on which we meet, and to pay my respect to all elders past and present.

Today I’d like to tell you three stories, in the hopes that they speak to you. And this is the first story:

I was sixteen when I learned that I was born to be a villain.

At this point I was a voracious reader of fantasy and science fiction; I’d been scolded several times in class for reading David Eddings instead of taking notes; I’d done the whole “hide novel inside larger textbook” thing. And I was very happy; I had epic stories and interesting characters and amazing worlds to explore. I did not feel any sort of lack.

This began to change on my third — maybe fourth — reread of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I was deep in the third book, I think, reading about the histories of Numenor, with Tolkien’s sonorous phrasing resonating in my mind; these fair and grave lords of men, tall and gray-eyed; the fair elves, with their flawless faces and graceful ways; and my two favorite characters, both surpassingly fair, Eowyn the White Lady of Rohan and Arwen Undomiel the Evenstar.

That time I paused and was struck with the realization that there was no way I could ever be like any of them — not the Numenoreans or elves, not Eowyn or Arwen. I was not one of those who could have joined the Fellowship, or who could have fought with Rohan or Gondor’s armies.

I was on the other side. I was an Easterling. Or I was a Southron, one of the Haradrim. One of the bad guys. The barbarians. One of the nameless, faceless villains in their dark hordes.

It is not only that I was not fair. This went deeper than skin, because it was tied to history, to sociopolitics, to where my country was situated in relation to the rest of the world. To cultural imperialism and language and who got to write stories that would be published and read all over the world. Who got to speak; who got to be heard.

In the books I read, it never was me. I was never one of the heroes. At best I was a sidekick, but most of the time I was an exotic slave or part of the armies of evil. I belonged to the countries that were far away and thus didn’t matter; to places that were uncomprehended and therefore savage and hostile, to cultures defined solely by the oppression or brutality of their people.

I did not stop reading fantasy at this point. I read on, even when Daenerys Targaryen emerged to conquer the lands of Essos and that image of her, pale and silver-haired, elevated above a sea of brown bodies, burned itself into my brain. I tried to believe that these things were coincidences, like my white friends assured me. That they meant nothing to me in the real world. I knew this to be a lie, but I swallowed it so I could keep reading the kinds of books I loved.

I’ll tell you now what it felt like. It was being a beggar outside a feast, nose pressed against the glass, imagining what it must be like to gorge oneself on all that delicious food. It was hunger that would never go away.

It was acceptance that this was how the white West saw me and people like me. It was a sort of cognizance that this was the way that literature, and indeed the rest of the world, worked. And it was, in the end, a kind of resignation. Yes, I was a beggar, but better to be on the outskirts of the feast than to never know that such food existed at all.

Why am I telling you this? I want you to see where I’m coming from. That for me — and for many others — being part of fandom, loving stories of fantasy and science fiction and horror and all the marvelous genres in between, is not a neutral or bloodless act. That this comes with a price more than time or opportunity or money. That some of us pay this price more often or more painfully than others, not by choice but by necessity.

Stories can cause such harm they make one hate one’s skin and people and history; they can justify one’s cruelty to oneself and one’s fellows because you’re all less human, anyway. They can say, with a terrible finality, no. You cannot aspire to respect or dignity, much less heroism. You cannot do great things.

 

My second story is this: I was twenty-four when I learned that my people understood beauty.

I knew very little about my country’s history before the colonizers came. The Philippines was colonized by Spain for three centuries, and during that time the Spanish sought to scour all traces of pre-existing culture from my country. They did a thorough job of it; not much survived, and of what was left most people know very little.

So my history only glanced briefly at what came before the Spanish colonial period. What came before was murky and dark. I have encountered something like that here; the untruth, embedded in so many structures, of terra nullius, where nothing existed before settlers came to birth Australia from this land’s unwilling womb. It’s a prevalent story, and one that’s easy to sell; we started with nothing, we brought civilization here and built this country from the ground up. Look at this arrow of progress.

Because I knew little I grew up with the subconscious belief — and I say subconscious because if you had asked me I would have denied it, for all that it clung to my spine — that my ancestors were primitive savages who knew nothing of literature, or music, or art. That our conquerors had elevated us to a civilized state in exchange for our land, our freedom, and our blood.

Then I went with my partner to an exhibit at Ayala Museum in the Philippines called “Gold of Ancestors”. It featured gold pieces from pre-Hispanic times that had been excavated from all over the Philippines, and it blew everything wide open.

Have you ever stood in the middle of a museum floor, hands pressed to your face, trying not to weep aloud? I have. My assumptions of primitive savagery shattered all around me; the depth of my ignorance hit me like a blow. How could I have thought that my ancestors had no imagination or skill? That they had no artistry or the faintest concept of beauty? How could I have bought into the terrible idea that they were savage? How could I have believed that before, there was nothing? In that exhibit I saw jewelry from the 14th century that was so intricately detailed I couldn’t imagine how anyone could have done it by hand. And yet my people had.

This was where my art truly began. Until this moment I worked on ink drawings inspired by Japanese kimono textiles and Baroque and Rococo styles, heavily flavored with the fairy tale aesthetic of illustrators like Arthur Rackham. I did my art that way because this is what I admired and knew, while being conscious that it wasn’t fully mine. It didn’t emerge out of my roots or history; but that was understood because my culture didn’t have anything of our own that wasn’t externally imposed.

But this– this was something that belonged fully to me and to which I belonged fully. This, too, was a story, because everything in that exhibit was part of a narrative that spoke of artistry where I thought I’d find clumsy handiwork; glorious existence where I’d only known void. This was a story that gave me a foundation I could build upon.

And so I did.

Stories can also heal us. They can close up gaping wounds we don’t even know we bear. They can lift us up and say, Yes. Move forward. Through stories we can reclaim histories that have been stolen from us, even if the theft happened centuries ago. And through that reclamation we can begin to confront the trauma of generations of war and colonization and say: yes, we’ve inherited all this darkness. But we’ve inherited light, too.

 

My third story is not actually a single story, but a multitude of stories. And so I can only tell you about a few of them, and you can discover the others on your own.

Because my third telling is one about stories of revolution. In my country’s history our revolutions have been fueled by stories; I think all momentous changes are, but especially uprisings against entrenched power. Because how can you persuade people to fight against the current balance of power, if not by telling them a story? That the world doesn’t have to be this way; that the world can change.

Towards the end of the Spanish colonial period in the Philippines, two people told two stories. One, the artist Juan Luna, painted Spoliarium, which won the highest honor in the Madrid Exposition of 1884. This story told people that Filipinos — indios, barbarians, who didn’t know how to create anything before their colonial masters came to their land — were capable of art that surpassed their colonizers.

The second, the polymath Jose Rizal, wrote two novels: Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. Rizal was killed for these novels; these stories so inflamed Filipinos and so angered Spanish authorities that their author faced execution by firing squad. When I first read these books I was a grumpy high schooler who didn’t see why these books were so incendiary. (Spoiler alert, except it’s not really a spoiler because there are no good endings in Philippine colonial history–) They both end badly, with the Filipino heroes either dying, being defeated, or being imprisoned in a tortuous rapehouse. The second book does involve an attempt at a revolution, but it fails horribly.

I grew to understand, though, that succeeding in the fictional revolution wasn’t the point. The point was that Rizal held up a mirror to the Philippines of his time, and showed people their true faces. He showed the greed and cruelty of the Spanish friars; he showed the arrogance of the Spanish ruling class; he showed the indifference and incompetence of officials both in the government and in the academe; he showed the injustice of the systems of society, damned if you do and damned if you don’t, you’ll be crushed under the machine; he showed the thousand slow deaths — by madness, by starvation, by bullets, by imprisonment, by suicide — that countless Filipinos died under Spanish rule. He showed the sheer impossibility of continuing to live in that world.

This is why this story fanned the flames of revolution. This story told people the truth, and the sheer force of this truth drove people to act. If this is the world we live in, I will fight until this world changes.

For isn’t that the power of stories, at their core? They change worlds. We’re all here because we recognize that. We have all been transformed and shaped and molded by stories. Stories have saved us. They have made us laugh and weep; they have moved us to the depths of our being; they have driven us to make difficult choices and they have fortified us through our darkest times. For many of us, they have affirmed our existence and our right to live. We here are all children of stories.

And we hold on to this — now, more than ever. These are terrible times for so many people all around the world. In my country over seven thousand people have been killed in the past nine months, all in the name of a war on drugs. You don’t need me to tell you about how terrible Australia is right now for so many, especially refugees, Indigenous people, and homeless people; or the wars and killings and terrorism attacks all over the world, with countless people forced to flee for their lives, or having to try to fight politicians who are determined to legislate them to their deaths.

And it’s hard to think about what we can do in the face of so much darkness and horror. But we can act. For this is the world we live in — fight until it changes.

We can take back the stories. Refute the narrative of hatred and despair. In our actions, in our speech, in our connections with others — we can write our own stories. We can overwrite xenophobia and racism with the truer story, that is compassion and a shared humanity. We can shout back at the blaring tale of hateful patriarchy with our defiant resolve to own our agency. We can drown out bigotry and the countless false stories that seek to divide us from each other with our collective story, that stitched together tale-within-a-tale of a community whose members believe that we are not free until we are all free. We can speak up and speak out for the stories stifled by oppressive structures and imbalances of power; we can say these stories have a right to be heard. We can tell, in our daily lives, the story of the person who planted themselves like a tree by the river of truth and told the overwhelming tide of falseness, “No, you move.”

And going back to my first story — in our fannish space, as creators and fans, we can change the stories that populate our shared worlds of imagination so that they stop exacting such a toll on people’s lives and hearts and do not perpetuate further harm. We can support and nourish stories of reclamation, as with the gold exhibit: to bring people who have been severed from their cultures back to themselves; to center those who have long been shunted off to the margins; to give people who have long been boxed in by toxic narratives the space and freedom to live full lives instead of stereotypes. We can make more space for stories that say: yes! Go and live. Your life matters.

This isn’t about political correctness or diversity quotas or agendas. This is about justice. Because we live in an unjust world, where only certain people are allowed to tell stories — are allowed to even have stories. Shouldn’t we change that? Shouldn’t everyone be given the chance to believe that they, too, can do great things; that they, too, exist, that they matter?

We know how powerful stories can be. We’ve seen the difference they can make, revealing us to ourselves so that we may act upon those illuminated truths. I ask that we fight, we children of story, to change the stories within us and without us. In our homes and communities and societies and in the quiet spaces of our bodies. We cannot let our stories, these stories of our identities and our histories and our roots, fall silent. Silence is death, and stories support and undergird life.

I’m going to end with a surprise fourth story. This is not mine; it’s by Italo Calvino, towards the end of his beautiful book Invisible Cities, where Kublai Khan is speaking out of despair:

Already the Great Khan was leafing through his atlas, over the maps of the cities that menace in nightmares and maledictions…

He said: “It is all useless, if the last landing place can only be the infernal city, and it is there that, in ever-narrowing circles, the current is drawing us.”

And Polo said: “The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.”

That is the core of our work going forward: make them endure, give them space. Hold fast. Uplift our true stories.

Thank you for your time. Maraming salamat po. Mabuhay tayong lahat.

Pasadena Memorial Day Ceremony

By John King Tarpinian: Today was the dedication of the statue created by Christopher Slatoff, known by us as the man who created the Father Electrico bronze inspired by Ray Bradbury.

Here is a close-up of some details of the statute: Razor blade, bullet, matches, and Legos. Baseball not pictured.

This morning was also the annual fly-over of the San Gabriel Valley by WW2 aircraft. This photo was taken looking towards the Pasadena Elks Lodge, with the Rose Bowl being to the left.

Villafranca Comments on Winning WFA Design Competition

Vincent Villafranca reacted to the news that his World Fantasy Award design has won the competition and shared some insights about the imagery he used:

I am thrilled to have had my design selected to be the new World Fantasy Award. This design relies heavily upon the majesty surrounding trees. I have always viewed trees as being magical, mysterious and oftentimes macabre. They have spurred human imagination for millennia and continue to do so. I live in a rural area in north Texas and am surrounded by numerous ancient oaks. I have always felt that the trees are full of stories. Many of the older oaks have witnessed sweeping changes brought on by humans and extreme weather events brought on by nature.

It was my intention to leave the design open-ended so that it could be interpreted by the viewer. However, one personal view of the design that I would like to share is that the tree represents the story written on paper, and it is being depicted as grasping the mind of the reader, which is represented by the disc. The sculpture can be seen in many ways, but what remains constant is that trees are intrinsically powerful and magnificent.

The artist is already hard at work doing all the bronze-casting/welding involved in making the awards.

The Art of Plasma at Museum of Neon Art

By John King Tarpinian: Today I paid a visit to one of my favorite museums, The Museum of Neon Art.   The current exhibition features plasma, not the stuff you get in the ER but of the ionized gas variety.  I have zero artistic abilities but I do appreciate anybody who can draw a straight line without a ruler, something I cannot do.  Went with a friend who works for Disney, so she could really appreciate what was being created.  I highly recommend paying the museum a visit.  This current one is on display thru July.

That Riverside Whelan Exhibit

By John Hertz:  We’ve long known Michael Whelan was among our best.

He was first a Hugo Award finalist in 1979, for Best Pro Artist.  Next year he won that, and since then twelve times more, plus Nonfiction Book for his Works of Wonder (1988) and Original Artwork for The Summer Queen (1992), an unequaled 15 Hugos; 31 times a finalist.

He was Graphic Artist Guest of Honor at the 56th World Science Fiction Convention and (with Amano Yoshitaka) at the 65th.

He’s been voted Best Artist in 31 Locus Polls, most recently in 2016; 44 times a finalist.

He has 13 Chesleys (Ass’n of S-F Artists); 53 times a finalist.  More honors too.

Now the Riverside Art Museum, Riverside, California, is holding an exhibit of his work, as announced (with links) here.  It opened on February 11th and runs through May 25th.

That’s news.  In the wide wide world our graphic art is not well-known.  People familiar with Chen Ju-Yuan or Salvador Dalí or Tamara de Lempicka or Paula Rego or Andrew Wyeth aren’t acquainted with Michael Whelan.  He is not in the New York Museum of Modern Art, or the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.

Vincent Di Fate’s superb and still indispensable survey Infinite Worlds is not on curators’ shelves.

The Riverside Art Museum is a pioneer in staging an exhibit of a leading S-F artist.

I went to the opening-night reception.  Here’s the banner outside the front door.  You’ll recognize the striking 1984 cover illustration for Asimov’s Robots of Dawn.

Whelan seems to have adopted the term alternative realism; see it on the banner.  It suits him.  It may be a good name for the mode of which he is such a master.  The greater the reality, the better the fantasy is elemental to S-F.

I found him surrounded by admirers – which was as it should be – wearing a Revolver necktie and answering questions.  When I remarked on the tie, a man said “Oh yes, old Beatles.”  I said “Old-fashioned is old-fashioned.”

The Museum has done well by him.  A gallery of 1,560 square feet (146 square meters) displays 54 pieces, some time-honored, some new.

The exhibit, and a Kickstarter commemorative book, are called Beyond Science Fiction.  This may be wise.

Before I went, I winced.  Did we need another apology?  Another variation on Robert Conquest’s theme “‘S-F’s no good,’ they bellow till we’re deaf.  ‘But this is good.’  ‘Well, then, it’s not S-F”?

Looking at the pictures I saw a different perspective.

Most of them were book covers (I’ll get to “palette gremlins” in a moment).  They were, they had to be, indeed they were proudly illustrations.  Whelan is an illustrator.

Kelly Freas would never let himself be named anything else; he declined artist (over my protest, among others), and viewed with suspicion what he more or less privately called “easel painters”.

Of course an illustration has to illustrate – which means shed light on.  It had better be good art – but what’s that? not that it means nothing: we’d not keep using it if we thought it meant nothing: but it’s fiendishly difficult to get a grip on.  Kelly Freas (that was his surname, folks) used to say an illustration has to make you want to read the story.

Superficial?  Maybe so, in a way.  If you think it’s only superficial, think again.

The best illustration (1) satisfies the illustrator (2) satisfies the author (3) sheds light on the story (4) makes people want to read the story – and, if you will, (5) makes the publisher think it will make people want to read the story.

Down that road is the possibility that the very best illustration, in addition to and without in the least failing (1-4) or (1-5), may also reach people who run into it apart from the story, have never heard of the story, don’t know there is a story, don’t know the picture they’re looking at is an illustration.

Does that necessarily follow?  I don’t know.  Ask again later.  But it came to me from pictures at an exhibition.

Of course read and story needn’t be literal.  A Kelly Freas picture was used by the band Queen.  Whelan pictures have been used by the Jacksons and by Meat Loaf.

In that sense I applaud the title Beyond Science Fiction.  Yes, maybe it’s a lure, maybe a needed lure to draw people who might not otherwise – I’ll say it – dare to come here and look.  Also I think it says These images are science fiction; certainly they are; we don’t hesitate [I hope] to say so; in addition to which and not failing it in the least they reach farther and are worthy for themselves.

That’s why they’re in the Riverside Art Museum.

I said I’d get to “palette gremlins”.  They are – I’ll quote Whelan,

small creations found in random shapes … errant fingerprints and paint smears … usually on a palette or the mat board I use to protect my drawing table….  I added a touch here and a brush stroke there until the abstract elements began to resolve….  Passage: The Red Step was suggested by shapes in the over-spray left from a complex airbrushing session….  when they spark an idea that leads to a larger work, it feels like a gift from my Muse!…  The point of it all, however, is to play with some paint – and see what happens.

One wall has a dozen.  One of them, Amethyst Fantasy, I saw was lent by Shaun Tan.

You know some of the pictures.  You have books they cover, or prints, or Infinite Worlds or one of Whelan’s own books – which I recommend – or you can summon them from Electronicland.  See the originals.  See them often and long.  Each medium is different.

Study originals.  Go to this exhibit if you can.  Bring what you have with you and compare.  Bring a sketchbook and copy them, or an easel (in a good cause, Kelly) and a paintbox; get permission.  Beethoven wrote out a Mozart string quartet; he was perfectly able to read the score, and he intended to write his own music, but he wanted to get into his fingers what Mozart had done.

And if you ask “What has Whelan done for us lately?” cast a Cottleston on this, “In a World of Her Own” from 2016.

Cottleston pie, that’s your eye – no, wrong slang – wait, I’ll have it in a minute – wait –

Whelan Exhibit at Riverside Art Museum

The Riverside Art Museum (RAM) presents Beyond Science Fiction: The Alternative Realism of Michael Whelan, curated by Baby Tattoos’ Bob Self, from February 11–May 25. The exhibit will launch with a free, open-to-the-public Opening Reception on Saturday, February 11 from 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m which will be attended by artist Michael Whelan.

Beyond Science Fiction is the world premiere exhibition of major works by artist Michael Whelan.

Whelan is one of the world’s premier painters of imaginative or alternative realism. For 40 years, he has created book and album covers for authors and musicians like Isaac Asimov, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Anne MacCaffrey, Robert Heinlein, Melanie Rawn, Michael Moorcock, the Jacksons, and Meatloaf. His clients have included every major U.S. book publisher, CBS Records, the Franklin Mint, and many more.

As the most honored artist in Science Fiction, Whelan has won an unprecedented 15 Hugo Awards, three World Fantasy Awards, and 13 Chesleys from the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists. The readers of Locus Magazine have named him Best Professional Artist 30 times in their annual poll and the Spectrum Annual of the Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art named him a Grand Master in 2004. Other noteworthy awards include a Gold Medal from the Society of Illustrators, a Grumbacher Gold Medal, and the Solstice Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America. In 2009, he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

RAM is holding two youth art education classes in conjunction with the exhibition. Fantasy Dragons on March 4 will tour the exhibit and then create their own fantasy dragon based on surrealism. The Art of Illustration is on March 25, where students will be asked to bring in their favorite science fiction book and they will create the cover of their own sci-fi novel after a tour of Beyond Science Fiction. For ages 6 and up, you can sign up here . Scholarships are available.

The museum, located in Riverside, California is open Tuesday – Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. and Sunday, 12:00 noon – 4:00 p.m.

[Based on a press release.]

 

Lucas Museum Will Be Built in Los Angeles

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The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art has landed in Los Angeles. After failing to win permission to build on the grounds of the Presidio in San Francisco, and being blocked by litigation from accepting a lakefront site in Chicago, Lucas had simultaneously offered the museum to Los Angeles and San Francisco, a competition that depended in part on which city could get the museum through its legal approval process most quickly.

The announcement by the museum’s board of directors said the choice of Los Angeles allows the museum to “have the greatest impact on the broader community, fulfilling our goal of inspiring, engaging and educating a broad and diverse visitorship… Settling on a location proved to be an extremely difficult decision precisely because of the desirability of both sites and cities.”

The project is predicted to create 1,500 new construction jobs, 350 new permanent jobs, and between the building and collection, a $1 billion investment by George Lucas and Mellody Hobson.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti welcomed the decision:

Art exists to inspire, to move, to educate, and to excite. Thanks to George Lucas and Mellody Hobson, millions of Angelenos and visitors will enjoy an extraordinary collection anchored in storytelling — an art that carries so much meaning in the history and legacy of Los Angeles.

L.A. is gaining a new jewel with the breathtaking Lucas Museum of Narrative Art — and its presence here means that a day at Exposition Park will soon bring unrivaled opportunities to be immersed in stories told on canvas and celluloid, be moved by the richness of African-American history and expression, be awed by the wonders of science and the natural world, take a journey to the world of space exploration, and sit in the stands for a world-class sporting event.

I believed in the vision for the Lucas Museum, and we went after it with everything we have — because I know that L.A. is the ideal place for making sure that it touches the widest possible audience. I am deeply grateful to Mellody and George, and to our educational, governmental, and cultural leaders for their extraordinary support in helping us bring the museum home. Now it’s time to build the vision.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee bowed out gracefully:

I am disappointed, of course, but must respect the decision… I am pleased that the museum will be built in California for our state’s residents to some day enjoy.

DreamWorks Animation Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg greeted Lucas’ decision:

This is a real triumph for the city of L.A., and this will be a transformative opportunity for L.A… First and foremost for our residents who are going to have an outstanding cultural, iconic new force here — the force will be with us — and I think for tourism, and for the continued, extraordinary transformation of downtown Los Angeles, and for Exposition Park and the other museums it will be joining.

Art historian Don Bacigalupi will serve as founding president of the museum.

Spectrum 23 Signing in SoCal 12/3

spectrum-23-hb-jacket-fleskThere will be a signing for Spectrum 23 at Gallery Nucleus in the Los Angeles area (Alhambra) on Saturday, December 3 from 7-10 p.m. Over 20 artists will be in attendance to autograph copies. Admission is free and there will be free refreshments.

Featured Artists

  • J.A.W. Cooper
  • Alina Chau
  • Craig Elliott
  • Tooba Rezaei
  • William Stout
  • Joseph Sanabria
  • Erik Ly
  • Brian Haberlin
  • Geirrod Van Dyke
  • Chuck Grieb
  • Waiji Choo
  • Julia Blattman
  • Tuna Bora
  • Chris Ayers
  • Bruce Mitchell
  • Vin Teng
  • Richard and Wendy Pini
  • Shane Stover
  • Brynn Metheny
  • Victor Maury
  • Esben Rasmussen

spectrum-23-event

[Thanks to Arnie Fenner for the story.]

Where Will George Lucas’ Spaceship Land?

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The Lucas Museum as it would look in Los Angeles’ Exposition Park.

To speed prospects of getting his Lucas Museum of Narrative Art built somewhere, George Lucas has released architect’s drawings of the building as it would look in Los Angeles, beside the Coliseum in Exposition Park, and in San Francisco, on Treasure Island. Each location has the support of its city’s mayor—Eric Garcetti in LA and Ed Lee in San Francisco. The museums have been designed by Chinese architect Ma Yansong (MAD Architects) — and both look like space ships.

In June, Lucas abandoned efforts to build the museum in Chicago, unwilling to engage in time-consuming litigation with Friends of Parks to use the lakefront location approved by local government. That was Lucas’ second defeat, having turned to Chicago after his original proposal to build on the grounds of the Presidio failed to gain acceptance in San Francisco.

The Los Angeles version of Lucas’ museum would include:

  • underground parking for 1,800 cars (the museum’s construction would take out two surface parking lots)
  • between 265,000 and 275,000 square feet of indoor space
  • about 100,000 square feet of gallery space
  • “shaded landscaping” underneath the new museum structure
  • landscaped, public terraces on the roof level
The Lucas Museum as it would look on San Francisco's Treasure Island.

The Lucas Museum as it would look on San Francisco’s Treasure Island.

And what will be on the walls of the museum? Controversies about public land use have overshadowed some writers’ nagging efforts to belittle the works likely be on display in the museum. Attempting to fend off these complaints, a museum executive gave Charles Desmarais, San Francisco Chronicle art critic, a personal presentation about the works being donated to the museum. Desmarais has pronounced them worthy:

Leaning against the walls and sprawled on tables is a selection of 55 original drawings and paintings, as well as eight thick notebooks containing more than 700 photographic reproductions of works in Lucas’ art collection. All are slated to become part of the first holdings — the Seed Collection — of the long-planned Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.

Guiding me through the images, which were brought here just for our meeting, is Don Bacigalupi, the museum’s founding president and a much-credentialed art historian and museum director. Bacigalupi says the museum will eventually have its pick of the rest of the collection — about 10,000 paintings and works on paper and 30,000 film-related objects — that the renowned filmmaker has assembled over a period of 40 years and that is still growing.

It seems nearly everyone has an opinion about the collection of the Lucas Museum, which made Bacigalupi its first professional staff member last year. “It’s a ‘Star Wars’ museum,” some have said. “It’s a Hollywood memorabilia museum.” On Twitter, Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight called it “George Lucas’ planned Treacle Museum.” But who has actually seen the collection? Only a few people, says Bacigalupi — and no journalist. Until now.

Having had the first opportunity to evaluate the collection, I am glad to say it is none of those things. In fact, it may just be the core of a great museum.

San Francisco officials are hoping their city has a stronger claim on Lucas’ affections than Los Angeles.

“We’d like to think their heart is here,” said Adam Van de Water of the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development. “He lives and works here, it’s a spectacular site, and we think it’s a natural fit.”

But the decision could come down to which city is able to get the museum through its legal approval process most quickly.

According to Don Bacigalupi, the museum’s president, the design work and search for approvals are being done simultaneously in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Within the next two to four months, Lucas and his team will decide which location offers the clearest path to starting construction in a year or so, with opening day three years later.

Describe Your Favorite Cover Art

By Carl Slaughter: Roaming publisher and agency catalogs in search of interesting/impressive books/series to feature or authors to interview/profile, I estimate I’ve seen the cover art for 5,000 science fiction, fantasy, and horror books. Few have caught my attention. Fewer still have compelled me to study them in detail. Take, for example, Todd Lockwood’s cover for Visitor, by Hugo winning author C.J. Cherryh, the latest in her long-running Foreigner universe series.

visitor-enlarge

  • The aliens are considerably taller than the visitor.
  • The aliens have dark skin, the visitor has light skin.
  • The aliens have dark hair, the visitor has blond hair.
  • The aliens are muscular, the visitor has a smallish, plain physique.
  • The aliens are wearing soldier uniforms and armor, the visitor is wearing a diplomacy/business suit.
  • The aliens are dressed in solid black, the visitor is dressed in solid white.
  • The aliens are carrying weapons, the visitor is carrying a book (folder? laptop?).
  • The aliens are looking left and right, as if they are wary of their surroundings (are they in enemy territory, are they bodyguards for the visitor?), the visitor’s attention is fixed straight ahead, as if focused on the task he will accomplish when he reaches his destination (or is he departing the building in the background and thinking about the meeting he just attended?).
  • There are 4 aliens, one visitor.
  • The visitor is enclaved within the aliens. Again, are they guarding him? Who is he negotiating with/for? Which side wants to assassinate him?

What caught my attention about the cover art for Visitor is that it’s so vivid, making the vast majority of its competition look crude by comparison. Something about the other covers in the Foreigner series caught my attention and I didn’t realize what until I studied them: They have distant shots of multiple characters. Most speculative covers have closeups of one or two characters. Half the covers of the Foreigner series don’t have the characters in a battle-ready pose. The typical speculative cover has a character clutching a gun/sword ready to slay the nearest dragon, zombie, or imperial trooper.

Daniel Dos Santos cover art for Misfortune Cookie by Laura Resnick

Daniel Dos Santos cover art for Misfortune Cookie by Laura Resnick

Another example of a cover that grabbed my attention and intrigued me is Daniel Dos Santos’ cover for Misfortune Cookie, one of Laura Resnick’s Esther Diamond paranormal mystery novels. Rather than a scene, there are numerous items depicting various elements of the plot. I count at least 4 hands sticking out of that giant fortune cookie. Esther is a striking pose and portrayed as being perpetually on the move as she solves the case. The other art in the Esther Diamond series is almost as good.

What about you? What cover art has caught your attention and why?