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Newsletter May 2020, still in lockdown but good things to report

A children's book, by Neil Armstrong

It was quite a surprise to receive a phone call from Neil Armstrong's agent when I was at Illuxcon just over a year ago. I'd just come back from booking tickets to see 'his' film, First Man, that evening, with a few friends who were with me at the time so it did feel a bit like a spoof call. It wasn't though.

When Neil was presented with a piece of moon rock by NASA in 2006 he decided to donate it to the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History and Science. He made a speech at the time, in which he told the story of the life of that piece of rock. He gave it a name, 'Bok', he gave it a personality, and he described how Bok had watched what had happened on Earth over the last four billion years until one day a man in a white suit picked 'him' up and took him back to Earth. From probably one of the most unusual men who's ever lived, this was certainly an unusual story.
Neil's agent asked if Grahame Baker Smith would like to adapt the story to make it suitable for a children's picture book, and then to illustrate it. I can go back to that moment now, when I called Grahame while walking down the main street in Reading, PA. The line went quiet for a moment while he figured out that I was serious. The life of Neil Armstrong had been a passion of his since boyhood, and his other main interest is the development of life on Earth - he'd just illustrated a massive book on that very subject, Life! The First Four Billion Years.
We've been working with Carol Armstrong since then, and the project has been extremely exciting. The book is to be published by Hachette in the UK in April 2021 and we expect a US edition and others too. It is a book like no other. You couldn't call it fiction, because every word is true.

Here's more, in The Bookseller.
John Harris, Guest of Honour

We're delighted that John has been invited to be GoH at the World SF convention in August 2021 in Washington DC. He promises to have some new work to take with him, perhaps something like this.

Or this.
John's also been interviewed for Monitor Science Fiction Magazine, and this is how it starts:

IW: What got you interested in science fiction in the first place?

JH: Ever since I can remember, I have been aware of being on a planet, and the sense of the sky and what lies beyond it was always very strong. When, growing up, I read books that ignored that dimension of reality, they didn't hold my interest as strongly as those of other worlds. So it was inevitable that sci-fi became my staple diet.
'Monitor' also commissioned Katerina Belikova to paint a portrait of John but that's only available in the magazine, Infinite Worlds No. 3. You can buy it here, and order No. 4.
The Mountain of Smoke

How wonderful to receive a copy of Jeffrey Alan Love's wonderful sketchbook,The Mountain of Smoke. It's like sitting next to him and seeing just how his work comes to life. It's beautifully produced and I believe there are still copies available from Flesk.

Paul Cox Portfolio

It's tempting to send you Paul's drawings of happier times to remind you of gatherings in the pub but, of course, he does so much more than that. He's just illustrated a new book of Jeffrey Archer's short stories to be published later in the year, and we've added some of those pieces to his online portfolio.

Paul also produced this magnificent cover of In Search of Art, the book in which Edwin Mullins tells us about a lifetime of travelling the world discovering art.

In other news


Art of the Fantastic, the film produced by Bill Niemeyer and Donato Arts is now available to buy. Many of the artists who show their work at Illuxcon (IX Arts) are included, including our very own Jim Burns, and the film is now available from Donato. It's interesting to hear about their influences and ways of working.

All images copyright © the artists.