Science fiction stories and illustrations from our past provide a wonderful opportunity for us to test the predictive and prescient capabilities of their creators. Some like Arthur C. Clarke, we are often reminded, foresaw the communications satellite and the space elevator. Others, such as science fiction great, Isaac Asimov, fared less well in predicting future technology; while he is considered to have coined the term “robotics”, he famously predicted future computers and robots as using punched cards.
Illustrations of our future from the past are even more fascinating. One of the leading proponents of the science fiction illustration genre, or scientifiction, as it was titled in the mid-1920s, was Frank R. Paul. Paul illustrated many of the now classic U.S. pulp science fiction magazines beginning in the 1920s with vivid visuals of aliens, spaceships, destroyed worlds and bizarre technologies. Though, one of his less apocalyptic, but perhaps prescient, works showed a web-footed alien smoking a cigarette through a lengthy proboscis.
Of Frank R. Paul, Ray Bradbury is quoted as saying, “Paul’s fantastic covers for Amazing Stories changed my life forever.”
See more of Paul’s classic illustrations after the jump.