GALACTIC GEOGRAPHIC ANNUAL 3003
by Karl Kofoed
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Science fiction and fantasy artists are coming out with retrospective volumes at an ever increasing pace, partly thanks to the efforts of Paper Tiger publishing. What this also means is that there is a vast evolution in the format of these books. While only ten years ago, Michael Whelan was able to publish The Art of Michael Whelan, which included numerous paintings, a short interview and some descriptive text, now an artist is just as likely to bring an author on board to create a story which is dependent on the paintings which inspired it, such as Doug Chiang's recent Robota. Karl Kofoed's Galactic Geographic Annual 3003 definitely falls into the latter category.
Kofoed has based his book on the magazine National Geographic and has projected it one thousand years into the future. The book is a wonderful combination of artwork, articles which describe the strange cultures, species, and places depicted therein, and humor. Because of the magazine's frame that Kofoed has elected to use, multiple pictures frequently depict the same object from different angles or in different settings, adding to the feeling that Kofoed is painting something which exists outside his own imagination. The descriptive text also helps create the sense of reality.
The tone of the book is set on the table of contents where Kofoed lists the staff at various regional offices for Galactic Geographic and indicates that the book will be suffused with in-jokes. While most of the humor does reside in the text, Kofoed's illustrations contain a fair amount of humor on their own, although it is not the first thing which the viewer's attention is called to.
One of the things this sort of book is good for is drawing attention to the different styles of artwork which the artist can employ. In this, Galactic Geographic Annual 3003 clearly shows that Kofoed can work in everything from sketches to near photorealism. Whatever style Kofoed uses for a particular illustration, the images are all very detailed and appeal to the reader's sense of wonder.
It is assumed that Kofoed's illustrations came before the text, however, the pictures and words are intrinsically linked to each other. Each helps describe and define the other, more closely than most science fictional art. Furthermore, while the individual pictures could depict just about anything, the text helps link everything together to show that all the articles and paintings in Kofoed's book are describing a single universe as coherent as any which appears in science fiction novels.
Galactic Geographic Annual 3003 is another step on the evolution of the science fiction art book, and a welcome one which presents a collection of paintings as a unified whole rather than as a simple group arranged at the whim of the artist or editor. It provides a look at Kofoed's artwork as well as the personality of the artist who would collect his work in this format.