The Art of Science Fiction

Futurescape Shopping Avenue by Richard Lim Boon Keat

Check out the cool artwork (click on the image for a larger version) above by Richard Lim Boon Keat and used with his permission here. Apparently he’s a Malaysian artist who’s worked on a number of game projects. I discovered his website through Armageddon Empires, a game by QT3 forum member Vic Davis, which is a notable indie gem combining wargame and collectible-card game mechanics. It deserves a post of its own, but I’ll have to spend more time on it before I have much to say on it.

I wanted to use this particular image in this post though because it reminds me so much of the concept artwork of the far future that so dazzled and amazed me as a child. It also called to my attention how important artwork like the above is as fuel to the imagination in science fiction and fantasy. Nowadays, considering my taste in science fiction, cover art matters very little, but there was a time when I was wowed by the mecha and starships of Battletech and when seeing the concept art of ideas like the Stanford torus, with its layered terraces of agricultural crops rotating on the curved inner shell of a gigantic space station, was like opening my eyes to the true possibilities of space exploration. They’re celebrations of human ingenuity, in a very Ayn Rand way, I think, and of the way that ideas and science and hard work can reshape the world in any way we want.

Cityscapes of the future like the one above, with towers so tall that no one even thinks of the ground floor anymore, complicated networks of bridges that interconnect everything and flying cars to navigate it all, is one of the perennial images in SF art. In film, I think they’re best exemplified by The Fifth Element and the Coruscant city-planet in the Star Wars prequels. The artwork above has the added bonus of featuring many commercial brands familiar to Malaysians, count how many you can spot in it!

Today, I think we can safely assume that cityscapes of this kind will probably never exist, due to both environmental concerns and hard physical and energy limits. The flying cars that everyone blithely predicted for the 21st century for example, will never be economically efficient. This is probably a good thing since such cityscapes are typically dystopian. We want to marvel at them but we don’t actually want to live in them full time. Still, in the real world at least we have such architectural wonders as the Petronas Twin Towers and the Burj Al Arab to look at and wonder at what could be and in the world of our imaginations, we have artists like Richard Lim. Thanks again!

Leave a Reply