By : Deborah Susan Jones : Editor
Created for the Panther Books paperback edition of the story in the 70's by the Artist, the novel was created in 1967 as an adaption from three short stories, which were;
- Centaurus II. Originally published in Astounding Science Fiction Magazine in 1947.
- Rogue Ship. Originally published in Super Science Stories in 1950.
- The Expendables. Originally published in Worlds of Science Fiction in 1963.
In the painting the Artist has created a vast spaceship of many colours and fully armed. He has visualised the mighty space cruiser in Van Vogt's novel as it coasts through the dreadful emptiness of Space, which is uncharacteristically rendered in a deep warm brown rather than the totally forbidding empty blackness that was all too often typical of the time, in an early experiment of what came to be a signature of many of his SF works, that of unconventionally coloured space, although while this was considered a strikingly unusual approach by most art directors at the time, in fact it deliberately referenced the works of earlier SF Artists in the pulp magazines era.
Space is neutral and gives no feelings of safety or comfort in most Artists works, but here the rocks trigger feelings of lack of control as they convey danger and a sense of pending calamity as the ship attempts to navigate a path through the hurling asteroid shower onward to its destination, Centaurus, and its mission to save humanity.
The size of the craft and its predicament suggest that the humans traveling in it are vulnerable in their isolation to feelings of restlessness, panic and mutiny and in the image at least, impending impact with space debris. Wanting to return to a place they know, Earth, and not continue on to face the uncertainty of the unknown, they seem to have no ability to do so leaving the Captain to face the future with what is vital, his knowledge that Earth was possibly, by then, obliterated, with the implication that Centaurus was his one hope . . . . . . . .
The design the Artist came up with was intended to present the viewer with a scene, "a feeling", that showed a spacecraft hurtling at terrific speed and creating a sense that, whatever the wishes, desires, fears and anxieties or mutinous attempts of its occupants, they would be as naught compared with the inescapable on-rush to a predetermined destination that the sheer speed of the craft itself (indeed, a "Rogue Ship" was the briefing discussion had with the Art Director (Steve Abis) before commencement of the painting) would override any intentions or wishes of the passengers inside.
This approach, non-narrative and more emotive in nature than was typical of Science Fiction Artists of the time, became a central theme in how the Artist approached developing what came to be known as "The PAJ style" which is as much about the emotions of the participants in a portrayed event as it is about mere artistic technique.
Deborah Susan Jones