Saturday, 5 October 2013

70s Saturday Sci-Fi Scans

Science fiction is regarded as the realm of "adventures in which you'll live in a million could-be years on a thousand may-be worlds" to quote the introduction of the old time radio program X Minus One. What iffing comes naturally to people, so much so that there is a whole genre of alternate history works, cousin to the time travel trope. An author doesn't have to imagine merely historical outcomes - they can have a fantastical element such as...

Baphomet's Meteor


Are there parallel dimensions in which history turned out differently? Are there other universes with other Earths where the alternates become the realities? Here is an exciting science fiction novel of such an historical by-pass. Told with the color and romance of the Crusades, reminiscent of the work of Harold Lamb and L. Sprague de Camp, what would have happened had the Knights Templars really made the demonic alliance claimed by their royal rivals?

The "demon" was Baphomet - a stranded extra-terrestrial - and his alliance gave the Templars the atomic arms and scientific equipment to create the empire Baphomet needed for his own outer-space motives.

Pierre Barnet, one of the Old World's most popular science fiction authors, has created a fascinating and authentically researched novel of the empire upon which our sun never rose.

First of all, I love this book, just for the delicate scent of its 41 year old paper. It takes me back to my junior high library full of thirty year old (or older still) books. You can bet in 1991 that my homework was written with the most up to date information from the 1967 Book of Knowledge encyclopedias.

But lest I become nostalgic for my teenage self, let's look at how all the elements in the cover painting by Karen Thole are simply awesome. No slick airbrushing here - her painterly strokes bring out the whoomph of the nuclear explosion behind Baphomet. And look, look what she did there by cleverly showing the demon-knight alliance. "Here," Baphomet says, "I give you great power," and the knight is all "Oh yeah, baby! 25 kilotons of TNT, that's what I'm talking about."

The simple contrast of black and white and the pentagram and cross keep this cover from being overcomplicated. Limiting the colour palette was a smart move, but there's almost no room for the title. You can feel the relief of the layout artist as she or he discovers there's just a few millimetres of space between the top of the horn and the author's name. Whew, crisis averted!

Baphomet's Meteor was translated from French by the way. The author, Pierre Barbet, was a pseudonym for a pharmacist (the book notes that he is a "distinguished doctor of pharmacology"). It seems that when he wasn't filling prescriptions, he was prolifically writing space operas. Just proof that those who daydream, "What if I was an author?" can make it happen!