As any historian will tell you, to understand the future you must first look to the past. And so, for this future-themed issue of IMMpress Magazine, we harken back to “The Golden Age of Science Fiction” and the birth of the iconic, ostentatious art that typifies the sci-fi aesthetic. Science fiction first arose as a distinct genre in the 1920s, a product of the pulp magazines that were popular at the time. These magazines – named for the wood-pulp paper on which they were printed – were intended mainly as cheap entertainment for young men, and as such, often involved stories (of questionable quality) packed with adventure, robots, mad scientists, and of course, damsels in distress. Due to the wide range of pulp magazines available to the target consumer, publishers of early science fiction began to print their magazines with covers that advertised the eccentric and exciting content within. Frank R. Paul, illustrator of the first exclusively science fiction magazine Astounding and widely considered “The Father of Pulp Sci-Fi Art”, was an architect turned artist who used his knowledge of engineering to create intricate, technical depictions of cities and technologies from other worlds. These glimpses into the future, brought to life with movement, garish colours and scantily-clad women, were ideal for grabbing the attention of potential consumers. In this way, sci-fi pulp art followed directly on the heels of Art Nouveau, eschewing the “fine arts” for imagery that was popular, accessible and commercially lucrative. In the words of the immortal Galadriel, “the world has changed” since the decline of sci-fi pulp in the late 1950s. Much of what was once considered so unlikely as to be fantastical – spaceflight, neurally-integrated prosthetics, a female scientist – has moved beyond the realm of science fiction and is now sufficiently commonplace to be only the first of many stepping stones on the path to progress. However, as evidenced by the incredible scientific undertakings detailed in this issue of IMMpress, exploration of the unknown has retained its appeal into the 21st century and will undoubtedly continue to unveil new mysteries as both science and science fiction forge ahead.
Kieran Manion is a senior PhD student studying the breakdown of B cell tolerance in systemic lupus erythematosus in the Department of Immunology at the University of Toronto. In her spare time, she practises using digital platforms for general artwork and graphic design.