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A Cosmic Cornucopia by Josh Kirby and David Langford is a second celebration of Kirby's fantastic paintings (following on from his In the Garden of Unearthly Delights, 1991), with extensive text commentary by Langford. Two chapters are devoted to Discworld covers -- some not previously published -- and spinoffs.There is a foreword by Tom Holt, and a catalogue of Kirby's acknowledged book and other cover paintings from 1954 to 1999.
Two extracts from the book appear on this site, the biographical introduction and (brought up to date since 1999) the official list of Josh Kirby's cover paintings. Also, two Langford SFX magazine columns: one about working with Josh Kirby on this book, and a farewell piece written when he died..
David McKinlay, Word of Mouth Speculative Fiction Reviews
If imitation is the highest form of praise then Josh Kirby is one of the most praised artists in the world today. There is simply no one who has so influenced the covers of purported humourous fantasy as him. Artists try to create something that may fool the public into thinking it is Josh with a different style. The public isn't fooled. His style is unique (and he now is artcast, so to speak) and instantly recognised.
Although many people will pass only a cursory glance over the text and spend most of the time dwelling on the artwork don't be tempted. The text is written by Dave Langford with irascible humour -- best known for Ansible which is now up to issue 165. The text is both informative and funny, so that it is worth the trouble reading.
COSMIC, MAN: An Interview
Paper Tiger (John Grant) talks to Langford in The Paper Snarl #1, July 1999
David Langford is distinguished as the writer of novels like The Leaky Establishment and The Space Eater, for his nonfiction work including his Contributing Editorship of the Clute/Grant Encyclopedia of Fantasy, for his witty journalism in magazines like SFX and for his fan writing -- in this latter category he has won more Hugos than most writers could even dream of. But writing the commentary for the new Josh Kirby collection, A Cosmic Cornucopia, was something new . . . as he told us.
PT: Did you find that writing an art book, as opposed to a basically textual book, presented a new challenge?
DL: I was a mite nervous at first for just this reason - but at least an art book provides a copious supply of things to write about. You're not staring at a blank page or a blank screen, but at a succession of colourful pictures that cry out for comment.
PT: You've known Terry Pratchett for many years, and of course were the author of the official DiscworldTM quizbook, The Unseen University Challenge, so of course you were very familiar with Josh's Pratchett covers. Did you find the range and breadth of his other work surprising?
DL: In a vague way I knew about Josh's 1950s-1960s sf paintings, with their characteristic energy flows and force fields, but there were still plenty of surprises. His memorable 1969 covers for Robert van Gulik's Judge Dee mysteries, for example. I'd long liked those covers but hadn't realized they were Josh's -- they were cunningly credited to "Ron Kirby" in order to misdirect people like me.
PT: I guess most people who've never known Josh other than through his covers nevertheless have the feeling that somehow they know him, simply because of his style of art. How did you find working with him? Was it much as you'd expected?
DL: I'd already met Josh a few times at DiscworldTM events, and expected some cheerful and chatty exchanges during our work together on this project. In the event, his handwritten and my word-processed letters were whizzing back and forth more or less every other day during the height of the effort. He was endlessly helpful, and I reciprocated by researching scores of missing titles, authors and dates in his big list of published covers ... getting this complete was a task that had always daunted Josh, but we think it's up to date now!
PT: Have you any particular favourites among the pictures in the book?
DL: The cover for The Unseen University Challenge, of course, because it was my own book and because Josh provided a nice anecdote about the painting. The Illustrated Man, as one of the great classic sf covers. The picture that sadly wasn't used for the cover of Terry Pratchett's Jingo, and those turbulent waves and sea dragons he painted for Robert Silverberg's Valentine Pontifex. [On cover, above.]
PT: Just for the record, how many Hugos do you now have? And is that, er, a record?
DL: I have 12 Hugos as a fan writer (which covers a multitude of sins -- humour, criticism, sf journalism, what have you), and my little newsletter Ansible has three, making 15 in all. The record is held by Charles N. Brown's news magazine Locus, with 20 Hugos. I'm happy enough to be in the number two slot.
PT: Can you yet talk about your plans for the next book?
DL: My mind is a blank, unfortunately. I blame the drink.
PT: Now there's a good idea . . .
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