Foreword by Joe Haldeman

Titan Books (2014), 160pp h/back, £24.99


An exclusive preview by Alex Bardy



My relationship with the art of Jim Burns goes back a very long way, over 30 years now. At the time I had just discovered a world of fantasy and science fiction through our school librarian, and still remember rushing home on a London bus having just picked up Raymond E Feist’s Magician and the first two volumes of David Eddings’ Belgariad books from a cramped treasure chest called Forbidden Planet in Denmark Street, my mind full to bursting with all the amazing covers and artwork I’d just been exposed to while dawdling around in a zombified state of blissful ignorance and wondrous abandonment. Shortly thereafter I also came across an insignificant library book called The Majipoor Chronicles and subsequently discovered a whole world of roleplaying games, Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks, and a boxed boardgame called Battle Cars by a company called Games Workshop… And that’s when I became smitten, so much so that I bought my first ever art book when I next visited that shop, the book was called Lightship and featured some of the most amazing images I’d hitherto ever seen — the stunning artwork therein subsequently forming the basis of so many home-brew roleplaying scenarios, story ideas, and yes, more than a handful of crazy boyhood dreams, too (Jim’s aliens were always sexy!). The rest as they say, is history…


Roll on a few years later and the fanboy in me attended Conspiracy ’87 in Brighton, knowing full well that Jim Burns was the artist guest of honour, and bursting with confidence that interviewing the great man himself would simply be the ‘best thing evah’… I still recall trudging upstairs every day with my Philips tape-recorder in tow —just a bit bigger than the Wii game console is today— to the gob-smackingly massive art gallery where Jim’s work dominated fully half the floor, and still remember all too clearly that whenever I tried to nab even five minutes with this awesome artist hero of mine, he was either too busy or just about to head off to a panel, or had to be somewhere else, or half a dozen other things were going on at the time just to spite my efforts. All of which meant I never did get that damned interview, and the friends I went along with spent most of the weekend mocking me because they knew I’d wasted most of it chasing a ghost while they’d been doing all sorts of mega-exciting fun things like meeting authors and listening to panel discussions, etc. A conspiracy, indeed, then…

Jim_Burns_The Reality Dysfuntion

Fast forward to the present and imagine my delight when Titan offered me the chance to preview a new and altogether staggeringly gorgeous Jim Burns art book almost thirty years since that young dreamer first found himself agape in that shoebox paradise shop in Denmark Street…


Due for release on Thurs 14th August at LonCON, one of the biggest World Science Fiction Conventions ever to hit the UK, and covering the man’s earliest memories of scribbling what he callS “identifiable ‘somethings’”, The Art of Jim Burns: Hyperluminal talks about his childhood love of machines (the look of them rather than how they work), his discovery of great comic artists, and too Frank Hampson’s Dan Dare, a character that can probably be said to have defined the artist’s future even way back then.

Karl and the Ogre

With thoughts of Dan Dare fresh in his head, Jim Burns joined the RAF and trained as a pilot because he believed he’d get a chance to fly spaceships when Britain eventually made it into the big black void… this apparently never happened. Nowadays it’s too easy to point and laugh at the folly of this, moreso when we learn that he dropped out of the RAF the same time Britain dropped out of ‘The Space Race’, opting to go to Art College instead… But of course, Jim Burns has been flying through the universe ever since, visiting different worlds, introduced to alien cultures, exploring new vistas of dimensional space and discovering weird and ancient artefacts along the way. What’s more, he’s documented and recorded it all for the rest of us, and in such painstakingly drop-dead gorgeous detail that we really cannot complain — if a picture’s worth a thousand words, Jim’s are worth at least twice as much — and on that basis he’s already written several million volumes, and given the world a body of work that is frankly, mind-blowing.

The Reality Dysfunction (Night's Dawn 1)

Being taken on by the Young Artists agency in his last year of college, Jim Burns found paid work from the get-go, and has been lost in the joys of creativity ever since. Reading between the lines as the highly acclaimed artist recounts his life and work and the many commissions he’s had (both private and commercial), it’s clear that he’s grateful every day to be where he is, having turned an obsessional hobby into a life-long career and feels both incredibly fortunate and very humbled by where it’s brought him today: multiple awards, high acclaim, and a much sought after collector’s market for his art.

Other Edens 3

As for the book itself and the images therein, it’s a large format hardback and features a stunning collection of 300+ carefully chosen and iconic works from Jim’s vast array of book covers, concept sketches, and many never-before published personal commissions. There’s a foreword by Joe Haldeman, but the rest is all Jim Burns, and other than the occasional lapse and regret that his fantasy output isn’t quite as much as his science-fiction work, it’s clear that the boundaries have become somewhat blurred over the years and Jim seems all the happier for it.

The Naked God (Night's Dawn 3)

In conclusion, my only quibble is the lack of an Index, especially since every piece of work is named and dated by year. This proved a tad frustrating when both Joe and Jim referenced work within the book that I then had to fish around for, but this decision was no doubt made in order to feature a few more pages of art instead, and that is after all, why one purchases such a beautiful art book in the first place… And it’s a wonderful collection, make no bones about it — if you recognise the value of a good book cover, or just love your art without pretension, you will pore over every one of these and dream of faraway lands and exotic worlds, and you’ll be thankful that Jim Burns has done all that travelling just for you…


Jim Burns will be signing his new book at the gala opening of the Art Show  at Loncon3, this Thursday 14th August at 4.30pm, sponsored by Titan Books. 


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About Donna Scott

Chair of the BSFA since June 2013. Prior to this I was Awards Administrator, taking over that role from Claire Briarley in 2008. I am officially Donna Bond since getting married in May 2013, but continue to write and perform under my previous name, Donna Scott. My short fiction stories have been published in various anthologies and magazines, and I was winner of the inaugural Short Cuts at the MAC in 2005. As a comedian, I have performed all over the UK. Comedy has also given me the opportunity to perform alongside big names like Sarah Millican and Jasper Carrott! As a poet, I've also performed all over the place, including lots of science fiction conventions, and sometimes my poetry and comedy get kind of mixed up. I was the first official Bard of Northampton, it's true. I've got a tankard that says so... I love being a part of the BSFA - I've always been a devourer of books and being part of this association has enabled me to explore some great science fiction classics - and classics of the future, that I might otherwise have not heard about. I've met some lovely people with an enthusiasm for the genre, made firm friends, and got to meet some of my favourite writers, too! As a writer, I also have to say that FOCUS is the best magazine for writers I've ever come across - and as a member I get that for free. Who wouldn't want to be a part of this?



  2. Pingback: Book Review: The Art of Jim Burns: Hyperluminal | mangoblogalicious

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