Extended Edition: Future Sports

Extended Edition: Future Sports
Frank Kelly Freas, 1991

This art book section was cut from Worlds Beyond Time due to a lack of art permissions – Out of the four images that I had planned for my entry on sporting events of the future, I was only able to get the permissions to use one of them.

I wanted to use the Chris Foss, Jack Kirby, Roger Dean, and Frank Kelly Freas that I've included in this email. But Chris Foss was pretty pricey, and despite my best efforts I wasn't able to get in touch with the right people for Jack Kirby or Roger Dean. I actually did pay for the right to use the Frank Kelly Freas image in my book, and I almost slipped it into the epilogue as an example of Freas's 1990s work, but there ultimately wasn't room.

Future sports are a fun topic, even if the art examples are a little thin. Violence in football in particular was a big concern in the 70s, it turns out, and science fiction was there to help everyone process it.

Sporting events of the future are a mixed bag. Some of them show off the peaks of human accomplishment (low-gravity moon volleyball) while others are merely the “bread and circuses” of a brutal totalitarian world (think transcontinental road races with David Carradine in them).

Here's Tom Chantrell's poster art for Death Race 2000, the 1975 David Carradine movie I was obliquely referencing in that first paragraph. Not a great movie, to be honest.
I'm 95% sure that my line about "low-gravity moon volleyball" was a throwaway reference to this image, by Yuri Molokanov for a 1970 Soviet kid's book Grishka and the Astronaut. If you've ever wondered about an unexplained but suspiciously specific reference that I've made anywhere in Worlds Beyond Time, odds are good that I was thinking of one particular artwork that will soon be lost to the sands of time.

The future sports stories of the ‘70s were often used to explore society’s bloodlust and include such classics as the 1973 short story that became the film Rollerball and the gun-packing linebackers of Gary K. Wolf’s 1975 novel Killerball.

Bob Peak's 1975 Rollerball poster art. That movie was pretty fun.
Steve Marcesi’s 1975 cover for Gary K Wolf’s Killerbowl. Not sure he needs the gun; that guy's torso alone is like half of this cover. Check out a review of the book at Science Fiction Ruminations for more detail about sports and violence in sci-fi literature.

In contrast, Jack Kirby’s dazzling illustration for a 1973 issue of the NFL’s official magazine, Pro!, looks a bit like intergalactic damage control. Kirby’s punch-em-up style highlighted the action, but his crisp, colorful comic-book look didn’t evoke bloody concussions.

Jack Kirby, “Out of Mind's Reach,” for Pro! magazine’s October 22, 1973 issue. The energy dots here, called “Kirby Krackle,” are Kirby’s stylish way to boost dynamism while at the same time reducing the amount of background busywork on his plate. (I did a whole newsletter about Kirby's football-related illustrations three years ago, if you want more!)

Chris Foss dipped into idealistic futurism with his snazzy “Space Tennis,” created for a French ad. The singles match takes place on an antigravity court without handrails—worse, Foss has confirmed that one of his ideas for the piece was that the court would rock in place as an extra challenge.

Chris Foss, “Space Tennis,” for a French advertising campaign for J Walter Thompson, 1984

You’d be safer just floating in outer space, like the baseball players testing their spacesuit durability on Roger Dean’s 1972 album cover for Babe Ruth’s First Base

Roger Dean

—or the lizard aliens battling a hockey puck with a mind of its own in Frank Kelly Freas’s 1991 art for the Context Science Fiction Convention in Alberta, Canada.

Frank Kelly Freas, “Space Hockey,” 1991, the Guest of Honour cover for the Context Science Fiction Convention in Alberta, Canada

That's all for that entry! This was the only section that I cut from my "Planets, Explorers, and Space Travel" chapter – next time, we'll get into another Extended Edition entry: Floating Cities.