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Galactic encounters of the 1970s


Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, several publishers brought out colourful coffee-table sf books. Usually, they were filled with cover-art from sf novels, around which someone had written some text to tie the pictures together. Stewart Cowley’s Terran Trade Authority is probably the best-remembered example. I used to buy them whenever I saw them – often from book discount shops.

There were four Terran Trade Authority books all together, though I only have two of them: Spacecraft 2000 to 2100AD and Starliners. The other two were Great Space Battles and Spacewreck. I’m not sure where The Space Warriors fits into the TTA universe.

Cowley also wrote another series, Galactic Encounters, under the name Steven Caldwell, aimed at younger readers: Aliens in Space, Settlers in Space, Worlds at War, Space Patrol, The Fantastic Planet, Dangerous Frontiers and Star Quest. (Wikipedia doesn’t appear to know of Settlers in Space.)

Even Robert Holdstock and Bob Shaw had a go at it: Tour of the Universe and Galactic Tours. Diary of a Spaceperson is full of lots of lovely Foss cover art, plus lots of pen and ink sketches of, er, bare-breasted women.

Not sure where I got The Alien World from. The Science in Science Fiction does exactly what it says on the cover.

Finally, a few years ago Morrigan Press produced a RPG based on the Terran Trade Authority. Morrigan Press seem to be now defunct, and the books are out of print.


22 thoughts on “Galactic encounters of the 1970s

  1. Do you have Space Wars: World and Weapons?

    I must have been bought this for Christmas around 1979. The main text is actually a really good beginner’s history of the genre up the late 70s. Still one of my favorite pictorial SF books.

    • No, I’ve not got that one, though I’m pretty sure I’ve seen copies of it. I do have a few SF encyclopaedias – one by Robert Holdstock, a pictorial history of the genre by David Kyle, a couple by David Pringle, one by James Gunn, and, of course, the massive Clute and Nicholls one.

  2. I think I’ve got about a third of the books you have there and every time I think of them, I get a smile on my face. In fact, think I’ll go delve into them again, just for the nostalgia value. Thanks for the post, Ian! 🙂

    Oh, and thanks for your comments on “John Carter”. As someone who hasn’t seen it yet, they are much appreciated amidst the decriers.

    • ive got 3 of them…you can tell that the story lines are just to link the pics because theres no duplicate pics of the same spaceships …they are just one-off pics …no other pics of the same spaceships

  3. I need to do a similar blog post. There were some very good pictorial SF books and encyclopedias around then.

  4. I wonder if you (guys) might help. When I was a lad I remember picking up a SF art collection at my local library. It had the obligatory Foss pictures in it amongst others.

    I remember it had one picture in it that has always haunted me of a crashed spaceship with a dead pilot in the cockpit. It’s set in a forest or jungle and plants have punctured everything. They grow out of the helmet of the pilot and in between plates of the ship. For some reason I’ve always found that image really really disturbing but I’ve never tracked down the collection.

    Another picture that’s in the same book depicts a future where we’ve regressed to children and are floating Mekon-like on powered seats.

    We’re going back to when I was in single digits so my recollection is a little fuzzy.

    if you can think what the book might be I’d appreciate it a hint. I’ve always wanted to see if I can track down a copy.

    • That first one rings a vague bell. I’ll have a look this weekend and see if I can find it.

    • Hi. I think, perhaps, that haunting corpse in cockpit illustration by Chris Foss is reproduced in an excellent compilation of his work titled: ’21st Century Foss’. Check out EBay and Amazon to see if you can purchase it … might be a tad expensive though, but Foss is worth it! 🙂

  5. I know exactly the crashed spaceship picture Antihippy mentions – I’ll have a look through my books.

  6. Thanks guys.

    One of the things that’s missing from my collection is SF art. Ian’s blog post is a timely reminder that I should pay more attention to it!

  7. Sorry to say I couldn’t locate that picture – perhaps Ian had more success?

    • It’s this one, I think:


      • Hi – I have been looking for the same book as I think Antihippy was remembering ‘crashed spaceship in the jungle with plants and a skull in a helmet’. The URL in this thread is broken, and this thread is years old so I don’t hold out much hope. But thanks anyway if there is anyone out there who can help with the book title or validate the image discussed above 🙂

  8. Yes I think you’re right. I’m going to have to look into that book.

    Thanks Ian and Al!

    • I may well have borrowed that book from a library at some point, although I’ve never owned it. Talk about niche publishing!

      • Yeah. I’m going to hunt this one down so I can have a close look at the picture. From this distance I am cant’ see why it bothered me so much as a lad.

        Here’s another art question.

        (Also from when I was a lad).

        Does anyone remember the 80s fad for treasure hunter books? Or whatever they were called. I remember my godmother had one that was a selection of SF images. You hunted through them for clues – and these solved a puzzle (although maybe not a strict treasure hunt).

        I remember it featured big tableaux featuring marching armies (gold and red?) and maybe some fantastical beasts. Have you guys seen that one?

  9. I remember there was one very big and famous treasure book in the early 80s, but can’t remember the name – something about a golden rabbit, possibly? The clues led to some actual buried prize somewhere.

    • That was Masquerade by Kit Williams. I don’t recall a sf treasure hunt book, though.

    • That was the actual treasure hunt book – I remember my dad going on about it. Sadly my godmother isn’t around these days or I would just ask her. I have definite memories of this one. Oh well – I knew it would be a long shot!

  10. i didnt realise there was so many in the series,,,ive got StarLiners, Great Space Battles and Space Warriors..i dont suppose any are still around now

  11. Nice post. Thanks! I also remember buying these visual delights from UK discount book shops in late 70s and into the early 80s. It begs the question: why weren’t they available in mainstream bookshops? I see ‘Tour of the Universe’ in the collection … another good idea, though I enjoyed the Handbooks especially. What a great era for sci-fi and fantasy art books, with superb publishers like Dragon’s World/Paper Tiger around! I had a totally gorgeous hardback edition of Roger Dean’s ‘Views’ until I left it stored in a place that, unknown to me, became damp. The book was ruined! A shameful loss. Then, I remember that Dragon’s World and similar publishers are no longer with us, an the sense of halcyon days cuts even deeper.
    Chris Mills ( writing as Jay Northearn )

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