Posts Tagged ‘A Trip to the Moon’

Image of the Dystopian Future: A Chinese Rooftop Slum

November 5, 2021

I’ve been reading a number of books on SF art recently. One of these is Prentis Rollins’ How to Draw Sci-Fi Utopias and Dystopias (Monacelli Press 2016). Rollins is a British artist, who has worked on a number of comics for DC and Marvel, as well as various a couple of graphic novels. The book’s subitled’ Create the Futuristic Humans, Aliens, robots, Vehicles, and Cities of Your Dreams and Nightmares’.

The first section of the book gives some basic information on drawing – the face, proportion, anatomy, perspective and so on. But much of the book is his own pictures of various science fictional scenes, which can be roughly assembled into a future history. These show cities devastated by nuclear war, roving tower blocks on tank treads, humans exploring alien landscapes, and the aliens monuments they discover, spaceships, human and alien, and land vehicles, including the trucks of the future. One picture also shows a secret time machine hidden in a bunker in Surrey, alternative histories, like a noble British steampunk family, a war robot created to fight the Vietnam War, new Martians evolved from human colonists, but which don’t look remotely human, meeting the terran emperor. Finally there is a picture of Earth’s distant, utopian future, in which the landscape is dominated by a huge city unlike anything now built.

Each picture is accompanied by Rollins’ own description of how he completed them, taking you step by step through the process by which he transformed his pencil drawings into the superb finished art. He also shows still from some of the great SF movies and TV that have inspired him. This includes Star Trek and Star Wars, Metropolis, Georges Melies’ A Trip to the Moon, and the Alexander Korda’s 1936 film adaptation of H.G. Wells’ Things to Come.

One of the suggestions Rollins makes in the book is that as the global temperature continues to rise, humanity will move higher into the atmosphere to escape the heat. This will result in a network of Earth-girdling buildings strung out on miles’ high skyscrapers. But before that happens, there will be more familiar high-rise slums like this one he depicts for Shenzen in 2100. The Earth’s population has expanded massively, with people crammed into such high-rise cities. Water is desperately short, so it is used only for drinking. There is none to spare for putting out fires, which are left to burn themselves out.

It’s a chilling prediction, and one that is alas all too credible. Especially as Rollins shows the photos he took of contemporary Hong Kong which he used as reference. I’m putting this image up because I feel that it could come true despite international talking-shops on climate change and the environmental crisis like COP26. An event at which our own prime minister showed once again what I bumbling clown he is. David Attenborough, who had the misfortune to be seated next to him, and Greta Thunberg are right: we need solid action on climate change. But we aren’t going to get it from Boris.

Prentis Rollins’ book is a great collection of SF art from the imagination of one of the comics industry’s many great artists. Like many artists, Rollins also uses computers as well as pencil, pen and ink, and I think this may be a little beyond some aspiring SF artists. But the art is great, and should fire the imaginations of its readers and inspire them to create their own great SF works in their turn.