kiev4am: (authority)
[personal profile] kiev4am

When ‘Star Wars’ came out in 1977 my Dad took me to see it and, because I loved it so much, he bought me the Special Edition Collector’s Magazine and the 2-issue comic adaptation (in other words, all the tie-in publications then available… how things change). The magazine had articles, behind-the-scenes photos, character bios, and some of Ralph McQuarrie’s concept art; I re-read it so obsessively that it fell apart and had to be taped back together numerous times. Of everything in there, it’s McQuarrie’s artwork that I remember most vividly - and this despite the fact that I was seven years old and mostly interested in C3PO, R2D2 and the chases, duels and shoot-em-ups that would probably have been just as exciting for me if they’d happened in a gold rush town or on a pirate ship as on board the Death Star. Looking back, I think the reason those paintings of McQuarrie’s made such an impression was because they whispered of something I hadn’t picked up, at that age, from the film itself - the wider, grander notion of worldbuilding, the idea that beyond Luke and Han and Leia and Chewie and the robots and their scrappy space western of a story might lie an entire universe of other stories, all of them potentially as engaging and complex and contradictory - as relatable and ‘ordinary’ on their own extraordinary terms - as ‘real life’ so far as my child-mind could grasp it. It’s the scope of his paintings, the gravitas and realism he gives these imaginary landscapes, the absolute lack of any flashy or exaggerated ‘hey kids, space!’ aspect, the care with which his skies are painted, with clouds and stars, so close to our own, just one moon away from what we recognise. More than the fireworks and fairy-tale of the movie, I think those images gave me my first glimpse of all that science fiction could do, the extent and depth of its beautiful game of strange/familiar/strange. So, well, this is my belated and clumsy thanks.

Ralph McQuarrie, 1929-2012.
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May 2012

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