composing with the visually illiterate

Jesse Marinoff Reyes ( Jesse Marinoff Reyes Design, Maplewood, N.J.)

Astounding Science Fiction (digest)
January 1952 issue
Illustration: Hubert Rogers (1898-1982)

Jesse Marinoff Reyes Design

One of the giants of pulp sci-fi, Rogers had been a contributor to Astounding Science Fiction from the latter 1930s through 1953 (along with many other pulp magazines), coinciding with the period in which Astounding published the earliest and most important work by a group of writers who would become both famous and influential. Among the classic sci fi works he illustrated were “Methuselah’s Children” by Robert A. Heinlein; “Slan” and “The World of Null-A” by A. E. Van Vogt; “Nightfall” and Foundation” by Isaac Asimov; and “Grey Lensman” by E. E. “Doc” Smith.

Unfortunately, being a pulp giant didn’t always convey respect. According to Heinlein: “A Scribner’s editor asked me to suggest an artist for Rocket Ship Galileo (published 1947). I suggested Hubert Rogers. She looked into the matter then wrote me that Mr. Rogers’ name was ‘too closely associated with a rather cheap magazine,’ meaning Astounding Science Fiction. To prove her point she sent me tear sheets from the magazine. It so happened that the story she picked to send me was one of my own! I chuckled and said nothing. If she was only impressed by the fact that the stuff was printed on pulpwood paper, it was not my place to educate her. I wondered if she knew that my reputation had been gained in that same ‘cheap’ magazine. I concluded that she probably did not know and might not be willing to publish my stuff in Scribner’s had she known.”

And you wonder why art directors chafe at the unwarranted influence of editors on the visual aspect of books (most magazine or newspaper people know better, or at least are prevented from sticking their noses into it). Most word people I’ve been exposed to are visually illiterate but for a precious, precious few, as it’s not their bailiwick (but it doesn’t seem to stop them—and just watch them bristle when an art director makes editorial suggestions).

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