Galactic Geographic Annual 3003
(Paper Tiger, 128 pages, large format paperback, $21.95 / £14.99;
24 April 2003.)
Noted illustrator and art director Karl Kofoed has been creating his
scientifically ideal vision of the future in an ongoing series for Heavy
Metal magazine since 1998. Created
and introduced in the 1970s under the title Galactic Geographic,
it describes, in magazine format, Earth's encounters with other worlds
a thousand years in the future, and tackles issues that arise when humans
interact with alien lifeforms.
Galactic Geographic Annual 3003 is a collection of reprints
of these pieces. It is Kofoed's wonderfully fertile imagination captured
between the soft covers of a trade paperback that runs the gamut between
interesting and fascinating, although upon first perusal one might be
fooled into thinking that this unusually realistic fantasy art book
features pictures and descriptions of several bona fide scientific discoveries.
By using colourful illustrations, cleverly designed (though occasionally
anachronistic) photographs and faux-reportage of the type found in commercial
science magazines, the artist/author is able to transport us to his
future world with a startlingly realistic immediacy. So realistic, in
fact, that we could easily pretend this is a not work of fiction --
that is, until we see a photograph of men and women in contemporary
clothing in an extended "advertisement" for a future-world vacationland
early in the book.
Kofoed's future is one of discovery, problem and solution -- a scientist's
fantasyland. And, though the magazine template he utilized to guide
us through it was perhaps not the wisest choice he could have made (for
reasons I'll go into later), his commercial science journal expository
fits snugly within it. Like certain artists I've come across who attempt
writing, he is prone to the occasional awkward sentence or redundancy
("The painting, shown on the opposite page, shows..."). They are not
frequent or glaring enough, however, to detract from the entire body
of the work, especially the picturesque worlds, oddly believable aliens
and logical scientific equipment he has vividly illustrated for us in
For instance, we are introduced to a life form (the Tsailerol) that
can be both phallic and vulval in appearance. We examine an ecologically
created greenhouse on an icy virgin comet. We become familiar with the
aquatic, octopus-like Noron race, and are told how a superior species
overcomes problems in developing a starship filled with water. The question,
"Who are the WO?" is answered for us while we read of other extraterrestrial
discoveries. Though they are seemingly separate at first exposure, the
reader soon realizes that each article is part of an intricately unified
future history to which we are being exposed, one topic at a time.
But, as creative as this concept is, and as well executed as the artwork
is and as detailed (but always understandable) as the future science
is, I still have some presentational issues with this book that
extend far beyond a couple of anachronistic photographs. I think they're
best explained by walking you through my confounding first impressions.
I first had to keep assuring myself that this is a trade paperback
book, and not a super-slick magazine. The cover is so similar in style
to a National Lampoon parody -- in this case, of National
Geographic -- that my first thought would have been to relocate
it on the periodicals rack of my local bookstore if I had picked it
up in the fantasy book section. And its subtitle, Annual 3003,
only added to the confusion. Would there be an issue next year, another
one thousand years in the future, I wondered? And, if this is a book,
why isn't the author's name on the cover or spine? All these questions
were answered -- sort of -- when I glanced at the cover price. At $21.95,
it's an outrageous price for a magazine though of course perfectly acceptable
for a quality trade paperback art book.
Further confusion awaited me on the index page. Author Kofoed was listed
for "Annual Creation and Production" and Paul Barnett as "Editor". That's
clear enough. But Jan Pagh-Kofoed was credited as being the "Inter-species
Editor". What is an "Inter-species Editor" exactly? What did
she contribute, if anything, to this book? It appeared that the author
was intermingling 2003 and 3003 inexplicably -- or, worse yet, indiscernibly.
Credit is also given on the "masthead" to various persons, some of whom
I thought I recognized and some I didn't, for serving on Kofoed's planetary
magazine bureaux. Was this a clever way of paying inspirational or personal
tribute to these folks, or did they actually contribute to the book's
contents? Since there was no credit given to any specific writer or
artist in the first 61 pages of the book, I assumed it all to be the
original work of the author. But then on page 62 a piece is bylined
"Story and pictures by Karl Kofoed". Why? And on page 100 "Article by
Galactic Geographer Karl Kofoed" appears. Why, again? Of course, I was
now forced to wonder who was responsible for the imaginative artwork
that accompanied the piece, since it was not credited. I also began
to wonder why none of the other articles in the book had bylines.
Until one gets the feel for exactly what's going on here, this can
range from confusing to downright annoying. Bottom line: there should
have been a clarifying statement inserted at the very beginning of the
book to explain its concept and format, prepare us for what was to follow,
and give proper credit to Kofoed (and others, if applicable) for its
contents. The author could also have used the page for his acknowledgments.
For the benefit of dolts like myself, this would have been quite helpful.
At the very least, I would have been certain from the get-go that this
was a book I was holding in my hands and not a parody magazine.
But, now that I've cleared up this first-impression vagueness for you
(no thanks needed there, Mr Kofoed!), you can enjoy this book as the
author intended. And please do: there is much within to delight you
and cause you to think for yourself about how we might exist a thousand
years from now. (That is, if we humans make it that far...) And intrigue
you, too -- in a good way, of course.
Review by Randy M Dannenfelser.