Renowned science fiction artist Virgil Finlay was
born in 1914, a year and a couple of weeks after my
father, and lived until 1971, a few years longer than
Paul Linebarger / Cordwainer Smith. Finlay created
over 2500 fastidiously detailed science fiction and
fantasy drawings, using a complex technique which involved
putting black ink on white scratchboard and then scraping
off selected areas. Finlay would combine this with drawing
in black ink on the white background. He also did a lot of
color work—for magazine covers, for example.
Here's a link to a good webpage about the
black-and-white technique, and Virgil Finlay's life and work, in
detail. His gentle sensuality always extremely popular with
fans, Finlay often worked for very small wages, all that the
science fiction magazines paid at that time. Because
his method was time-consuming, he often worked very long
I don't know how many Cordwainer Smith illustrations Virgil
Finlay did. The illustrated Cordwainer Smith bibliography done
by Mike Bennett on this website includes several Finlay covers.
There are two magazine covers by
Finley on this page, with his name given.
A fan sent me a CD with the Finlay drawings reproduced
below, scanned in from a magazine, probably Galaxy,
and I have copied three of these below; you can see where the
original art spanned two pages.
There have been a number of books published that feature the
work of Virgil Finlay; while most are out of print, searching
the usual online bookstores might yield you some results.
(I went to Amazon and Alibris and was going to create direct
links for Virgil Finley but there was so little at
either place that I didn't bother. Of course, at a different
time, it could be better.)
These scanned-in, reduced, web-graphic-quality images can
only give you a hint of the delicacy and subtlety of this art.
All of the Virgil Finlay illustrations on cordwainer-smith.com
are copyright © Lail M. Finlay.
Here are two more illustrations from "On the Storm
Planet." The one at the top of the page is from that story