Thursday, March 31, 2016

Our Universe, My View of Sci-Fi Gaming

As a kid, my parents had a subscription to National Geographic. Somewhere along the way, I (well, really "we" as a family, but I sort of commandeered it) came into possession of the National Geographic Picture Atlas of Our Universe (Roy A. Gallant, published by TBS The Book Service Ltd, 1980). I'm not sure if it was giveaway as part of a subscription, or if it was a book for purchase that my parents thought I (and my siblings) would appreciate. Regardless, it became THE book that informed my knowledge of the solar system, and what the solar system might be like in an alternative sci-fi-informed reality. To this day, it one of the 2 books that forms the foundation for how I "see" sci-fi gaming (the other is Profiles of the Future by Arthur C. Clarke). I won't go into too much detail on how this book inspired me, because Brian Koberlein has done a nice, concise job of expressing the same sentiment.

Long ago, the book left my parents house. I believe it went to Goodwill or similar. Well recently, I came across a copy at an estate sale, and could not pass it by... especially for just a few bucks. So I thought I'd share a few things from the book that I find particularly striking.

Let me start with the image that first struck me... the cover. It's a killer painting of star cruiser by John Berkey. If that names sounds familiar, it's likely because he's did a number of paintings/illustrations for Star Wars Episode IV. In the bigger scheme, his contributions were fewer than Ralph McQuarrie, but important nonetheless. BTW, though Berkey died in 2008, many of the paintings he left behind are available for licensing (and I'd love to see somebody in the community license his art for a cover). In fact, should I ever get back to Starmasters, Berkey's, I hope to do just that myself.

Now let's look at a couple of key images from the interior. One of the first things that struck me were the "What if..." images, speculating what alien life would be like on our solar system's planets and their moons. Check these out!

And then, the pages for each planet almost read like an appendix to Deities & Demigods.

I'll leave it at this for now. I just wanted to share a little slice of my childhood that was recently re-found, and share that with you.


  1. I had this and used ideas from it in my games back in the day. Fantastic!

  2. I had this book as well! I LOVED it. I read it and reread it till it fell apart. Loved all those alien life forms too, especially the floating gas bags of Jupiter.

  3. My family also had this book as a child, and I loved the alien creatures. Thanks for the reminder.

  4. My parents had the same book. I recently picked up their copy and brought it to my apartment. I had forgotten about the portraits of the planets' namesakes, but yeah, the aliens are almost indelibly etched on my mind.

  5. Hi,

    was wondering how I can contact you at New Big Dragon. I made an order on Lulu and had a question.


    1. Hi Al, send an email to csr (at) newbigdragon (dot) com
      (remove spaces and replace at and dot with characters), and let me know what you need.