Richard Powers, whose style defined the look of science fiction
paperbacks in the 1950s an 1960s.
Ian Ballantine was the first publisher to recognize
[Richard] Powers’ genius. Ballantine engaged him in 1953 to do the now
famous paperback edition of Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End.
While never a great fan of science fiction, Powers nonetheless found
endless inspiration in this genre, and single-handedly revolutionized
science fiction illustration. Until then, science fiction illustration
had consisted mostly of conceivably realistic representations of alien
worlds, but Powers unleashed subconscious imagery that explored the
endless possibilities of speculative fiction. Over the course of his
almost 50-year career as a science fiction illustrator, he produced an
estimated 1,400 illustrations.
Contrary to what one would expect from such a seemingly visionary
artist, Powers was also a writer of children’s books and a keen
sportsman, playing semi-pro baseball until a potentially career
threatening hand injury forced him to change to become a highly
competitive tennis player. His quick temper was evidenced in his poor
sportsmanlike behavior on the court when he would lose — presaging
such tennis bad-boys as John McEnroe. One person in particular who
incited his wrath was Richard M. Nixon. His son wrote that, "He loathed
Nixon as soon as he learned he existed."