A crowdfunder to celebrate a classic SF-inspired series of books has succeeded in attracting backing for a reprint of the fondly-remembered Spacecraft 2000 to 2100 AD Terran Trade Authority handbook by Stewart Cowley, to be published by Battlefield Press next year.
No one would have believed, in the closing years of the 1970s, that science fiction was to experience a boom that would last through to the present day. The summer blockbuster had only just been invented. There was only one Star Wars movie. Britain had had Doctor Who for two decades, of course, but Blake’s 7 had yet to launch.
In the US, Star Trek was a show consigned to reruns. The voyage of the Battlestar Galactica had only just begun, and Buck Rogers had yet to conquer television.
But between the pages of the Terran Trade Authority handbooks, enthralled readers were discovering a beautiful and brightly-coloured vision of the future, where wondrous spacecraft explored strange planets, navigated shimmering nebulae and fought desperate battles among the stars.
Published by Hamlyn Books, and illustrated by some of the world’s greatest science fiction artists and written by Stewart Cowley, now a children’s book author, the handbooks told the tale of mankind’s expansion into the unknown and the trials and wonders they encountered.
Conceived of as a “Jane’s Guide” for the future, the books made use of the stunning artwork produced for the paperback science fiction market at the time, reproducing them in lush colour and on glossy paper.
Beginning with Spacecraft 2000 – 2100 AD in 1978, the Terran Trade Authority series went on to become a cult phenomenon, loved and fondly remembered by all who came across them. Other titles in the series, which you can find in secondhand bookshops, were Great Space Battles, SpaceWreck: Ghost Ships and Derelicts of Space, and Starliners: Commercial Travel in 2200 AD.
downthetubes understands the idea behind the TTA reprint project is to do a Kickstarter for each of the books, and if they’re all successful, Stewart Cowley may be persuaded to do a new one.
“Spacecraft 2000 – 2100 AD was the first book I ever wrote and represented a major point of change in my life,” Cowley told the web site Khantazi.org in a rare interview about the project, part of a section on the TTA books on the site. “I was working as a graphic designer when I had the idea.
“I was doing work with an illustration agency called Young Artists based in London UK. They happened to represent a new generation of brilliant artists working in the SF arena, and I was really excited about their work. The only outlet for their illustrations at the time were paperback covers, but I felt convinced more could be done with the amazing images they were producing.
“I persuaded them to loan me file transparencies of art samples and had them stuck on my light box for a couple of weeks. I’d look at them every day, trying to think how they could be utilised. Then one day I remembered a book I’d had seen as a child. It was Jane’s Fighting Ships – a survey of the world’s navies – and it hit me. Spacecraft 2000 – 2100 AD was born.
“Being a designer rather than a writer, I tried to find someone to author the project but couldn’t find anyone with the same vision as I had. I wanted someone who could not only create specifications for the spacecraft shown, but set them in a believable historic context.”
In the end, he wrote the book himself – and the rest is history.
The Terran Trade Authority presented a bright vision of the future, optimistic about man’s place in the universe, and featuring a strong undercurrent of mystery, wonder and adventure.
In recent years the volumes have become collectors’ items – expensive and rarely found, but never forgotten – and have gone on to influence creators around the globe. The setting has spawned two role-playing games and has been cited as a clear inspiration for the best-selling computer game No Man’s Sky.
Within the pages of the books are a veritable who’s who of science fiction art, including such names as Jim Burns, Alan Daniels, Peter Elson, Fred Gambino, Colin Hay, Robin Hiddon, Bob Layzell, Angus McKie, Chris Foss, Chris Moore, Tony Roberts, and Trevor Webb.
Now, with fans help, award-winning publisher Battlefield Press are to present a special 40th Anniversary Edition of the first of the TTA handbooks; Spacecraft 2000 – 2100 AD, with a new foreword by Stewart Cowley.
Battlefield Press publish some popular alternate histories, such as Gaslight Victorian Fantasy and Kaiser’s Gate. In addition, they are the publisher of the ENnie Award winning Eldritch Skies. They are often known for their alternate histories, but they are not afraid of publishing whatever suits their fancy.
Given the price of some secondhand copies of this 1970s SF classic, you may want to back this… It’s time to return to the future!
Update – 11th August 2018: While the crowdfunder has now ended, Battlefield told downthetubes they are going to to try to put it up this special edition up for preorder as well. However, non backers will have to pay the full retail price, instead of the price given to backers. More information on how to order as a non backer will be released in due course.
• Battlefield Press – battlefieldpress.com
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With thanks to Ken Walton for the heads up.
Spacecraft 2000 to 2100 AD is © 1978 Stewart Cowley. All art is © 1978 to the respective artist.