I really enjoy used bookstores, spending hours wandering their rows of shelves, hoping to stumble upon that forgotten book from my past I want to read again, a book I never heard of but jumps off the shelf asking me to explore it, or the unexpected rare book you always hoped to find an affordable copy of. A book that fits two of those categories was finding a 1979 edition of Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials. I remember originally finding this book at my library when I was a kid and being fascinated to see the creatures from the science fiction books visualized.
I was fascinated to see how an artist visualized these aliens I had read so much about like the Ixchel from A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, the Guild Steersman from Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert, and the Old One from At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft, and more! And then to have the proposed science behind these extraterrestrials was all that more wonderful.
“Wayne Douglas Barlowe’s brilliant portraits of science fiction creatures are the result of exacting studies made during a lifetime in the field. He now presents anatomical drawings, cutaway and locomotive studies, and at-hand observations of each entity’s habits, behavioral patterns, environment, and culture.”
When my later roleplaying hobby moved from superheroes and fantasy into science fiction via Star Frontiers, Traveller, and Star Wars, I remembered this book and would check it out from the library again to add unique aliens to my campaigns and provide visuals. Then I moved away to college and career, and my new local library did not have the book and interlibrary loan was temporary.
Now, years later, I found a copy in a nearby used bookstore and was elated. Such a great reference book for gaming and just to read as a science fiction fan. Already been using it as I prepare a series of Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers-inspired Feng Shui adventures.
As much as I recommend this book, it is out of print and can be difficult to find at a decent price. A newer edition from 1987 appears easier to find and less expensive.