You may know Mark Waid from Kingdom Come or his exceptional run on Doctor Strange. (Among countless other projects, of course.) But in recent years, Waid’s also been the publisher of Humanoids, where he’s headed up projects like Life Drawn and the H1 superhero imprint. More recently, Waid and company have launched another exciting title worth of your attention.
First published last year in French, The History of Science Fiction is just that, an illustrated history text/graphic novel that charts the “genre’s history from its beginnings as a “schlock” genre to its respected status today. The creative team, writer Xavier Dollo and and artist/illustrator Djibril Morissette-Phan, have crafted a truly compelling piece of history, one that’s both educational and a celebration of truly great sci-fi.
With the book due out next week (November 23), we caught up with Waid via email for a quick chat. There, we discussed how the book came to be, what it means for sci-fi fans, how it impacted him personally, and other tidbits.
AIPT: Can you talk a little about how this book landed on your desk?
Mark Waid: It was actually originally published in French last year by our Paris office. Both offices often translate and publish books by one another, though those decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. With The History of Science Fiction, I didn’t hesitate — I could tell, even from an untranslated version, that this was something special.
AIPT: Why do you think, as a publisher, it was important to publish this specific book?
MW: It’s sui generis. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and I’m speaking not only as a publisher but as a student of the genre. The breadth of information is just stunning, and I have no doubt that it’ll be a classroom textbook and library staple for some time to come. That it ties into our reputation as a leading science fiction publisher is a bonus.
AIPT: What’s the reason for sharing or exploring history in this specific illustrated format?
MW: The beauty of doing this book as part graphic novel, part illustrated text, is that it gives the density of the information room to breathe. It’s an old adage, but it’s true–a picture really is worth a thousand words, and what might have come across as a dull recitation of facts in a non-illustrated book comes across in The History of Science Fiction as an eye-pleasing, inviting journey.
AIPT: Do you have a favorite moment (a panel, quote, etc.) that speaks to the larger importance or value of this book?
MW: There’s an entire sequence showing an imagined conversation between H.G. Wells and the late Judith Merril, a highly influential Canadian author, about gender politics throughout the history of the medium that’s just delightful. Not only is it factual, but like so many other instances in the book, it gives cultural context to people, places, and events.
AIPT: Why do you think Xavier Dollo and Djibril Morissette-Phan are the team to tell this story? What do they bring in terms of analysis or general understanding?
MW: Xavier is a highly respected and accomplished historian whose bona fides are unimpeachable. The astounding amount of research he did to produce his manuscript is staggering. And Djibril absolutely hit it out of the park as an artist who can render the fantastic and the mundane with an engaging nature. A good graphic novel artist should be able to draw anything, and Djibril really got to show his talent here.
I also want to give props to co-editor Amanda Lucido and designer Ryan Lewis, who were instrumental in the Herculean task of finding and replacing literally hundreds of “Recommended” sidebar items and graphics that needed to reference English-language works rather than French works and editions unavailable to our audience.
AIPT: You’ve obviously done some sci-fi storytelling of your own in the past. Has this book altered your perception of the genre as a whole or even your appreciation of it?
MW: Not so much my perception, but certainly my appreciation; the sheer number of forebears and influencers who have helped shape 21st century culture is staggering, and seeing their accomplishments laid out in front of me so comprehensively underscores my sense of indebtedness to them.
AIPT: What does a book like this do for the image or reputation of Humanoids in general?
MW: In a broad sense, it certainly fits our remit as a leading publisher of science fiction graphic novels, albeit from a non-fiction perspective, but it’s certainly in our wheelhouse. My hope is that it underscores our reputation as an unwavering champion of the genre.
AIPT: Similarly, can we expect other books like this, a deeply inventive history text, from Humanoids in the near or not-too-distant future?
MW: This book was a beast. An absolute beast. We’re absolutely open to submissions from authors for similar projects, but wish us luck in finding ones as learned as Dollo.
AIPT: What will the average sci-fi fan walk away with if they read this book in full?
MW: A much broader view of the medium and its history–but more than that, a full science fiction menu, exposure to dozens and dozens and dozens of works related to their specific interests that they may be unfamiliar with but cannot help to be greatly entertained by.
The following pages are courtesy of Humanoids.
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