Christopher “Chris” F. Foss (born 1946 in Guernsey, Channel Islands) is a British artist and science fiction illustrator. He is best known for his science fiction book covers.
Foss’s evocative science fiction book covers pioneered a much-imitated style featuring vast, colourful spaceships, machines and cities, often marked with mysterious symbols. Human figures are usually absent. These images are suggestive of science fiction in general rather than depictions of specific scenes from books, and therefore can be—and have been—used interchangeably on book covers. During the 1970s, Foss’s images of future technology had the same iconic “defining” quality that H. R. Giger’s would have in terms of depictions of alien or future life forms.
Books featuring Foss illustrations include the 1970s British paperback covers for Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy, the Terran Trade Authority, several Edmund Cooper novels, and E. E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman and Skylark series. Some of the art he did produce was specific to the stories and some examples of this are the covers he did for the Grafton publications of the Demon Princes novels by Jack Vance in the late 1980s, Star King, The Killing Machine, The Palace of Love, The Face and The Book of Dreams.
Not being a fan of science fiction, Foss typically did not read the books he illustrated, preferring to paint scenes entirely from his imagination.
In 1975, Foss was hired by director Alejandro Jodorowsky for an intended film version of the science-fiction novel Dune by author Frank Herbert. He delivered several conceptual studies published in the book 21st Century Foss, ISBN 90-6332-571-1, containing a foreword by Jodorowsky. The project failed. In 1977 Foss worked for several months on studies for the movie Alien (not being used in the movie) and also did some designs of the planet Krypton for the movie Superman. Some of his crystal structures for the planet were realized in the movie, although they were used as ice-structures.
During this period Chris Foss illustrated the sleeve of the album Clear Air Turbulence for the Ian Gillan Band.
Painter Glenn Brown controversially appropriated individual space scene paintings by Foss and in the one case copying and altering it (Exercise One (for Ian Curtis), 1995) and in the other, leaving it entirely unchanged (Dark Angel (for Ian Curtis), 2002). The titles of these works reference the vocalist of the band Joy Division, who died by his own hand.
Chris Foss created much of the color concept art for Sweetpea Entertainment’s Traveller franchise, as produced by Imperium Games. He produced 12 pages of artwork for the new Traveller edition’s first supplement, Starships (1996). He also illustrated a number of covers for Imperium’s Traveller.
In 1990, Foss released a book that was vague in many of the details of its production called Diary of a Spaceperson, published by Paper Tiger (ISBN 1-85028-049-5). It is a tome of his work to date. However, there is no way of knowing what that date is, which in some way provides some potency to the story within, as it is stated in the foreword that “the contents of the book are extracts of a ‘space person’s diary’ and are duplicated within”, and “that the dates published within are of no meaning”.
Although there is a vast number of his paintings within the book, hardly a large percentage of what he has produced is featured, and the fictional diary text itself also bears little connection to the paintings, except in some contrived ways. There is also no mention of the actual or original titles for any of the featured artworks, but many have been seen on the covers of authors’ science fiction.
It also features many sketches in various states of completion, some of which are seen completed and painted in other parts of the book. In fact, only some of the images, all of which feature architecture and craft, are rendered in paint; the rest of the works are nudes and sketches of women.