Sci-fi Imagineering (January2022)

The latest in my somewhat haphazard Imagineering posts features the artwork of Rick Guidice. He was born and raised as a cool California dude, living close to the burgeoning Silicon Valley, and started out doing architectural illustration at the age of sixteen, before studying fine art at university.

This was at a time when computer graphics was in its infancy, and when engineers and astronomers needed a depiction of something that didn’t exist, their only practical choice was to turn to technical illustrators to visualize their dreams.

My first exposure to Guidice’s work was through the covers of video games, mostly for Atari consoles which I drooled over but couldn’t afford. The drawings were “aspirational” to put it mildly, and the games themselves never looked anywhere close to the covers, but the images certainly sold the spirit of what the games were trying to achieve.

Who could argue with imagery like that?

Although I wasn’t aware of it at the time, Guidice had an even more important place in my own personal history.

As the end of NASA’s Apollo program rolled sadly into sight, the agency was already at work on the shuttle program and gathered to discuss what life off Earth might look like if we could achieve sustainable outposts. In collaboration with Stanford University, they examined all aspects of how the infrastructure could be built and put in place to allow this to happen. And of course, they wanted imagery showing how this might look.

Guidice was one of the illustrators asked to work on concept art for the space colonies discussed, and he produced a number of incredible pieces that captured the imaginations of the boy Kelly and undoubtedly thousands of others.

These illustrations appeared everywhere: NASA articles, TV, comic books. They represented the kind of visuals we now think of as commonplace in science fiction, the progenitors of the art of Star Trek, Star Wars, and every other science fiction TV show or movie ever since.

Over the space of a few years, Guidice created representations of the Stanford Torus, Bernal Sphere, a variety of space hardware and ships, along with my favorite, the O’Neill cylinder.

The Stanford Ring Space Station by Rick Guidice
The Stanford Ring, Note the similarity to the Elysium station the eponymous movie.

As a young boy, these images thrilled me. The idea that there might come a time when I could be living somewhere so majestic as that still brings shivering memories of the excitement I felt back then. Of course, none of it ever happened, but it still could.

In my Joe Ballen books, I talk about a station called Taikong Gaogu. This is essentially an O’Neill cylinder, and in my imagination it looks somewhat like Rick Guidice’s illustration–something incredibly lush and beautiful blended with exquisite engineering, in a fusion both hauntingly familiar, yet strange and beyond any experience humans have ever known.

“Double Cylinder Settlement Interior,” by Rick Guidice
“Double Cylinder Settlement Interior,” AKA an O’Neill cylinder

I’m happy to say, that Mr. Guidice is still around and has spent many years since then designing houses. He still lives in California, and you can see more of his work on his website. Thanks for the inspiration!

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