Virgil Finlay

Virgil Finlay (July 23, 1914 – January 18, 1971) was an American pulp fantasy, science fiction and horror illustrator. He has been called "part of the pulp magazine history ... one of the foremost contributors of original and imaginative art work for the most memorable science fiction and fantasy publications of our time."[2] While he worked in a range of media, from gouache to oils, Finlay specialized in, and became famous for, detailed pen-and-ink drawings accomplished with abundant stippling, cross-hatching, and scratchboard techniques. Despite the very labor-intensive and time-consuming nature of his specialty, Finlay created more than 2600 works of graphic art in his 35-year career.[3]

The Science Fiction Hall of Fame inducted Finlay in 2012.[4]

Virgil Finlay
Virgil Finlay 1969
Finlay in 1969
Virgil Warden Finlay

July 23, 1914
Rochester, New York, United States
DiedJanuary 18, 1971 (aged 56)
Westbury, New York, United States[1]
Known forIllustration
AwardsHugo Award for Best Professional Artist, 1945 (Retro Hugo awarded in 1996); Hugo Award for Best Interior Illustrator, 1953; Science Fiction Hall of Fame, 2012
Weird Tales December 1937
Finlay cover, Weird Tales, December 1937


WeirdTalesv28n3pg277 Opener of the Way
A Finlay illustration from Weird Tales, October 1936

Virgil Warden Finlay was born and raised in Rochester, New York; his father, woodworker Warden Hugh Finlay, died at age 40 in the midst of the Great Depression, leaving his family (widow Ruth and two children, Jean and Virgil) in straitened circumstances. By his high school years, Virgil Finlay was exercising his passions for art and poetry, and discovered his lifelong subject matter in the pulp magazines of the era—science fiction in Amazing Stories (1927), fantasy and horror in Weird Tales (1928)—and began to exhibit at the age of 16. By age 21 he was confident enough in his art to send six pieces, unsolicited, to editor Farnsworth Wright at Weird Tales, who determined that such detailed work would transfer successfully to relatively rough paper the magazine used (they were called "pulps" for a reason). Wright began buying Finlay's work, which debuted with illustrations of three different stories in the December 1935 issue[5] and appeared in 62 issues including the last in September 1954. He also created 19 color covers for Weird Tales numbers from February 1937 to March 1953.[6] (In the latter year he won one of the inaugural Hugo Awards, as the previous year's best "Interior Illustrator"; cover artists and interior illustrators were not thereafter distinguished by the Hugo Award for Best Artist under various names. He was also named the best artist of 1945 in the 50-year Retro Hugos of 1996.)[7]

Finlay quickly branched out to other publications after his 1935 debut; he was an immediate hit. In 1938 he went to work for A. Merritt at The American Weekly, moving from Rochester to New York City. Later the same year, he married Beverly Stiles, whom he had known in childhood in Rochester (Nov. 16, 1938). His adjustment to the city and to his new job was not smooth, however; he was fired and re-hired more than once. Yet during his period on the magazine's staff (1938–43), and later as a freelancer (1946–51), Finlay estimated that he produced 845 different illustrations, large and small, for Merritt's magazine.

Finlay served in the US Army during World War II, and saw extensive combat in the South West Pacific theater, notably on Okinawa, and did posters and illustrations for the Morale Services during his three years of military service. He resumed his artistic career after demobilization, doing a considerable amount of work for science fiction magazines and books. As the pulp magazine market narrowed through the 1950s, Finlay turned to astrology magazines as a new venue for his art.

Finlay also wrote poetry throughout his adult life. Virtually none was published in his lifetime, though significant samples have been printed posthumously.[8]

Finlay had to undergo major surgery for cancer in early 1969. He recovered enough to go back to work for a time, but the cancer returned, and Finlay died of the disease early in 1971, aged 56. Finlay just missed a resurgence in interest in his artwork from the early 1970s onward. Both Donald M. Grant and Gerry de la Ree have published series of collections of Finlay artwork since the artist's death. The later books published by Underwood-Miller contain illustrations from the Gerry de la Ree editions, as well as additional material. A slightly later generation of fantasy fans were introduced to Finlay's art by reprints of his earlier work in the horror film fan magazine Castle of Frankenstein alongside the fine writing that gave significance to that magazine.

Roads, a fantasy novella by Seabury Quinn, first published in the January 1938 Weird Tales, and featuring a cover and interior illustrations by Finlay, was originally published in a very limited edition by Arkham House in 1948. It was recently given a 21st-century facsimile reprinting by Red Jacket Press.


  • Virgil Finlay (Donald M. Grant, 1971)
  • An Astrology Sketch Book (Donald M. Grant, 1975) introductions by Beverly C. Finlay and Robert Prestopino
  • Finlay's Femmes (1976) – portfolio of drawings
  • Finlay's Illustrations for Weird Tales (Showcase Art Productions, 1976) – portfolio of drawings
  • Women of the Ages (Underwood-Miller, 1992)
  • Strange Science (Underwood-Miller, 1993)
  • Phantasms (Underwood-Miller, 1993)
  • Virgil Finlay's Far Beyond (Charles F. Miller, 1994)

Books published by Gerry de la Ree

  • Finlay's Lost Drawings: For Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream (1975) with Gerry de la Ree
  • The Book of Virgil Finlay (1976)
  • Second Book of Virgil Finlay (1978)
  • The Third Book of Virgil Finlay (1979)
  • The Fourth Book of Virgil Finlay (1979)
  • The Fifth Book of Virgil Finlay (1979)
  • The Sixth Book of Virgil Finlay: The Astrology Years (1980)
  • The Seventh Book of Virgil Finlay – Virgil Finlay Remembered (1981)


  1. ^ "VIRGIL FINLAY DIES; ILLUSTRATOR WAS 56" - The New York Times
  2. ^ Collins, Charles M. "Charles Collins Reviews Fables of Heroic Fantasy and Eldritch Horror". Castle of Frankenstein no. 6 [1964].
  3. ^ Virgil Finlay: Master of Dark Fantasy Illustration, website 'These Fantastic Worlds'.
  4. ^ "Science Fiction Hall of Fame: EMP Museum Announces the 2012 Science Fiction Hall of Fame Inductees" at the Wayback Machine (archive index). May/June 2012. EMP Museum ( Retrieved 2013-03-19.
  5. ^ Weird Tales (December 1935) publication contents. ISFDB. Retrieved 2013-04-11.
  6. ^ Virgil Finlay at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB). Retrieved 2013-04-10. Select a title to see its linked publication history and general information. Select a particular edition (title) for more data at that level, such as a front cover image or linked contents.
  7. ^ "Finlay, Virgil" Archived 2015-02-22 at the Wayback Machine. The Locus Index to SF Awards: Index of Art Nominees. Locus Publications. Retrieved 2013-04-09.
  8. ^ "A Virgil Finlay Bibliography". Retrieved 2013-09-13.

External links

American Fantasy Press

American Fantasy Press is a science fiction/fantasy/horror specialty press owned and operated by Robert T. Garcia and Nancy Garcia. Located in Woodstock, Illinois, the press has published: The first U.S. hardcover edition of Dennis Etchison's Darkside (A 10th anniversary edition); the chapbook edition of The Man on the Ceiling by Steve Rasnic and Melanie Tem, the chapbook of A Walking Tour of the Shambles by Neil Gaiman and Gene Wolfe, the first U.S. hardcover edition of Michael Moorcock's The Dreamthief's Daughter (a signed, limited edition), the chapbook The Broecker Sampler, featuring the artwork of Randy Broecker, a broadsheet of Jo Fletcher's poem Midnight Monster illustrated by Gahan Wilson, and the first hardcover edition of the Mary Frances Zambreno's short story collection Invisible Pleasures. It published the fantasy short story collection by Mike Resnick, Stalking the Zombie which features his hard-boiled detective John J. Mallory in an alternate Manhattan. In 2015, the press published The Collectors' Book of Virgil Finlay, by Robert Weinberg, Douglas Ellis and AF publisher Robert Garcia.

The press began as an offshoot of the Garcia's magazine American Fantasy, which won a World Fantasy Special Award—Non-professional in 1988. The Man on the Ceiling won the World Fantasy Award, The International Horror Guild Award and the Bram Stoker Award.

Centaur Press

Centaur Press, later renamed Centaur Books, was a New York-based small publisher active from the late 1960s through 1981. The press was founded by Charles M. Collins and Donald M. Grant. It was primarily a paperback publisher, though one of its more successful titles was reissued in hardcover. It was notable for reviving pulp adventure and fantasy works of the early twentieth century for its "Time-Lost Series."

Authors whose works were returned to print by Centaur Press include Robert E. Howard, Arthur O. Friel, J. Allan Dunn, Alfred H. Bill, Jean d'Esme, Darrel Crombie, Arthur D. Howden Smith, Talbot Mundy, E. Charles Vivian, Will Garth, H. Warner Munn, and William Hope Hodgson. In the sole anthology it issued, the press also premiered a couple new works, one by Crombie and one by contemporary author Lin Carter. In later years it also published longer works by contemporary authors, including Carter, Galad Elflandsson, and Robb Walsh. Its books featured cover art by Jeff Jones, Robert Bruce Acheson, Virgil Finlay, Frank Brunner, David Ireland, Stephen Fabian, Randy Broecker, and David Wenzel.

Centaur's output was small, generally on the order of one to three books a year. Its publications featured thicker and less acidic paper than that utilized by most paperback houses.

Donald M. Grant, Publisher

Donald M. Grant, Publisher, Inc. is a fantasy and science fiction small press publisher in New Hampshire that was founded in 1964. It is notable for publishing fantasy and horror novels with lavish illustrations, most notably Stephen King's The Dark Tower series and the King/Peter Straub novel The Talisman.

Famous Fantastic Mysteries

Famous Fantastic Mysteries was an American science fiction and fantasy pulp magazine published from 1939 to 1953. The editor was Mary Gnaedinger. It was launched by the Munsey Company as a way to reprint the many science fiction and fantasy stories which had appeared over the preceding decades in Munsey magazines such as Argosy. From its first issue, dated September/October 1939, Famous Fantastic Mysteries was an immediate success. Less than a year later, a companion magazine, Fantastic Novels, was launched.

Frequently reprinted authors included George Allan England, A. Merritt, and Austin Hall; the artwork was also a major reason for the success of the magazine, with artists such as Virgil Finlay and Lawrence Stevens contributing some of their best work. In late 1942, Popular Publications acquired the title from Munsey, and Famous Fantastic Mysteries stopped reprinting short stories from the earlier magazines. It continued to reprint longer works, including titles by G. K. Chesterton, H. G. Wells, and H. Rider Haggard. Original short fiction also began to appear, including Arthur C. Clarke's "Guardian Angel", which would later form the first section of his novel Childhood's End. In 1951, the publishers experimented briefly with a large digest format, but returned quickly to the original pulp layout. The magazine ceased publication in 1953, almost at the end of the pulp era.


Finlay is a masculine given name, and also a surname. The given name is represented in Scottish Gaelic as Fionnlagh.

Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist

The Hugo Awards are given every year by the World Science Fiction Society for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year. The award is named after Hugo Gernsback, the founder of the pioneering science fiction magazine Amazing Stories, and was once officially known as the Science Fiction Achievement Award. The award has been described as "a fine showcase for speculative fiction" and "the best known literary award for science fiction writing". The Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist is given each year for artists of works related to science fiction or fantasy released in the previous calendar year.The Professional Artist award has been given annually under several names since 1955, with the exception of 1957. The inaugural 1953 Hugo awards recognized "Best Interior Illustrator" and "Best Cover Artist" categories, awarded to Virgil Finlay and a tie between Hannes Bok and Ed Emshwiller, respectively. The Best Professional Artist award was simply named "Best Artist" in 1955 and 1956, was not awarded in 1957, and was named "Outstanding Artist" in 1958, finally changing to its current name the following year. Beginning in 1996 Retrospective Hugo Awards, or "Retro Hugos", have been available to be awarded for years 50, 75, or 100 years prior in which no awards were given. To date, Retro Hugo awards have been awarded for 1939, 1941, 1943, 1946, 1951, and 1954, and in each case an award for professional artist was given.Hugo Award nominees and winners are chosen by supporting or attending members of the annual World Science Fiction Convention, or Worldcon, and the presentation evening constitutes its central event. The selection process is defined in the World Science Fiction Society Constitution as instant-runoff voting with six nominees, except in the case of a tie. The works on the ballot are the six most-nominated by members that year, with no limit on the number of works that can be nominated. The awards in 1955 and 1958 did not include any recognition of runner-up artists, but since 1959 all six candidates have been recorded. Initial nominations are made by members in January through March, while voting on the ballot of six nominations is performed roughly in April through July, subject to change depending on when that year's Worldcon is held. Prior to 2017, the final ballot was five works; it was changed that year to six, with each initial nominator limited to five nominations. Worldcons are generally held near Labor Day, and in a different city around the world each year.During the 69 nomination years, 79 artists have been nominated; 23 of these have won, including co-winners and Retro Hugos. Michael Whelan has received the most awards, with 13 wins out of 24 nominations. Frank Kelly Freas has 11 wins and 28 nominations, the most nominations of any artist. Other artists with large numbers of wins or nominations include Bob Eggleton with 8 wins out of 23 nominations, Virgil Finlay with 4 out of 13, Ed Emshwiller with 4 out of 9, and Don Maitz with 2 out of 17. David A. Cherry and Thomas Canty are tied for the most nominations without an award at 10 each.

Meddler (short story)

"Meddler" is a science fiction short story by Philip K. Dick. It was first published in Future Science Fiction, October 1954 with illustration by Virgil Finlay. Dick had submitted many short stories to magazines and made approximately fifteen sales before becoming a client of the Scott Meredith Literary Agency. This was his second SMLA submission, received by SMLA on July 24, 1952. His first SMLA submission was The Builder, received by SMLA on July 23, 1952.

Mystery in Space

Mystery in Space is the name of two science fiction American comic book series published by DC Comics, and of a standalone Vertigo anthology released in 2012. The first series ran for 110 issues from 1951 to 1966, with a further seven issues continuing the numbering during a 1980s revival of the title. An eight-issue limited series began in 2006.

Together with Strange Adventures, Mystery In Space was one of DC Comics' major science fiction anthology series. It won a number of awards, including the 1962 Alley Award for "Best Book-Length Story" and the 1963 Alley Award for "Comic Displaying Best Interior Color Work". The title featured short science fiction stories and a number of continuing series, most written by many of the best-known comics and science fiction writers of the day, including John Broome, Gardner Fox, Jack Schiff, Otto Binder, and Edmond Hamilton. The artwork featured a considerable number of the 1950s and 1960s finest comics artists such as Carmine Infantino, Murphy Anderson, Gil Kane, Alex Toth, Bernard Sachs, Frank Frazetta, and Virgil Finlay.

Swords and Sorcery

For the combination table-top and role-playing game by SPI, see Swords & Sorcery (SPI). For the video game, see Swords and Sorcery (video game).

Swords and Sorcery is an anthology of fantasy short stories in the sword and sorcery subgenre, edited by L. Sprague de Camp and illustrated by Virgil Finlay. It was first published in paperback by Pyramid Books in 1963. It was first sword and sorcery anthology ever assembled, and was followed by three additional such anthologies edited by de Camp. It has also been translated into German.The book collects eight sword and sorcery tales by various authors, with an overall introduction by de Camp. The piece by Poul Anderson introduced his Cappen Varra character, later one of the foundational characters of the Thieves' World shared world anthologies edited by Robert Asprin and Lynn Abbey.

Swordsmen and Supermen

Swordsmen and Supermen is an anonymously edited anthology of fantasy stories by Robert E. Howard and others, with a cover by Virgil Finlay. It was first published in paperback by Centaur Press in February 1972. The anonymous editor has been identified by bibliographers Jack L. Chalker and Mark Owings and by critic Roger C. Schlobin as the publisher, Donald M. Grant.The book collects five novelettes and short stories by various fantasy authors, with a general introductory note and introductory notes on the authors and stories prefacing each story. The stories are "swashbuckling fantastic yarns" both from the pulp era of the 1920s and 1930s and the period in which the book was published.

The American Weekly

The American Weekly was a Sunday newspaper supplement published by the Hearst Corporation from November 1, 1896, until 1966.

The Big Time

The Big Time (1958) is a short science fiction novel by American writer Fritz Leiber. Awarded the Hugo Award during 1958, The Big Time was published originally in two parts in Galaxy Magazine's March and April 1958 issues, illustrated by Virgil Finlay. It was subsequently reprinted in book form several times. The Big Time is a story involving only a few characters, but with a vast, cosmic back story.

The Outsider and Others

The Outsider and Others is a collection of stories by American writer H. P. Lovecraft. It was released in 1939 and was the first book published by Arkham House. 1,268 copies were printed. It went out of print early in 1944 and has never been reprinted.

The volume takes its name from the Lovecraft short story "The Outsider"; The Outsider and Other Stories was Lovecraft's preferred title for a short story collection considered, but never issued, by Farnsworth Wright. The stories for this volume were selected by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei. The dust jacket art was a montage of drawings by Virgil Finlay for Weird Tales magazine, of which only one or two had originally illustrated Lovecraft stories.

E. F. Bleiler describes the collection's publication as "the beginning of serious specialist publishing of fantastic fiction in America".

The Spell of Seven

The Spell of Seven is an anthology of fantasy short stories in the sword and sorcery subgenre, edited by L. Sprague de Camp and illustrated by Virgil Finlay. It was first published in paperback by Pyramid Books in June 1965, and reprinted in December 1969. It was the second such anthology assembled by de Camp, following his Swords and Sorcery (1963).

The book collects seven sword and sorcery tales by various authors, with an overall introduction by de Camp.

Four of the seven authors represented were members of the Swordsmen and Sorcerers' Guild of America (SAGA), a somewhat informal literary group of fantasy authors active from the 1960s to the 1980s, making the book a precursor of the five Flashing Swords! anthologies of SAGA-member works edited by Lin Carter from 1973 to 1981.

Tommy Tomorrow

Tommy Tomorrow was a science fiction hero published by DC Comics in several of their titles from 1947 to 1963. He first appeared in Real Fact Comics #6 (January 1947). He was created by Jack Schiff, George Kashdan, Bernie Breslauer, Virgil Finlay, and Howard Sherman.

Virgil Finlay (book)

Virgil Finlay is a memorial collection of drawings by and appreciations of Virgil Finlay. It was compiled and edited by Donald M. Grant and published in 1971 by Donald M. Grant, Publisher, Inc. in an edition of 1,202 copies.

Walter Einsel

Walter Einsel (1926–1998) was an American sculptor and illustrator from Westport, Connecticut.

Winston Science Fiction

Winston Science Fiction was a series of 37 American juvenile science fiction books published by the John C. Winston Company of Philadelphia from 1952 to 1960 and by its successor Holt, Rinehart & Winston in 1960 and 1961. It included 35 novels by various writers, including many who became famous in the SF field, such as Poul Anderson, Arthur C. Clarke, Ben Bova, and Lester del Rey. There was also one anthology, The Year After Tomorrow, edited by del Rey and others. There was one non-fiction book Rockets through Space: The Story of Man's Preparations to Explore the Universe by del Rey which details the factual science and technology of rocket flight. Many of the dust jackets became science fiction classics; the artists included Hugo Award winners Ed Emshwiller and Virgil Finlay along with Hugo nominees such as Mel Hunter and Alex Schomburg.

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