John Schoenherr - 1953-2010

RIP: 1953-2010

The man once described by Frank Herbert as being “the only man who has ever visited Dune”, John Schoenherr, passed away last Thursday. He was 74.

Schoenherr is best know for his two anthologies of illustrations depicting life on the spice planet, “Dune World” and “The Prophet of Dune”. Both were published by Analog Magazine back in 1963 and 1965. His drawings from the ’65 collection earned him a Hugo Award for Best New Artist.  Over the course of 20 years, beginning in 1950, Schoenherr created hundreds of images to populate the visual library of the fantastical realm that is Science Fiction, including the covers for the Dune series.

As well as working on Dune, Schoenherr also worked with Anne McCaffrey on “Weyr Search”, the first Pern story and placed his visual stamp on not one but two of the most popular science fiction series created in the last 50 years.

After 1970, Schoenherr returned to the world of Dune only once, creating new art for The Illustrated Dune. He continued to be an award  illustrator of children’s books, he won the Caldecott medal for his work on Jane Yolen’s Owl Moon in 1988, and wildlife artist.

John Schoenherr - DuneI remember buying Dune when I was twelve before heading off to summer camp. I needed something to read, but didn’t want to spend too much money on a book that would get wet and sandy, so I headed off to the local used book store. At the time, I wanted to impress the boys so I decided to buy something as un-girly as possible (my grasp of what impressed boys at the time was a little tenuous),. This lead me to to purchase some hard SF, my first foray into the genre, so we’d have something to talk about. I remember picking up a beat up copy of Dune and being entranced by the illustration on the cover. What was this world? What was going on? Was that a mountain or… something else? That painting opened up a whole new world for me, one that I’ve enjoyed immensely over the years. I’m tremendously grateful to John Schoenherr for opening the door on that new world for me because it was his image that first drew me in.

Who says you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover?

Other illustrations by John Schoenherr

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, illustrate by John Schoenherr, 1987 Ursa Major, 1981
Weyr Search by Anne McCaffrey, 1967 Leto - Analog Magazine, Dune World