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Chi-Fi

© Copyright Alessandra Kelley

A brightly colored painting of an Art Deco tower, the point of view askew so it tilts to the left, being climbed by a giant, malevolent, flaming jersey cow as a biplane in the immediate foreground swoops towards it, tilted to the right, a woman in flight gear aiming a pistol at it.

"Chi-Fi" is an egg tempera painting on panel.

This painting was commissioned by the Chicago in 2012 Worldcon bid, as a Chicago-themed imitation of an old-fashioned pulp magazine cover. It was the second of two covers I was commissioned to do (see Multiversity of Chicago). I was given freedom to develop the theme as I liked, and chose to go with a giant flaming cow, King Kong-style climbing the Carbide and Carbon Building -- a gorgeous Art Deco landmark from 1929, currently the Hard Rock Hotel -- while in the foreground a woman steadies a gun on it from a Curtiss JN-4D "Jenny", a famous World War I-era biplane in the collection of the Museum of Science and Industry.

The cow is of course a reference to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 as well as that classic 1933 film, "King Kong". In the background you can see the Mather Tower, now called the Lincoln Tower Building, which is another beautiful Art Deco skyscraper from 1928. By triangulating between the two buildings you can work out that the plane is flying straight up Michigan Avenue.

The published cover included the title: "CHI-FI" and the legend: "Inside: SPICY McCORMICK TALES: 'Don't Fear the Reaper'", two more Chicago references for those who are keeping count. I wrote them with hand-drawn ersatz Art Deco fonts, as was often the custom.

Explanatory Note: Every year organizations of science fiction fans vie for the right to host the World Science Fiction Convention in their city. Attendees at this year's World Science Fiction Convention vote for the city of their choice for the convention in two years' time. The Chicago in 2012 bid had the theme of Chicago and the pulps. They commissioned Chicago-area science fiction writers to pen short, humorous pulp stories, and local illustrators to create mock covers. I have ties to the science fiction community through my husband, Richard Garfinkle, a science fiction author.

A close-up of the wing of the plane and the tagline: Inside: Spicy McCormick Tales: 'Don't Fear the Reaper'

an arm, the elbow jutting aggressively to the left

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