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Thomson, Arthur

Entry updated 25 March 2024. Tagged: Artist.

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(1927-1990) UK illustrator, principally for Fanzines, involved in Fandom since 1954; he signed most of his work "Atom". He was the staff artist for Hyphen from issue #12 (December 1954), drawing elaborate cartoons directly on to the duplicator stencils (some of these Hyphen covers are still regarded as classics of fan Humour), and appeared in a wide variety of other UK and US fanzines. Besides his own Retribution (17 issues January 1956-July 1961) with John Berry, these venues included Algol, Locus, Riverside Quarterly, Science Fiction Review, Skyrack, Vector, and later Ansible, Banana Wings (edited by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer) – these two being among the fanzines that continue to reprint Atom cartoons in the twenty-first century – and Pulp (19 issues 1986-1991). Professional work appeared in the SF Magazines Nebula Science Fiction (1955-1959) as Arthur Thomson and in New Worlds (1960-1965) as Thomson only. Introducing the showcase collection The Atom Anthology (graph 1961 chap), Walt Willis wrote: "Atom has given us humour without cruelty, satire without malice, wisdom without arrogance, and good taste without ostentation."

Later fanzine work, after his release from the constraints of drawing on stencil, used heavy, assured and distinctive ink lines (drawn with both hands; he was ambidextrous), often featuring "Atom BEMs" of various kinds in comic situations, a favourite later form of these creatures being vaguely rat-shaped and solid black. One semi-professional publication of note is Tomorrow May Be Even Worse: An Alphabet of Science Fiction Clichés (coll 1978 chap), with Atom illustrations for each of an alphabetic sequence of 26 verses on sf Clichés by John Brunner.

In 2000, Thomson/Atom posthumously received the Rotsler Award for life achievement in fanzine art. [DRL]

see also: Fan Funds; Nova Awards.

Arthur Thomson

born Glasgow, Scotland: 21 August 1927

died London: 8 February 1990

works (selected)

about the artist

  • A Vincent Clarke, editor. Atom: A Tribute (London: privately printed, 1990) [graph: illus/Arthur Thomson as Atom: pb/nonpictorial]


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