Virgil Finlay

Creator of highly detailed pen-and-ink genre illustrations.

July 23, 1914 – January 18, 1971

Virgil Finlay was arguably the best pen-and-ink artist in science fiction, fantasy, and horror, producing thousands of illustrations for numerous magazines including Astounding Science-Fiction, Planet Stories, Startling Stories, and Thrilling Wonder Stories.

He made his first sale to Weird Tales at the age of twenty-one. He focused chiefly on ink work, using scratchboards and stippling to create highly detailed and realistic renderings, though he dabbled in color and other media. In addition to his work for the pulps, he contributed more than 800 illustrations to the Sunday newspaper supplement The American Weekly and created nineteen covers for Weird Tales.

Finlay’s work process was painstakingly slow, as he hovered over his illustrations creating one dot or scratch at a time up to sixteen hours a day, seven days a week. Unfortunately, as the pulps were being phased out through the 1950s, and because his black and white illustrations were less suited for book covers, Finlay found it more difficult to find steady work. In his later years, he illustrated astrology magazines.

Finlay was awarded the first (and only) Hugo Award for Best Interior Illustration in 1953. He was nominated six years in a row (1959–1964) for the Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist, losing each year; however, Finlay was finally awarded a much-deserved Retro Hugo for Best Professional Artist posthumously in 1996.

2012 Inductee