Encyclopedia Week is about more than comics. I have a number of fictional atlases, guides, compendiums, dictionaries and encyclopedias on my shelves. Anything not to live in the real world, I guess. Such are the ways of geekery.
One particular gem in my collection is magazine and book cover illustrator Wayne Barlowe's Guide to Extratrerrestrials. A gorgeous picture book in which Barlowe brings to life 150 alien races from the world's best science fiction books. The criteria are well-defined: Each alien species included are described in detail by their respective authors and each must be logically and scientifically conceived (according to our current knowledge). Barlowe also tends towards races that have never or rarely been illustrated before, and gives examples of as many types of life-form as possible. Each creature is not only rendered in Barlowe's hyper-real style (with special details on the side), but also given a physical description, habitat and culture.
Here we find Arthur C. Clarke's Overlords, H.P. Lovecraft's Old Ones, Frank Herbert's Guild Steersmen and Larry Niven's Puppeteers.
Barlowe's Guide to Fantasy is far less interesting to me, only in part because there isn't the same sense of verisimilitude. While the SF creatures in the first Guide don't all come from the same "universe", they could. Space is a big place. The fantasy creatures might come from sword&sorcery novels, fantastic literature or folklore, all from different "worlds". The other thing is that there are an awful lot of specific characters in this book, many of them human or human-like: Morgaine, the White Lady, Terry Pratchett's Mort... That last one is still a nice surprise. My favorite is probably Lovecraft's Gug...
...but I also like his Grendel. On the flip side, I'm not sure I needed a unicorn, golem or a griffin.
Each book also has sketches at the end, most not for either project. Padding, but pretty padding. And each has a nifty size comparison chart. My scanner can't do the detailed artwork justice, so do track at least the first one down. At the very least, it'll make you want to read those books! And who knew Jack Chalker's Czill looked so much like Gumby?