Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Architectural Fragments of Damian Petrescu

Damien Petruscu, a Romanian graphic designer, created science fiction and fantasy covers for a range of Romanian presses between 1966-1985. He also designed countless LP covers from 1966-1983–George Enescu to Latin pop–which you can browse over at Discogs. In my view, his SF covers gave him more opportunity to showcase his talents! I have curated a group that hint at architectural desires and artificial shapes: Urban plans, façades bathed in red mist, totemic uplifts, temples in delicate lines, surreal landscapes of buildings askew… My favorite, his cover for Voicu Bugariu’s Lumea lui Als Ob (1981), might be a direct references to the magisterial ruins of the Sasanian capital at Ctesiphon [below]. He evokes the same crisp façade, desert landscape, and delicate arch.

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Short Story Reviews: Carol Emshwiller’s “This Thing Called Love” (1955), “Love Me Again” (1956), and “The Piece Thing” (1956)

I have decided to do something I have never done before–read a contiguous chunk of an author’s work in chronological order. “Philip K. Dick? Robert A. Heinlein?” you might ask. “No! You know me….” I respond [in jest]. I have chosen to chart Carol Emshwiller’s short stories published in genre magazines and anthologies between 1955 and 1979. SF Encyclopedia conveys my fascination best: “In her hands, sf conventions became models of our deep estrangement from ourselves.” Of the two short stories of hers I’ve read–“Animal” (1968) and “Lib” (1968)–the former, an unnerving fable of the sexualized “Other” whose exclusion reinforces a community’s self-identity and cohesion, resides in my mind like a luminescent beacon. And I have finally latched on to its ever-present light.

If you are interested in all of Emshwiller’s short stories, check out Nonstop Press’ 2011 (vol. 1) and 2016 (vol. 2) omnibus release which includes those in non-SFF genre magazines. Here’s an example of what I am cutting: while her first published short story “Built for Pleasure” was SF, it only appeared in Long Island Suburban (November 1954) before the omnibus. Instead, I will start with 1955’s “This Thing Called Love” in Future Science Fiction, #28, ed. Robert A. W. Lowndes.

As I’ve only scratched the surface of Emshwiller’s output and can’t adequately summarize her work (I hope to by the end of this project), here’s the blurb from the Nonstop edition:

“Crossing the boundaries between fabulist literature, science fiction, and magical realism, the stories in this collection offer a valuable glimpse into the evolution of Carol Emshwiller’s ideas and style during her more than 50-year career. Influenced by J. G. Ballard, Steven Millhauser, Philip K. Dick, and Lydia Davis, Emshwiller has a range of works that is impressive and demonstrates her refusal to be labeled or to stick to one genre. This exhilarating new collection marks the first time many of the early stories have been published in book form and is evidence of the genius of Emshwiller, one of America’s most versatile and imaginative authors.”

This series will happen concurrently with the other short story reading exploration I am conducting and other reviews I have planned. Caveat: like my attempt to watch and review Survivors (1975-1977), this series could stop after three posts or take five years. I am a reader of whim.

“This Thing Called Love” (1955), 3.5/5 (Good). First appeared in Future Science Fiction, #28 (1955), ed. Robert A. W. Lowndes. You can read the story online here.

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Book Review: Project Barrier, Daniel F. Galouye (1968)

3/5 (collated rating: Average)

In the early days of my site, I reviewed Daniel F. Galouye’s best-known novel Dark Universe (1961) and A Scourge of Screamers (1966). Since then I’ve attempted to read Simulacron-3 (1964), adapted into a fantastic German mini-series World on a Wire (1973) and The Thirteenth Floor (1999), three times without success. What can I say, I’m a reader of whim and in each instance I wasn’t in the mood. Maybe it was Bill Botton’s compelling/bizarre psychedelic cover for Project Barrier (1968) or perhaps Rich Horton’s comments on twitter about the title story but I decided to give Galouye’s short fiction a go.

Project Barrier (1968) contains four uneven tales with one notable standout–“Rub-a-Dub” (variant title: “Descent Into the Maestrom”) (1961)–which I highly recommend if disturbing psychological SF is up your alley. The others in the collection exude a more run-of-the-mill feel. I found it refreshing that Galouye, a veteran greatly impacted by war injuries, tends to eschew violent conflict for peaceful resolution.

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Updates: Recent Speculative Fiction Purchases No. CCLXIX (Orson Welles edited SF Anthology, Angélica Gorodischer, Charles Willeford, and Dan Jacobson)

1. The Machine in Ward Eleven, Charles Willeford (1963)

From the back cover: “‘I tied his body to the treatment table and stuffed his mouth with wadded paper towels. Dr. Fellerman’s big brown eyes were expressive indeed, particularly when my fingers adjusted the elastic harness over his head and centered the shiny electrodes to his temples.

A simple, impersonal, uncomplicated machine. I plugged the long cord into the wall outlet, turned the two plastic knobs as far to the right as they would go and left them there…’

For some time now, Charles Willeford’s writing has been emanating from the deep South like a series of electric shocks. Millions of readers around the world delight over each new item, whether a feature in Playboy or one of his rare novels. He is ranked as an author of distinction in the Burnett-Foley Best Short Stories of 1962.

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Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Pop Collage of Atelier Heinrichs & Bachmann, Part I

Pop surrealism? Lowbrow art? The Andy Warhol effect? However you classify Atelier Heinrichs & Bachmann’s covers for the German press Heyne Bücher (produced between 1966-1971), they’re gleeful and sarcastic. I’d wager their cover for Frank Herbert’s Dune Messiah (1969) above pokes fun at the US 1st edition by Jack Gaughan. The collaged sculpture giggles forth with its pastel halo like a Tiki-recast of Gaughan’s stoic monument to Muad-Dib. Gaughan’s mysterious orb now transformed as blue bubble-gum bubbles (or water droplets on a desert planet?). Regardless of whether or the design team saw the US 1st edition, this streak of impish fun runs throughout their covers.

In 2016, I covered The Cryptic Diagrams and Collaged Heads of Atelier Heinrichs. They too were possessed by moments of kitsch and collage. I’m assuming that Bachmann joined the team for the years 1966-1971. Atelier Heinrichs produced covers before and after Bachmann (isfdb link). I cannot find more information in German or English about the artists involved and the nature of their “atelier.” If you find anything, let me know!

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Short Story Review: Philip K. Dick’s “A Little Something For Us Tempunauts” (1974)

The following review is the 8th post in my series searching for “SF short stories that are critical in some capacity of space agencies, astronauts, and the culture which produced them.” Some stories I’ll review in this series might not fit. And that is okay! I relish the act of literary archaeology.

Today: Philip K. Dick’s “A Little Something For Us Tempunauts” in Final Stage: The Ultimate Science Fiction Anthology, ed. Barry N. Mazlberg and Edward L. Ferman (1974) [You can borrow this anthology online in one-hour increments]

Previously: Kris Neville’s “Cold War” (1949) in the October 1949 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, ed. John W. Campbell, Jr. You can read it online here.

Up next: TBD

4/5 (Good)

Philip K. Dick wrote “A Little Something For Us Tempunauts” (1974) after a two-year hiatus. He explains that a friend brought by a copy of John T. Sladek’s brilliant “The Poets of Millgrove, Iowa” (1966) that spurred him to write again: “the first sf story in years that galvanized me into new life—like Kant reading Hume.” He further explains that Sladek’s satirical deconstruction of the cult of the astronaut “can stand in the ranks of the all-time great short stories in the English language” and that it “changed in a flash my entire conception of what a good sf story is” (source). I, too, adore Sladek’s story. Along with Barry N. Malzberg’s general characterization of astronauts and the space agency, it inspired this series.

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Book Review: Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down, Irene Schram (1972)

3/5 (Average)

“And he shot a little duck,

Right through the middle of the

Head, head, head.”

Nursery song (29)

Irene Schram’s near-future (?) shocker Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down (1972) subjects a fifth-grade class and their teacher to a terrifying series of violent travails at the hands of emotionless men. Told mostly from the perspective of the young students who write their thoughts in a school notebook, Schram presents a wide-ranging critique of contemporary American society (pollution, Vietnam, police brutality, et al.). Despite the resilience of children, society will win. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel. I found Ashes, Ashes an occasionally successful exercise in epistemological displacement and the effects of normalized trauma weakened by a lack of focus and moments of excess that verge on comical. 

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A SF “bande dessinée” Review: Paul Gillon’s The Survivor, 1 (1985, trans. 1990)

Story: 1/5 (Bad)

Art: 3/5 (Average)

Paul Gillon’s La survivante (The Survivor) (1985-1991) is a four-part erotic SF “bande dessinée” marketed as “ADULTS ONLY.” The first two volumes were translated into English by Dwight Decker and published in 1990. This is a review of volume 1. It’s sexually explicit, post-apocalyptic, and French. It’s Barbarella (1962-1964) 80s style, but the new 60s sexual liberation of the later is recast as campy exploitation… Other than the front cover below, I have not included images of the kaleidoscope of sexual acts and nudity–male, female, and andromorphic robot–included within the mere 47 pages. Take my word for it.

Aude Albrespy emerges from her aquatic escape from a nuclear war to a transformed world. Her partner “died trying to escape” and his skeleton greets her emergence from the depths (1). Ravenous and nude, she traverses the scarred landscape hunting for canned food and survivors. A few humorous interludes transpire.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCLXVIII (Norman Spinrad, J. G. Ballard, Jacquetta Hawkes, and Frederik Pohl)

As always, which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. Low-Flying Aircraft and Other Stories, J. G. Ballard (1976)

There’s not a back cover or inside cover blurb on my edition

Contents: “The Ultimate City” (1976), “Low-Flying Aircraft” (1975), “The Dead Astronaut” (1968), “My Dream of Flying to Wake Island” (1974), “The Life and Death of God” (1976), “The Greatest Television Show on Earth” (1972), “A Place and a Time to Die” (1969), “The Comsat Angels” (1968), “The Beach Murders” (1966)

Initial Thoughts: I’ve been on a weird (for me) music kick as of late. I’ve been listening to a lot of 80s post-punk/new wave/goth music (Bauhaus, The Cure, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Psychedelic Furs, The Sisters of Mercy, Siouxsie and the Banshees, etc.) and I came across the British band The Comsat Angels. And they’re named after a J. G. Ballard story! If you don’t know of the band but enjoy any of the bands in the above list, check out Sleep No More (1981) (cold, paranoid, hypnotic). This led me back to Ballard’s catalog to track down the remaining anthologies of his I don’t own.

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