Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Superminds (giant brains, expanding minds, rampant imagination)

(Uncredited cover for the 1960 edition of The 22nd Century (1954), John Christopher)

There’s no better way to start off the new year than a gallery of science fiction covers depicting rampant imagination,  unlimited promise.  Some of us probably wish for mechanisms that conjure extraordinary feats of telepathy or the throbbing delights (avoiding all the pitfalls, of course) of a wisdom inundated supermind (well, I do at least).

Regardless, depicting extraordinary intelligence — whether harnessed for nefarious schemes or not — is a common trope: gigantic brains! unusual metal helmets! exploding heads replete with spectral fires! rays darting from eyes! otherworldly auras encircling heads, emanating symbols and shapes and diagrams….

(as always, are the books worth reading?  Silverberg’s The Stochastic Man (1975) is on my radar as is the Theodore Sturgeon short stories collection but I know very little about the others — I’ve read John Christopher’s Tripod trilogy but haven’t delved into his earlier corpus)


(Bob Hilbreth’s cover for the December 1946 issue of Amazing Stories)

(Victor Kalin’s cover for the 1967 edition of Beyond the Spectrum (1964), Martin Thomas)

(Mel Hunter’s cover for the 1953 edition of Man of Many Minds (1953), E. Everett Evans)

(Gray Morrow’s cover for the 1968 edition of Man of Many Minds (1953), E. Everett Evans)

(John Schoenherr’s cover for the 1963 edition of Supermind (magazine 1960), Mark Phillips i.e. Randall Garrett and Laurence M. Janifer)

(Jack Gaughn’s cover for the 1969 edition of Path Beyond the Stars (1969), Emil Petaja)

(Ed Emswiller’s for the 1964 edition of Sturgeon in Orbit (1964), Theodore Sturgeon)

(Uncredited cover for the 1976 edition of The Stochastic Man (1975), Robert Silverberg)

For similar posts, consult the Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art INDEX

11 thoughts on “Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Superminds (giant brains, expanding minds, rampant imagination)

  1. Here’s my review of Stochastic Man from late 2007:

    I like Silverberg’s writing style, and it doesn’t fail him here, but I have to say this book is in the inferior 50%, maybe even 25%, of the Silverberg I have read. For one thing, too much of the narrative concerns U.S. electoral politics; I don’t read science fiction looking for a fictional version of the real life stuff I can read everyday on blogs or in the newspaper, and Silverberg just gives us boring horserace stuff, almost nothing about political philosophy or theory.

    There is also a problem with the plot. Again and again the man who can see the future tells the main character that the future cannot be changed, that there is only one possible future, and again and again he is proven right. But, for some reason, the main character keeps thinking that his knowledge of the future can help the politician win elections, which, if the future is immutable, obviously makes no sense. Maybe Silverberg is just pointing out that, even though we have every reason to think the universe is deterministic, we all insist on acting as if it isn’t. Even if that is the case, it is still a little frustrating for the reader.

    (Maybe the novel is just too long, and would benefit if some of the political race stuff and a few of the examples of the predicted future coming true were eliminated.)

    I wouldn’t advise people to avoid Stochastic Man, but would let them know that Silverberg has numerous superior books.

    Did you like Christopher’s Tripods books? I thought they were pretty good. I also liked his World in Winter (AKA The Long Winter), an apocalyptic adventure story that tried to say something about race relations, imperialism, sexual relationships, etc.

    • I read the Tripod trilogy when I was 12 or so…. I thought they were great escapist fun — the tripod vehicle itself is downright frightening when you’re a child!

      I’ll probably still read The Stochastic Man — eventually… I want to read all of Silverberg’s works from 1967-1975.

      I must admit, I like Philip K. Dick’s slightly more fuzzy approach to foretelling the future — reality/changing reality/the future/fate are so much less prescribed by rules/theories… And, it makes sci-fi more interesting! Silverberg’s approach seems rather dull in this novel…

  2. Interesting. It’s been ages since I read it but The Stochastic Man was my favourite Silverberg.

    Silverberg wrote a few stories dealing with people who could infallibly see an unchangeable future. It was an idea he liked exploring, but it was here I thought he best got it right.

    The protagonist of course tries to change things, things in terms of his old paradigm, the book is in part him coming to terms with predestination and its implications.

    In some ways The Stochastic Man is a mirror to Dying Inside. In both the protagonist has a power, and in both there’s another central figure with the same power. In Dying Inside the protagonist is a neurotic who struggles to come to terms with his ability, while the other accepts it. In The Stochastic Man it’s much more his mentor who’s the neurotic figure, and the story is in a sense the story of the protagonist accepting his ability.

    I should reread it. Coming across a negative review I find myself wondering if over time memory has stripped off the bad bits, just leaving the good kernel.

  3. Dick treads similar territory to The Stochastic Man in his novel The World Jones Made. It features a world dictator able to tell the future with absolute precision. The future there cannot be changed, making Jones both master of the world and a puppet of predestination. It’s not Dick’s best, but it’s an interesting novel still.

    • I enjoy reading just about all PKD’s novels — but, The World Jones Made wasn’t my cup of tea. He drastically improved with his next novel, The Man Who Japed. I didn’t find that The World Jones Made had the same bizarre/uncanny/off-kilter character that makes his worlds/plots so interesting.

      I’ll still read The Stochastic Man but it isn’t high on my Silverberg list. I’m currently reading Silverberg’s The Man in the Maze and I’ve enjoyed it so far.

      • I might have asked you this before, what’s your favorite of PKD’s works? You favorite short story?

        I LOVE Martian Time-Slip (1962) — so disturbing/unusual. My favorite short story is The Preserving Machine (1953) — a man has a vision of sheet music turning into creatures to burrow away from the bombs. So, he creates a machine that turns sheet music into strange animals — which escape into the woods. When the creatures are inserted back into the machine only shrieks (instead of music) emerge….

  4. It’s a tough call that actually, but I think it would be A Scanner Darkly.

    It’s the best treatment of addiction I’ve seen in fiction (any fiction, not just SF). When I was a kid my stepfather was a junkie, and there were a lot of junkies about in consequence. A Scanner Darkly captures what they were going through in a way even William Burroughs and Irvine Welsh didn’t manage, the truth of their experience and what it was like to live with them. It’s an extraordinary novel in that respect. Science fiction very much as metaphor for a reality too difficult to address directly.

    My stepfather incidentally cleaned up some years later and is now a much happier man. Not every story has an unhappy ending.

    • I loved A Scanner Darkly (and even the film version was watchable and enjoyable). The first scene with the bug spray was so disturbing and set the tone perfectly for the rest of the work — and I really enjoy the sci-fi exploration of voyeurism (in this case a weird kind of self voyeurism) — D. G. Compton’s The Unsleeping Eye is another example.

      Although I don’t have any personal experience (myself or those I know), the uncanny realism that permeates some of the drug scenes is a testament to PKD’s own experience and gives the work an all the more disturbing edge…

      One of my favorites as well… The only one I’ve not enjoyed was The World That Jones Made… Even lesser works such as The Simulacra are highly enjoyable…

      • Personal experience shouldn’t be necessary, and here isn’t. The book’s good enough that it’s truth shines through regardless.

        The Unsleeping Eye, thanks for reminding me of that one. I should track it down.

        Oh, I should admit to a distinct fondness for the rather pulpy Our Friends from Frolix 8. Even the title is good.

  5. I LOVE The Unsleeping Eye — one of the my favorite sci-fi reads and often, quite literary. The male gaze — literally. Man with camera in his eye films dying middle aged woman in a future world where people live a long, long, long time… Gorgeous, dark, literary == a happy reviewer!

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