Inspired by C. M. Kornbluth’s dark/satirical tales in The Explorer (1954) that uncover the underbelly of the normally glamorous 50s portrayals of space travel and alien contact, I seek to expose (well, re-expose) the darker side of science fiction cover art. I’ll try to post every monday, one bad science fiction cover — if possible, I’ll pair it with a much better cover of the same book from another edition if one exists.
1). The hilarious website ‘Good Day Sir’ doesn’t post the images I come across fast enough despite getting routine ratings from 7.5-9.5… This is probably due to the fact that I don’t own the books and don’t follow the submission rules — i.e. posting an image of me physically holding a book in hand — alas, too bad.
2). If a reader came across certain editions (posted below) the true nature of a book would be hopelessly confused (a great cover on a terrible book does the same thing) — Yes, there really are cat-like aliens in this book. But, the work’s overarching theme is much more mature (societal reaction to natural disaster, etc).
3). Yes, these posts are meant to temper the often stunning covers I collate and rave about in my other Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art Series (my favorite include the works of Richard Powers and Jerome Podwil). So, I apologize for “dumbing down” a bit — but, I promise, book reviews, my standard posts, etc will continue (I have four book reviews waiting to be written — if the books are brilliant and/or historically important the reviews take forever — in this case, Samuel Delany’s Nova and Joanna Russ’ The Female Man respectably)
4). Remember, it all boils down to personal opinion (yes artists are often told by the publisher to paint a particular way or a particular thing, but, still)….
And, I have a precursor to this post series (here).
And so, the first installment: The Wanderer (1964), Fritz Leiber….
I read The Wanderer a long time ago so I’m a bit fuzzy on the specifics. But, the 1965 Hugo winning novel follows a disperate group reacting to the presence and resulting disasters caused by a planet that enters the solar system. Yes, there are cat-like beings in the novel…
Here’s the uncredited cover for the Ballantine first edition from 1964. It’s not a gorgeous cover but adequately reflects the main theme of the work — the panic cause by the wandering planet.
And, here’s Philip Castles’ 1976 cover for Penguin Books….
If I remember correctly, the whole book went down the drain with the appearance of these creatures…. So perhaps it’s a good warning.
For more Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art consult the INDEX