(Rod Dunham’s cover for the 1953 edition of Planet of the Dreamers (1953), John D. MacDonald)
First (archetypal) incarnation: rocket, field, figure. Second incarnation: rocket with extra fins, field with unusual terrain, human staring at alien figure (s). Repeat with virtually infinite variation.
By far one of my favorite science fiction cover tropes, rocket/field/figure evokes covers spanning the entire history of science fiction. Rod Dunham’s cover for the 1953 edition of John D. MacDonald’s Planet of the Dreamers (above) perfectly evokes the archetype in its pure unadulterated form. Emswiller’s cover for the 1960 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (below) uses a more traditional perspective but manipulates the field with a human hand, and eye, a pair of breasts. The otherworldly massive stature of an alien is conveyed with but a mere glance by its position next to a rocket (below, the cover for Contact).
The placement of a rocket in a traditional “American rural” scene — in the uncredited cover for the 1965 edition of Zenna Henderson’s Pilgrimage: The Book of the People (1961) (below) — not only screams “science fiction” but “technology disparity,” “culture clash,” etc.
There’ll be more in this series… for sure. What are your favorites?
Enjoy! (as always, are the books worth reading?)
(Ed Emswiller’s cover for the June 1960 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction)
(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1946 edition of Assignment in Tomorrow (1954), ed. Frederik Pohl)
(Uncredited cover for the 1965 edition of Contact (1963), ed. Noel Keyes)
(Uncredited cover for the 1968 edition of Adam Link – Robot (1965), Eando Binder i.e. Otto Binder)
(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1954 edition of Dark Dominion (1954), David Duncan)
(Mel Hunter’s cover for the October 1954 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction)
(Robert E. Shulz’s cover for the 1960 edition of The Tomorrow People (1960), Judith Merril)
(Uncredited cover for the 1965 edition of Pilgrimage: The Book of the People (1961), Zenna Henderson)