Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Domed Cities of the Future Part II

(Dean Ellis’ cover for the 1970 edition of Eight Against Utopia (1967), Douglas R. Mason)

Part II of my sci-fi art series on domed cities of the future (perhaps doomed as well) — part I.

Glass-domed against pollution, the ravages of evil space creatures, the vacuum of space (below: April, 1954 edition of If), adverse climates/atmospheres (below: The Sands of Mars, Trouble on Titan)?  Or, nagging fears that something might come — whatever it might be.  And of course, to keep people in (above: Eight Against Utopia).   Some of these seemingly fragile domes contain devastating weapons (below: The Lunar Eye), or are part of a vast computer network (below: Matrix), or contain the last remnants of a previous metropolis (below: The Years of the City)

Some truly wonderful works of art….  Are any of the books worth reading?  My father tolerated Eight Against Utopia (1967) and I have a copy in my to read pile.  Clarke’s The Sands of Mars (1951) was simplistic but enjoyable.  I know little about the others…


(Ed Emshwiller’s cover for the 1964 edition of The Lunar Eye (1964), Robert Moore Williams)

(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1970 edition of Matrix (1970), Douglas R. Mason)

(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1985 edition of The Years of the City (1984), Frederik Pohl)

(Gordon C. Davies’ cover for the 1982 edition of The Sands of Mars (1951), Arthur C. Clarke)

(Ed Valigursky’s cover for the 1967 edition of Trouble on Titan (1954), Alan E. Nourse)

(Ken Fagg’s cover for the 1954 April edition of If)

(David Mattingly’s cover for the 1995 edition of The Years of the City (1984), Frederik Pohl)

For similar posts, consult the INDEX

164 thoughts on “Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Domed Cities of the Future Part II

  1. You know, with the rise of e-book publishing, I’m wondering if this “genre” of cover will make a huge comeback. They’re so distinctive and eye-catching…and totally communicate a fun, somewhat kitschy vibe. I’m a fan!

  2. I saw this post and had to read it…got caught up on Part I as well. When I read “domed cities” I nearly broke my finger grabbing the mouse to click over. Some of my favorite books as a teen were The Tripod Trilogy books by John Christopher. Sadly, I didn’t see those here.

    What is it about domed cities that has us mere earthlings so transfixed? I think maybe it’s part of the master plan…

    I’m writing each of these books down and will look for them at my library. If the stories are half as good as the artwork (or as I remember the Tripod series to be), I’m in store for some super science fiction “domed city” greatness.

    Love the artwork. Classic!!! Thanks for sharing…

    • Thanks for stopping by!

      I have a love/hate relationship with Pohl — so, I’m always tentative picking up his novels/short story collections. I think he’s a better editor than writer….

      • Pohl is actually one of my favorite sci-fi authors. I was fortunate enough to meet him at a convention about ten years back. Seemed like a nice enough fellow in person. I can understand that his work can be an acquired taste. To each his own.

        In any case, I look forward to future blog posts. Sci-fi book covers from the mid-Twentieth Century have such a distinctive look, simultaneously futuristic and retro by today’s standards. I love looking at them. Many were very beautifully illustrated.

      • I think all the sequels to Gateway in the Heechee Saga did it in for me 😉 I have at least four or five of his other novels laying around but haven’t got to them yet.

        Thanks for the kind words.

        I write a lot (around a 100 at the moment on my blog) of sci-fi book reviews of works from the 40s-late 70s. I try to make those the focus of my blog but the art posts are always popular — for good reason — and expose people to the seemingly endless catalogue of si-fi novels which aren’t necessarily the classics but fun to read.

  3. I think you’ve found yourself a very cool niche with this blog site. May I suggest some works by Ray Bradbury, one of America’s best science fiction and short story authors? I have his entire anthology and Love it.

  4. Glad to see someone else appreciates the beauty of a good domed city. Men can dream.

    Great post! Vintage aficionado here, with a penchant for the unknown! Can’t wait for more!


    The Eye

  5. I just read this and spent several minutes wondering what it is with the domed cities – you’re right, they’re everywhere! Maybe the idea (in addition to it just looking cool) is to visually suggest the sense of being outside something strange and new that the reader (via the book) is going to explore? Or, like with the “Eight against the State” book, they represent something beautiful but ominous and confining and in need of being smashed. Who knows 🙂

    • THey are everywhere! Thanks so much for stopping by.

      But yes, I have at least 30 more covers for later posts – and, as another commentator pointed out, they’re super common in sci-fi movies. The idea that a city can both keep people in and keep people out thus reinforces the boundary. Hence, they are ominous and confining — but often, if they’re in space, cannot be smashed 😉 hehe

  6. I think it’s still a strong theme in sci-fi – two which spring to mind are ‘Pushing Ice’ by Alistair Reynolds, and ‘The Road to Mars’ by Eric Idle.
    Great art – love it! 🙂

  7. Vintage SciFi book art is awesome! I always loved leafing through the covers of the old Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, etc. paperbacks at my grandparents home.

  8. Excellent post.
    You are right, I believe that there are a lot of domed science fiction cities.will come true in the future.

  9. Eight Against Utopia follows in the tradition of people who build great defenses against terrible conditions, but fail to notice when conditions change. Of course, bureaucracy prevents people from noticing that living inside the domed city is no longer necessary, and the courage of the individual saves them all. Kind of simplistic, but a good read.

    • My father read it a while back and said the same thing — the problem is, there are a million carbon copies of that plot and quality. I’ll read it soon. Thanks for the comment!

  10. as soon as I saw this on Freshly Pressed, my mind went back to when I was a grade schooler in the 1970’s and I did a report on space colonization. I remember this great book that showed pictures of a giant wheel in space and within the wheel, were towns, gardens. I think we were supposed to be living in these space colonies by now, and in reality, we don’t even have the space shuttle anymore.

    • I adore depictions of space colonies as well as future terrestrial cities. I have a similar book but from the late 80s which predicted space colonies in a few years time — which obviously won’t be. Unfortunately….

      Thanks for stopping by!

  11. Crikey! It doesn’t usually take me this long to scroll to the bottom of the comments 😉 Great post as always. I love the Arthur C Clarke cover, the huge empty sky.

  12. Beautiful. Have to say though, I’m surprised no one made the leap to domed cities in the movies. Total Recall, Impostor, Logan’s Run….Sci-Fi has always had a love affair with domed cities. They are eye-catching and seem to have a purpose. Also what about domed cities under water? Also many cartoons offer the dome: Futurama, The Jetsons, Sealab 2020….and now I’m rambling. Loved this, Thanks. ~Regards, Dan

    • What do you mean that no one made the leap? But yes, those are all wonderful future examples. Domes are definitely a staple of sci-fi movies… There is nothing more “futuristic” than a enclosed city.

  13. I remember the greatest interest in sci-fi books and movies for my generation was in the 1950’s. Great stuff. Sometimes I go back to the old movies and wonder at how “authentic” we seemed to think the sets and special effects looked, whereas now we immediately see the “fakeness” of them. However, there’s still enough nostalgia incorporated with them that they are still my favorites! This is such an interesting site. I have a friend who will love it. I’m sending him the link today. Congratulations on being “Freshly Pressed.”

    • Well, actually that interest wasn’t just in the 50’s. It spread into the 1960’s as well. I remember having a slumber party with just a few of my friends, one night during the 60’s, and the “highlight”of our evening was watching a science fiction movie on “late-night” TV. It was pretty mesmerizing, but it was scary. When we went to bed, we had to sort of remind each other that none of it was real, but we felt edgy. We had been allowed to camp out in my mom and dad’s bedroom since it was the largest room, and three of us slept in my mom and dad’s bed. Just as we were reminding ourselves again that none of what we had seen could really happen, somebody moved a certain way, and the bed fell off the platform and crashed onto the floor. Our fear level was so high that we all three screamed loud enough to wake the neighborhood.

      • Thanks for the kind words/the delightful story! I’m newly addicted to such works — I have no connection to the actual era in which they are written. But, as a historian, I’m always willing to look for the old gems. And, I’m generally uninterested in all the new sci-fi productions (movies/novels, etc).

  14. This is a verrry cool list! Makes me want to visit the library and check-out a couple of these titles in person..Thanks for sharing 🙂

  15. One domed city that I will always remember was an early Marvel comic during the ’60s. It depicted a giant dome over Russia, built by a U.S. traitor to protect them from atomic attack. The guy from the U.S. was vilified by all, and one felt a sense of betrayal, until the ending. Convinced that their dome protected them from all nuclear attacks, including retaliation, the Russians launched an attack against the U.S. and its allies, only to discover that the dome was so built to prevent nuclear attacks from exiting. They blew themselves up!

      • Actually, if I recall correctly, the dome was supposed to be one way: impervious to all nuclear weapons; but the designer built it the exact opposite of what he claimed to be doing, so it was impervious from the inside, not the outside. The Russians trusted the U.S. “traitor” completely because everyone in the U.S. hated him so much. It was a great story. Seeing that side of human nature, coupled with good winning over evil, and technology favoring good, changed my life. I became a scientist (of sorts).

  16. Couldn’t resist checking this out as a loyal follower of the genre and an avid pulp/old-school fan.
    You did however miss out one of the most epic domed city covers/stories from the good old days when scifi was a whole lot more good fun and serious genius : Cities In Flight by James Blish!! 🙂

    It had wicked covers like this one:

  17. This is an awesome blog! How did I not know you were out here. I just spent the last hour perusing your pages. Makes me want to drag out all my old SiFi and send you pictures of the covers. I have some (somewhere) older John Carter of Mars books with some great art. Might take me a while to find all I have, the good ones are buried up in ST novels and way to many Heinlein books.
    Great post.

  18. As a science-fiction writer, this post was really interesting to me. It’s awesome to see all the old covers of science fiction works of the past. The new book I am working on actually features a domed city on Mars, so this post was especially interesting to look at all the different ideas. My city looks similar to the ones above. Awesome stuff! Gotta love science fiction! 🙂

  19. I love these! Didn’t Logan’s Run have pictures of a domed city? I love these even more because I am writing about terraforming Mars. I have a link to my short story on my blog. I really do think we’ll start in domes and it looks like every major scifi writer agrees!

    • Yes, it does! Another commentator pointed that out as well.

      ou’re right, we won’t be making domed settlements on planets or moons anytime soon — the structures can’t be built easily, having a gigantic glass dome with no way to section off the city in case of a disaster, etc are all problems. It’s a fanciful vision 😉

  20. When I was a kid my older brother had a book of art from the pulps that I found fascinating. I still love the old cover art. The domes are a great theme to focus on.

    I think it’s appropriate that you have two covers for Pohl’s “Year’s of the City”. If my memory serves, it’s the only one that I remember reading dealing with building the dome. Usually the dome is just background detail.

  21. Designing cover art has always been a
    dream of mine, when I life got rough, I could
    always escape to old library and admire those
    vintage covers. So many books to read so little

  22. Amazing, I love these domed city themes. They were my favorite to look at when I was growing up. My aunt worked in a library so I spent countless hours sifting through the “bargain bin” books

  23. I find those covers incredibly attractive, they look just like a nightmare made in the 80s, love them!
    Thank you for sharing,

  24. My nightmares when I was a child involved most of the times spaceship, lunar landscape and atmospheres similar to the covers’ ones, it was a little weird. But I must admit they were more “good” nightmares, just with a lot of action. The covers reminded me those dreams, but I find them really really attractive for the subjects and the colors!

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