Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Imprisoned in Glass Vials (of the metaphoric + medical + experimental variety)

(Uncredited cover for the 1969 edition of The Fortec Conspiracy (1968), Richard M. Garvin and Edmond G. Addeo)

Humans and aliens in glass vials of all shapes and sizes waiting to be measured, matured, tested, analyzed, exposed to a variety of chemicals and emulsions.  The artists often combine the iconic laboratory scene filled with the tools of the trade with sci-fi speculation on human experimentation (queue babies grown in containers in Brave New World).  The result, humans in tubes.  The effect is downright terrifying and one suspects, evokes a certain moribund fascination.  As with the famous introductory sequence in Brave New World, the reader is horrified by birth entirety regulated by machines.  Or, we are simultaneously titillated and taken aback that someone would imprison a gorgeous heroine against her will.

I’ve selected a large range of covers from the 1920s (Amazing Stories) all the way to the late 70s (’78 edition of Brunner’s 1968 classic, Stand on Zanzibar).  This is only a small portion of the covers along this theme I’ve found — I plan on a Part II in the new future.

If you know of any I’ve missed please let me know.

What are your favorites?


(Frank R. Paul’s cover for the November 1927 issue of Amazing Stories)

(Robert Foster’s cover for the 1970 edition of Daughters of Earth (1968), Judith Merril)

(Uncredited cover for the 1964 edition of The Duplicated Man (1953 magazine publication), James Blish and Robert Lowndes)

(Uncredited cover for the 1968 edition of The Immortals (1962), James Gunn)

(Murray Tinkelman’s cover for the 1978 edition of Stand on Zanzibar (1968), John Brunner)

( Patrick Woodroffe’s cover for the 1974 edition of Gladiator-at-Law (1954), Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth)

(De Soto’s cover for the November 1950 issue of Fantastic Novels)

(Ed Valigursky’s cover for 1957 edition of The Cosmic Puppets (1956 magazine publication), Philip K. Dick)

(Howard V. Brown’s cover for the March 1940 issue of Startling Stories)

(Uncredited cover for the January 1939 issue of Startling Stories)

(Hannes Bok’s cover for the May 1951 edition of Other Worlds)

(Malcolm H Smith’s cover for the December 1952 issue of Other Worlds)

(Walter Popp’s cover for the August 1953 issue of Startling Stories)

(David Plourde’s cover for the 1972 edition of Earthstrings (1972), John Rackham)

For similar posts consult the INDEX

32 thoughts on “Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Imprisoned in Glass Vials (of the metaphoric + medical + experimental variety)

    • Thanks! Your kind words are greatly appreciated.

      (note: I might post my favorite 5 books and review blog sites in this comment thread instead of a post — I do tend to keep my blog inline my existing template — I’m gunning for the more professional website feel).

      • Sorry for the delay…

        I’ve changed the guidelines a bit 😉 Top 3 sci-fi review blogs and top 6 science fiction books…. I can’t really pick top 6 books in general….

        1. 2TheD’s great review blog Potpourri of Science Fiction Literature ( — although we don’t always agree, which makes things fun.

        2. The collated review site of female sci-fi authors pre-2000 — SF Mistressworks ( especially Ian Sales’ reviews.

        3. Battered, Tattered, Yellowed, & Creased ( — of course, the sci-fi reviews — I’m personally not a fan of crime novels, etc which occasionally appear.

        Sci-Fi Books
        1. Stand on Zanzibar (1968), John Brunner
        2. Beyond Apollo (1972), Barry N. Malzberg
        3. Dune (1965), Frank Herbert
        4. The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), Ursula Le Guin
        5. Martian Time-Slip (1964), Philip K. Dick
        6. Hawksbill Station (1968), Robert Silverberg

  1. Seeing the title of this post on my smartphone before viewing the images the first thing that popped into my mind was ‘The Fortec Conspiracy’, a book whose ending still sticks in my mind 40+ years after first reading it. I also have two other exact cover versions of the books you posted – The Duplicated man which I wasn’t impressed with and Stand On Zanzibar which sits in my to-be-read stack.

    • I was inspired by The Fortec Conspiracy as well! Although, when I was looking through online catalogues of images. Is it worth finding? The Duplicated Man is definitely NOT considered one of Blish’s good works — Stand on Zanzibar is my all time favorite sci-fi novel — although quite the experimental work so you have to be in the mood.

      Thanks for visiting 🙂

      • Spent all my free time last week reading Stand On Zanzibar and thought it was great. Located my stored copy of The Fortec Conspiracy so now I’ll be able to re-read that.

      • Yay, I’m glad that you enjoyed it. I love all the fragments of novels and how the authors eventually feature in the narrative — and all the fragments of newspapers, advertising jingles, etc. A wonderful read…

  2. I had great hope of finding the full ID of a book that I started to read at camp decades ago. I remember only a few details and a feel for the cover so very much welcome your part II in the near future.

      • Green overall colour scheme, woman’s figure as if floating at the center of the cover & filling most of the space, hair floating up and back from her face, suggestion of being in a tank (hence this page) but no real detail i.e. detail fading to darker toward the edge of the cover. Edge of cover possibly fading into hanging plant tendrils and leaves…maybe.

        Plot details as I recall through the fog of time:
        – sole surviving man, recovered by human looking androids
        – he may have identified them as non-human because they had no nose hairs but this may be from another story
        – he tries to escape from the androids, going through vehicle garages with everything from small scout vehicles to huge armoured tanks
        – stealing an armoured vehicle of some sort he crumples something smaller getting to the exit
        – exit was probably into a cave or underwater or something of the sort, not just out onto level ground
        – once outside the place he was being kept he discovers that the surrounding world is dominated by some alien threat…IIRC lots of plant tendrils
        – escape becomes too dangerous, he returns and gets an explanation of what goes on from the androids, something along the line that they were able to maintain the space they had against the alien menace but were gradually losing ground and needed his help to make positive change
        – androids make a mate for him – he is initially attracted, then perturbed when he discovers that they used his genes and modified them to create a female clone…I think he was getting over his concerns with that when I had to give the book back.

        Thank you in advance for trying to help me ID this book. It is probably not the best book ever but it would be really satisfying to read it to the end.

        • I’m unable for the life of me to figure out which novel this is…. I’ve gone ahead and submitted it to reddit (Tipofmytongue) to see if anyone can find it. Obscure novels have been found before through that resource…. including James Gunn’s novel, The Joy Makers… we’ll see.

          Do you have any idea when exactly the novel was published?

    • I have been trying to figure out about when I saw it and guess that the book was new or close to new when I read part of it somewhere between 1975 and 1982.

      • Hi – I searched on reddit (Tipofmytongue) to see if there was anything good going on about my myster book…thank you for introducing me to it. I did not find the thread for this book hunt though; please let me know a key word from the thread heading or a link to the thread.

        • Yeah, they don’t really know (hence it’s probably on the third or fourth page). It was a gamble. There are forums for this sort of thing as well… I just don’t know much about that process. Sorry I can’t be of more help.

      • Searching around a bit more it sounds like it has some plot similarities to the following: “Thomas M. Scortia’s “Flowering Narcissus” in the anthology Eros in Orbit, edited by Joseph Elder, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1973: Protagonist is sent 115 years into the future, where he finds that he is the only human being left after viral warfare between China and Russia leaves only androids alive. He is a biker, and a severe homophobe. He has sex with a woman that the androids say was created for him, and discovers, to his revulsion, that she is a clone of himself, and that he is a clone of the original of himself who did not
        survive the time travel.”

        I *thought* the whole book was a single story but could have been wrong, or someone may have hijacked the core of the plot for a longer book.

      • Flowering Narcissus did have some of the same elements but was not the same story. Some day I will come across this long missing book. Anyone reading this long thread with hints is very welcome to help.

    • Thanks for the kind comments!

      Yeah, I go by resources online etc and if they have it as uncredited I often can’t guess…. I only know a few of the artists’ work on sight. Alas…

  3. my favorite cover of this kind (and one of my favorites ever) is the one made by Karel Thole for Simak’s Anni senza fine for Urania, this one:

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