Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Alien Friends

(H. W. Wesso’s June 1941 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories)

In science fiction aliens are usually evil and generally end up dead — killed by our human heroes via pseudo-videogames (Ender’s Game), guns of endless variety, nuclear weapons detonated on their home worlds, horrific  diseases (Deep Space Nine), tossed into the vacuum of space, tossed into wormholes, etc etc.  They are rarely “humanized” — their families, societies, and history ignored by their human enemies — they are often depicted as “true” evil.  I’ve included the above cover, shooting aliens under the American flag (it is a wartime 40s issue so such overt jingoism is explainable), in order to highlight the attitude towards space fauna which we are all familiar with.

Sometimes “friendship” is feigned.  C. M. Kornbluth’s short story ‘Friend To Man’ (1951) (in this collection) is a disturbing example — the maternal feeling felt by the alien towards our antihero is just a ploy to lure him into her den where she implants him with eggs, which hatch, and well, you get the picture.

Fortunately, there many wonderful examples of science fiction that does humanize and complicate conflict between humans and aliens.  And infrequently, one can find covers depicting human-alien friendship — even from the pulp era.  Because I haven’t read all the short stories/novels below I’m unsure whether the aliens end up evil or not.  But, I’m more interested in the artistic depictions of moments (perhaps fleeting) of alien/human peace.

If you know of any other covers let me know — I’d love to make a Part II.


(Malcolm Smith’s cover for the May 1950 issue of Other Worlds)

(John Schoenherr’s cover for the October 1965 issue of Analog Science Fiction Science Fact)

(Frank R. Paul’s cover for the September 1965 issue of Fantastic Science Fiction Fantasy)

(Earle Bergley’s cover for the June 1952 issue of Startling Stories)

(Ed Emshwiller’s cover for the 1961 edition of Spacial Delivery (1961), Gordon R. Dickson)

(Steve Hickman’s cover for the 1979 edition of Spacial Delivery (1961), Gordon R. Dickson)

(Dean Ellis’ cover for the 1979 edition of Rule Golden and Other Short Stories (1979), Damon Knight)

For more covers consult the INDEX

12 thoughts on “Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Alien Friends

  1. The 1961 SPACIAL DELIVERY cover is by Emsh, not Valigursky. You should be able to tell the difference between the two of them by now.

  2. 1. That link tells us that DELUSION WORLD is by Valigursky. It does not say that he did the SPACIAL DELIVERY cover.

    2. Emshwiller’s work is so distinctive, and not at all like Valigursky’s.

    3. I cannot give you any references. I just know who these artists are by long acquaintance. My OCD goes crazy when I encounter a misattribution like above. (And I notice no one has disputed the accuracy of my corrections.)

    4. But now looking at it from your viewpoint, I guess this does seem a bit silly. This comment shall be my valediction, and I bid you adieu.

  3. Currently reading an anthology with this same theme – Gentle Invaders with stories where the “monsters are different.” Looks like a good line-up… check it out.

  4. Perhaps you’re forgetting,that some aliens can look and behave just as human as we do in sf,but It’s their mentalities that are often strange and belligerent though!The weird ones are not infrequently more benevolent.

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