Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Nuclear Explosions + Mushroom Clouds, Part II

(Pattee’s cover for the November 1950 issue of Astounding Science Fiction)

In case you missed Part I.

Pattee’s cover for the Astounding Science Fiction November 1950 issue is visually stunning.  A transparent man (his arteries + brain showing) holds the atomic symbol aloft.  On the horizon a gigantic mushroom cloud is transposed with a spaceship.  Does man use atomic power for science and the good of mankind or evil and the destruction of mankind?  The message is made even more abundantly clear by the title of the piece of art — “Choice.”  Although this rhetoric might seem somewhat ham-fisted to modern post-Cold War readers, it produced some remarkable works of science fiction and science fiction art.  (If anyone knows the full name of the artist, I’d be grateful).

As with Part I, I’ve included some covers from the notorious hackwork spewing conveyor belt publisher Badger Books for giggles and laughs.  The mushroom cloud on The World of Tomorrow (1963) cover is positioned to not overlap the man’s gigantic looming face.  As a result its narrow tapered shape looks more like a radish connected to a carrot than a massive sign of destruction.

A few of the artists have taken the “mushroom” part of mushroom cloud altogether too seriously — for example, the stem of the cloud in Wojtek Siudmak’s cover for the 1978 edition of Ride of Passage (1968).

If you know of any covers I might have missed in Part I or Part II please let me know.  I’d love to make a Part III.


(Wojtek Siudmak’s cover for the 1978 edition of Ride of Passage (1968), Alexei Panshin)

(Bob Haberfield’s cover for the 1973 edition of The Committed Men (1971), M. John Harrison)

(Wally Wood’s cover for the 1958 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction)

(Uncredited cover for the 1963 issue of The Change (1963?), George C. Foster)

(Bruce Pennington’s cover for the December 1974 issue of Science Fiction Monthly)

(Barclay Shaw’s cover for the 1993 edition of Empire of the Atom (1957), A. E. Van Vogt)

(Henry Fox’s cover for 1965 edition of The Negative Ones (1965), John E. Muller (i.e. R. L. Fanthorpe)

(Uncredited — probably Henry Fox– cover for 1963 edition of World of Tomorrow (1963), Karl Zeigfried (i.e. R. L. Fanthorpe)

(Uncredited cover for the 1973 edition of Worlds of the Imperium (1961), Keith Laumer)

(Ed Valigursky’s cover for the 1962 edition of Worlds of the Imperium (1961), Keith Laumer)

(John Richards’ cover for the 1961 issue of Utopia 239 (1955), Rex Gordon)

(Uncredited cover for the 1965 edition of Brainrack (1974), Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis)

For mor cover art posts consult the INDEX

13 thoughts on “Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Nuclear Explosions + Mushroom Clouds, Part II

  1. Yes, definitely some less than wonderful artwork here, but fun to see all the same. Certainly one of the most terrifying images is the nuclear explosion, entirely because of the fact that it isn’t science fiction but science fact. Growing up at the tail end of the Cold War I remember being frightened by the all too real possibility (at least in our minds) of seeing it up close. And seeing all that old test footage and reading accounts of what happened in Japan just adds to the “can’t help but look” draw of the mushroom cloud. We have done some wonderful and quite awful things with our intelligence and creativity.

    • In terms of artistic quality, only the first cover fits my criteria — hehe. And I sort of like the cover for Foster’s The Change.

      I read a fascinating study on the history of the Underground shelter. “One Nation Underground” — in it there was a discussion of a fascinating study done of student artwork and how young children were drawing mushroom clouds….

      Great book if you have the time (as a historian I can also comment that it’s very scholarly — tons of footnotes/semi-dry tone etc — which aren’t always enjoyed by non-historians).

  2. When i saw the cover for The Committed Men I was going to suggest that you check out the Good Show Sir! site, but I see that you already know about it!

    What a weird combination of images on that one!

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