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


(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1952 edition of Rat Race (1950), Jay Franklin)

Part III of my series on Nuclear Explosions + Mushroom Clouds…. Part I + Part II

As always, I’ve included a variety of novel and magazine covers on the theme from the 50s-70s.  My favorite is by far Richard Powers’ cover for the 1952 edition of Rat Race (1950) — his occasional less surreal visions from the 1950s are artistically adept and powerful (by the 60s the majority of his covers are surrealist).  I found that the uncredited cover for the 1961 edition of Dark December (1960) convincingly depicts the loneliness of the survivors in their new world…  J. F. Doeve’s cover for the 1966 Dutch edition of  The Crucified City (1962) displays the devastation a nuclear war would exact on its belligerents.

And to lighten the mood I’ve included two absolutely atrocious covers — the uncredited cover for the 1953 edition of The Mutans Rebel (1953) and the uncredited cover for the 1976 edition of The Implosion Effect (1976).  The latter is a clear example of the pairing of nuclear explosion/utter devastation with unbridled sexual tension — a theme found in many a post-apocalyptical novel — i.e., the world is about to be destroyed, we might as well have sex….  The cover reminds me of the famous photograph V-J Day in Times Square by Alfred Eisenstaedt — both women don’t look too happy about the situation (the nurse in the photo was seized without her permission by the drunk sailor — “It wasn’t my choice to be kissed,” said Greta Zimmer Friedman).

What are your favorites?



(Uncredited cover for the 1961 edition of Dark December (1960), Alfred Coppel)


(Leo Ramon Summers’ cover for the December 1952 issue of Amazing Stories)


(J. F. Doeve’s cover for the 1966 Dutch edition of  The Crucified City (1962), Peter Greenaway)


(W. E. Terry’s cover for the October 1952 issue of Imagination: Stories of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

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(Boris Vallejo’s cover for the 1977 edition of Z for Zachariah (1975), Robert C. O’Brien)

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(Gene Szafran’s cover for the 1976 edition of A Small Armageddon (1962), Mordecai Roshwald)

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(Ed Emshwiller’s cover for the July 1963 issue of Amazing Stories)

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(Uncredited cover for the 1977 edition of The Year of the Quiet Sun (1970), Wilson Tucker)

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(Hoot von Zitzewitz’s cover for the 1965 edition of Level 7 (1959), Mordecai Roshwald)


(Uncredited cover for the 1968 edition of Survival Margin (variant title: The Darkest of Nights) (1962), Charles Eric Maine)


(Ric Binkley’s cover for the 1958 edition of Starhaven (1958), Robert Silverberg writing as Ivar Jorgenson)


(Uncredited cover for the 1976 edition of The Simulacra (1964), Philip K. Dick)


(Hollis Williford’s cover for the 1971 edition of The World Set Free (1914), H. G. Wells)


(Uncredited cover for the 1953 edition of The Mutans Rebel (1953), E. C. Tubb)


(Uncredited cover for the 1976 edition of The Implosion Effect (1976), Gary Paulsen)


(Paul Bacon’s cover for the 1975 edition of Malevil (1973), Robert Merle)

For similar posts consult the INDEX

15 thoughts on “Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Nuclear Explosions + Mushroom Clouds!, Part III

  1. I love that cover for Tubb’s The Mutants Rebel. It’s so over-the-top. I’m trying to figure out what that device is that she has in her hand — evil cell phone? evil super-science medical scanner/syringe?

  2. Dark December is a surprisingly good post-nuclear war novel about a technician from an ICBM base trying to make his way back home across a ruined West Coast. He runs afoul of a rogue, psycho military officer who is thriving in the new societal order. It reminded me a bit of The Long Loud Silence. The cover on my version is much less sexy, unfortunately.

    Malevil is pretty amazing – its the French Earth Abides, with its Old World sensibility. A bunch of survivors are holed up in this medieval fortress, and they must resort to using the fortress’ security features.

    Just like Earth Abides draws a connection between the post-holocaust society and the land’s frontier-era roots, Malevil describes a revival of society as it existed in medieval France.

    And there are also more men than women, a problem that requires a polyamorous solution.

    I’m going to have to go look for The Implosion Effect!

    • Yeah, Dark December has been on my list for a while. And The Long Loud Silence…. And Malevil, and Earth Abides… alas, my 50s sci-fi knowledge is rather limited in the post-apocalyptical subgenre.

  3. Joachim, Great selections. I believe the cover for YEAR OF THE QUIET SUN is Michael Whelan–I have that edition and it is uncredited there, too, but it sure looks like Whelan. The cover ruins one of the book`s surprises [not the nuke] but I love the tone of this one. Like LEVEL 7 most of the book is build-up, in this case to a jump through time. It is a lost classic, IMHO, involving a race war in the US future……I second the recommendation for MALEVIL……THE IMPLOSION EFFECT cover is awesome, looks like the woman`s fighting off a pushy date, `Not NOW, Gary, the world`s ending!`

    • Was The Year of the Quiet Sun worth reading?

      Thanks. Haha, yeah, sexual content mix with nuclear disaster always struck me as plain weird. And The Implosion Effect cover is plain laughable… haha…. Can’t find much about the book online.

  4. Joachim, THE YEAR OF THE QUIET SUN is my favorite sf read in years [but it is second on my suggestion list to EARTH ABIDES–read that asap!]. I understand why some don`t like it–there isn`t an ounce of escapism in it–but I just dig the long, slow build to a rather elegaic final section. Knowing your interest in socialogical sf, I bet you like this. And since all my posts must be annoyingly off-topic, have you reviewed Brunner`s TOTAL ECLIPSE? You need to rank your Brunner favorites, TOTAL is the only one of his I`ve read yet.

  5. P.S. The RAT RACE cover seems to illustrate the ghosts of a woman and an officer being freed from the air craft carrier that held them, thanks to a tactical nuke–a WW3 version of TOPPER, apparently.

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