Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Hand of God?


(William Timmins’ cover for the January 1947 issue of Astounding Science Fiction)

A hand from a body off canvas enters the fray….  An alien’s hands wrap around the Earth, amused or disturbed by its creations?  A hand rises from a variety of desolate landscapes…  Is it the remnant of a robotic construct or a relics from some age old creator?

This particular theme — a powerful force depicted via an often disembodied hand — has yielded some fantastic covers.  Brian Lewis’ cover for the 1958 issue of Science Fantasy is one of my favorites.  I find the scene — a group of people discovering a robotic hand reaching from the fields — incredibly evocative.  As always the covers of Karel Thole, the well-known Dutch artist who did the majority of the covers for the major Italian sci-fi publishers, are wonderful.

And the early Powers cover….

What are your favorites?



(Joseph W. Tillotson’s cover for the July 1951 issue of Amazing Stories)


(Karel Thole’s cover for the 1979 edition of Urania #815)


(Jack Gaughan’s cover for the 1965 edition of Paingod and Other Delusion (1965), Harlan Ellison)

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(Richard Powers’ cover for the July 1953 issue of Beyond Fantasy Fiction)


(Brian Lewis’ cover for the 1958 issue of Science Fantasy)


(Ron Turner’s cover for the 1953 edition of The Hell Fruit (1953), John Russell Fearn)


(Alex Ebel’s cover for the 1976 edition of Uncertainty (variant title: The Ultimate Weapon) (1936), John W. Campbell)


(Karel Thole’s cover for the 1962 edition of Urania #285 (Untouched by Human Hands) (1954), Robert Sheckley)


(Karel Thole’s cover for the 1964 edition of Urania #327 (Lords of the Psychon) (1963), Daniel F. Galouye)


(Uncredited hideous cover for the 1976 edition of New Dimensions: Science Fiction Number 5 (1976), ed. Robert Silverberg)

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46 thoughts on “Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Hand of God?

  1. I’m not sure if I can pick a favorite… I’m a huge fan of the Pulp era and love- absolutely love- Pulp Cover Art. Great post!

      • Okay- you got me on the time-stamp. 🙂
        But the inspiration from that bygone era is still firmly a part of the genre of science fiction I think. There are certainly exceptions with modern day sci-fi covers but for the most part I believe they still hold a fond candle to the great artwork that has helped shape the current visual experience.
        And perhaps I lied… Out of the covers you’ve shared with us, the Urania “Untouched By Human Hands” cover is probably the most compelling for me.

        • I would argue that Powers + Lehr + Lewis produced far superior works than appear on covers today…. Haha, but yes, I definitely have an “aesthetic” I’m looking for.

          Yes, Karel Thole is one of my favorites. Almost all his Urania (Italian translations editions of English language sci-fi) covers are great.

  2. Nice little collection. Its certainly a strong theme within sci-fi, and evocative of Asimov and others. Nicely presented here, thanks.

      • I think more a sense of the robotic hand reminds me of his robot series and the general theme of the god-like hand manipulating events is strong in Banks’ Culture and…. I can’t even reference my sci-fi library ‘cos its all packed as I am moving home next week 😉

          • Thats what I find so evocative about sci-fi art and your collection show good examples. I may even have some inspirational covers but will have to wait until I unpack.

            • Cool. Yeah, I prefer the more “evocative” to “descriptive” covers that depict “correctly” a scene from the book or story. I just want good art, damn it! haha

            • I hear ya! Working on a novel saga myself and its often too easy to take a ‘scene’ from book to be used for the cover. Using something more symbolic can be far more impactful! (and, dare I say it, artistically rewarding).

            • Yeah, I think bad art is one of the number one thing that scare people away from self published works (well, and bad grammar) — hopefully a press picks yours up? If not, definitely peruse deviantart and offer some cash for a work you enjoy…. Unless you have some artistic talent yourself 😉

  3. I just went and read your review of Ossian’s Ride, and you raised some interesting questions about Hoyle’s political thought. Did he believe in rule by the “best and brightest,” i.e., smart folks like himself? I don’t know, but it’s not a rare view in SF. If you haven’t already, check out I.F. Clarke’s The Pattern of Expectation: 1644 – 2001. It’s a very good history of utopian, dystopian, and futurist writings – the whole idea of “the future” in Western civilization. Among other things, it makes it clear how scientism and technophilia have often been blind to larger moral, social, and political questions. Sometimes worse than blind. I think you’d enjoy it.

    • Sorry I took SO long to get to this comment — sometimes I miss them.

      But yes, I find Ossian’s Ride seriously problematic. And I do want to take a peek at that non-fiction book.


  4. Some excellent covers here Joachim, if pushed I’d probably have to choose Lords of the Psychon as my favourite. Although I have to say I think you’re being a little unfair calling the New Dimensions cover hideous, the use of bubble wrap is pretty inspired in an odd kind of way. I included a cover shot of a Groff Conklin anthology called Science Fiction Terror Tales on my blog last week which has a great hand/eye combination. Loving these themed posts by the way.

  5. It’s so great that you include the names of the artists – so few folks do. I loves blog posts that relate the relevant info about an image and the items (i.e. dates, artists, etc.) Thanks for such super work!

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