Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Fractured Bodies (unraveling, decaying, [de]constructing)


(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1979 edition of Crompton Divided (variant title: The Alchemical Marriage of Alistair Crompton) (1978), Robert Sheckley)

Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1979 edition of Robert Sheckley’s Crompton Divided (1978) was the inspiration for this post.  I found the cover many years ago while looking through Lehr’s entire (mostly brilliant catalogue) and was intrigued.  The man, comprised of puzzle-like pieces that slowly morph into the swirls of his clothes, stares at us with hybridized eyes — a planet, a pupil — while one missing puzzle piece allows the viewer a glimpse of a barren landscape.  His brain, entirely a puzzle, is complete, but are his senses crumbling?

 Dean Ellis’ cover for the 1971 edition of Larry Niven’s collection All the Myriad Ways (1971) is even more fantastic — the puzzle pieces (bones, faces, limbs) dangle in the air in surrealist fashion with an unusual portal, or gate looming on the plains. The complete puzzled would include both the external features of man, his face, his ears and his internal bone structure.

John Holmes’ cover for the 1972 edition of Piers Anthony’s Chthon (1967) is another intriguing example — a man struggles against his enclosure but simultaneously unravels.  Although the delivery is less than perfect the uncredited cover for the 1969 edition of Kenneth Bulmer The Doomsday Men (1968) is strangely alluring — a woman’s skin, upon closure examination, is fractured and earthen, her mouth, a maw into an unknown interior…

And the novels, are they worth reading?

Enjoy! (what are your favorites?  Can you divine any hidden meanings?)

(Uncredited cover for the 1959 edition of The Isotope Man (1958), Charles Eric Maine)


(William Timmins’ cover for the June 1949 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, ed. John W. Campbell, Jr.)


(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1975 edition of Chthon (1967), Piers Anthony)


(John Holmes’ cover for the 1972 edition of Chthon (1967), Piers Anthony)

(Ed Emshwiller’s cover for the April 1956 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction, ed. H. L. Gold)


(Virgil Finlay’s cover for the September 1957 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction, ed. H. L. Gold)


(Dean Ellis’ cover for the 1971 edition of All the Myriad Ways (1971), Larry Niven)


(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1966 edition of New Dreams This Morning (1966), ed. James Blish)

purple fetus

(David Davies’ cover for the 1968 edition of Counter-Clock World (1967), Philip K. Dick)


(Richard Clifton-Dey’s cover for the 1977 edition of Rork! (1965), Avram Davidson)

Screen shot 2012-01-09 at 12.44.11 AM

(Lloyd Birmingham’s cover for the January 1963 issue of Amazing Stories, ed. Cele Goldsmith)
Screen shot 2012-07-24 at 3.50.24 PM

(Uncredited cover for the 1969 edition of The Doomsday Men (1968), Kenneth Bulmer)

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(Virgil Finlay’s cover for the May 1957 issue of Fantastic Universe Science Fiction, ed. Hans Stefan Santesson)


(McInnery’s cover for the 1972 edition of The Müller-Fokker Effect (1970), John Sladek)


(Uncredited cover for the 1968 edition of The Mercy Men (1968), Alan E. Nourse)


(Dennis Rolfe’s cover for the 1971 edition of The Naked Sun (1956), Isaac Asimov)


(Uncredited cover for the 1971 edition of The Anomaly (1971), Jerry Sohl)


(Karel Thole’s cover for the 1962 edition of The Wind From Nowhere (1962), J. G. Ballard)


(Karel Thole’s cover the 1962 edition of The Blue Atom (1958), Robert Moore Williams)

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32 thoughts on “Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Fractured Bodies (unraveling, decaying, [de]constructing)

  1. Chthon is not bad, Anthony’s most ambitious work, as far as I am aware. In Anthony’s biography he claims Roger Zelazny and Larry Niven wrote to him to praise his work, and that Harlan Ellison “told everyone to read Chthon.”

    (I was flipping through Anthony’s biography yesterday as I am currently reading the sequel to Chthon.)

    I read Rork! years ago, and remember being a little disappointed, as I had heard that Davidson was a sophisticated literary author. Gene Wolfe praises Davidson, for example, and the Clute encyclopedia suggests he is SF’s most “explicitly” literary writer.

    Maybe Davidson is a great writer, but Rork! was just OK. As I recall, a sensitive man goes to a planet to work for some corporation; the other people in the corporation fear some native monsters, but the main character makes friends with them. I should probably seek out some of Davidson’s other work.

      • I’m a big Avram Davidson fan, but I have to say he was primarily a short story writer. His novels, or the ones from the 60’s anyway, are OK but seem to have been quickly cranked out. His only unqualified masterpiece is The Phoenix and the Mirror, but that is a fantasy, so I suspect you would not be interested in that. But yes, his short story collections from the 60’s are all great and should be bought when found. Even better, there was a collection that came out in the 90’s called The Avram Davidson Treasury, which is the single best collection of his short stories and should be read by all fans of speculative fiction.

    • I should also point out that I’ve read Asimov’s The Naked Sun (enjoyable), Nourse’s The Mercy Men (wrote a review recently but it was rather bad), and PKD’s Counter-Clock World (average for PKD) — and have Chthon on the shelf….

      • I couldn’t say that “Counter-Clock World” was Philip Kindred Dick’s best novel,but it is remarkably imaginative.As I’ve said elsewhere,it is too short to tackle all the pseudo religious,metaphysical,political and social themes,and editorial interference made a big hole here I think.

        That cover was the first British edition by Sphere in 1968,and the plan here I think,was to convey Dick’s psychedelic ethos,and it looks very drug induced,which needless to say,was misleading of the novel inside.The Coronet 1977 one by Geoff Davis,is more sanguine and moody.

  2. Great collection. I read The Naked Sun and I can’t see how that cover is remotely related to the story. I like the Mercy Men cover best. It intrigues me enough to want to read it. That blurb on the Sladek novel makes me laugh. I hope that ties into the novel and isn’t just glaring arrogance.

  3. Nice. Several of the covers brought to mind a version of Colin Wilson’s ‘The Mind Parasites’. (I have the one where the astronaut is using some sort of beam to disintegrate a large column)

  4. Some disturbing images there.

    The first one with the Paul Lehr cover is really interesting in part because the figure isn’t something I normally see in his work, but as soon as you see the buildings in the background it is obvious that it is his work. I like it.

  5. Thank you for the reminder of some great book covers. I’ve just realized yet another outcome of the changes in the book market – these were covers intended to sell the book in a bookstore. Now the covers are designed to have impact when they are thumbnails on a computer screen. We win some and lose some – it’s now easy to find pretty much any book that I want, but cover art will never be the same.

    • “Now the covers are designed to have impact when they are thumbnails on a computer screen” — hmm, well, I don’t think that this is much different that it was in the past actually. SF books were often advertised in little inserts within the old paperbacks with thumbnail pictures of each covers 😉

  6. I like the Timmins cover for Astounding, as the Thole cover for The Blue Atom.

    ‘New Dreams this Morning’ is a fairly good collection with an unusual theme. Each story was chosen since the focus supposedly is on the creative arts. A lot of the stories are classics, which you have most likely already read elsewhere like ‘The Country of The Kind’.

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