Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Artists Behind the 1st ed. Cover of John Brunner’s The Sheep Look Up (1972)

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(Irving Freeman and Mark Rubin’s cover for the 1st ed. of The Sheep Look Up (1972), John Brunner)

John Brunner’s The Sheep Look Up (1972) would easily make my top fifteen SF novels of the 1970s—it’s far better than anything else he produced in the decade, although some might argue that The Shockwave Rider (1975) comes close.  Other than the novel’s unforgettable power, the first edition cover by Irving Freeman and Mark Rubio for Harper & Row remains seared in my memory.  The  1973 Ballantine first edition paperback also used the same art.

The harrowing nature of the story, decaying bodies/pollution, matches perfectly the ram-horned figures on human torsos, gas masks upturned… The distance to the horizon line, rendered via black horizontal lines, results in smaller and smaller forms, all in the same posture, waiting for the end.

As I’ve been thinking of the The Sheep Look Up lately (for obvious reasons), I decided to investigate the back catalogues of the artists.  They only made one additional credited cover together—the 1973 edition of An Alien Heat (1972) by Michael Moorcock (below)—and then embarked on short careers separately.  Mark Rubin’s covers tended to focus more on image while Irving Freeman’s are poor explorations  of font (for example, Jem below).  Unfortunately, none are intriguing or memorable — although Mark Rubin’s cover for the 1978 edition Science Fiction: Contemporary Mythology: The SFWA-SFRA Anthology (1978), ed. Patricia Warrick, Martin Harry Greenberg, and Joseph Olander comes close.

The Sheep Look Up cover, a work of genius, easily eclipses their other SF experiments.

A spectacular work of graphic design!

For more Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art consult the INDEX

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(Irving Freeman and Mark Rubin’s cover for the 1973 edition of An Alien Heat (1972), Michael Moorcock)

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(Mark Rubin’s cover for the 1974 edition of The Hollow Lands (1974), Michael Moorcock)

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(Mark Rubin’s cover for the 1974 edition of Wandering Stars: An Anthology of Jewish Fantasy and Science Fiction (1974), ed. Jack Dann)bststhyr5b1975

(Mark Rubin’s cover for the 1975 edition of Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year: Fourth Annual Collection (1975), ed. Lester Del Rey)bststhyr5c1976

(Mark Rubin’s cover for 1976 edition of Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year: Fifth Annual Collection (1976), ed. Lester Del Rey)  full_size

(Mark Rubin’s cover for the 1978 edition Science Fiction: Contemporary Mythology: The SFWA-SFRA Anthology (1978), ed. Patricia Warrick, Martin Harry Greenberg, and Joseph Olander)

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(Irving Freeman’s cover for the 1979 edition of Jem (magazine serialization 1978), Frederik Pohl)

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(Irving Freeman’s cover for the 1976 edition of Faces in the Flames: Fourth in a Series of Small Wars (1976), Peter Tate)

15 thoughts on “Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Artists Behind the 1st ed. Cover of John Brunner’s The Sheep Look Up (1972)”

    1. Most definitely. I’ve looked through all his Moorcock covers… an intriguing bunch.

      I think the more simple, yet effective, surrealism of The Sheep Look Up cover above is more my style.

    1. I’ve started the first one (An Alien Heat) — incest on the first page.. trying to be edgy I guess — haha.

      I’ll let you know what I think when I’ve read more.

      My 1973 edition has this hideous cover….

      1. This paint brush cover actually evokes one of the main elements of the book: people who have the power to create their own world as easily as you or I would create a drawing or painting on a pieces of paper.

        I’d forgotten the incest thing, but I guess it reflects that the characters, immortals with (apparently) unlimited power, are above morals. Part of the tension of the book is that such people are confronted by people from an environment of scarcity and morality, like our own.

  1. Hi

    I have to agree they never, together or individually matched the impact of their cover for The Sheep Look Up which is perfect for the theme. I have to say that the three Ballantine covers for Brunner’s The Shockwave Rider, Stand on Zanzibar and The Sheep Look Up are among the most iconic covers of that period at least for me. Of the three The Sheep Look Up cover is my favourite but one or more of these novels seem to be (rightly) included in any discussion of the period and the covers for these Ballantine editions always seem to be the ones that get reproduced.

    Regards
    Guy

    1. Hello Guy, which Ballantine editions are you referring to? They reused the first edition hardback art for Ballantine paperbacks in 1973 for a few printings….

      …..before moving into Murray Tinkelman’s memorable covers in 1976.

      I like the art for both editions.

  2. What a coincidence! I just went looking for a hardcover book club edition of The Sheep Look Up to replace the copy I lost many, many years ago. Copies on eBay are ridiculously priced (every seller seems to go by the highest price the book has sold for). Whereas very nice copies can be found at a low price on Abebooks (just keep checking back if there isn’t one listed at the moment). My local secondhand book dealer is getting me a VG copy in a VG dust jacket for around $15.00.

    1. My comment about Moorcock’s sexual content was snark and mostly in jest (hence the term “edgy” which is bandied about so frequently). I do not know enough about current SF to comment.

      I recently read a story by Langdon Jones “The Garden of Delights” (1969) that was published in Moorcock’s New Worlds magazine. Due to its incest-related content, the story caused the magazine to be banned in Australia.

      https://sciencefictionruminations.wordpress.com/2016/05/10/book-review-the-eye-of-the-lens-langdon-jones-1972/

    2. Don’t forget Theodore Sturgeon’s planet of incest in “If All Men Were Brothers, Would You Let One Marry Your Sister?” (1967, Dangerous Visions).

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