Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Space Elephants!

(Tony Roberts’ (?) cover for the 1975 edition of Ten Thousand Light-Years From Home (1973), James Tiptree, Jr.)

Here’s a lighthearted themed science fiction art post on elephants, elephantine aliens, and prehistoric mammoths that I’ve cobbled together over the last few weeks. Elephants have always made me happy–especially baby elephants…. and yes, I have been known to watch Youtube videos of baby elephant antics. I digress.

The SF novel that first came to mind was Robert Silverberg’s masterful rumination on colonization on a decaying world Downward to the Earth (1970). Rather than only focus on Downward to the Earth‘s huge range of elephantine alien covers, I’ve interspersed a variety of others.

Which novels/collections have you read?

I’ve read Poul Anderson’s Brain Wave (1953), Robert Silverberg’s Downward to the Earth (1970), and James Tiptree, Jr.’s collection Ten Thousand Light-Years From Home (1973) (although I never reviewed it).

Do you have a favorite elephant cover?

My favorite has to be Karel Thole’s cover for the 1973 German edition of Silverberg’s novel—the elephant isn’t the focus of the cover (it’s small and near the bottom) but rather an unusual lumbering Tapir-esque beast…

Other than additional editions of Silverberg’s novel that I deliberately excluded, do you know of any elephant SF covers I could add (pre-1990) to a potential Part II?


(Paul Alexander’s cover for the 1979 edition of Downward to the Earth (1970), Robert Silverberg)

(Peter Goodfellow’s cover for the 1977 edition if Keep the Giraffe Burning (1977), John Sladek)

(Paul Alexander’s cover for the 1982 edition of The Hand of Zei (magazine 1950), L. Sprague de Camp)

(Stuart Hughes’ cover for the 1978 edition of Downward to the Earth (1970), Robert Silverberg)

(John Rush’ cover for the 1st edition of Elephant Song (1982), Barry N. Longyear)

(Jim Burn’s cover for the 1984 edition of Downward to the Earth (1970), Robert Silverberg)

(Michael Herring’s cover for the 1978 edition of Brain Wave (1953), Poul Anderson)

(Karel Thole’s cover for the 1973 German edition of Downward to the Earth (1970), Robert Silverberg)

(Gérard Ruffin’s cover for the 1980 French edition of Downward to the Earth (1970), Robert Silverberg)

(H. R. Van Dongen’s cover for the 1st edition of Mastodonia (1978), Clifford D. Simak)

(Uncredited cover for the 1973 issue of the Japanese SF magazine S-F)

For book reviews consult the INDEX

For cover art posts consult the INDEX

39 thoughts on “Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Space Elephants!

    • I read that as a kid — I think it was in my high school library (next to endless L. Ron Hubbard books). It was long before I read SF regularly…. But yes, absolutely!

      • I read it when it was new, from the library in hardcover, and I liked it. I still remember a few of the technical things, like detonating atomic bombs to power an X-ray laser cannon on the space warship the Earthers built in secret. There was also some thing about laying dinner plates in front of an enemy column to trick them into stopping their AFVs, something Niven and Pournelle suggested had been done during the Hungarian uprising or something like that.

    • Yeah, as I mentioned in the post, I am aware of all the Downward to the Earth covers — I deliberately excluded this one, although I love it, as I had so many! I enjoy Frazetta’s art far more when he’s not creating his normal sword and sorcery fair….

      But yes, while it is not my favorite Silverberg novel, it’s in the top 5 (as of now).

  1. Project Mastodon by Simak is a 1955 short story which was later greatly altered and expanded into Mastodonia (aka Catface in the UK). Sadly, I don’t think any mastodons appeared in relation to it until 2009

    And Wildside by Steven Gould has a great cover by an artist called Ravenwood! (Tor Teen edition, 2003) Also a bit late for your project, I”m afraid…

    Any others I can think of are also far too recent…

      • I did see that, but the short story is substantially different.

        Other later books with mammoth covers that I’ve read include
        Harry Turtledove – The Breath of God – 2008
        The Golden Shrine – 2009 both fantasy

        Stephen Baxter – Mammoth: Silverhair – 1999
        Mammoth: Longtusk -1999
        Mammoth: Icebones – 2001
        collected as Behemoth – 2004 sf – they end up on Mars!

        John Varley – Mammoth – 2005 sf rewilding/ranching in Alaska or maybe Canada

        Greg Benford & Kevin J. Anderson – Mammoth Dawn – 2015 edition sf cloned mammoth loose in L.A.

        Eric Brown – Jani and the Greater Game – 2014 steampunk alt.hist with mechanical elephant; it’s great fun!

        Sadly. Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard (2015), and it’s sequel, by Lawrence M. Schoen don’t have elephants on the cover, despite the books being specifically about uplifted elephants and their place in a wider ‘up-lifted’ space empire! It’s also probably the best of the elephant/mammoth titles I’ve just listed here!

        • As a bunch of these are newer (although I recognize a lot of the authors), I’ll investigate –not sure I’ll include them in a part II as they are so new. Thanks for the list! It’s fun seeing that the theme continues. Do you have a favorite novel on the topic?

          • The Lawrence M. Schoen book is probably the best of the ones I’ve mentioned, although the Eric Brown is the most fun to read! And Wildside, by Steven Gould, mentioned in my other reply is a good, very readable YA novel. (teenager finds a portal to an alternate Earth and takes it all very seriously!)

  2. In Fletcher Pratt’s novel INVADERS FROM RIGEL, elephantoid invaders from . . . you guessed it . . . turn most of Earth’s population into statues, but a select few are turned into metal beings. The elephantoids appear on Emshwiller’s cover for the hardcover edition, but they’re very small. See the Wikipedia entry on this inane book:

    • I’ll include that cover in a Part II!

      Thanks John.

      But yeah, I’ve never managed to complete a Fletcher Pratt novel. I’ve started at least three and quit them after the first chapter. Did he write anything of quality?

  3. Hi

    I loved this post and will keep my eyes open. I enjoyed both Brain Wave and Downward to Earth. I cheated a bit and given his interest in Africa I assumed Michael Resnick would have at least cover that fit the bill and he did. Hopefully the links work.

    I only pulled one cover from my ERB collection.

    And even though it is a rino, since you mentioned Poul Anderson I threw this in.

    As for you comment on Pratt I did do one of his short stories The City of the Living Dead recently but it was part of my interest in SF history, rather than deathless prose. I could not resist.

    Keep well.

  4. Hi

    I was not sure if the god/being Chaugnar Faugn in Long’s The Horror from The Hills fits the criteria. However there is mention in the Wikipedia article that he and “his brothers were actually connected hyper-dimensionally” which works for me. Anyway it is a neat cover.

    Now I have to finish The Very Slow Time Machine by Watson.

    Happy Reading

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