Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Architectural Fragments of Damian Petrescu

Damien Petruscu, a Romanian graphic designer, created science fiction and fantasy covers for a range of Romanian presses between 1966-1985. He also designed countless LP covers from 1966-1983–George Enescu to Latin pop–which you can browse over at Discogs. In my view, his SF covers gave him more opportunity to showcase his talents! I have curated a group that hint at architectural desires and artificial shapes: Urban plans, façades bathed in red mist, totemic uplifts, temples in delicate lines, surreal landscapes of buildings askew… My favorite, his cover for Voicu Bugariu’s Lumea lui Als Ob (1981), might be a direct references to the magisterial ruins of the Sasanian capital at Ctesiphon [below]. He evokes the same crisp façade, desert landscape, and delicate arch.

Browsing through the 60s-80s Romanian press catalogs reveal the country’s isolation due to the Communist dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaușescu (1965-1989) and Cold War tensions. The quantity and type of non-Romanian SF appears quite different than in France, West Germany, or Italy. The latter group tended to pack their magazines and shelves with contemporary English-language SF. From what I’ve browsed so far (mostly on the indispensable Romanian fandom site Moshul SF, the primary source of the listing data and the source of the covers images), I get the sense that Romanian authors made up the vast majority of volumes rather than contemporary translated SF. There are only a few exceptions: Isaac Asimov (I, Robot), Ray Bradbury (R Is For Rocket), and various Soviet authors.

On the other hand, English-language authors from thee late 19th and early-20th century–Mary Shelley, H. G. Wells, Edgar Allan Poe, Ambrose Pierce, Samuel Butler, etc.–made up the bulk of translated science fiction. The French author extraordinaire Jules Verne received an entire publication series. Perhaps they were easier to acquire and more acceptable in an era of draconian secret police and censorship. In the early 1990s, after Ceaușescu’s execution, Roger Zelazny, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Alan Dean Foster, Greg Egan, and Robert Silverberg flooded the market.

If you are interested in a brief outline sketch of written SF in Romania, check out the introduction to Twelve: A Romanian Science-Fiction Anthology, ed. Cornel Robu (1999). I can also supply a PDF if needed (let me know in the comments).

Few works of Romanian SF, other than the stories in Twelve: A Romanian Science-Fiction Anthology, ed. Cornel Robu (1995) and a few random translated stories in world SF anthologies, are available in English. Due to my solid French readings skills, I am tempted to track down a French translated anthology of Romanian SF–Les meilleures histoires de science-fiction roumaine, ed. Vladimir Colin (1975). I resist reading SF in languages other than English. I feel that it suddenly would be a chore rather than a hobby. Tangent: In another lifetime I’d learn Romanian due to its incredible similarity to another language I can read–Latin.

Let me know your favorite covers in the comments! Or, if your Romanian is better than mine, if you know of any resources on Damien Petruscu’s life and career.

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7 thoughts on “Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Architectural Fragments of Damian Petrescu

    The Butlers! The Bārbulescu! I love them all.

    I tried learning Romanian in 1970s Austin. An int’l student taught me a lot. And it’s atrophied, of course. Damned depressing to’ve lost it, and German, pretty damned completely.

    • Glad you enjoyed them!

      Browsing Moshul SF (the fandom site I mentioned in the post) suggests that I can decode a nice big chunk of the vocabulary! It helps that Romanian, if I remember correctly, is the closest Romance language to Latin. But yes, my German skills have atrophied completely. Thankfully, my dissertation didn’t include many German sources (but a bunch in French and Italian).

  2. Some remarkable finds here! I appreciate, of course, the fragment and its nature as an architectural artifact… in some cases, it appears more of a structure than others where it is delegated to being a “coffee table object”

    • Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you enjoyed them. I decided to put the post together after seeing the first in the post — and immediately thinking of the Sasanian ruin (whether intended or not).

      I have another post of his covers planned on alien landscapes. He could shift quite radically in style to dense alien worlds. These are certainly his most minimalist.

  3. Pingback: Aprilansichten 2021 – FragmentAnsichten

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