Thomas M. Disch’s The Genocides (1965) is an incendiary assault on our senses and expectations of trope and genre. In the face of apocalyptic annihilation at the hands of a vast alien Plant spread across the Earth, biblical stories of redemption and (re)birth are subversively recast as either delusions or decrepit meaningless patterns. Disch conjures a frontier landscapes inhabited by the sinful. Apocalypse cannot lead to rebirth.
The New Land of Milk and Honey
A billion spores, “invisible to all but the most powerful microscopes,” sown by an invisible sower over the entire Earth create a veritable carpet of greenery across even the most inhospitable geographies (15). Within seven years the alien trees or Plants, six-hundred feet tall with leaves the size of billboards, threaten to annihilate the last bastions of humanity. The narrative follows the inhabitants of a small town named Tassel–under the dictatorial sway of the preacher/mayor Anderson and his “Colt Python .357” (17)–and their attempts to survive on the new frontier.
On twitter, I recently learned from Jay O’Connell (cover artist and author) that all of Roger Zelazny’s work will be back in print. What exactly “everything back in print” means in reality I’m not entirely sure–will it include only the best known novels? All the short stories? Are works Zelazny wanted to “kill off” like To Die in Italbar (1973) really going to get reprints? Regardless, I was inspired to look back at the non-English language covers his work has received over the years. Naturally, as I moved to the fantastic Italian presses, I re-encountered and fell in love (again) with Allison’s evocative take on Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber (Corwin) five-novel sequence.
In 2021, I posted Part I of my Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art series on the Atelier Heinrichs & Bachmann. Between 1966 and 1971, they created a kaleidoscopic array of psychedelic visions for the German press Heyne Bücher. I described their art as follows: “Pop surrealism? Lowbrow art? The Andy Warhol effect? However you classify Atelier Heinrichs & Bachmann’s covers […] they’re gleeful and sarcastic.” And despite a few readers who disliked their exuberant/chaotic hilarity (someone described them as the “very nadir in SF cover art”), I stand by my positive assessment. And I bring you Part II of my series!
Italian artist, author, translator, and comic book critic Ferruccio Alessandri (1935-) created twenty-two covers for the Italian SF magazine Galassia (most of the issues between #109-132) in 1970. Galassia magazine was instrumental in introducing Italian audiences to the New Wave movement. Issues often contained both translations of popular English language authors and original Italian short stories and experimental visions.
As a unit, Alessandri’s covers convey a terrifying hellscape of insectoid visages (#122, #110, #128, #130), encounters with the surreal (#115), the oddly humanoid shapes (#119, #114, #116, #127), etc. Like searing flashes of a planet bathed under neon light, they are micro windows into the wonderscape of science fiction. While his Galassia covers are unconnected to the contents of the issues (to the best of my knowledge), I find their cumulative effect unsettling and alien.
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.
Pop surrealism? Lowbrow art? The Andy Warhol effect? However you classify Atelier Heinrichs & Bachmann’s covers for the German press Heyne Bücher (produced between 1966-1971), they’re gleeful and sarcastic. I’d wager their cover for Frank Herbert’s Dune Messiah (1969) above pokes fun at the US 1st edition by Jack Gaughan. The collaged sculpture giggles forth with its pastel halo like a Tiki-recast of Gaughan’s stoic monument to Muad-Dib. Gaughan’s mysterious orb now transformed as blue bubble-gum bubbles (or water droplets on a desert planet?). Regardless of whether or the design team saw the US 1st edition, this streak of impish fun runs throughout their covers.
In 2016, I covered The Cryptic Diagrams and Collaged Heads of Atelier Heinrichs. They too were possessed by moments of kitsch and collage. I’m assuming that Bachmann joined the team for the years 1966-1971. Atelier Heinrichs produced covers before and after Bachmann (isfdb link). I cannot find more information in German or English about the artists involved and the nature of their “atelier.” If you find anything, let me know!
German painter and graphic designer Johann Peter Reuter (1949-) created fourteen credited covers for German SF presses between 1977-1984. I have identified a potential fifteenth cover included below–the 1977 edition of Isaac Asimov’s Second Foundation (1953)–that I believe fits his style and date range. From the information gleaned from his homepage, Reuter’s SF output occurred in the first few years as a freelance artist after studying art in Dortmund. He started as a figurative painter before evolving to non-figurative forms (brief artist blurb).
If you’re interested in his non-SF art, check out his fascinating series of paintings from 2004 on the visualization of the mass.
Allison’s cover for the 1978 Italian edition of Tanith Lee’s Volkhavaar (1977)
Mariella Anderlini (aka Allison) (d. 1992) was a behemoth of Italian SF art (note 1). Her covers graced entire years of science fiction editions for various Italian presses—for example, she illustrated the complete Slan. Il Meglio della Fantascienza series for Libra Editrice. Her work was ubiquitous and fantastic.
Over the years, loose cover art post sequences emerge from the back catalog of my site (both conscious and unconscious)–and one topic I return to regularly are SF covers by Italian women. Female Italian cover artists in the decades I am most interested in (50s-mid-80s), made up a far larger percentage Continue reading →
Non-English language science fiction presses present a fascinating territory to explore. Their volumes provide not only a window into what SF was available to read but also the distinct visual language used to convey those works. Italian SF cover art remains a firm favorite–from Karel Thole’s Philip K. Dick covers to the haunting landscapes of Mariella Anderlini. And a new artist joins the ranks!
Luciana Tom Matalon was born in 1937 near Venice and studied art in Milan. Her paintings, sculpture, and jewelry have appeared in exhibitions around the world. She has a short biography on her eponymous foundation website. You Continue reading →