Inspired by C. M. Kornbluth’s dark/satirical tales in The Explorer (1954) that uncover the underbelly of the normally glamorous 50s portrayals of space travel and alien contact, I seek to expose (well, re-expose) the darker side of science fiction cover art. I’ll try to post every monday, one bad science fiction cover — if possible, I’ll pair it with a much better cover of the same book from another edition if one exists.
1). The hilarious website ‘Good Day Sir’ doesn’t post the images I come across fast enough despite getting routine ratings from 7.5-9.5… This is probably due to the fact that I don’t own the books and don’t follow the submission rules — i.e. posting an image of me physically holding a book in hand — alas, too bad.
2). If a reader came across certain editions (posted below) the true nature of a book would be hopelessly confused (a great cover on a terrible book does the same thing) — Yes, there really are cat-like aliens in this book. But, the work’s overarching theme is much more mature (societal reaction to natural disaster, etc). Continue reading
(Uncredited cover for the 1960 edition of The 22nd Century (1954), John Christopher)
There’s no better way to start off the new year than a gallery of science fiction covers depicting rampant imagination, unlimited promise. Some of us probably wish for mechanisms that conjure extraordinary feats of telepathy or the throbbing delights (avoiding all the pitfalls, of course) of a wisdom inundated supermind (well, I do at least).
Regardless, depicting extraordinary intelligence — whether harnessed for nefarious schemes or not — is a common trope: gigantic brains! unusual metal helmets! exploding heads replete with spectral fires! rays darting from eyes! otherworldly auras encircling heads, emanating symbols Continue reading
(Jack Gaughn’s cover for the 1964 edition of Three Worlds to Conquer (1964), Poul Anderson)
I spend a substantial amount of time looking through the sci-fi publisher catalogues of Ace, Pyramid Books, Dell, Doubleday, Signet, Ballantine, etc for both books to read and interesting covers that fit into various themes for my Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art posts (INDEX).
While perusing I’m occasionally baffled by covers that I’ve sworn I’ve seen on other books — and lo and behold, publishers sold art to different publishers, often lesser-known and unable to commission their own Continue reading
Half-Price Books in Dallas, Texas (its first location!) = bliss.
9 books = only 12 dollars. (curtesy of my girlfriend’s parents’ pre-Christmas gift)
What an amazing haul — and if I had known they were only going to be twelve dollars I would have picked up nine more. Lots of Silverberg from his glory years… Generation ships… City building machines… Weird psychic forcefields out beyond Pluto… Vietnam army camps experimenting with intelligence enhancing (and death inducing) syphilis strains…
1. Camp Concentration, Thomas M. Disch (1972)
(Uncredited cover for the 1971 edition) Continue reading
(Uncredited cover for 1966 Ballantine edition)
James White, famous for his Sector General series, spins a disturbing tale of two isolated and decaying societies — one alien, one human. Without doubt the work demands a certain suspension of disbelief. The isolated human society half of the premise comes off as highly artificial/improbably/impossible (and, well, bluntly put, hokey). I found the alien half of the story line a more “realistic” situation but less emotionally involving as the human half. White has difficultly meshing the trans-generational nature of both story lines — and the inevitable intersection at the end is predictable, anti-climactic, and dents the great appeal of the central portion of the work.
Lest this dissuade you, White’s dark vision is a transfixing take on the generation ship (literally) — how would a society descended from five individuals evolve for a hundred years trapped Continue reading
(Uncredited cover for the 1965 edition of Beyond the Sealed World (1965), Rena M. Vale)
While browsing through my collection of cover images I’ve collated over the last few months for science fiction art post ideas, I came across the uncredited cover for Rena Vale’s Beyond the Sealed World (1965) and was transfixed! The angle of the text, the mountain, the dark expanse of space, the little spaceship, the figures silhouetted against the night, and the surreal shape of the domed city connected to other distant domed cities… If anyone knows the artist (or has a good educated guess) please let me know! The second edition cover (below) still has beautiful domed cities but the caveman, helmeted soldier, and white-clad (not for long, the dress is slipping) woman tableau ruins the feel.
Particularly noteworthy is Jack Gaughan’s elevated domed city cover Continue reading
It’s not every day that a signed D. G. Compton novel arrives free in the mail. About half a year or so ago Ian Sales (check out his amazing blog) hooked me on D. G. Compton’s works and ever since I’ve grabbed as many as I can find on used book stores shelves and I’ve written a slew of reviews (The Unsleeping Eye, The Quality of Mercy, The Steel Crocodile, Synthajoy, The Missionaries). I made a comment on one of his D. G. Compton posts — a few days later a SIGNED copy of Compton’s Scudder’s Game (1988) (below) arrived in the mail!! Ian, thanks again and keep up the uncovering of underrated 60s/70s sci-fi authors!
The others, well, the covers are gorgeous! Two Richard Powers covers (the C. M. Kornbluth short story collection and the Conklin edited anthology). I must confess that the Hunt Collins purchase was impulsive — in part due to the vibrant 50s cover by Bob Lavin.
I apologize for the recent absence of book reviews — due to the approaching end of my last semester of graduate course work I’ve been pressed for time. I have reviews for Joanna Russ’ The Female Man (1975), James White’s The Watch Below (1966), and Samuel R. Delany’s Nova (1968) in preparation.
1. The Explorers, C. M. Kornbluth (1954) (MY REVIEW)
(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1970 edition of You Will Never Be The Same (1963), Cordwainer Smith)
“Now I shall tell of the city of Zenobia, which is wonderful in this fashion: though set on dry terrain it stands on high pilings, the houses are of bamboo and zinc, with many platforms and balconies placed on stilts at various heights, crossing one another, linked by ladders and hanging sidewalks, surmounted by cone-roofed belvederes, barrels storing water, weather vanes, jutting pulleys, and fishpoles and cranes” — Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities, 1972, pg. 35)
Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities has a choice place on my living room bookshelf next to various Saramago and Pynchon novels. Whenever I pick it up I’m immediately immersed in intense nostalgia, I see my father reading it on the sofa, I remember paging Continue reading
(David Hardy’s cover for the November 1975 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction)
I couldn’t stop laughing while putting together this post from my collection of gleaned covers: gumby in space with two fuzzy tufts and three unsymmetrical eye ridges (or, his fingers) ogling at a space probe, mushroom people transfixed by a mysterious white tentacled orb hoisted aloft by man in a pink cape and a skimpy pink unitard, evil nosed caterpillars, scary monstrous mole monster, etc. Did the editors KNOW precisely what the art looked like before it appeared on the covers evoking such throat hurting unintended (or perhaps intended) consequences? But, I have to admit there’s nothing like a cool (and funny alien) to make me pick up a book or magazine.
As always, what are your favorite funny alien covers which I haven’t posted?
I’ve read a few of Vance’s novels so I’ll probably pick up The Eyes of the Overworld Continue reading