(Don Sibley’s cover for the November 1950 issue of Galaxy)
When we conjure the image of a 40s/50s science fiction pulp heroine we often imagine a character who has to be rescued by men from aliens, shrieks and clings to any man nearby, and is always in a state of undress. I’ve included one cover, for the sake of comparison, that I find to be an exemplar of this type of sexist (and racist) depiction below (Alex Schomburg’s cover for the January 1954 issue of Future Science Fiction): white woman wrapped in only a towel stalked by an evil alien obviously painted with African-American facial characteristics (heavy on the sexual predation vibe) — the reader is supposed to buy into the racial stereotypes and thus be titillated by the fear she must feel.
I’ve selected a wide range of mostly pulp magazine covers depicting spacewomen of the future (I’ve loosely decided that this means women in space, in spacesuits) that tend to buck the trend Continue reading Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Spacewomen of the Future (fixing spaceships + fighting aliens + charging across barren landscapes)
(Ebel’s cover for the 1953 issue of Space Science Fiction)
Previous art explorations which looked at disembodied brains and visualizations of the ultra-intelligent set the stage for this post. Imagine skulls without brains: sometimes metaphorically, but often, literally hollow skull cavities that hold a vast array of mechanical devies and living captives. Or, the reader is gifted a voyeuristic peek into the skulls of bodies masquerading as humans but in reality, a mesh of circuits or a metal sheen operates those beautiful limbs and terrifying weapons….
My favorite is by far the pulp goodness of Ebel’s cover (if anyone knows the full name of this artist please let me know) for the 1953 issue of Space Science Fiction. The gorgeous heroine is held captive in gigantic stone heads with partially glass skulls — a robot that fails to conjure any menace stomps Continue reading Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Inside the Skull (rats + women + sword fights + robotic circuits + space)
(H. W. Wesso’s June 1941 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories)
In science fiction aliens are usually evil and generally end up dead — killed by our human heroes via pseudo-videogames (Ender’s Game), guns of endless variety, nuclear weapons detonated on their home worlds, horrific diseases (Deep Space Nine), tossed into the vacuum of space, tossed into wormholes, etc etc. They are rarely “humanized” — their families, societies, and history ignored by their human enemies — they are often depicted as “true” evil. I’ve included the above cover, shooting aliens under the American flag (it is a wartime 40s issue so such overt jingoism is explainable), in order to highlight the attitude towards space fauna which we are all familiar with.
Sometimes “friendship” is feigned. C. M. Kornbluth’s short story ‘Friend To Man’ (1951) (in this collection) is a disturbing example — the maternal feeling felt by the alien towards our antihero is just a ploy to lure him into her den where she implants him with eggs, which Continue reading Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Alien Friends
(Roger Stine’s cover for the 1979 edition of On The Run (variant title: Mankind on the Run) (1955), Gordon R. Dickson)
Part II of my Underwater Expeditions Series (Part I) is a veritable deluge of undersea wonders. Unusual monsters/aliens proliferate the seascapes — snapping at our aquatic heroes. A vast array of submersibles and submarines — including a mechanical whale equipped with a harpoon (Jack Coggins’ cover for the April 1957 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction) — trek across the oceanic expanses. Cities, ruins, hidden scientific facilities are all to be discovered amongst the seaweed and deep water trenches…
There is something so mysterious about the ocean depths — almost as alienating and frightening as space. Although due to our recent deep sea explorations increasingly less Continue reading Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Underwater Expeditions (futuristic submarines + underwater labs + sea monsters + cities), Part II
(Gaylord Welker’s cover for the December 1952 issue of Astounding Science Fiction)
Gaylord Welker’s cover for the December 1952 issue of Astounding Science Fiction appeared in my best sci-fi cover post a while back. Although I rarely recycle images, whenever I see his masterful cover I’m impressed with the sheer desolation and desperation of the scene. Inspired by the image I set off to find more covers depicting crashed spaceships (alien or human on Earth, the moon, distant planets….).
Hannes Bok’s cover for Campbell’s The Moon is Hell (1951), Hubert Roger’s cover for the February 1939 issue of Astounding, Earle Bergey’s cover for the November 1952 issue of Fantastic Story, and Walker Brook’s cover for the 1953 edition of Simak’s First He Died (variant title: Time and Again) are thematically similar but less successful. The others include one of my personal favorites (not one of the best by a long shot) — Earle Bergey’s cover the June 1952 issue of Startling Stories — where a man and a woman rescue two green tentacled Continue reading Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Crashed Spaceships
(Uncredited cover for the 1969 edition of The Fortec Conspiracy (1968), Richard M. Garvin and Edmond G. Addeo)
Humans and aliens in glass vials of all shapes and sizes waiting to be measured, matured, tested, analyzed, exposed to a variety of chemicals and emulsions. The artists often combine the iconic laboratory scene filled with the tools of the trade with sci-fi speculation on human experimentation (queue babies grown in containers in Brave New World). The result, humans in tubes. The effect is downright terrifying and one suspects, evokes a certain moribund fascination. As with the famous introductory sequence in Brave New World, the reader is horrified by birth entirety regulated by machines. Or, we are simultaneously titillated Continue reading Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Imprisoned in Glass Vials (of the metaphoric + medical + experimental variety)
(Gerard Quinn’s cover for the December 1956 issue of New Worlds)
Disembodied brains — in large metal womb-like containers, floating in space or levitating in the air (you know, implying PSYCHIC POWER), pulsating in glass chambers, planets with brain-like undulations, pasted in the sky (GOD!, surprise) above the Garden of Eden replete with mechanical contrivances among the flowers and butterflies and naked people… The possibilities are endless, and more often than not, taken in rather absurd directions.
I’ve cobbled together a large variety of images from pulp magazines to covers from the late 70s. My favorites include Valigrusky’s Continue reading Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Disembodied Brains, Part I