What The? #8

An occasional series of book covers whose outlandish design evokes bafflement and confusion in equal measure.

The War Book edited by James Sallis

1971 – Panther
Cover art by Peter Tybus

So, what do have here to illustrate Panther’s 1971 anthology The Book Of War? Four figures – one of which is a skeleton – sit astride giant blue eyeballs which are shooting jagged beams of death and destruction from their retinas. The skeleton brandishes a big machine gun (perhaps a bit too big) whereas the furthest figure is using a bomb instead of an arrow in his bow. The central two beings have J and F emblazoned on their chests marking them out as perhaps Justice and Freedom. Freedom has a sword which also has laser flashes emanating from it’s tip whilst Justice rather feebly swings a set of scales which are great for measuring weights etc. but known to be very poor in long range combat situations.

WTF8 The War Book


Two Unicorns – Or, Finish Searching Before You ‘Buy It Now’

Some time ago I was on the hunt for a copy of Theodore Sturgeon’s E Pluribus Unicorn. I was scanning eBay as usual and found many modern reprints but nothing that remotely tickled my fancy in the cover department. One evening however I came across this slightly tatty looking 1969 Panther edition with rather groovy psychedelic cover art;

Sturgeon E Pluribus Unicorn 1

The seller had marked the copy as ‘Acceptable’ which I don’t usually buy but I suppose I was blinded by that crazy, sadly uncredited cover painting. I decided to take a chance and believing my search was now over duly clicked the ‘Buy It Now’ button. I don’t know what possessed me to keep scrolling down the page, after all I now had what I needed but scroll I did. Then to my shock, another older copy appeared on my screen. I couldn’t believe it and told myself that I didn’t need two copies of this book but something about the cover nagged at me. Here’s the second volume published by Ballantine in 1965;

Sturgeon E Pluribus Unicorn 2

I headed over to the ISFDB (here) and was amazed to learn that the cover was actually by Richard Powers! I hopped straight back onto eBay and bought my second copy of E Pluribus Unicorn of the evening. Both books arrived a few days later and the Panther version was indeed in a bit of a sorry state, the Ballantine however was in pristine condition and having only cost £2 more than the first I was relieved that I hadn’t made a more foolish mistake than I could have done.

The Moral of this story – finish your search before buying your book of choice. I’d like to think I’m a little more careful now in light of this incident!

What The? #7

Strange Relations by Philip José Farmer

1973 – Panther
Cover artist uncredited

An occasional series of book covers whose outlandish design evokes bafflement and confusion in equal measure.

Where to start with this one? A lion with women’s breasts and a bearded, long haired man’s head sits unaware that he/she/it has an enormous screaming slug on his/her/it’s back. In the foreground is a clutch of purple eggs, one of which has hatched out to reveal a fanged baby which is being bitten on the head by a snake. “What the hell is going on here?” I wonder, twitching slightly. I know the title is Strange Relations but this design is maybe stretching things a little too far.

WTF7 Farmer Strange Relations

Sci-Fi Book Covers And The Female Form

Having recently gone through a reorganisation of my library in a desperate attempt to create some much needed shelf space, I’ve been contemplating the nature of sci-fi cover art in general. The 1950s were all about rocket ships and spacemen in giant glass domed helmets whereas the 1980s and on through the 1990s huge airbrushed spacecraft were pretty much de rigueur (ugh). Between those years however, pretty much anything went in the publisher’s art departments and so that’s where I have concentrated my collecting efforts over the years.

All genre-specific fiction has its artistic signifiers of course but I’ve always thought sci-fi missed a little glamour here and there. Sure, those 50s jackets often had a token female holding onto the chisel jawed, laser pistol firing hero but that was about it. Are we too nerdy and prudish to consider the female form not sci-fi enough when it comes to cover art? And so I went looking for examples to disprove this theory, It was a slim and mixed selection I finally retrieved but I am presenting my findings here nonetheless – for purely scientific purposes of course.

Kronk by Edmund Cooper
1972 – Coronet
Cover art by Chris Foss

Cooper Kronk

Sexmax by Hughes Cooper
1970 – New English Library
Cover art by Robert Foster

Cooper Sexmax

Beyond Apollo by Barry Malzberg
1973 – Pocket Books
Cover art by Charles Moll

Malzberg Apollo

Bug Jack Barron by Norman Spinrad
1972 – Panther
Cover artist uncredited

Spinrad Barron

Turn Left At Thursday by Frederik Pohl
1969 – Ballantine
Cover art by Robert Foster

Pohl Thursday

Tales Of The Flying Mountains by Poul Anderson
1971 – Collier / Macmillan
Cover artist uncredited

Poul Mountains

The Joy Makers by James Gunn
1976 – Panther
Cover art by Jim Burns

Gunn The Joymakers

No Direction Home by Norman Spinrad
1975 – Pocket Books
Cover art by Charles Moll

This book was chosen following a conversation about a recent acquisition by Joachim Boaz over at Science Fiction And Other Suspect Ruminations blog (here). Thanks for the tip Joachim!

Spinrad Direction

In the interests of appealing to any female readers who have made it through the article this far, here’s a cover featuring a couple of groovy space ladies enjoying a little gratuitous full-frontal male alien nudity whilst the dudes look on in horror. Enjoy!

The Alien by Raymond F. Jones
1966 – Belmont
Cover artist uncredited

Jones The Alien

What The? #5

The Space-Time Journal edited by Judith Merril

1972 – Panther
Cover artist uncredited

An occasional series of book covers whose outlandish design evokes bafflement and confusion in equal measure.

This week’s entry is just downright puzzling. A series of burnt out matches which also appear to have tiny forests growing between oceans on them. I clearly need to stop thinking about the relevance of these cover illustrations so much and have a nice quiet lie down.


My obsession with the great Mr Howard Phillips Lovecraft

A few weeks ago I wrote an article in which I boldly stated that “I rarely buy the same book twice because a better cover comes along” and briefly mentioned my ‘vanity’ collection of H.P. Lovecraft titles. It’s true, I will buy anything bearing his name if it doesn’t already reside on my shelves, despite the fact that I may have several copies of the same volume under different covers. I just can’t help it, I don’t know exactly what spurs me on to indulge in this largely pointless endeavour apart from imagining myself as a custodian of sorts who seeks to amass and preserve these browning sheaves of paper from the ravages of time.

I bought my first set of Lovecraft anthologies back in 1985. They were published by Granada/Grafton and each of the four thick volumes bore the most garish cover imaginable which I have since traced back to an artist called Tim White. I was nineteen years old or thereabouts at the time and absolutely devoured their contents in a matter of weeks. I almost became one of Lovecraft’s impossibly driven characters poring over antiquarian manuscripts in a bid to find the arcane formula and sigils required to summon a foul, eldritch creature from its millennial slumber. I still have those books to this day – my ‘reading copies’ and they show surprisingly little in the way of ageing which is quite odd.

But, I digress. I have featured a few Lovecraft covers in a previous article relating to skulls (here) but never covered the great man in his own article. Here then is a small selection of covers taken from a very long and overcrowded shelf dedicated entirely to the great Mr Howard Phillips Lovecraft;

The Watchers Out Of Time And Others (with August Derleth)
This one is the most prized book in my Lovecraft collection – a first edition of 5070 copies from Derleth’s own Arkham House Press published in 1974 with a stunning cover by Herb Arnold.

Watchers Out Of Time

The Lurking Fear And Other Stories
Panther’s 1970 reprint of this anthology featuring somewhat bizarre cover artwork by Michael McInnerney

Lurking Fear

The Horror in the Museum & Others – Version 1
This 1971 Beagle Boxer collection only contains two fully co-credited pieces by Lovecraft with Elizabeth Berkeley but one of those stories is The Crawling Chaos and therefore fully deserves Lovecraft’s name on the cover. The rest of the contents omit Lovecraft’s name but all of them were revised by him to some extent. The fabulously psychedelic cover art is sadly uncredited.

Horror In The Museum 2

The Horror in the Museum & Others – Version 2
Another version of this anthology, this time by Panther in 1975. Many of the stories contained in the above version have been substituted with other tales here and so this slightly tatty, fragile volume was a worthy purchase in the end.

Horror In The Museum

The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward – Version 1
One of the surprisingly few full length novels penned by Lovecraft and published in 1970 by Panther. More psychedelic cover art, this time with a symbolic bent by an artist called Stanley Mouse.

Charles Dexter Ward 2

The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward – Version 2
Yet another version of this fantastic novel, again published by Panther but this one dates back to 1963. I thought I’d include this one as the garish uncredited cover art and lurid tagline makes the book look more like a tale of flesh eating zombies than an atmospheric tale of a New England antiquarian dabbling in the black arts to uncover dark mysteries.

Charles Dexter Ward

The Doom That Came To Sarnath And Other Stories
Published in 1976 by Ballantine Books with a wonderfully strange cover by Murray Tinkelman, I particularly love the horned, devilish graphic above Lovecraft’s name.

Doom Sarnath

The Shuttered Room And Other Tales Of Horror
This volume has been my most recent acquisition, again published by Panther in 1970 with a great cover which is credited to ‘Picture Post’.

Shuttered Room

Gimme Head

After taking such a long break from blogging, it seems only logical to piece together another bumper theme based on cover art due to the large number of books which have been pushed through my letterbox in the intervening period. I was flicking through my library for a few more covers featuring human skulls during the weekend for a continuation of an earlier piece (here) but kept coming across books with whole heads on them and so that’s where I’ll take my cue from. Here’s the chosen selection;

The Whole Man by John Brunner
1970 – Ballantine
A great piece of cover art from Steele Savage to begin with gracing this fine repress of Brunner’s 1964 novel. Not only does the design feature the head of protagonist Gerald Howson, but his cranium is filled with thirteen other heads whose faces stare out unblinkingly at the reader.

Brunner Whole

When They Come From Space by Mark Clifton
1964 – Four Square
One of only three novels by Mark Clifton, this book was recently purchased from a lady who lives on a narrowboat. I initially thought the cover was by Richard Powers but it is sadly uncredited in the book and I can’t find any further clues as to its creator.

Clifton Space

Clone by Richard Cowper
1974 – Quartet
This rather strange image is uncredited in the book but I have read on a SF forum that it could possibly be the work of Jim Burns – although personally I have my doubts. It’s a great painting all the same.

Cowper Clone

The Furious Future by Algis Budrys
1966 – Panther
More uncredited artwork on this great collection. This time the head appears to be materialising from inside some kind of giant psychedelic waffle. Superbly odd.

Budrys Future

The Lost Perception by Daniel F. Galouye
1968 – Corgi
Yet another uncredited piece which has been suggested by one of my knowledgable readers is the work of Josh Kirby, (thanks Bernie!) The cover painting serves to illustrate the effects of an alien epidemic know as ‘the screamies’, or to quote from the rear cover;

“Exploding in a man’s mind in a searing blast of noise and heat… the victims dying in a rigid paroxysm of pain…” This novel was renamed A Scourge Of Screamers for its final reprinting later the same year.

Galouye Perception

Keep The Giraffe Burning by John Sladek
1977 – Panther
A fantastic collection of short stories from one of my current favourite authors which has a brilliantly bizarre cover painting by the always intriguing Peter Goodfellow.

Sladek Giraffe

Can You Feel Anything When I Do This? – Robert Sheckley
1974 – Daw
This excellent collection of Sheckley shorts features supremely twisted head-related artwork by Hans Arnold and came to me in ‘as new’ condition from a book dealer based in Sydney

Sheckley Feel Anything

Rogue Moon by Robert Budrys
1973 – Arrow
Featured on another Budrys title, this final piece of art is not exactly a human head but rather a glass simulacra which begins on the back cover and continues over the spine and onto the front forming a very trippy wraparound photo montage. This striking design is the work of Chris Yates.

Budrys Rogue Moon