Archive for January, 2011


Attention, Earthlings of the early 21st century! This is Captain Blastoff, coming to you from the Galaxy Gallery in the future, talking about a great popular art form of the past: Cheap Science Fiction Book Covers!

Most of my communication with Space Cadet Rik Livingston, who transcribes this blog for me, is accomplished via esper transmission. Occasionally, however, I visit in person. Have to “inspect the troops” sometimes, don’t you know.

Travel, from the Mystic Moonbase here in this undisclosed future date, thru’ space/time, to your early 21st century Earth, is not instantaneous. I often have time to read a few of the Cheap Science Fiction paperbacks I have gathered for the Galaxy Gallery, while in transit.

The last time I made the journey, however, I was NOT reading sci-fi (Yes, I DO read other kinds of books, as well!), but a very interesting, if somewhat academically toned, tome named Jung, Synchronicity and Human Destiny,” by Ira Progoff, New York, Julian Press. ISBN 0870970569. OCLC 763819.

Of course, the noncausal dimension of human experience is accepted and celebrated here in the future, but it’s always interesting to me to read some of the earlier scientific essays from the days when it’s existence was actually questioned.

Many people aren’t aware that the area by Joshua Tree National Park, in the old nation State called “USA,” is actually the center of the universe. We landed our rocket atop Giant Rock, there in the Mojave Desert, turned on the cloaking device and I made my way, disguised in vintage clothes, to a few used book stores.

It was in Raven’s Books (“Never More, Usually Less.”) that I my eyes fell upon “The Secrets of Synchronicity” by Jonathan Fast. (1977, Signet, also called “Prisoner of the Planets”). Not another scholarly essay: This synchronicity book was in the Sci-Fi section! You just don’t ignore such “coincidences.”

Nekkid dude w/ snakes

Luckily, this is a book dealing (metaphorically only) with concepts by Jung, and not Freud. I can only imagine what ol' Sigmund would have made of a bunch of phallic animals surrounding a naked male!

The cover by Boris is good, tho’ promises a more fantasy oriented read. This is space opera, with rockets and blasters, and robots. Or I should say, it’s a space opera on the surface. The trappings of vintage sci-fi are used as a wonderfully detailed metaphor for the life of the wage slave in the corporate-controlled, money-grubbing times you readers live in. Synchronicity is the name of a drug that gives great luck when ingested. I found the tale witty, wild and the ending very touching. I loved the conversations with the wise snakes.

Devil book cover

The Devil in front of the White House; What could be more appropriate?

The second book I’d like to bring to your attention also deals with a concept by Carl Jung – the collective unconscious. I give you “Out of Their Minds” by Clifford Simak (1970).

Brain like a tree

"'Out of your tree:' (informal) to be crazy or behaving in a strange way." - thefreedictionary.com

In this delightful story, there is a dimension, next door to “reality,” where Bre’r Rabbit, Little Redridinghood, Snuffy Smith, Mr. Magoo, sea serpents and the Prince of Darkness himself, the Devil, all live…and it seems they have a gripe with us and the poor quality of recent additions to the folklore of humans.

This book would make an excellent movie, using a combination of live action and animation. It’s terrific fun!

I’m including a few of it’s covers, but I’d like to point out the one I have, in particular: the Berkeley Medallion Edition, 1970. Herbert Norton Rogoff created this very detailed illustration, featuring Mickey Mouse, Dracula, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, Nancy, etc. etc. It’s a shame, really, that so wonderful an image had to be reproduced on such a small “canvas,” so I’m scanning a close up shot of the artwork, instead of the whole book.

Water color

A special Captain Blastoff virtual medal and decoder ring if you can name all the literary, comics and folk characters on this nicely done, water-color cover!

Extra: Why does our folklore in your current times seem so shallow and “surfacey” in comparison to the planet’s cultural rich heritage? I’m convinced it is because so much of it is corporate controlled. Check out the “Mickey Mouse Protection Act,” for more information.

A Mindscape? My least favorite of the different printing's covers, tho' it's not horrible. You can tell this was a popular book, I guess, by the number of printings it went thru'...

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Attention, Earthlings of the early 21st century! This is Captain Blastoff, coming to you from the Galaxy Gallery in the future, talking about a great popular art form of the past: Cheap Science Fiction Book Covers!

This transmission we examine the multiple covers of “Alien Planet” by Fletcher Pratt.

I bought this book because I thought the naked green boody cover (1973, Ace 01570 PB NF) by “Kirby (Josh?),” was just too good to pass up.

Nekkid Green Girl

Sorry, the story has absolutely nothing, what-so-ever, to do with a comet spurting from the red spot of Jupiter OR nekkid green girls...but whatta cover!

But after I read it, I went on line and found the even cooler Emsh cover (Ace F257, 1962) from Cadwalader Ringgold’s photostream on Flikr. I tell ya’, people like Cadwalader are doing a service for mankind, copying these ancient paperback covers before they crumble. Such gaudy glory should ever be preserved!

Murray Fletcher Pratt (1897–1956) was a science fiction and fantasy writer; he was also well-known as a writer on naval history and on the American Civil War. There was a rock band who took his name and his wiki talks more about his literary dining club known as the Trap Door Spiders (fictionalized as the Black Widowers in a series of mystery stories by Isaac Asimov) than it does about his career!

just a saucer

Such a tame version after the other two covers, huh?

This is very, very early science fiction. It’s just a step above being Jules Verne-ish in it’s innocence. Not quite like reading steam-punk, but still there’s the feel of an “antiquated future.” An alien, who seems rather communistic, lands on Earth and takes the narrator on a ride to a few of our solar systems planets and then on to the alien’s own, very structured society on his home world. The last half of the book is particularly sociopolitically satirical, as the utopia there is not entirely enjoyed by the hapless Earth man….but I certainly enjoyed Fletcher’s strange and fantastic imagination. I loved his description of the wild “space car” the alien drives, and the world he lives in is a caricature, but still rather believable as it’s described in such detail.

I should add, tho’, that you need to be a fan of a much earlier type of sci-fi story telling. The pace is a bit slower. There’s a lot of attention to details that don’t actually forward the plot, but do add color and diversion, like random events on a road trip to a past future

This has been Captain Blastoff, ending transmission.

Extra: A funny, “Half Read Review” about this book in another blog.

Attention, Earthlings! This is Captain Blastoff, coming to you from the Galaxy Gallery in the far-flung future, talking about that great popular art form of the past, Cheap Science Fiction Book Covers!

This transmission I present TWO covers from ONE cheap, 1966 paperback! Whatta score! I just “flip” for these old Ace Double books!

The first side we’ll look at is The Star Magicians by Lin Carter:

Star Magicians PB

Some Green Goddess for your space salad? I think the guy with the sword should be waaay careful he doesn't pop that bubble while he's out in space, don't you?

I’ve often wondered why the “good” barbarian is always pitted against the evil sorcerer in so many fantasy books? I mean, who do they think are reading these books anyway? Jocks? No, it’s usually the more bookish nerd who has, after all, much more in common with someone who has studied “ancient lore and forgotten tomes” to gain in intellectual power than some belching, farting caveman with a sword.

After reading this book, I can see why Mr. Carter was picked to finish the Conan books back in the 1970s of your 20th century. The star-system-stomping barbarians are the “bad guys” in this very fantasyish sci-fi novel, and for once the (super-scientific) Magicians get to be the “good guys,” but, by the end, Lin makes it clear that he sees a role for warriors in the cosmos.

The book was good, somewhat kitschy, comic-bookish fun and it has another great cover by Jack Gaughan. This guy must’ve had it in his contract that he got credit for his covers, ’cause he’s the “most mentioned” so far, in this blog. (See Mighty Merlin and the Toothy Bat).

Once again note the flow of Jack’s layout: The Green Goddess apparition is very out of proportion, the way her long left arm reaches far down to the bad-ol’-barbarians-in-the-bubbles! But it works wonderfully within the over-all rhythm of the painting! Even the title works as part of the composition.

The flip side of this Ace treasure is The Off-Worlders (The God Killers) by John Baxter:

Space ship in poles and bubbles

So, was Mr. Bubble the art director for this flip book? Two very different covers, except there are bubbles front and back!

Cover by the renown Kelly Freas (and a small interior illo, too?) Normally, no one is a bigger fan of Freas than me-as, but the description of these pre-war buildings in the book is much cooler: Pod houses attached to the stalk elevators like fruit on a plant. Why’d ya’ make it more conventional, Kelly? Still, look at all’a those pastel Freas hues. Ouuui! Ahhhh! Niiice colors…!

The star spanning civilization of Earth is crumbling. Merryland is a planet beyond “the Limit.” After their own version of Armageddon, the little world has renounced technology and Christianity. People live like Pilgrims, farming and fishing. No progress is ever made. Secret Christian rituals are practiced, but they are a cross between a Roman Catholic liturgy and a naked, drugged Bacchanalia! And then off-worlders arrive by matter transport…

As broad and unsophisticated as the space opera, The Star Magicians, is, that’s how strange, subtle and dream-like it’s Ace Double Book spouse is. (I guess opposites attract even in the publishing world?)The characters are multi-layered and the societal situation’s complexities keep one wondering ’til the end.

I liked both sides of this book; Just in different ways…

This has been Captain Blastoff, ending transmission.