Category: Josh Kirby


Attention, 21st Century Earthlings! 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 I present TWO covers and some interior art from Fantasy novels!

I can already hear the mummering in the ranks, Space Cadets: “But, but, Captain Blastoff, SIR! This is supposed to be a blog about SCIENCE FICTION book COVERS! A-and now you’re showing FANTASY covers and even INTERIOR art?? What will headquarters say?

Well, I’ve got news for ya’, you space happy recruits: You’ve just had your security clearance upped!

The REAL, secret mission of this blog is to evolve the brains of the 21st century humans by exposing them to visual wonders and imaginative concepts, WHERE EVER they come from. And that includes fantasy books!

Ugh! Me must save wilted wench from getting her harem costume slimed by Muck Man!

Our first fantasy foray is of Krozair of Kregen (Dray Prescot #14 by Kenneth Bulmer as Alan Burt Akers), Daw 1977.

I’ve enjoyed other books by this author, under his real name, but this one was a little too much sword and not enough sorcery for my reading taste. We did get one monster (who poses on the cover looking like Swamp Thing’s goofy Grandpa) but his appearance was brief.

Dray Prescot, the hero, well, protagonist, anyway, started out this installment as a galley-slave. I was rooting for him when he overthrew his masters. But then he spends most of the rest of the book enslaving others so he can be rowed around as he robs and pillages without qualm. I’ve read quite a bit of heroic fantasy in my day, but I had a hard time caring what happened to this particular conscienceless caveman for the rest of this book.

So why review it here? Because, for once, the art is credited! And we get seven pieces of art in this book, including the cover, all by Ronald William “Josh” Kirby. (No relation to the “King,” as far as I know. Anyone else have info on that?) His interior ink drawings are particularly interesting to me. It’s quite a rarity that, in a cheap sci-fi (or fantasy) book, the art is credited and there’s this much of it!

You can really feel the force of the blow in this masterful illustration.

“Whatever floats yer boat”…In Kreegan you don’t even have to add water!

All good barbarians epilate and body oil before their cover appearances.

My second fantasy pick is Swords Against Darkness II edited by Andrew J. Offutt, Zebra 1977:

A fun “paperback magazine” of unpublished heroic fiction.

Curiously, inside a barbarian fights a giant spider, but on the cover it’s a worm-beetle-monster thing. Guess a regular old giant spider wasn’t exciting enough for artist, “Kman?” It’s got one story with a barbarian having a mid-life crisis and a good Andre Norton Witch World story, too.

So, go out to yer local used book emporium, and buy both books. But just look at the pictures in one of them and read the other one! That’s the beauty of CHEAP, used books, cadets!

This has been Captain “Burly Barbarian” Blastoff, ending transmission.

EXTRA: If that got you in the mood for LISTENING to some good fantasy, let me suggest PodCastle. Check it out. You won’t be sorry.

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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.