Category: Rik Livingston


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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Extra Extra: Bid on this Ed Emshwiller "Science Fiction Digest" cover at Heritage Auction Galleries (HA.com) at this writing. What a great piece!

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 Paperback Book Covers!

This transmission Ace Double Book D-255, “Star Ways” /”City Under Sea.” (1956)

First, “Star Ways” by our perpetually featured pal, Poul Anderson:

I kind'a wonder just how useful kilts are low gravity situations? Does he worry about a "Marilyn Monroe moment" with his skirt rising?

The first book in the Psychotechnic League series, available under the title “The Peregrine” AND on Kindle, but you are really missing out if you don’t get the wonderful Ace Double Book version with the Ed Emshwiller “space kilt” cover. Gives new meaning to the term “getting your space legs,” I’m thinking…

The 1978 artist panned up and lost that kool kilt in his upward tilt.

I’m including the cover of a kiltless, later version. Just doesn’t have that same uniqueness, does it? (Mr. Emshwiller was a multi-talented guy, by the way, with a number of pioneering experimental films to his credit.)

All you Space Cadets out there may remember my earlier transmission, “Perplexed Poul’s Paradises Lost,” where I wrote of “Poul’s own sad, gradual disheartening, over the course of his life, from his early, progressive inclinations.” In “Star Ways,” poor Poul, once again creates a really believable near-Utopia, only to have his characters kill, die and lose loved ones to ESCAPE from paradise because of a vaguely described desire for strife and discord. HUH?

This is an image INSIDE the starship Peregrine, built for life wandering the star ways...

Sorry, Lieutenant Commander Montgomery "Scotty" Scott of the Statship Enterprise, but Joachim, Captain of the Starship Peregrine, had that "cosmic-kilted" look long before y'all!

I don’t want to give away too much of this book, as I consider it recommended reading, but the “flight from utopia” I described even seemed somewhat rushed and abrupt, as if Poul just HAS to get away from any peaceful haven he creates. This instantaneous souring of milk-and-honey was also really noticeable in the earlier reviewed “Let the Spacemen Beware!

Makes me wonder if Mr. Anderson didn’t have some traumatic disheartening in his past?

Anyway, don’t think that keeps me from giving this book a special Captain Blastoff posthumous commendation and virtual decoder ring. Poul creates three believable societies in this book and I enjoyed “living” in all three during this great adventure. One of the societies was a future Earth. To give you an idea how Terrian civilization evolves in this future fable, here’s how they describe art:

“Art is a form of communication. Communication is the conveyance of information. Information is a pattern of space-time, distinguished by rules of selection from the totality of possible arrangements of the same constituents, and thus capable of being assigned a meaning. Meaning is the induced state of the…” well, you get the idea!

A later, more "fantasy" cover that's not really consistent with the story.

My second favorite cover for "City..." Not bad...

There were also description of three separate future communities on the B side of this Ace Double delight, in “City Under The Sea” by that prolific pen-pusher, Kenneth Bulmer. But these were all “water worlds.” “Aqua-culture,” underwater farming, has become big business in order to feed the over-populated planet. And where corporations and big business goes, can slavery and greed be far behind? It takes an astronaut turned merman to “voyage to the bottom” of this perfidious predicament.

My only complaint about this amphibious agra-adventure is that so much space is spent soaking us with the predictably dreary days of sunken slaves and we just get small cups full of the humans-turned-water-breathers’ hide-out and cool, deep-sea aliens’ “Underwateropolis!” Still, dive in to this book, especially if you can find the rarer Ace Double, Ed Valigursky cover version….but don’t hold your breath until then!

All the hip Mermen wear punk rock glasses! (The Ace Double Book version.)

This has been Captain Blastoff, ending transmission.

EXTRA: Check out this Vincent Price  poster from the movie of the same name (but NOT the same story!)

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'...

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.