Category: Fletcher Pratt


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: “The Blue Star” by Fletcher Pratt, (1952)

A few of you may remember my earlier posting,Alien Commies and a Future Past all about “Alien Planet” by Fletcher Pratt. I truly enjoyed that work, so when I saw this tripped out, screams-1960s cover with ol’ Fletch’s name on it, I just had to pick it up:

What Libyan protesters see when the al-Qaeda LSD kicks in...Really! That's what Moammar Gadhafi told me!

I’ve got a plentitude of praise for the psychedelic blast of a cover by Ron Walotsky. Peter Max’s got nuthin’ on this painter! And that smoke cat on the back – very eye-catching. Of course, NONE of the imagery was actually IN the book, really. The settings a lot more medieval than Zap Comix, but hey! this was published in ’69, baby! This was one of a series called Ballantine Adult Fantasy that Lin Carter crafted for Ballantine Books and almost all of the covers were great. (Check ’em out.)

The 1981 cover isn't bad. It's probably a better representation of what's inside, but it jus' don't groove me like that fab, far-out '69 version, dig?

I think this 2008 cover was aiming for the "Charmed"/"Sabrina" crowd.

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy the story near-so-much as the cover. Waaaay too much political intrigue/soap opera and way too little witchery for my (perhaps atypical) tastes. If you like that sort of thing, this has got lots of twists and turns, but it grew tiresome for me. But, y’know, I think that’s just me. Amazon’s got a couple of reviewers that praised it highly. And I particularly recommend the review at Endless Bookshelf for a view that’s different from my own, as well as some interesting info on Pratt, his famous literary group, the Trap Door Spiders, and the Ispsy-Wipsy Institute house they met in. (You’ve got to scroll down to the bottom fourth of the page.)

Oh well, I’ve also purchased “The Well of the Unicorn” by Mr. Pratt, and I’ll be reviewing it here some day, so we’ll see if he gets a “two-outta-three,” anyway, huh?

This has been Captain Blastoff, ending transmission.

Extra: I just have to add one more of Ron Walotsky’s images to this post. The guy had one great visual imagination.

"Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn" by Ron Walotsky (1943 - 2002)

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.