Category: Frederick Pohl


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!)

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Attention, 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 I present TWO short story collections by, easily, one of the greatest Sci-Fi fantasizers alive today, :Frederick Pohl Turn Left at Thursday, Ballantine, 1961 and The Abominal Earthman, Ballantine, 1963.

You aren’t going to hear my cosmic prattle about the wonderful, surprising, intelligent and often funny 14 stories in these two volumes, Space Cadets. Pohl is pretty nearly always interesting reading and these books are well worth your time. (I’d also like to recommend his entertaining blog.)

Book cover

Is that an origami space ship at top? And is the pierced eye on the monitor screen a reference to Dali's famous scene in "An Andalusian Dog?"

No, I’m not reviewing the stories this time because my original mission here is to present Sci-Fi BOOK COVERS! And I’m particularly fascinated by the use of abstraction in these two book covers.

Now, a lot of Space Cadets think that Abstract Art means art without a subject matter; Say, just color and shapes. But that is the definition of Non-Representational Art, NOT Abstract Art.

book cover

Okay, I see the spaceships and the aliens...but what in the galaxy is that bodacious blob thang they are staring at?

Here’s my own definition: Abstract Art is when the creator abstracts the form of the physical world to represent an aspect of the subject matter in a manner that is somewhat independent of what we see with our human eyes. For instance, you can tell that there is mountains, a spaceship and some sort of TV or monitor screen on the cover of Turn Left…, but they don’t look “realistic.”

We could get into a discussion of what is “real” in Realistic Art, but I don’t want to digress. Rather, I’d like to curate an on-line exhibit in this transmission, juxtaposing these wonderful, and, sadly, uncredited, abstract book illustrations with a couple of paintings by one of my favorite “art history class” fine artists, Wassily Wassilyevich Kandinsky. (You can see why he’s mostly just referred to by his last name only!)

painting

No, it's not "Space, the final frontier." It's "Some Circles," 1926. (But I suggest a title change!)

painting

No it's not Spacely Sprockets, George Jetson's work place! It's The Great Gate of Kiev, way back in 1928!

You tell me if you think these two famous abstract works wouldn’t work just as well for Sci-Fi books? Of course, just to be fair, we also need to remember that Kandinsky created his abstractions a good deal sooner than the early 60s publication dates of the Pohl paperbacks…

Still, I hope to show that the art on these “pulp, throw-away” book-treasures ARE worthy of serious consideration and should have been better credited and preserved. I hope, in my small way, to help remedy that…

This has been Captain Blastoff, ending transmission.

Extra: I’m including the Galaxy tabloid printing of the “Pingot” cover from a story also printed in Turn Left, just because I dig robots. And I’d like to thank Hang Fire Book’s Photostream for Turn Left at Thursday‘s reprint version book cover. I include it here as it is also interesting and unusual as it is a collage work cover. If you haven’t discovered Hang Fire Books and love book cover art, I highly recommend you visit that site!

tabloid

How robots get ahead...by getting a head...

paperback

A cosmic collage for a consistently cool creator...