Category: Kenneth Bulmer


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, 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!)