Tag Archive: From Outer Space


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.

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.

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...

The Souix Spaceman by Andre Norton, 1960, Ace Double Books

The Off-World, Winged Wonder! As in, we WONDER what the artist was thinkin' when he painted that hat!?

The Souix Spaceman by Andre Norton, 1960, Ace Double Books

A newer version without the hat. Not nearly as much fun. Still the juxtaposition of the Indian visage with rocket ships is, in itself, interesting.

That's one city that's really on the move! You could say things are looking UP for them...

That's one city that's really on the move! You could say things are looking UP for them...

And the Town Took Off by Richard Wilson

The first printing of the story. An equally interesting cover, in my opinion...

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 Book Covers!

I used to have the “Ace Single” version of The Souix Spaceman by Andre Norton, in the 70s and I was happy to find and read it again, especially since I happened to unearth it in the form of another Ace Double Book treasure with a cover by Ed Valigursky.

Ms. Norton is high in my pantheon of classic Sci-Fi writers. She often champions the causes of tribal cultures. From what I understand she’s got a bit of Native American in her. We are so lucky that she born when she was and wrote wonderful fiction like this tale instead of being in the casino business…

My only disappointment is that Astro-Indian Kade Whitehawk only wore the red tunic you see on the cover, in the book. No mention was made of that really eye-catching, Hawkman style bird hat! I can envision a great scene where an evil alien Styor jumps him from behind, only to have his eyes poked by the stiff primaries feathers of those prominent wings! REALLY “eye-catching!” A funky, feathered fashion statement that serves to protect ones’ back! But be careful about turning suddenly in close quarters; You could poke a hole behind you, in the wall of your space-teepee!

“Side B” of my fabulous flip book had And the Town Took Off by Richard Wilson, who won and/or was nominated for a few Nebula Awards back in the day. Wow, a whole town floatin’ ’round! This beats Up, huh? It’s also got the cold war, a mayor who proclaims himself king and outer space kangaroos who have tried Australia but settled on levitating Superior, Wisconsin…

A town in Wisconsin? I really think they should have picked a burg in oHIo. Get it? Get it?

This has been Captain Blastoff, ending transmission.

From Outer Space

"I'm full of space amoeba tentacles!"

Attention, Earthlings! This is Captain Blastoff, coming to you from a gallery in the future, talking about the great popular art form of the past: Cheap Science Fiction Paperback Book Covers!

This posting I present: From Outer Space (previously The Needle) by Hal Clement, Avon 1950

Cover artist uncredited. (boo!) But the art tells the story well:

Two rockets crash in the ocean near an island. From one comes a detective amoeba from outer space who takes up residence inside a boy by sending tentacles throughout his body. Why? Because he’s chasing a criminal amoeba from outer space who is hiding in some other earthling, of course!

A lot of the fun comes from two life forms sharing the same body. For instance, “Hunter,” the detective amoeba, gets rid of other animals in the boy’s body, like viruses and germs. I guess it wouldn’t be so bad having an “inner doctor,” huh? But the whole idea of an intelligent jelly-alien inside my bod’ makes me feel kind’a squirmy.

The amoeba’s tentacles communicates to the boy by enlarging blood vessels on the inside of his eyes to write messages he then sees “written in the air!” They call this “inner net.”

Just kidding! (About the “inner net” part. The method of communication really is part of the book, believe it or not.)

This has been Captain Blastoff, ending transmission.