Today I was directed to a Tumblir site making fun of Bad Book Covers. Or, as it says, lousy book covers. Trolling through them however, I thought a few of them simply didn't belong. To me they seemed homages to the science fiction book covers of the 1960s and 1970s.
I read it for the articles.
Which, in my opinion, are great.
Make no mistake, I'm well acquainted with those. On many occasions I've come across books -- often wonderful critiques of society as a whole, great anthropological fiction, or early thought-experiments on how technological society is changing us all -- that I've simply been too embarrassed to buy because of their covers.
I couldn't bring myself to hand the book to the clerk and say, "Yes, I am interested in purchasing this. Here is real money."
Heinlein's Friday comes to mind immediately. Many times, while delving deep into second-hand shelves in tiny bookstores in small towns in northern places, I came across this book, and always considered buying it.
But nope. Never did. Probably never will.
Heinlein is famous for his space floozies, as I'll try to demonstrate below. Some of his books should have come in brown paper bags.
I have a number of examples of interesting old book covers, but science fiction covers of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, seem to epitomize a certain way of thinking.
Essentially, the way I see it, many science fiction publishers didn't take their own genre seriously. When it came time to produce covers for what often became classic works of the genre, this is basically how I imagine their line of thinking went:
QUESTION: Who reads science fiction?
ANSWER: Adolescent boys.
QUESTION: What do adolescent boys like?
ANSWER: Spaceships. And girls.
I'm not quite sure what's happening in the covers below, but it sure is 'spacey.' I've noticed that Niven's name tends to get a little heavy around the middle.
John Berkey's work is generally considered classic these days. With a little digging, I've learned he designed the I, Robot cover above.
Chris Foss is the designer for the Foundation cover, which is also a good early example of orange-blue constrast.
Older John Wyndham's books usually have classic examples of space ships and sciency stuff as well:
Some of his more recent editions, however, disappoint in that they attempt to portray what the reader could expect from THE ACTUAL BOOK. I guess that's the Penguin influence.
__Salacious, Naked Beats, and Soft Lighting__
I've always loved Jack Kerouac. Cliche, I know. I don't care. I love his writing. That everything he published, with the exception of The Town and the City, is a first draft still blows my mind.
Don't try this at home, kids.
When he exploded on the scene back in the 1950s, it was a turnaround for established literary circles. Sure, he wrote like jazz, like closing your eyes and seeing colors, but he wrote about youth and adventure, often in a free-spirited, devil-may-care manner. It was a mainstream embracing of counter-culture.
The first edition of On the Road is a rather severe, classy, black cover, a cover that goes to church on Sunday and hardly ever says swears. These paperbacks, however, seems to be pushing another angle altogether. I only have three old Kerouac paperbacks, and I have five nekkid ladies.
Ladies and gentlemen of the 1960s, buy these steamy paperbacks to find out what your kids are doing: posing nekkid with strange floating houseplants. Mind you, come to think of it, the cover for The Subterraneans was probably pretty risque for the time (1966).
By 1962, John Steinbeck, another of my favorite writerly gentlemen, had a Nobel prize. Win that kind of recognition and your covers begin to take on a friendly, earthy atmosphere, lit with a soft glow.
Of course, every once in a while, even Nobel prize winners get the nekkid lady treatment.
__Wells, Wells, Wells ...__
... well, we can't help you there.
The cover designer for these bad boys had heavy metal in his soul. These are covers that head-bang to Black Sabbath, that have Slash on speed dial. In truth, Lucifer's Hammer probably shouldn't be included in this list as it's a little too new. Yes, it was first published in the 1970s, but this edition was published in1993.
Essentially, I'm pointing out that this sort of thing has been going on for quite a while now. And it needs to stop.
__A Huzzah For the Rest__
And with that, I'm out of my best examples of fun old book covers.
Okay, now I have armloads of books stacked on my desk that I need to reshelve. Hope you enjoyed.
Okay, actually I've SERIOUSLY jumped the gun and designed 27 book covers. In penance for my gluttony, my punishment is to not-so-proudly display the first cover I tried to make here on the right.
Just look at it ... mocking me.
In truth, though it's awful, I'm actually not that put off by it. I had to teach myself how to use Photoshop. My talents are limited by not knowing what the majority of the buttons actually do.
So I turn to you, the popular eye of the populace. I could really use some opinions and feedback. I'm out of ideas and, frankly, tired of photoshop. Time, then, to choose!
Okay, so, without further ado, my story is a SCIENCE FICTION/ HORROR INVASION story. Bear that in mind, please. A new star appears in the sky, bad things start happening, and people hole up in an ancient crumbling monastery. That's the basic plot.
Fonts can always be changed.
Any feedback you could give me would be greatly appreciated.
With heartfelt thanks in advance.
Burton has written almost six books. Almost six as some are still scantily clad in their respective drawers. Each of them had their own goals and were written differently, and he is very fond of them all -- except perhaps for his first attempt at a novel, which remains a travesty. That one he keeps locked in a dark basement and feeds it fish heads.
In 2011, Burton won the Percy Janes Award for Best Unpublished First Novel in the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Letters Competition for his novel Raw Flesh in the Rising.
And just recently, in the fall of 2013, Burton published his first science-fiction novel, THIS LAND, about which he boasts constantly.
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