January 16th, 2013
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.
A Letter From the PWYFC
Okay, enough preamble:
We at the PWYFC, the support group for People Who Yell From Cars, feel it is time to foster understanding and acceptance of our members.
The PWYFC realizes that the time for yelling at people indiscriminately has passed in this country. Times change, and we must change with them. Yet we wish to remind you that yelling at people from cars, until recent times, was an acceptable and upstanding pastime.
Yelling at people while mobile has been around a very long time. Some would say it’s the second-oldest profession, second only to yelling at people while standing still. As soon as somebody created a moving platform to yell from, it was quickly utilized. The advantage of height was quickly apparent; the marvel of mobility must have seemed the next logical step.
History has a fine tradition of people yelling from horses, camels, elephants, litters, buggies, wagons.... The Ancient Egyptians may have been the first PWYFCs. Technically, they were People Who Yelled From Chariots. If a slave was slack, the Egyptian would drive by and let him know, usually with the lash of his whip.
Siegfried Marcus invented the first gas-powered automobile in 1870. History notes that the first thing Marcus did afterwards was take a spin around the block and yell at a lady for wearing pantaloons which weren’t puffy enough.
As agreeable as apple pie, yelling at people from cars, going on nearly a century now.
It is our belief that people who yell from cars are merely misunderstood. Traditions, and the old ways, are being forgotten. Just recently a man I once counted amongst my friends pulled his car over to the side of the road and told me to stop yelling at people from the safety and comfort of his backseat, even going so far to compare me to a yappy little dog.
He, and his ilk – as indeed they are, ilk – have forgotten the unwritten social service that people who yell from cars provide. People who yell from cars are the purveyors of social fluidity. I can’t stress how important that is. These days, people have no overriding commitment to a larger cohesion. Everybody feels they need to find their own way in the world – which, frankly, is balderdash – as if everybody could be special. They forget that they are merely one cell in a larger social organism.
It has long been the role of people who yell from cars to remind society of our commonalities. If a person has parted ways with the center strata of acceptable dress and decorum, it is people who yell from cars who gently give them a pat back into place. I agree absolutely that sometimes the individual sentiments may sting a little, but a tangled mess of hair sometimes needs a going-over with a rough brush, and we are that brush. We’re the eveners, the straighteners. Without us, society would get even more tangled than it already is.
My father was a yeller. His father was a yeller before him. My grandfather began yelling at ‘ducks’ ass’ haircuts and Davy Crockett hats on grown men, and carried on through beatniks, hippies, and long-haired freaks. When the day came that he could no longer fasten the wayward pips and nibs of society back together again, he passed the torch – and the keys to his Studebaker – to my father, who then yelled at disco hopheads, yuppies, and break dancers from the family seat.
My father, in turn, was one of the first people from our province to attend the PWYFC convention in San Francisco. Back then, in the mid-80’s, the convention was but a small collaboration of nine or ten attendees. Very grassroots. They rented a van, rolled the windows down, and happily drove the hills all day yelling at aging hippies still hanging around their old haunts wearing patchouli and sandals. All in good fun.
My father took me to my first convention when I was ten. By then, the event had grown. People came from all over the world to yell in Dutch, French, German – excellent yellers, the Germans. We rented the top floor of a hotel. The people below looked like ants. I’ll never forget my first afternoon driving around in a double-decker bus with my father, hanging over the side and yelling together.
But times have changed. Last year’s convention was cancelled.
No hotels would rent to us. Somehow, every bus was booked when we called, no matter how loudly we yelled at them.
In retrospect, we probably could have handled that differently.
In a way, the boycott has proved beneficial. It’s forced me to get to know local yellers in my area better. Once a month we get together, have a few beers, play cards, and yell at each other. We play games: who can think of the most yells in under a minute, most creative yell of the night, and so on.
Sad, I know. But it’s who we are.
So, dear people, what I'm trying to say is this: we’re not the monsters you make us out to be. Surely, we're as loveable as kittens when compared to smokers, or bronies, or people who wear crocs. Just ordinary folk trying to get along in the world, the same as you, trying to help out the only way we know how.
We realize we have to change to suit the times, to adapt to the new social order. And I compose this letter to spread awareness and foster mutual respect.
In the meantime, if members of the public so please, there are ways they can aid us in our cause.
For instance, you can stop wearing silly hats with Teddy Bears on them, actual Teddy Bears. Or not slouch as you stroll – look up at the world and be happy. And stop wearing such strange boots and fancy jackets. And don’t wear brightly colored clothes, or clothes that are too dark. Stop having big noses, short hair, no hats, funny walks. Please, people, stop being so pedestrian.
And I know we’ll get along just fine.
Thank you for your time. I mean, THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME.
(you funny-looking wieners)
Ted, c/o The PWYFC.
Bad Ideas for Dating
2: Invent a language of your own. Decide that the first girl to decipher it will be The One.
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.
Available at Amazon
on Paper Seraglio