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Bad Covers: a problem with science fiction

I Sing the Body Electric by Ray Bradbury, illustrated by Nebular

I Sing the Body Electric by Ray Bradbury, illustrated by Nebular

Pulp science fiction paperbacks were a base staple of my young life. But after growing up and becoming a design nerd, those paperbacks are a little… embarrassing. For every well-designed book cover (like David Pelham’s cover of Clockwork Orange), there’s three terrible illustrations of floating orange skycars and lizard-faced aliens. They can be so bad that, just like my collection of 80s movies on VHS, they become a guilty pleasure.

Good Show Sir is a website built around that guilty pleasure. They have a picture gallery featuring some of the very worst book jackets ever printed. Some of the very, very, worst ones. If you want to get these priceless bits of kitsch for your own collection, maybe the almost naked killer-whale-riding man, or the collared snake in front of hellfire, or even the recursive blond-haired centaur, they’re up for sale.

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3 Responses to “Bad Covers: a problem with science fiction”

  1. It is unfortunate that the covers are so hideous, considering the books themselves are sometimes amazing (as with I Sing the Body Electric and Keith Laumer’s Retief books, of which I am an unabashed fan).

    One good thing about these covers are that they are imminently parodyable. For instance, the cover of my first science fiction book in print, Alternate Reality Ain’t What It Used To Be, contains parodies of 1950s images of the future. With a little imagination, kitsch can be rejuvenated as art.

    In fact, this has given me some ideas for the cover of my next book…

  2. The sad thing is that these poor covers undermined some good writing, and people were embarrassed to read it. A bit like a lot of fantasy today, when Terry Goodkind’s publishers changed his covers people were no longer ashamed to read on the bus to work.


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