Saturday, February 18, 2012

SF Cover Design and Some of the Novels of Thomas M Disch

It was Spring Cleaning day today - and probably for a few days to come yet I fear - which means that I have been trawling through the boxes tucked away at the back of the wardrobe that contain the last remnants from the days when my bookshelves contained little else but hundreds of SF paperbacks from the 1950s-70s. Condition was never an issue then and I don't think I was concerned much by cover art either. I've scanned some of the covers I found today and, among them, these four by Thomas M. Disch, once at the forefront of the experimental SF of the 1960s he has since turned to a somewhat more mainstream style but I can still remember that when I first came across his writing, and the writing of others like Samuel R Delany from the same branch of the tree, it was gripping and exciting precisely because it was so challenging. 

The cover of Under Compulsion, above, is one of a series that Panther Science Fiction did, not just of Disch's books, but within their SF output that used abstract photos. I noticed a couple of them in a bookshop just the other day and my collecting antennae twitched slightly.

The most peculiar cover, and one has to say the most peculiar title are those which go with The Puppies of Terra (alternative titles Mankind Under the Leash). But the least successful design as a cover has to be the one that Sphere Science Fiction gave to the masterpiece 334. Clearly no one who had anything to do with the design of the book had ever read it. The cover suggests space opera and the grand vistas of inter-stellar travel. It is, in fact, an urban dystopia set in one huge apartment building whose number is 334 East 11th Street. The book was made up of five novellas, all of which had been previously published and brought together into this book to make a novel. Wikipedia can give you a fuller summary but if you want something exciting and challenging to read and you've never picked up a piece of intelligent SF: you could do worse.

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