Dumb quote of the day--Basically, I have no idea what the fuck this man is talking about Edition

>> Wednesday, April 01, 2015

...A few decades ago, if you saw a lovely spaceship on a book cover, with a gorgeous planet in the background, you could be pretty sure you were going to get a rousing space adventure featuring starships and distant, amazing worlds. If you saw a barbarian swinging an axe? You were going to get a rousing fantasy epic with broad-chested heroes who slay monsters, and run off with beautiful women. Battle-armored interstellar jump troops shooting up alien invaders? Yup. A gritty military SF war story, where the humans defeat the odds and save the Earth. And so on, and so forth.

These days, you can’t be sure.





Riiiiiiiiiiight--







I have that particular edition of Princess Bride on my bookshelf by the way, and read it a couple of years before the movie came out; yes, it's that Princess Bride, the one with Wesley and Buttercup and Inigo Montoya and the Six-Fingered Man and the Cliffs of Insanity and "Mawwiage" and "Have fun storming the castle!"  The book is a bit different from the film--it's a send-up of all those great 19th Century epic novels by the likes of Hugo, Dumas, Melville et al. wherein one finds dozens of pages of rousing adventure filled out by hundreds of pages of interminable essay-like passages about architecture and fish, and the book's message ends up being "Life Isn't Fair" instead of "True Love Prevails" or whatever.  But it's not nearly as different as the Ballantine paper cover from the '70s might lead you to believe; no snake-humping nekkid ladies, for instance, an absence shared by book and film.

This was on my parents' bookshelf.  I must have been in junior high school.  My literary precociousness as a reader was inversely proportional to my sexual precociousness, so I grokked Goldman's satire and enjoyed the book despite the contents having nothing at all to do with the obvious reason I must have pulled it off the shelf when I didn't think the 'rents were watching.

Anyway, it's what comes to mind reading Torgerson's blog entry, though it can't even be the best example.  Honestly, if there are two literary genres most notorious for false and misleading advertising on the covers, it's got to be Science Fiction and Fantasy.  And this isn't a new thing.  Go into your local used bookstore and find the shelf where they've stashed the SF/F paperbacks published from the tail of the '50s to, oh, the mid '70s, say, and study the covers.  You'll have no idea what's going on in half of them.







I mean, what the hell is that?  I'm pretty sure it's probably Ian Miller,  whose work I adore, but what the hell are you getting when you crack the spine?

I haven't read The End of Eternity, so maybe it really is about... about... can someone tell me what this one's about?  I'm mostly wondering about the giant ball:




[EDIT, 4/2/15: So apparently this one's a bad example.  See the comments below....]

Okay, okay, maybe I exaggerate a little.  Sometimes the cover really does let you know what you're in for.  F'r'instance, yes, this one is a book about drugs:


This PKD cover, on the other hand, is possibly less helpful:




There are tears in the title and in the image, 'tis true.  So... success?

Here's a book that's sitting on the nightstand because I'm re-reading it some evenings.  It's an anthology by several authors working in the style of the mannered, post-Gothic cosmic horror of the primarily-featured author in the volume, and that emphasis on atmospheric, purple-yet-scholarly prose is why the cover features... a face... skull... head... with... uh... I think that's brains?... or mushrooms...?--




Also, he seems a bit miffed that something (steam? albino broccoli florets?) is squirting out his head.  Which is a common reaction of Lovecraftian characters upon being brought face-to-face with cosmic horrors from the bleak abysses beyond space and time--they get a little peeved by the inconvenience of being squashed by squamous godlike non-Euclidean entities.  I feel for the guy, anyway: from the look on what remains of his face, I imagine he was on his way to a job interview, or possibly getting ready for a date, when this happened.  Grrr.  Arrgh.  Empathy, am I right?  It's like having a zit pop up at the worst possible time, except with... really tiny white trees?

I could go on forever, possibly, but I'll wrap this up with the Ace unauthorized paperback of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Two Towers, featuring an artist's interpretation of the famous passage in which a Ringwraith rides his pegasus across Utah:



(Spoiler: he falls off just outside Provo and has to catch a bus the rest of the way.  Lucky hobbits!)

(My thanks to everyone I'm stealing images from.  That's probably bad form.  Sorry.  Thank you for taking the trouble to scan these, whomever/wherever/whenever you are.)
 






10 comments:

Tania Wednesday, April 1, 2015 at 6:13:00 PM EDT  

I've seen some of friends who are if not SMOFs in the SMOF auxiliary mention the sad puppies, but I'd not cared enough to go look at the source material. Now I don't have to do that, and I thank you, because I'm now rolling my eyes and mumbling "whatever."

giltay Thursday, April 2, 2015 at 12:16:00 PM EDT  

That reminds me of how I never read Bradbury as a child because of this. Did Bradbury ever write a story about fractal centaurs?

Eric Thursday, April 2, 2015 at 4:25:00 PM EDT  

That's a phenomenal Bradbury cover. My gods. Tells you exactly what you're getting when you read Ray Bradbury's "I Sing The Body Electric," his beloved tale of a centaur who travels across the Classical Mediterranean of Greek myth performing puppet shows about Olympic weightlifters.

Thank you for that link, giltay. That really is fantastic (in so many senses of the word).

Theophylact Thursday, April 2, 2015 at 8:46:00 PM EDT  

Actually, that's a "kettle" -- a time-machine -- on the Asimov cover, and the wraithlike female figure is someone who doesn't belong in Time at all, So the Powers cover actually is based on the book. Although his Yves-Tanguy-influenced work isn't to everyone's taste, it was pretty damn important in the development of the SF paperback.

Eric Thursday, April 2, 2015 at 9:15:00 PM EDT  

Ah!

So it's a bad example of the thesis. On the other hand, it's still true that SF and Fantasy covers are notoriously poor guides to the contents.

Thank you for explaining that, however. I need to get around to reading it, I suppose....

Tom Thursday, April 2, 2015 at 10:25:00 PM EDT  

Jack Gaughan wrote an essay about that cover for THE TWO TOWERS, apologizing for it not actually representing anything in the book. He was under severe time pressure and had to finish the covers on the second and third books in a weekend. He was normally very conscientious about making sure that his covers represented the book well. So while it is misleading, the artist was as upset as anyone.

guthrie Saturday, April 4, 2015 at 6:28:00 PM EDT  

I have a couple of entries, although I can't seem to find examples online.
Thomas Disch wrote "334", and the edition I have has a spaceship on the front cover.

Only it's set in New York, not even a particularly futuristic new york and no spaceships appear in the book.

Or Frank Herberts "The Godmakers" which has a naked woman in a strange baked dry landscape. Oddly enough no naked women or deserts are featured in the book.

beamjockey Tuesday, April 7, 2015 at 1:13:00 AM EDT  

If I had to choose one more cover to illustrate this essay, it would be one by Paul "Mister Bubbles" Lehr, who rivaled Richard Powers in the number, ubiquity, and non-illustrativeness of his paintings.

martin-wisse Wednesday, April 8, 2015 at 4:42:00 PM EDT  

Really, any of Chris Foss' seventies spaceship covers would show up the sheer inanity of this idea

Random Michelle K Tuesday, April 14, 2015 at 3:50:00 PM EDT  

I'm late to the game, and so someone already linked to Good Show Sir, but that site really us chock full of cover WTFery.

(http://www.goodshowsir.co.uk/)

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