Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Look, I’m Actually a Robot (chest flaps, faux skin, mechanical brains)
February 24, 2013 § 12 Comments
(Gray Morrow’s cover for the the December 1964 issue of If)
One of Philip K. Dick’s trademark narrative devices is a character’s realization that they are not human as they previously believed but rather a robot — for example in one of my favorite sci-fi short stories, ‘Impostor’. Generally these bewildered robots float to the ceiling and explode, which has to be one of the more terrifying and cataclysmic revelations possible (the knowledge itself and the devastation caused).
Unfortunately, cover artists don’t attempt to depict that sort of “look, I’m a robot” type moments (well, the uncredited artist for the 1979 edition of Sternenkämpfer und Raumpiraten (1979) comes close). Rather, we see glimpses inside — via an assortment of flaps / cross sections / incomplete stages in construction — realistically humanoid robots, often revealed only for us to see while the narrative’s other characters remain oblivious in the background. I have a soft spot of Gray Morrow’s cover for the December 1964 issue of If. The first time I saw the cover it took a second for my eyes to focus on what the figure in the foreground was doing — fixing a robotic / animatronic dinosaur.
The final cover in this collection – Ed Emshwiller’s cover for the 1953 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction – doesn’t exactly fit the topic. Clearly the hands belong to a cyborg, a human with mechanical parts — in this case, bones. However, the way the hands are placed, almost meant to be the hands of the reader of the magazine, seem to imply extreme shock at the “revelation”.
As always, are the books worth reading? and, which covers are your favorites? I’ve read Asimov’s The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun and Philip K. Dick’s We Can Build You…. All three are worth reading…
(John Schoenherr’s cover for the 1972 edition of We Can Build You (1969), Philip K. Dick)
(Ed Emshwiller’s cover for the September 1954 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction)
(Adrian Chesterman’s hideous cover for the 1979 edition of Xanthe and the Robotos (1978), Sheila Macleod)
(Uncredited cover for the 1966 edition of Memorias de un Robot (1966), Alan Comet)
(Uncredited cover for the 1979 edition of Sternenkämpfer und Raumpiraten (1979), William Voltz)
(Uncredited cover for the 1966 edition of Lest Earth Be Conquered (1966), Frank Belknap Long)
(Dean Ellis’ cover for the 1975 edition of The Best of Frederik Pohl (1975), Frederik Pohl)
(Mike Gross’ cover for the 1976 edition of Strange Bedfellows (1974), ed. Thomas N. Scortia)
(Gino D’Achille’s cover for the 1977 edition of Starburst (1958), Alfred Bester)
(Ruth Ray’s cover for the 1957 edition of The Naked Sun (1956), Isaac Asimov)
(Wilson McLean’s cover for the 1970 edition of The Wanting Seed (1962), Anthony Burgess)
(Chris Foss’ cover for the 1986 edition of We Can Build You (1969), Philip K. Dick)
(Ed Emshwiller’s cover for the 1953 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction)
For more art posts consult the INDEX