HomeArticlesThe Art Of Sci-Fi Book Covers The Art Of Sci-Fi Book Covers By Frank Lundy September 17, 2019 Articles, Blog 100 Comments Tags:Education, education channel, essays, nerd writer, nerd writer essays, nerdwriter, nerdwriter channel, nerdwriter youtube, nerdwriter1, the nerdwriter, video essays, youtube nerdwriter Related Posts Peter Paul Rubens: Painting Samson and Delilah | National Gallery The Death of Socrates: How To Read A Painting How to Paint Large Abstract Fluid Artworks Demo Art Lesson Ideas About Author admin 100 Comments Heartbreak-Pudding-Reads June 7, 2018 YES!!! i always loved those wacky covers- some of my favorite art ever. this video is so good Reply J Matthew Root June 7, 2018 Another awesome vid! Thanx so much Brother! 🙂 Make more!!! Reply Brianna Vasquez June 7, 2018 This is wonderful, thank you. I am so excited to go to the bookstore tomorrow. Reply Julia Gomes June 8, 2018 you are very good, sir Reply Alejandro Garcia June 9, 2018 This week's episode brought to you by the letters L,S,D. Reply Lee Torry June 12, 2018 you should do one of metal album art from the late 80s to the mid 90s. Reply Ryan Pfeiffer June 12, 2018 How in the hell is Gary and his Demons an anime? Do you consider Deep Space 69 to be an anime? Reply Mike Santillán MX June 12, 2018 I make covers for independent writers, and sadly, most of them want very boring covers for their books. When I suggest some unusual ideas, or something more abstract, my clients say "No, I prefer my idea". More sad is that, while sometimes they ask for something similar to the pulp style, they really want some cheap imitation. The last two books that I illustrate are pretty cool, but the covers were boring, with a very cheap graphic design for the titles. Reply Hunter Smith June 13, 2018 Erskine Caldwell. Please. And thank you for everything already Reply Matthew Dezii June 13, 2018 I’m glad my boi Edgar Rice Burroughs made the cut. Great vid. I also love the art Reply bruno luglio June 14, 2018 Do a study on Lovecraft and his influencial way of writing sci-fi horror 🙂 Reply Dr. Zwig June 15, 2018 💯 Reply Robotic Zamat June 16, 2018 THANK YOU!!!! I kept thinking that I was the only one who enjoyed the mental stimulation to read with these amazing pieces of cover art!! ☺️Stay awesome!!! Reply Ron Zacharias June 16, 2018 this is so freaking cool Reply Udip Adhikari June 17, 2018 Odd looking alien is an oxymoron Reply Todd Mason June 17, 2018 13 things about this video: 1. "Sci-Fi" rather than sf. 2. Magazine covers aren't quite book covers 3. Frank R. Paul's influence is wildly overstated here…he also wasn't the first to do covers of fiction magazines that were science-fictional…and there were sfnal books published well before AMAZING began publishing…it was simply the first magazine devoted to exclusively sf stories that wasn't a dime novel series. 4. "Pulp paperbacks" 5. Particularly as most of the paperback covers displayed during this statement were nothing remotely resembling even stereotypical pulp fiction. And, impressionistic covers were not restricted to sf publishing in paperback. 6. Pocket Books wasn't the first publisher of paperbacks, mass-market or otherwise, in the US, but it was the first US company to sustain a program of pocket-sized paperbacks…digest-sized paperbacks were common well before Pocket's foundation. 7, Early Pocket Books and most of their early contemporaries in the US, though not Penguin Books, which had made some inroads as imports before Pocket was founded, were not 7 x 4.3 inches, but most 6.25 x 4.3", which made them more truly "pocket" books… 8. Peguin's founder Hated illustrated covers…it wasn't till he was out of the way that Penguin began featuring any illustration on its covers. 9. Ballantine Books had been recruiting "modern artists", both professional illustrators and otherwise, to do covers for their books, fantastic and otherwise, since foundation in the 1950s, and they weren't alone 10. Cites Richard Powers's work with Ballantine, without noting it preceded the Penguin covers by nearly a decade and a half, then shows mostly Powers covers from other publishers, without noting that, and the fact that he and others like him were much in demand…before Penguin caught up. 11. Not "pulp books", except some of the Bradbury was published in pulp magazines, and very little of LONG AFTER MIDNIGHT is "sci-fi" as opposed to fantasy and horror fiction. 12. "The genre was categorized as pulp" by half-educated smug sorts as "Nerdwriter1" here. Particularly as he speaks of several genres, at least. 13. Continues including AMAZING STORIES magazine covers with the books. Reply MykBlauuw June 17, 2018 thanks for this one! introduced me to a whole new lane of art I wasn't aware of. really digging the music choices as well. How do you go about sourcing ideas for your videos? have you ever watched/listened to Desus & Mero/The Bodega Boys? I think the way they develop comedy on the fly is amazing – entire premises, recurring characters, certain comedic timings they've developed, etc. really interesting stuff. Reply Zacharie Wilson June 17, 2018 This video spoke to me directly, thank you Nerdwriter.I recently wrote a sci-fi/adventure novel named "Morningland", and all I have at the moment is a more modern style placeholder cover. This video essay inspired me to reach out to some of my abstract artist friends and perhaps develop a stranger, more intriguing piece of art for readers. And if anyone is interested, you can read the book for free right here 🙂https://www.ficfun.com/novel/1961675-Morningland.html Reply Todd Mason June 17, 2018 13 things about this video: 1. "Sci-Fi rather than sf". 2. Magazine covers aren't quite book covers 3. Frank R. Paul's influence is wildly overstated here…he also wasn't the first to do covers of fiction magazines that were science-fictional…and there were sfnal books published well before AMAZING began publishing…it was simply the first magazine devoted to exclusively sf stories that wasn't a dime novel series. 4. "Pulp paperbacks" 5. Particularly as most of the paperback covers displayed during this statement were nothing remotely resembling even stereotypical pulp fiction. And, impressionistic covers were not restricted to sf publishing in paperback. 6. Pocket Books wasn't the first publisher of paperbacks, mass-market or otherwise, in the US, but it was the first US company to sustain a program of pocket-sized paperbacks…digest-sized paperbacks were common well before Pocket's foundation. 7. Early Pocket Books and most of their early contemporaries in the US, though not Penguin Books, which had made some inroads as imports before Pocket was founded, were not 4.3 x 7 inches, but most 6.25 x 4.3", which made them more truly "pocket" books… 8. Penguin's founder Hated illustrated covers…it wasn't till he was out of the way that Penguin began featuring any illustration on its covers. 9. Ballantine Books had been recruiting "modern artists", both professional illustrators and otherwise, to do covers for their books, fantastic and otherwise, since foundation in the 1950s, and they weren't alone 10. Cites Richard Powers's work with Ballantine, without noting it preceded the Penguin covers by nearly a decade and a half, then shows mostly Powers covers from other publishers, without noting that, and the fact that he and others like him were much in demand…before Penguin caught up. 11. Not "pulp books", except some of the Bradbury was published in pulp magazines, and very little of LONG AFTER MIDNIGHT is "sci-fi" as opposed to fantasy and horror fiction. 12. "The genre was categorized as pulp" by half-educated smug sorts. Particularly as they often speak of several genres, at least. 13. Continues including AMAZING STORIES magazine covers with the books. Reply Elsa Nilaj June 20, 2018 This is well done!! Good job!! Reply Kieran Kelly June 25, 2018 Have you ever visited sci-fi-o-rama.com ? Reply hippomancy June 26, 2018 the phrase "you can't tell a book by it's cover" doesn't apply to sci-fi… Reply ioana ilea June 29, 2018 Yeah….this kind of art is not for me. I need harmony. They're not beautiful to me. Reply Mr. Cntrst June 30, 2018 I just found your videos. My god I love your editing style Reply None of your Business June 30, 2018 None of these is less than profoundly ugly to me. Reply A Marks July 1, 2018 dude this is incredible, all your content, especially on musicians is top notch. thanks Reply Ron Doucet July 2, 2018 One must not overlook the highly underrated film 'Gentlemen Bronchos', about the life of a cheesy science fiction author. Reply Mitchel Csermak July 3, 2018 Amazing video Reply Sally Lee July 6, 2018 The videos on your personal interests are so much more engrossing and enlightening than your videos on the current popular thing. Reply George Estremera July 7, 2018 Love these spectacular covers. Reply Nick12391 July 8, 2018 Great episode dude Reply iop erty July 10, 2018 The cut from film to cover on about 0:53 gave me shivers. Your montage is so so awesome that presentation of book covers is mesmerizing to watch. I often start reading books just because of their covers and sometimes end up in disappointment, but sci-fi had actually never betrayed me. And that's how Sci-fi had started for me – with strange beautiful cover of sci-fi anthology at grandma's home back in childhood. And now I feel very inspired to go look for new old sci-fi books and their covers(Sorry for bad English) Reply FUEL July 12, 2018 My Mom was a collector of Fantasy & Sci-Fi Magazine, and if you haven't seen those covers, check them out. I was fascinated by them when I was a kid. Reply Daniel De la Fuente July 12, 2018 My favourite scifi book of all time: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury Reply FRISHR July 13, 2018 1939: The Art of Book Covers2018: The Art of Clickbait Thumbnails Reply Jason Bak July 14, 2018 That was beautiful. Thanks for making this. 🙂 Reply Gabriela B July 16, 2018 I love how this reminded me of gentlemens broncos, because I love the movie I love sci-fi and I love art <3 Reply Przemysław Knitter July 18, 2018 Amazing video. Great job and thank you. Reply Muffinski July 22, 2018 I love how bizarre these covers are Reply Donal July 22, 2018 Man, this was beautiful. Reply Manuel González July 26, 2018 There's an edition of Lovecraft's and other Mythos authors tales in spanish from EDAF editions that had Giger's art for cover…and that is just P E R F E C T Reply Ethoreo July 27, 2018 I think scifi books are under appreciated mainly due to its lack of character driven stories. These types of stories I think are the best type of stories. Even so they are so rare to find in a scifi book. I think books like Dune and Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy are so well known compared to their counterparts is their use of character story telling. Books that were the foundation of everything scifi like Foundation lack this. Sure Foundation follows characters, but when you meet a character, 5 chapters later you'll scrap that character and meet another one. I wish more scifi books were like Dune. Reply Tom Doherty July 27, 2018 A couple years ago I was totally taken by the sci fi books on a shelf at the local half price books. I bought a few of them solely because of the beautiful inspiring artwork on the covers. I’ve never read them. Reply The Human Crayon July 30, 2018 shows psychedelic landscape(this book is set in San Francisco) Reply Max Wilde July 31, 2018 Another classic! Reply Alphaeus A. August 3, 2018 Your way with words is divine. Reply Luke Taylor August 4, 2018 This episode was absolutely nothing short of beautiful and inspirational. As a musician, I would love to see a video covering album art. Reply Tudor Morar August 5, 2018 if you have music in the background i suggest you choose some instrumental music. those voices in the background make it confusing Reply Croatz August 14, 2018 Nerdwriter1, check out "With friends like these" by Alan Dean Foster and "Fable Hill" by Christopher Uremovich. Reply I'mSticky AllOver August 15, 2018 Good stuff. Was happy to see Issac Asimov's " "Foundation" in there. Reply Polaris Castillo August 17, 2018 My fave of your videos ♥ Reply anaamee August 17, 2018 Nothing on David Foss and Michael Whelan? Really? Still, good episode. Reply Rangeboy August 19, 2018 I always had a nerdy sweet spot for the Pelican non-fiction books http://www.thingsmagazine.net/projects/pelican.htm Reply mekman4 August 20, 2018 Oh, this brings me back. In the seventh grade I’d go right to the Sci-Fi section in the library just to freak myself out with book covers like, “The White Mountains” which had a drawing of children with hollowed out eyes, running from, something… Thanks. Reply TaK1138 August 21, 2018 Gave me chills as I felt myself go for the ride. Reply Victor Bastos August 25, 2018 fuck, looks like i found a new hobbie Reply simon price August 26, 2018 Thank you I collected and read so many UK imprints of these in the sixties and seventies especially JG Ballard, Phillip K Dick, Heinlein and Moorcock the covers were always a joy like mini Album Covers….. Reply Chloe August 27, 2018 Cool stuff. Would love to see one of these for horror pulp 👌😁 Reply CheesecakeLasagna September 6, 2018 Junji Ito's works are literally gut-wrenching art. Reply Annie Woods September 13, 2018 I was just thinking what a shame it was that you would never see the amazing cover art done by peter haars for the lanterne series because the books are in norwegian when the picture of mørke utenfor og mørke inni (org title: a scanner darkly), which i am currently reading came up on the screen. I am amazed that you found these books as the whole series (line? franchise? all the books are unrelated and have different authors, they were just published as a set by the publishers) have stunning retro covers. I am lucky enough to have a father who collects books and has an apreciation for cover design and he has given me this part of his collection so that i am now the proud owner of the norwegian first editions of books like frankenstein and the man in the high castle Reply Ben B September 17, 2018 I love the art that went into scifi/fantasy book covers. Reply Edonis Thaqi September 20, 2018 Does anybody know any online website where I can purchase these type of classics? Reply Irn Bru Boy September 26, 2018 I highly recommend the Penguin Science Fiction Postcards box, available from Amazon (and elsewhere I'm sure). 100 classic sci-fi covers in post card form; I made a collage from my favourites and put them up on the wall, many of them are featured in this video. https://www.amazon.com/Penguin-Science-Fiction-Postcards-Covers/dp/0143128647/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1537961852&sr=8-1&keywords=science+fiction+postcards https://www.amazon.co.uk/Penguin-Science-Fiction-Postcard-Box/dp/1405920734/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1537962015&sr=8-1&keywords=science+fiction+postcards You can also get comic book art, Pixar, classic movies etc. Reply sarah September 26, 2018 First scifi book ever written is still one of my favorites, Frankenstein. This is such a cool topic. I'm always drawn towards artsy covers. And like to collect the ones with great covers. I hate when they make covers using movie posters. Reply Anonymous Guy October 5, 2018 Ever since I read it in middle school, I've been partial to Michael Whelan's cover of Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles. Every so often, I'd pause a story to look at the cover again because it implied the imagery for the rest of the story. Reply Oppie October 18, 2018 Jonathan Lethem has written some great stuff over the years about the aesthetics of science fiction paperbacks – trolling through used book stores to put together a complete set of PKD and the like. He also made a major character in his (beautiful, transcendent) novel The Fortress of Solitude an abstract artist who creates sci-fi cover art to make ends meet. Reply Oskar Gahler October 22, 2018 omg, the editing in this video is incredibly good! Reply odibex November 28, 2018 fantastic topic. I posted on Richard Powers in an illustration group I'm in a while back. I don't even know how he landed a job like that, he must've been a very happy man. at least as far as "doing what you love isn't work" or whatever. his art had a huge impact on me when I was a young kid browsing around the local library. I couldn't even quantify what "kind" of impact, but I never forgot the feeling. unlike similarly weird dreams I've had which evaporate within the span of a day I don't even read this stuff. I think I've read one sci-fi novel (if you discount William Burroughs) and that was becasue it was by a fantasy author I liked, Piers Anthony. well I did read A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court if that counts. sorry getting sidetracked there at any rate I was writing to recommend the art of my fave pulp illustrator, Virgil Finally, who mostly illustrated for those sci-fi anthology mags that were a thing before most of the stuff in this video. I'm not sure he did many covers, but his full-color stuff was pretty inferior to his B&W work anyway. which is pretty amazing. oh Hannes Bok is pretty cool too, very weird sensibility tl;dr: if you're watching this check out Virgil Finlay. and, hey, Bok as well.. Reply Shrey Banugariya December 2, 2018 The video is of course awesome but I loved the editing. I would like to know which software you use to edit these videos Reply Waywolf Sol December 19, 2018 Love your stuff Nerdwriter1, perfect lunchtime material. This episode was relevant to me because I've recently started a campaign to help me finish writing a futuristic, sci-fi novel, anyway I don't mean to spam so ignore it if you like but you can check it out or even support me @ https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/waywolf/density-a-futuristic-sci-fi-thriller ,thx Reply Yuki Chandler December 22, 2018 Best book ever is Goblin Reservation imo, it's a shame only the first original cover was shown and not the other ones Reply sixstringsher December 23, 2018 this is SO amazing. Reply Mimi The Brave January 4, 2019 One of my very favourite genres, and it was super cool to see the book covers slide and fade in a dynamic way thanks to your editing!The way you described how the books become part of one's daily surroundings was beautiful, really hit the nail on the head for me, this is exactly how I feel, and why I'm always on the lookout for used books on flea markets and the like. Reply OldMod67 January 4, 2019 Really enjoyed this,thanks. I've been a bookseller (UK) since the 1980s and although I deal in new books, my passion book-wise is older editions. I'm currently re-reading one of my Penguin John Wyndham's, the covers of which are tame compared to many, especially US editions, but still awesome. Currently enjoying a 1962 edition of The Outward Urge, with orange vertical grid and illustration. So cool…… Reply Djed Vartanes January 12, 2019 It's a shame that book covers are so lame nowadays, but there is one, that really struck me. The German edition of Andy Weir's The Martian. It's just an astronaut in a spacesuit standing in a sandstrom, but the sand is such a bright orange-brown colour and the image conveys a feeling of being lost so strongly, you really can't walk past it in a bookstore. Reply Prashanta Chamling January 14, 2019 I am in the final editing stage of my loosely "sci-fi" novel. Thanks for this great video. It gave me great ideas for cover. Creating captivating covers is an art form and I don't want to delegate it, like my story. Reply Corrie Bergeron January 16, 2019 PLEASE lose that horrible background music! It's not only VERY distracting, but it's not even good music. Reply Corrie Bergeron January 16, 2019 I was sad to see no mention of prolific cover artist Frank Kelly Freas (d. 2005). I had the honor to host that fine gentlemen at a con in the mid-80s. In addition to countless book and magazine covers, he painted the cover and interior art for Queen's "News of the World" album based on his cover for the October 1953 "Astounding Science Fiction" mag. (https://io9.gizmodo.com/379653/oops-a-robot-accidentally-killed-queen) Freas' palette consisted of Cyan, Yellow, Magenta, and Black. Everything else was mixed from those. He said that starting with the colors used in the process-separation printing assured him that what he saw on the canvas was what the reader would see on the shelf. He also refused to paint for OMNI magazine (which was a big deal in those days) because it was owned by the publisher of the porn magazine Penthouse. He was a gentleman of the old school. Reply Roseline Russell January 20, 2019 What a great little video. I liked it so much that I downloaded it and will keep it to watch over and over. Well Done. I will now explore all your videos. I have 'Subscribed'. Reply Victor Vaughn February 2, 2019 this is my fav vid. ive watched it more than 6 times already Reply David Greene February 3, 2019 But when did the mass market paperback era come to an end? Reply Robin Hislop February 11, 2019 Disc'overed Josh Kirby by reading Terry Pratchett, and love the various covers of the pulp era, as a big fan of John Brunner. Reply Tod No February 17, 2019 There's a former Bulgarian sci-fi and fantasy publisher from the soviet era called Galaktika, aka Galaxy, and their covers are what drew me to the books. They're all amazing, original and thematic, showing that the artists had read the books before making the covers. Most of these books haven't been reprinted, and you can buy 10 of them for 5 euros, which makes me both gleeful to be able to afford them and sad that such great books are so cheap. Reply Dennis February 28, 2019 I own that last book! Its still mint tho 🙁 Reply Devon March 9, 2019 I have a few vintage copies of stories from Pocket Books, so when you said that name, I was like, "That sounds familiar!" Reply Free Candy March 17, 2019 Beautiful art Reply Kaito Amatou March 18, 2019 I would love to see how you approach a video on the album art of independent records from the 70s onward Reply xorben1981 March 30, 2019 I Wonder where all the Young and skilled Artists are today. I only See cheaper Photoshop stuff. 😶 Reply Soumya Ranjan May 20, 2019 Your way of looking into things is as awesome as the way you express them. Falling in love with this channel. Reply Daniel Marquez May 26, 2019 i hope to be a science fiction artist one day check out my portfolio https://www.deviantart.com/danielmarquezart/gallery/ Reply Faizan Fahim June 16, 2019 I just brought 10 such covers in like 1.2$.. amazing.. Reply johnny mcnamara July 1, 2019 Thankyou Reply Dyrgripen July 1, 2019 among all the slack that sci-fi books tend to get in popular culture, this was a really refreshing essay. thanks nerdwriter! Reply AProbablyPostman July 10, 2019 This is my favorite video on Youtube and I'm not sure why. Reply V.K.S Productions July 19, 2019 Wonderful video. It honestly hit so close to home as I've adored the "Amazing Stories" covers by Frank R. Paul and have had an immense exposure to the fantastic art of those mid 20th century science-fiction novels. Thank you so much for this piece of pure appreciation. Reply 88Jako July 23, 2019 Ive been reading Sci Fi since I was a boy, and I've always loved those weird covers, that usually are not related to the actual story of the book. I love that feeling of looking at the cover when you are already into the story, thinking about it, about what has happened and about what is going to happen. I always create a nice relation in my head between the story and the cover.And, It's been a while since a seen a video that I liked so much! Just discovered your channel today. Totally subscribing!Thanks a lot!!! Reply m August 4, 2019 I have a couple of books like this and the I completely agree the art on them is amazing Reply matler August 5, 2019 Thank you for posting this video. I love this art so much Reply latenight cashews August 7, 2019 i absolutely LOVE the subject matter, there is always a whole new world to discover in seemingly trivial aspects of design and art in things we're used to seeing everyday. i also wanna mention how much i love the art direction of this video essay, it all looks refined and minimalist, simply a visual pleasure. the few things that caught my eye are 1) the cutaway in the middle of the news article, 2) the 7" by 4" frames of scrolling book covers, 3) the transition from that to the penguin brand's colour motif, 4) the SEAMLESS display of the complete artwork extending from the book cover!!! Reply MLTSD. August 11, 2019 it's kinda sad that almost no books have these kinds of covers nowadays Reply Add a Comment Cancel reply Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *Comment:*Name:* Email Address:* Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.