Bad Book Cover Fridays

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Cover art is whatever (actually I quite like the front cover, so perfectly of its era as it is); this BBCF is all about the copy-writing.

Thanks to Pandemonium Books’ sale on used books for R. W. Mackelworth’s The Diabols (1969), and for one-sentence paragraphs:

Their bodies were colored lights; their voices were music. But whatever they touched was incinerated!

For a moment in time their destructive powers were limited to a small portion of Earth. Yet they were determined to burn the whole planet to a crisp.

Was there no hope for man’s survival?

As a last resort Boraston is projected into a future where the Diabols have almost won. Only a few humans remain, struggling to stay alive by holding the Diabols off with skirmishes and holding actions.

Can Boraston devise a method to destroy them?

If he succeeds, Earth can plan to save itself from the Diabols.

If he fails, Earth was doomed to become nothing more than a charred and blackened cinder in the galaxy!

It makes me unironically happy that someone was paid to write this, and that someone was paid to publish this. What a creature is man.

Go to:
BBCF: What a stallion
BBCF: MF&SF, June 1983
BBCF: I Will Fear No Evil
BBCF: The Technic Civilization Saga

Reviewer: Emera
Date read: 11.18.2012
Book from: Library. Lovecraft’s works are also available online in various archives, such as

Last Halloween I realized I hadn’t really read any Lovecraft since high school, and set out to rectify that by picking up a couple collections from the library.

This one had a cover that I would class as “moderately metal” –

book wakingup


– and contained the following stories: Cool Air, The Hound, The Lurking Fear, The Terrible Old Man, The Unnamable, Beyond the Wall of Sleep, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, The White Ship, The Outsider, Herbert West – Reanimator, Arthur Jermyn, The Moon-Bog, The Temple, Dagon, From Beyond, and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.

Assorted thoughts on some of those:

  • “The Hound” – Lovecraft scholar S. T. Joshi suggests that Lovecraft deliberately, (self-)parodically overheated the language in this Gothickest of Gothic tales, wherein two Decadents struck by “devastating ennui” stray from Baudelaire and Huysmans, and into the accursed pages of the Necronomicon. Unsurprisingly, it’s long been one of my favorites. It’s so ripely morbid and hysteria-stricken. I also have a fondness for doggish ghouls, and the one summoned in this story is pretty kingly.

(Poppy Z. Brite/Billy Martin, who provided a brief foreword for this collection, turned up the decadence of “The Hound” another couple of notches in his amply homoerotic Louisana Gothic retelling “His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood,” which I remember reading with fierce delight in high school.)

  • “The Lurking Fear” boasted by far the best and most B-movie-worthy back-of-cover blurb for this collection – “An upstate New York clan degenerates into thunder-crazed mole like creatures with a taste for human flesh[!!!!!!!!!!!!]” – as well as, I think, the highest concentration of of delightfully absurd Lovecraftiness. Behold:

“With what manner of far-reaching tentacles did it prey?”

“Then, as I playfully shook him and turned him around, I felt the strangling tendrils of a cancerous horror whose roots reached into illimitable pasts and fathomless abysms of the night that broods beyond time.”

“But that fright was so mixed with wonder and alluring grotesqueness, that it was almost a pleasant sensation. Sometimes, in the throes of a nightmare when unseen powers whirl one over the roofs of strange dead cities toward the grinning chasm of Nis, it is a relief and even a delight to shriek wildly and throw oneself voluntarily along with the hideous vortex of dream-doom into whatever bottomless gulf may yawn.”

Abysms!!! Dream-doom!!!!!! That Thing about the Gryphons, too, hails from these parts.

  • “The Terrible Old Man” is a fable about the triumph of xenophobia. Hooray! It’s funny that Lovecraft attributes the same kind of thuggish, bestial degeneracy to non-WASP immigrants as he does to the ancient-monster-interbred New Englanders in “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” and to miscegenators in general (see also “Arthur Jermyn”). One imagines his ideal man as a skinny white fellow valiantly sandwiched between the forces of ancient evil and the rising, filthy tide of new immigrants. The taste of his neuroses – the smell of sheer fearfulness – is frequently almost overwhelming.
  • “The Unnamable” is striking in that Lovecraft seems to be having a conversation with some of his literary detractors in it, yet turns it into an earnest philosophical assertion rather than simply a cheeky comeback, as I’d initially assumed it might be. (Though there is an element of wishfully vengeful thinking to it, too, in the tradition of Poe.)

The narrator is an obvious stand-in for Lovecraft himself, and debates with a friend who “object[ed] to my preoccupation with the mystical and the unexplained; for although believing in the supernatural much more fully than I, he would not admit that it is sufficiently commonplace for literary treatment. … With him all things and feelings had fixed dimensions, properties, causes, and effects; and although he vaguely knew that the mind sometimes holds visions and sensations of far less geometrical, classifiable, and workable nature, he believed himself justified in drawing an arbitrary line and ruling out of court all that cannot be experienced and understood by the average citizen. Besides, he was almost sure that nothing can be really ‘unnamable’. It didn’t sound sensible to him.”

Of course, matters pan out such that the skeptical friend, too, is forced into a sense of cosmic and epistemological abjection. A lot of my thinking about life, the universe, and everything Unnamable has, in fact, been flavored by Lovecraftian cosmicism in the past few years – mostly instigated by Caitlín Kiernan‘s science fiction – so I was inclined to offer plauditory fingersnaps at the end of it.

Go to:
H. P. Lovecraft: bio and works reviewed

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R A Macavoy - The Grey Horse

“Stay back, horse! She’s mine.”

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Bad Book Covers Friday Archive
BBCF: MF&SF, June 1983
Time Warp 1987: F&SF and a couple of soggy old men

What’s that, you say? It’s Friday? Indeed it is, and for once I have something to show for it. Although it’s only sorta a Bad Book Cover Friday, as this June 1983 Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction cover isn’t astoundingly bad.

I mean, it’s bad, but it’s bad simply in that there’s nothing good about it. The mediocrity/absurdity/ignorance of color theory and anything else that would contribute to an aesthetic and/or compelling cover are so generally apparent that I have nothing specific to say about them.

The contents of the magazine’s advertisements, on the other hand…

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I picked up a few old copies of Fantasy & Science Fiction for free this past fall, and should be posting a couple of reviews from them at intervals. Reading this issue, April 1987, meant a number of firsts for me – namely, my first time actually reading F&SF, my first time reading any non-electronic pro genre magazine, and my first time reading several big-name authors (…pretty much everyone in this issue, really). Embarrassing.

Also, check out this most excellent cover (an illustration for Wayne Wightman’s “Cage 37,” and, since Kakaner asked, honorary BBCF):

Fantasy & Science Fiction, April 1987Aww yeah. Alienated youth clad in flabby sweats squint at you from the thick of the ’80’s.

Anyway, reviews! Two to start.


Stephen Sondheim once dismissed his lyrical work for West Side Story as being “wet,” which has stuck with me as being a useful descriptor for the kind of self-seriousness generally accompanied by moistened eyes being cast to the horizon. (I love WSS anyway, by the way.) Lucius Shepard‘s prose in “The Glassblower’s Dragon” struck me as being very, very wet. Blah blah blah disaffected artist and club girl find Moment of Solace in each other’s company. Cue an outpouring of faintly patronizing affection on the part of the artist, a general pity party, and some really soppy declamations:

“And loss was probable, for love is an illusion with the fragility of glass and light, whose magic must constantly be renewed. But for the moment they did not allow themselves to think of these things. They were content to stare after the dragon, after the sole truth in their lives that no lie could disparage.”



George Zebrowski‘s “Behind the Night” dwells on “a sterile, post-plague United States and a 119-year-old president who is implementing a foreign policy based on treason” (stealing F&SF’s blurb there). It goes for elegiac, but doesn’t really get beyond fervent, slightly incoherent sentimentality, e.g.

“The sonata of survival is unaffected by our views of it; we have yet to learn how to change more than a few notes without creating dissonances. Life requires the deterioration of the body, the dashing of hopes, the death of love, to produce a head full of fading thoughts.”


“‘A beautiful idea,’ I said, moved by the depth of her feelings. And I realized that in a sense I had become the father of a new country.”

Oh Mr. President, what a clever duck you are.

Also, this one had yet more bubblings-up of creepish paternalistic tenderness. Brrr.

– E

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So when it comes to book covers, there’s overly literal, and then there’s this kind of thing, courtesy the mass-market paperback cover of Robert Heinlein’s I Will Fear No Evil:

Robert Heinlein - Fear No Evil

Allegorical representation of Something Profound About America, With Purple Pixie Dust? Thinly veiled excuse for female nudity? Who knows?

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Bad Book Covers Friday Archive
BBCF: The Technic Civilization Saga
BBCF: Relationships II
BBCF: The Saga of Recluce
BBCF: Moonsinger’s Friends
BBCF: The Alphabet Mysteries

So this week’s BBCF stars are tasteless enough that I’m putting them both under a cut. Very much borderline NSFW/NSFpeaceofmind/Ican’tbelievethisactuallyexistsandwasapproved.
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[Sorry for the lateness – apparently I specialize in redefining “Friday.”]

Oh small presses, sometimes (frequently) I just don’t know what you were thinking. So far I’ve tried to stay away from small-small-press covers because they do what they do under so many constraints, but sometimes – yeah, I just really don’t know what they were thinking. According to the publisher, this is “a collection of seven stories about relationships, loving and passionate, thought-provoking and inspiring. Some verge into the familiar Anthony territory of fantasy and science fiction, where others focus on the eroticism of contemporary life, proving that love has many facets.”

Piers Anthony - Relationships II

Apparently one of love’s facets is reenactment of bondage scenarios with Parcheesi gamepieces after a few hits of acid…?

Go to:
Bad Book Covers Friday Archive
BBCF: Birth of the Firebringer
BBCF: The Saga of Recluce
BBCF: Moonsinger’s Friends
BBCF: The Alphabet Mysteries

Foreign-language editions of fantasy novels tend to be particularly fertile grounds for weird book covers. And man, I love many a Scandinavian illustrator, but their covers also tend to be the loopiest among European editions that I’ve seen. Here’s the Danish paperback cover of Meredith Ann Pierce’s Birth of the Firebringer (which is the first book in a childhood-favorite trilogy, so this is another case in which I can vouch for the cover being accurate in its details, yet not… shall we say, entirely representative of the book as a whole):

Meredith Ann Pierce - Birth of the Firebringer, second Danish edition

50% cute, 50% acid-trip unhinged. I don’t think I want to be friends with these unicorns – they look like they’d shake me down for my lunch money, then threaten to cut me if I told.

Yet at the same time, I kind of want a t-shirt with them on it.

Go to:
Bad Book Covers Friday Archive
BBCF: The Saga of Recluce
BBCF: Moonsinger’s Friends
BBCF: The Alphabet Mysteries
BBCF: Diamond Star

Apologies for actually missing Friday – it’s been a long week. To make up for it, for this week’s Bad Book Cover Friday, I’m covering (har [?]) a series that Kakaner has been begging me to do pretty much since the beginning – L. E. Modesitt, Jr.’s The Saga of Recluce.

These covers actually work the best without much commentary, so prepare for some scrolling –

L. E. Modesitt - Mage-Guard of Hamor

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