Rayguns and rockets! Spacesuited heroes caught in the tentacles of evil insectoid aliens! Who could resist such wonders?
Science-fiction paperbacks exploded over the 1940s and ’50s literary landscape with the force of an alien gamma bomb. Titles such as Rodent Mutation, The Human Bat vs The Robot Gangster, Dawn of the Mutants and Mushroom Men from Mars appeared from fly-by-night publishers making the most of the end of post-war paper rationing.
They were brash and seductive – for around a shilling the future was yours. The stories were often conceived around a pre-commissioned cover and a title suggested by the publisher, and the writers were paid by the word, and sometimes not paid at all. Titles were knocked out at a key-pounding pace, sometimes over a weekend, by authors now lost to literary history (plus a few professionals who could spot an opportunity) who were forced to write under pseudonyms like Ray Cosmic, Steve Future, Vector Magroon or Vargo Statten.
Despite the tight deadlines and poor pay, the books’ cover artists still managed to produce works of multi-hued, brain-bending brilliance, and collected here is an overview of their output during an unparalleled period of brash optimism and experimentation in publishing.
About the Author
Rian Hughes is an award-winning graphic designer, illustrator, comic artist, writer, and typographer who has worked extensively for the British and American advertising, music, and comic book industries. His recent books include Custom Lettering of the ‘20s and ’30s, Soho Dives, Soho Divas, and XX: A Novel, Graphic. He has an extensive collection of Thunderbirds memorabilia, a fridge full of vodka, and a stack of easy listening albums which he plays very quietly in his home in London.
"Five stars. A glorious thing of beauty." — Starburst
"A glorious celebration of SF's past. Thoroughly recommended." — SFF World
"Compiled with the loving care of enthusiasts.” —Tripwire
"Fantastic . . . the ultimate gathering of vintage British SF book cover art. Better than you can imagine!” — Bear Alley
"The finest non-fiction book yet published on popular science fiction art.” — Phil Harbottle
"Book of the Year" — Jules Burt
"A space-age treat.” — Pop Culture Squad
"A glorious celebration.” — Down the Tubes
"Gloriously addictive in terms of breadth, variety and wide-eyed nostalgic wonderment…” – Comics Review