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March 27, 2010 12:05 AM   Subscribe

Good Show Sir - a blog of the worst science fiction and fantasy book covers from the deepest depths of second hand bookstores around the world.
posted by Artw (67 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh man. I think I probably read most of the ones there that came out before 1990.
posted by hattifattener at 12:09 AM on March 27, 2010


We have a winner!
posted by Sova at 12:23 AM on March 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Outsourced customer service.
posted by longsleeves at 12:36 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


The pictures have mouse-over text, btw.
posted by Sova at 12:50 AM on March 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm quite fond of this one. Rainbows! Mermaids! Hippogryphs!

The horse part of the hippogryph isn't as weirdly drawn as some though.
posted by Artw at 1:21 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know, I'm still reading this blog an hour later...

...and when I'm finished, I'm going to hug the nearest Penguin paperback.
posted by Sova at 1:31 AM on March 27, 2010


I love the wtf tag, as if the others are, you know, perfectly reasonable.
posted by victors at 1:48 AM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


When Wordpress is nationalised, I'm going to issue a party directive relating to captions and photoblogs.

Essentially, photoblog authors will have to apply for a license if they want to write captions. If they are funny, they will be issued with a "Basic" license and can write captions of up to 25 words per image. If they have a professional background in the subject matter of their blog and can write insightfully about it on this basis, they get the "Pro" license and can write captions of up to 90 words. If they are demonstrated to have exceptional critical abilities and the capacity to write in an insightful and/or funny way about a broad range of subjects regardless of their background they are eligible for the "Cadre" license and can publish captions of up to 200 words per image. Anyone found writing captions in violation of the terms of their Wordpress Photoblog license will be imprisoned.
posted by stammer at 2:25 AM on March 27, 2010 [6 favorites]


a blog of the worst science fiction and fantasy book covers

The concept is noble, but undermines itself really.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 2:50 AM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


VAMPIRE ROCK STARS. Something for the twilight fans to read when they're finished reading the books, I guess.
posted by delmoi at 2:52 AM on March 27, 2010


I think this the author of this blog is using the word "Cleavage" incorrectly. For example. He's just using it as a synonym for "breast"
posted by delmoi at 3:07 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


EVIL CHILDREN! With red eyes! And lasers coming from an evil red orb or possibly some sort of moon, lighting up the evil child with even more red! And People!

This is pretty cool, considering the book is about psychic Christian hippies from space showing the meaning of love to wayward humans through their awesome power of twee.
posted by Sparx at 3:37 AM on March 27, 2010


Would have been better without the captions. These images need no further explanation.
posted by memebake at 3:48 AM on March 27, 2010


If by "worst" you mean, MOST AWESOME. I'm sorry. Really.
posted by the_royal_we at 4:01 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is liking shooting space fish in a barrel. Of space.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:15 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well this does answer a question I never thought to ask.... Q: How do mermaids ride hippocampi? A: Side saddle, obviously.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:21 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yep, the covers are fun...the blogger should have his keyboard taken away...
posted by HuronBob at 4:22 AM on March 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


The mouseovers are particularly lame-- it is as if he forced himself to come up with a witty one-liner every time but rarely had anything remotely clever to say. Great covers, bad snark.

Still, it leads me to reflect on how much minutia is being collected on the internet. I imagine there is a blog for any interest-- soup can labels, children's shoes, furniture knobs. If you can photograph it, you can collect it and preserve it for future generations. Amazing times we live in.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:59 AM on March 27, 2010


Still, it leads me to reflect on how much minutia is being collected on the internet.

And matching that endless supply of minutia is an equally endless interest in consuming it. Every furniture knob blog will have its devoted readers.
posted by Forktine at 5:15 AM on March 27, 2010


There were Thieves' World novels?
posted by steef at 5:16 AM on March 27, 2010


There were Thieves' World novels?

Yup, and I can remember reading them, too. This blog was funny to me not so much because of the bad cover art -- a lot of the examples weren't even all that terrible, really, just cheap products of particular moments in pulp book design history -- but because I have read a substantial proportion of them. These are the crappy sf/fantasy books of my childhood, mostly, and they were crappy then and are kitsch now (and with a few gems mixed in).

A much more genuinely painful blog would be matching photos of bad sf cover art with historical photos of the people who were buying those books. Surely the Smithsonian is ready for a 50-year retrospective on nerds and their art?
posted by Forktine at 5:35 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hate to disagree, but I think the covers of these books are great. The blogger's snide comments are very shallow. These covers were painted by professional artists under tight deadlines for little money. They didn't have the crutch of photoshop to tweak their fonts to make them just right. Once a style was chosen, it was pretty much written in stone. I went to an painting demonstration by an illustrator of children's books who had a table full of oil paintings on canvas he had done for various books over the course of his career. Although I was unfamiliar with his work, I would have given anything to have any of these originals as my own. You would have too.
posted by digsrus at 5:47 AM on March 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


It takes one of the guest commentaries to point out what is wrong with the main blogger's obwervations:
Thanks to Nix who says:

_Patterns of Chaos_ is a slightly famous book with a lot of amazing setpiece scenes which could have been used for the cover, starting with the destruction of entire planets, meticulously described, and ending with a transgalactic trip to a memorably unpleasant destination. If any book counts as overblown space opera, this one does.

So what did they use for the cover? A scowling cowled bloke, a weird plant, a badly-designed castle and a random number generator.
Now see, this is a legitimate criticism of a cover that just plain does a poor job of selling the book.

But most of the blogger's criticisms are just random and display no understanding of either the individual books or why the genre as a whole is sold that way. "Hey look! Nudity! Nipples! Pink! Poor art! Bad fonts!" This reminds me of the really stupid boarding pass criticism, which displayed zero understanding of what the item being criticized was for, who its audience was, or why it might look that way.

So in defence of the bad covers, let me just point out a few things:
  1. Lots of these stories did feature nudity and adventurous sexuality, or were being sold as if they did. The 1970's were a lot less uptight than modern times; I mean John Norman's Gor novels were shelved right along side Asimov and Clarke, and readily sold to kids. So yeah, nipples.
  2. The purpose of a book cover is to get it noticed so you will buy it, not to go into the Louvre. In a genre dominated by loud garish motifs it is going to be hard to sell the idea of a quiet subdued cover.
  3. The racial stuff was a big deal back then. Really.
  4. If you are trying to appeal to people who are looking for an escapist fantasy to contrast with what they see as an inferior RL experience, then you want it to look different from what people expect. This means you will deliberately violate just about every accepted element of design, and doing that is often going to be the right thing to do.

posted by localroger at 5:52 AM on March 27, 2010 [8 favorites]


I hate to disagree, but I think the covers of these books are great. The blogger's snide comments are very shallow. These covers were painted by professional artists under tight deadlines for little money. They didn't have the crutch of photoshop to tweak their fonts to make them just right. Once a style was chosen, it was pretty much written in stone. I went to an painting demonstration by an illustrator of children's books who had a table full of oil paintings on canvas he had done for various books over the course of his career. Although I was unfamiliar with his work, I would have given anything to have any of these originals as my own. You would have too.

I used to know somebody who collected "fantasy" art originals/prints as investments. Lord, I don't know, I guess hers were the decent ones? and not pictures of a busty Death or mermaids riding merdragons? I haven't got a point to make, sorry.
posted by Sova at 5:55 AM on March 27, 2010


Ouch - leading off with Steele Savage. Ouch. An acquired taste, sure... that I never managed to acquire.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 6:00 AM on March 27, 2010


I nominate the LOTR covers from the late 80s as particularly horrible.

Also, did you know that "Evil Is Live Spelled Backwards"
posted by Omon Ra at 6:24 AM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


You had me at "Black In Time."
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:51 AM on March 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


And I accepted your proposal of marriage at "Habeas Corpses."
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:57 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


The cover for Bradley's Hunters of the Red Moon is pretty true to the themes of the novel, as I recall. It's kind of a mark of shame that I can recall that novel, I suppose, but it was the late 70s, and reading material was in short supply.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:09 AM on March 27, 2010


I like how "font problems" slightly beats "muscles" in tag popularity.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:13 AM on March 27, 2010


I've read a couple of these books and it's pretty obvious the blogger has not read these books and is not even familiar with the books or their content. The covers fit the content on them. Really these are SF/Fantasy books not books on graphic design from the editors of WIRED or something.

Some are amusing tho, less so his commentary.
posted by MrBobaFett at 7:29 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


So soulless -- zombies drew those covers, methinks...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 8:00 AM on March 27, 2010


And I accepted your proposal of marriage at "Habeas Corpses."

Heh. "She must be super tough… she’s not even wearing shoulder pads."
posted by Artw at 8:07 AM on March 27, 2010


> I would have given anything to have any of these originals as my own. You would have too.

Well, perhaps the artist you refer to, but when it comes these fantasy hacks, then, er, not really.

Forget photoshop, I knew plenty of artists that were squeezed out by just photos - there used to be professions like fashion illustrator and album artist and if you couldn't do those, then you did cheap hippie, trippy sci-fi covers with massive over-use of the hand held air-brush to really punch it up.
posted by victors at 8:13 AM on March 27, 2010


This would definitely be a lot better if the author seemed to understand what he was mocking. The covers suck, but a lot of book covers did and still do. I recently saw a blog post comparing US and UK covers of books up for some particular literary prize (a friend had shared it in Google reader) and some of the covers were just plain bad to my admittedly uneducated eye. But the author explained what was good and bad about each cover, which was interesting stuff.

So: good idea, execution a bit lacking.
posted by immlass at 8:20 AM on March 27, 2010


Interestingly when SF Signal asked a bunch of people to pick their most memorable SF book covers some of them were also pretty awful, though there were some great ones in there too.
posted by Artw at 8:22 AM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Real Scifi Book Covers Of Gentlemen Broncos
posted by Artw at 8:23 AM on March 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Blimey I used to own this one! The time spent in the second hand bookshops* of my youth have obviously fried my critical facilities as I never thought anything odd about at the time**...

*The internet has given us many good things, like MeFi and Good Show Sir but I do regret that it destroyed the musty browsing of second hand bookshops

**Actually I think I got from a remaindered stock bookshop, now the best place to spot hideous book covers
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:14 AM on March 27, 2010


Oh and this seems to be one of the those few blogs where the comments are as good as the post, if not better. I think I'm going to be spending a long time here...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:16 AM on March 27, 2010


Yes, thanks for the link. I enjoyed looking at the covers, but agree that the blogger needs to work on his critical skills -- and his writing ones: there is a singular form of the word 'women'.
posted by trip and a half at 9:29 AM on March 27, 2010


This post needs a "wtf" tag.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 9:31 AM on March 27, 2010


I'm either ashamed or proud that I've read so many of these and they're still on my bookshelves.
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:36 AM on March 27, 2010


I think this is one of the best/worst science fiction covers I've ever come across. Green laser grid like the background of an 80s school picture? Check. Big haired/boobed woman wearing black rubber? Check. Unfortunately, this cover doesn't date the book as much as the fact that the characters use futuristic "fax" technology for most of their communication.
posted by brundlefly at 9:44 AM on March 27, 2010


Oops. Link.
posted by brundlefly at 9:44 AM on March 27, 2010


Oh man. I totally knew which book that was going to be. I have it in a box somewhere...
posted by Artw at 9:47 AM on March 27, 2010


Heh! I totally knew what that was gonna be, too. I remember seeing it in a supermarket when I was a teenager; a friend of the family (who was both an sf fan and a feminist) saw it just as I was starting to reach for it and said, "Oh God." Never did get around to it after that. Sorry, Mr. Sterling.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:00 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I actually love this cover. It just screams early 70's junior high school library.

I always loathed this cover for Jack Vance's Showboat World, which features Space Satan, Lex Luthor attacking Lancelot Link, Space Chimp with a mace, and an space iguana sticking out of the moon. Which actually sounds kind of awesome now that I write it down.
posted by gamera at 10:57 AM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yes, there are a lot of bad covers there. But the blogger is an idiot. One of his criticisms of Haldeman and Greenberg's Future Weapons of War is:
Might I add something of my own? Why don’t we only put the editors and none of the authors?
It's an anthology, dumbass. Edited by Haldeman and Greenberg. Yeah, sometimes people trumpet the ONE BIG NAME AUTHOR who contributed to their anthology, but that's also stupid. Publishing an anthology edited by Haldeman and Greenberg? Put the names Haldeman and Greenberg on the cover! Duh.
posted by Justinian at 11:03 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also: Not enough Baen or Darrel K. Sweet, although there are a few. I suppose that's just shooting fish in a barrel. Might as well simply link to the Baen website and be done with it.

Typical Baen Cover only with less shiny silver foil than usual.
posted by Justinian at 11:08 AM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cool post, thanks Artw. I almost missed this if not for the "contact activity" sidebar.
posted by marxchivist at 11:55 AM on March 27, 2010


Relevant, but a bit better:
Photoshopped genre book covers by blogger Mighty God King
posted by AugieAugustus at 12:22 PM on March 27, 2010 [11 favorites]


I hate to disagree, but I think the covers of these books are great. The blogger's snide comments are very shallow. These covers were painted by professional artists under tight deadlines for little money.

Aw, c'mon, I mean, I love Michael Whelan and, like, my dad smorked pot with the Hildebrant brothers in the sixties (no joke! My mother is convinced he posed as Luke Skywalker for the original Star Wars poster, but I don't think that's the case--I do know he was a hobbit in the first LOTR calendar) but some of these are really pretty goofy and terrible and poorly done. Of course, as a big ol' geek, looking at these just makes me fondly remember how much I coveted the books I loved as a kid, in spite of (or because of?) the cheesy art--not that modern SF covers are necessarily that much better.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:22 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, this is the Wheel of Time cover he had a problem with? Not one of these three? And his commentary is awful:

Horses. Three horses to be exact! Well, lets put a generic ranger on one of them, but I was thinking of something different for the others…. Oh! A female sorcerer and a huge black samurai! Man, this is going to be a bestseller!

I mean... it's kind of what the book is about. It's not like the artist is responsible for the content.

I think this would be a much better blog if its writers were familiar with the content of the books. A lot of the covers are funniest when compared to what they're trying to depict (like my three links above, where characters are blatantly bizarrely wrong in things like size.)
posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:25 PM on March 27, 2010


Relevant, but a bit better:
Photoshopped genre book covers by blogger Mighty God King


Best description of Mercedes Lackey ever.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:28 PM on March 27, 2010


Some of the covers in AugieAugustus' links are so true it's painful. So, so true.
posted by Justinian at 1:40 PM on March 27, 2010


I nominate the LOTR covers from the late 80s as particularly horrible.

They only look bad because the Balantine covers were so damn badass.

We had this poster in our room when we were kids, but we had to take it down because the dragon gave my sister nightmares.

Now those are some covers.
posted by louche mustachio at 5:10 PM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


The mouse over snark one this was was just fine.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:30 PM on March 27, 2010


This has caused me to snort, loudly, defeating my wife's feeble attempts at sleep.
posted by mwhybark at 11:57 PM on March 27, 2010


I always loathed this cover for Jack Vance's Showboat World, which features Space Satan, Lex Luthor attacking Lancelot Link, Space Chimp with a mace, and an space iguana sticking out of the moon.

To be clear, the cover had all those things, but none of them were in the book.

I was thinking earlier that Vance must either have not really cared or had no say in what went on the covers of his work, since so many of them seemed to belong on some other books.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:34 AM on March 28, 2010


Common misconceptions about publishing: Why did you pick such an awful cover for your new book?
posted by Artw at 8:39 AM on March 28, 2010


This article is hilarious.
posted by biochemist at 11:12 AM on March 28, 2010


I nominate the LOTR covers from the late 80s as particularly horrible.

The cover of The Hobbit gets me every time. I love picturing the artist sitting there going "What the hell is a hobbit," skimming the book, reading the parts about second breakfast, and deciding to just paint an obese guy with a little dagger. It just looks like bad cosplay.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:42 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


It just looks like bad cosplay.

So that would be cosplay, then.
posted by Justinian at 8:36 AM on March 29, 2010


Some of them even look like bad romance novel covers. Sheesh. Good for a laugh though.
posted by The Fly at 11:42 AM on March 29, 2010


That cover of The Two Towers from the 80s looks more like a slash fiction novelization.
posted by Ber at 12:22 PM on March 29, 2010


That cover of The Two Towers from the 80s looks more like a slash fiction novelization.

One wonders how much Gollum/Frodo is already out there. Oh, tricksy hobbit! Give it to us big and wriggly! Give it to us in... the precious!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:43 PM on March 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just noticed this one where the actual author of the book turns up in the comments... he wasn't too happy about the cover either. (Yes, I am reading them all from the beginning... why do you ask?)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 3:10 PM on April 3, 2010


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