Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Space Powers

I've drooled before of the Library of America's boxed sets. They put together really nice-looking collections, and it would be nice to see them rerelease some of their back catalogue in this form (as they have done with their noir/crime collections, for example).

The latest LoA releases are their two volumes of important American science-fiction from the 1950s: this is the really good stuff that transcended its (usual) pulp magazine origins and helped build the genre in its modern form.

The two books and the box are all decorated with art by Richard Powers, whose strange, surrealism-influenced images ended of on the covers of more than 1000 SF books. Despite never being much of an SF fan, his evocatively strange paintings are central to its mid-century development. (see more of his work here, if the link is up.)

And here are the original paintings used:

The books included are:

Frederik Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth: The Space Merchants
Theodore Sturgeon: More Than Human
Leigh Brackett: The Long Tomorrow
Richard Matheson: The Shrinking Man
Robert Heinlein: Double Star
Alfred Bester: The Stars My Destination (pleasingly, published with all of the typographical jiggery-pokery that is often left out of modern reprints)
James Blish: A Case of Conscience
Algis Budrys: Who?
Fritz Leiber: The Big Time

A couple of these were originally published with Powers covers:

Compare these with the rather more straightforward, literal-representation-of-scenes-from-the-book covers the others received.

Cover by Bob Engle

Cover by Ed Emshwiller


jb said...

Is the box worth getting? I've seen it on the LoA website, but since I'm unfamiliar with all the stories (although I've heard of, but not read, most of the authors) I've been a bit unsure.

I did love their noir collections, although I got them individually & thus missed out on the nice box they later made for them...

JRSM said...

I'd definitely say get it, if you can find a decent price: 'The Space Merchants', 'More Than Human', 'The Long Tomorrow', 'The Shrinking Man', 'The Stars My Destination' and 'A Case of Conscience' are all genuinely great and important books. I'm unconvinced of the merits of Heinlein and Fritz Leiber can be very hit and miss, while Budrys's best, 'Rogue Moon', came later.

jb said...


I'll put it on the list. I see Amazon have it fairly reasonably - especially for the number of novels included - so I'm sure I'll get around to it sometime...

M.H. said...

Seen this?
Partridge had to paint a faux-Powers cover of his own, which he seems slightly ashamed of, but I think it looks rather nice.

JRSM said...

That's actually a pretty decent tribute to Powers's style!

M.H. said...

Here's a pic with a little higher resolution - it's worth noting there's a person and a rocket ship there!

I've been drooling over "The Art of Richard M. Powers" by Jane Frank, which is kind of unnecessary since it's neither expensive nor hard to get so I should just go ahead and buy it. Hmmm.

Anyway, here's a wonderful flickr set of Powers covers:

JRSM said...

Thanks for that--some real gems in that set I hadn't seen before.