Science fiction and fantasy covers


Two samples from a great Flickr set of science fiction and fantasy paperback covers. Both these titles were first published in 1976 and, unlike many Flickr postings, this set gives credit to the cover artists where known. The Moorcock book is one of his Elric volumes and while it isn’t a favourite of mine, the painting by Michael Whelan certainly is. Whelan produced several Elric covers in the 1970s of which this is easily the most successful, and one of the few works by any artist after Jim Cawthorn to capture the weird inhumanity of the Melnibonéan.

The Ellison collection, on the other hand is one of his finest, with a wraparound cover by the author’s favourite artists Leo & Diane Dillon. Just last week I completed the interior design for Tachyon’s forthcoming The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction which included among a host of great stories The Deathbird by Harlan Ellison, a remarkable piece of writing and one of the best pieces in the entire book. That’s now gone off to the printer so I’ll be posting samples of the pages here shortly.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The book covers archive
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Groovy book covers
Jim Cawthorn, 1929–2008
Harlan Ellison: Dreams with Sharp Teeth
Revenant volumes: Bob Haberfield, New Worlds and others

9 thoughts on “Science fiction and fantasy covers”

  1. Of the two covers pictured above, I’m partial to the Deathbird Stories. Both of these covers make the cover of my first published novel, Long Journey to Rneadal, look a lot less complicated and/or intricate. Still, the covers are an art form that helps people to select a book. If the cover reflects the content of the novel, then it’s a good match. Thanks for sharing these covers.

  2. I have mixed feelings about some of Whelan’ s work. His covers for Zelazny’s Amber are OK, but don’ t quite match the material in my opinion. Also, I seem to recall a series of Lovecraft covers that were gruesome and lurid (and not in a good way). Nonetheless, I like his Elric stuff a lot. They are pulpy and iconic (and have probably inspired countless doom metal bands). One of the definitive interpretations of the albino, although Moorcock had a point when he joked that Elric looks a bit too strong and healthy on them!

    That Deathbird Stories cover on the other hand is stunning and fits the book perfectly. Leo and Diane Dillon also did the woodcuts for the interior of Dangerous Visions, didn’t they? Their work is instantly recognisable. It can be quite bleak though.

    Anyway, I love both illustrations. Thanks for sharing John.

  3. What kind of fantasy/fantastique does Moorcock trade in out of curiosity? Is it Tolkienesque, or more Twilight Zone-ish, or is it more shadowy symbolism and baroque intrigue? Judging by the usually exquisite (especially the Savoy- Jewel in the Skull) cover art I’ve seen of his, or rather, his accompanying artists, on this site, I would believe any one or combination of the three.

  4. Dimitris: I have a book of Whelan’s work and usually feel the same: I like some of it a lot, other stuff I feel can be rather bland although he’s as subject to the whims of art departments as any cover artist. One thing I’ve always liked is his sense of aesthetics; he’s great with composition and never puts stupid clothing or decorative crap on his characters. The details on the ship Elric is standing on are marvellous, they look authentic. And yes, Mike M has said to me he felt Whelan’s Elric was over-muscled (which he is in some of the other paintings) but he didn’t mind so much when Gollancz used this Elric picture for their Fantasy Masterworks collection.

    Yes, the Dillons did the great woodcuts illos for the Dangerous Visions books.

    Wiley: there’s different areas of Moorcock since he’s written so much. Elric is occult-inflected sword & sorcery closer to Fritz Leiber and Clark Ashton Smith than Tolkien. The recent Stealer of Souls collection is the best place to start. He dismisses much of his other fantasy stuff as hack work (which it was quite often), whilst doing that he was trying more experimental writing with the Jerry Cornelius books. My other favourite Moorcock fantasy is the Dancers at the End of Time books which are a kind of science fantasy comedy of manners with time travel added to the mix. And he’s also done enough which could count as shadowy symbolism and baroque intrigue with the Von Beck books.

  5. As an author, I am particularly interested in views on book covers. The fact is that the cover of my book is the window through which the world will first look at it as it lurks there on the shelves or vies for position among many others on a web page. And, as in all other walks of life, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

    My publisher initially asked me about my view on what it should look like and then went away and came back with the diesign – I think they did a first class job, but would appreciate any comments for Book Two, which is currently in preparation. It can be viewed on Amazon or at

    Chris Warren
    Author and Freelance Writer
    Randolph’s Challenge Book One – The Pendulum Swings

  6. i’ve got the whole Elric series, partly because of the Whelan covers. The E.R.B’s Mars’ covers are great too (well, most of them)

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