Emshwiller illustrates Bester


Having finished reading The Count of Monte Cristo I thought I’d, er jaunt from the 1840s into the far future by revisiting Alfred Bester’s Dumas-derived The Stars My Destination. I prefer the alternate title to Bester’s novel, Tiger! Tiger!, but Stars… is the one that’s more commonly used, with the unfortunate side-effect of making the book sound like a typical space opera of the 1950s. The story may begin in space but most of it takes place on Earth in the 24th century. Bester borrows the revenge theme and a couple of other details from The Count of Monte Cristo but wisely resists any attempt to imitate the labyrinthine plotting of the Dumas novel.


Before publication in book form, the story was serialised in four parts in Galaxy magazine, from October 1956 to January 1957; Ed “Emsh” Emshwiller illustrated each instalment as well as the cover of the debut issue. I’ve said before that one of the great benefits of being able to browse old magazines online is having the opportunity to turn up neglected illustrations like these. Bester’s novel has long been regarded as a genre classic—Michael Moorcock and William Gibson both refer to it as a favourite—but its print editions haven’t generated many memorable covers. Here we have Emshwiller illustrating the entire story, and doing an excellent job, yet his drawings have been buried for years.


For the purposes of this post I’ve removed the text surrounding some of the illustrations in order to highlight the drawings. The original printings, plus the full text of the serialised story, may be found at the links below:

Galaxy, October 1956
Galaxy, November 1956
Galaxy, December 1956
Galaxy, January 1957
















Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Rejected Sorcerer
The art of Ed Emshwiller, 1925–1990

7 thoughts on “Emshwiller illustrates Bester”

  1. One of my favorites! The 1967 Penguin paperback with the Tiger! Tiger! title has a great cover by Alan Aldridge. A little Peter Max-ish.

  2. One of the truly great books in the field. There is often references to textual differences between the UK “Tiger!Tiger!” edition and the US edition. Does anyone know what they were? I have not the time to read them side by side to compare. The Emshwiller illos are excellent, by the way…

  3. Alt-cartoonist Bill “Zippy The Pinhead” Griffith lived next door to Emshwiller when growing up, and he and his parents often modelled for various figures – wonder if that’s his mum on the cover…?

  4. Charles: I’m not sure but I think it might be something to do with the typographic layout at the end of the book. I think Bester got Jack Gaughan to draw some of the words but these graphics haven’t been carried over into other editions. That’s only my guess, however, I’ve not looked into the details.

    B Smith: That’s right, here’s the future Zippy creator as a space boy:

  5. Thanks for this, and for the good job presenting the images in text-free and crisp presentations.

    (Since mid-2021, I’ve been browsing the British Library’s huge archive of book illustrations on Flickr, doing some cleanup work on various selections, and presenting them in a “GOBI – Great Old Book Illustrations” account on Twitter. Most images I’ve posted there are from Victorian-era publications, but I’m pleased to see mid-20th century work like these Emshwillers being brought back to the attention of newer generations.)

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