Cover Lover’s father (1928-2003) was an enthusiastic reader of genre novels, particularly hard-boiled mysteries and speculative science-fiction. He grew up during the Great Depression and endured world war, the twin threat of Communism and nuclear annihilation, and the hula hoop. Like so many people of his era, reading was a convenient (and cost-effective) method of entertainment and escape.
When Worlds Collide was written by Philip Wylie & Edwin Balmer and originally published in 1933. Trailblazing for its time, the novel revolves around a pair of planets (Bronson Alpha and Bronson Beta) on a collision course with Earth. A group of scientists led by Cole Hendron manages to build a couple of spaceships and evacuate enough survivors to spawn a sequel, After Worlds Collide. This edition from the early 1950’s, with cover art by Robert Stanley, followed George Pal’s 1951 film adaptation.
Cover Lover’s father never wanted to be an astronaut, but he was fascinated with the conquest of outer space. Maybe it represented a pleasant alternative to the planet he was living on, or maybe he was hoping to meet the kind of woman depicted on the cover of Worlds Within (1950). Cover Lover cannot speak to the quality of writing in Rog Phillips’ book—there are characters named Rax Antl and Artaxl and Montakotl and Cover Lover had to stop reading at page 18—but just look at the cover art by Malcolm Smith. Va-va-va-voom!
Donald Keyhoe was a former Marine who became a popular UFO expert in the 1950’s. His first book, The Flying Saucers are Real (1950), was based on an article he wrote for True magazine; it would eventually sell over 500,000 copies. In the book, Keyhoe suggests that the Air Force was concealing the truth about aliens. His follow-up, Flying Saucers From Outer Space (1953), is comprised of interviews and official Air Force reports. The book’s appendices include a list of 51 “official” UFO sightings and a copy of an Air Force questionnaire for witnesses of “unidentified aerial phenomenon.”
“Thrilling Tales of a Time Beyond Tomorrow” is the alliterative promise of Tomorrow, The Stars. Robert Heinlein is listed as the book’s editor, but he was only responsible for the introduction; the stories (from such stars as Asimov, del Rey, Leinster, Leiber, and a 28-year-old Kurt Vonnegut) were actually chosen by Frederik Pohl and Judith Merril. Originally published in 1952, this Signet paperback is from August, 1953. On the book's back cover, Vonnegut fans will recognize the story description “When war is prevented—by dynamopsychism!” as a reference to “Report on the Barnhouse Effect” (later collected in Welcome to the Monkey House).
The Gods Hate Kansas by Joseph Millard was published as a paperback original in 1964, and sports the kind of kitschy cover (painted by Jack Thurston) that designers love to reproduce as postcards or refrigerator magnets. In fact, you can buy a 16” x 20” print of the cover for $39.99. So how’s the book? Nine meteors land in Kansas and promptly explode. Aliens take mental command of the meteorite investigators and will them to build a rocket. Then, the Crimson Plague strikes! The book’s title was even co-opted by a Ft. Lauderdale rock band. Were they hoping for a meteoric rise to fame?