19 May 2009

Judging a sardine by its can

Both JSBlog and DrC have mentioned the strange covers which adorn some fiction paperbacks; both draw their examples from science fiction. Neither mentioned film posters, which were very similar – consider, for example, the semiotically similar images used to publicise The day the earth stood still and King Kong.

On the covers of SF paperbacks, a frequent feature was a young woman in stylised pose wearing a costume which served no discernible purpose beyond attracting the viewer's eye to her erogenous zones. An example which I particularly remember was Heinlein's Podkayne of Mars which, in the version I read (illustration on the left), appeared to show the protagonist clutching a crystal ball whilst standing on one leg, examining the horizon, and being molested by a green octopus (this may or may not relate in some way to Unreal nature's post on Isabella Rossellini; I wouldn't know).

A quick Google image search reveals numerous other covers including, to be fair, a range of approaches ... from a skinny rib disco Podkayne whose handbag can also be used as a large padlock to the one also shown here (right) which sees our heroine as a latter day Alice in Wonderland.

As an aside, I seem to remember that the Podkayne storyline includes nuclear device which goes well beyond the rumoured “suitcase nuke”. It comes a s small package which can be hidden amongst the sundry travel items within an eleven year old boy's carry on luggage.

Unreal nature has a related post, considering book cover depiction of male stereotypes.


  • Robert A Heinlein, Podkayne of Mars, her life and times. 1963, New York,: Putnam.


2 comments:

Poor Pothecary said...

It's interesting that many of the Podkayne covers fixate on the fairy baby, which only has a bit part in the book, and they virtually all forget that a) she's just a rather naive 18, and b) the story is as much about her brother as her. This cover is probably the most accurate as to the focus of the story.

Dr. Psycho said...

Pothecary, I agree, that's a MUCH better cover painting. One of the few really relevant covers I've ever seen, actually.