[DWJ] Space squids and other monsters

Minnow minnow at belfry.org.uk
Tue Apr 21 12:26:32 EDT 2009

Jenny Schwartzberg pointed out:

>Coming late into this conversation, I did want to say that many old pulp
>magazine covers portrayed weird squid- or octopi-looking monsters
>threatening people and spaceships.  The covers often had very little to
>do with the stories inside the magazines, so this is a visual
>science-fiction trope that later authors spun into words.

There is something rather splendid about a creature that relies on being
water-borne being depicted as menacing a creature that relies on not being
underwater in order to breathe, isn't there...  :-)

"Weird Tales" had a lot of covers (mostly between 1932 and 1938, with a few
more occasionally until 1945, according to Grant and Nicholls in the SFE)
by Margaret Brundage that certainly involved scantily-clad damsels being
menaced by various alien nasties, but the ones I have seen mostly seemed to
be more like giant insects or giant apes than like squids.

MB was certainly regarded as "influential" (and I think had the first
female nude on a cover, no less), and maybe she did grow up with pictures
of giant squid around her: she was born in 1900.

Other pulp cover-artists may well have had a similar background.

Oh, and there was a pulp that was actually called "Octopus", apparently.
Wow!  I wonder what sort of illustration *that* had on its cover!  It only
had one issue (which for some reason was called Vol 1 #4) and came out in
Feb/Mar 1939, which is a bit late to be an influence on art from 1932-38,

But all of this doesn't really excuse someone in the 1980s and 1990s
apparently feeling able to claim that SF = space-travelling squids,
ignoring everything after the pulp covers of the 1930s and 1940s (or indeed
of the 1880s and 1890s).  That seems to me to be purely absurd.  One might
as well claim that DWJ writes only school stories, on the basis of having
come across a copy of *Witch Week* but not read it.


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