About The Cover, Tin House #51

Elissa Schappell

You could argue that the art of Howard V. Brown did as much to shape the American public’s perceptions of the awesome power of technology and the future fate of mankind during the 1930s and through the 1950s as the stories of visionary futurists such as H. P. Lovecraft that appeared inside the scientific and technological journals. While sci-fi authors told us of our impending fate, Brown—with his images of fiendish laser-eyed robots wasting cities, flying saucers hovering over the heartland, and tentacled aliens abducting earth women in space bikinis while their male companions stood by powerless to save them—showed us in vivid detail what we could expect.

Unlike those of most of Brown’s peers, who favored garish primary-color palettes and simplistic composition, Brown’s alien dreamscapes were rendered in a more sophisticated, naturalistic palette that included shades of violet, foggy grays, icy greens, and soft blues, and portrayed Martian hordes viewed from the perspective of a cowering shrink-rayed populace. The most adept of the early science fiction artists when it came to painting life-forms, be they human, monster, or robot, Brown is widely regarded as the master of the “mutant” and famously credited with inventing the now ubiquitous “Bug Eyed Monster.” Outside of his work—which he rarely signed—little is known of Howard V. Brown, save that he was born in Lexington, Kentucky, served in the military, and traveled extensively in South America and the West Indies, claiming it helped him to relax. Is it possible he vanished on one of these expeditions? Devoured, perhaps, by a bloodthirsty pitcher plant? Or— and this is what I choose to believe—whisked into the heavens by friendly big-eyed aliens in a silver rocket ship?