In early 1984 Penguin sent out a promotional booklet informing retailers that fantasy and science fiction were 'no longer specialist areas of freakish interest' and listing some of the titles that Penguin would release over the next year or so. The booklet also announced the launch of a Penguin fanzine, ZONE-SF and Fantasy News, which would appear three times a year as an insert in various UK comics and teen magazines such as Kerrang! and 2000 AD. For sf this was a younger target audience than usual, although no less 'eager to snap-up new products' as the booklet put it.

Penguin sf and fantasy promotion, 1984

This view of books as products and, by implication, covers as packaging had led to David Pelham's resignation as art director in 1979 and its effect on the sf titles released in 1983-87 can be seen below. The covers are clearly aimed at a young market but there is no consistency from one to the next and nothing to identify them as Penguin books except the logo. The assumption was that younger readers were not interested in who the publisher was, and based their buying decisions on the story alone, hence the showy covers and super-sized titles.

KINGSLEY AMIS (Ed) The Golden Age of Science Fiction, 1983 The Golden Age of Science Fiction (6382) edited by Kingsley Amis

An anthology of seventeen short stories, first published in 1981.

Published by Penguin Books March 1983 with a cover by Mick Brownfield.

• Anthony Boucher : The Quest for St Aquin
• Philip Latham : The Xi Effect
• Frederik Pohl : The Tunnel Under the World
• Brian Aldiss : Old Hundredth
• James Blish : A Work of Art
• Kurt Vonnegut : Harrison Bergeron
• J G Ballard : The Voices of Time
• Robert Sheckley : Specialist
• H Beam Piper : He Walked Around the Horses
• Cordwainer Smith : The Game of Rat and Dragon
• Arthur C Clarke : The Nine Billion Names of God
• Harry Harrison : The Streets of Ashkelon
• Damon Knight : The Country of the Kind
• Isaac Asimov : The Machine That Won the War
• F L Wallace : Student Body
• Jerome Bixby : It's a Good Life
• Poul Anderson : Sister Planet

This outbreak of so-called 'selling covers' and more aggressive, targeted marketing went beyond sf to much of the popular fiction that Penguin was publishing, and while such covers caught the eye, to many people it was for the wrong reasons. For a start they made the books look cheap – something Allen Lane had been determined to avoid when he founded Penguin back in 1935 – and as the company's fiftieth anniversary approached, this apparent drop in design standards seemed like a betrayal of its founder's ideals, a move down-market aimed at shifting more 'product'.

ARKADY and BORIS STRUGATSKY Prisoners of Power, 1983 Prisoners of Power (5134) by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

First published 1971 as Obitaemyi ostrov.

Published by Penguin Books July 1983, with an introduction by Theodore Sturgeon.
The cover illustration is by Tom Pogson.

It would be easy to conclude that Penguin had sold its soul and was now simply in it for the money, but things were not so straightforward. In part it was a response to the demands of wholesalers and other large outlets whose stack 'em high and sell 'em cheap approach to bookselling was later to become a familiar sight. But with fierce competition from other publishers, it was also a question of the company's survival and to Penguin's Chief Executive, Peter Mayer, that meant profitability. As Phil Baines notes in Penguin by Design: 'While many will argue that, from a design point of view, Mayer's era marks the all-time low in quality at Penguin, that opinion obscures the fact that, while the company made a loss of £242,000 in 1979, it made a £5.64 million profit only three years later'. Aesthetics aside, Mayer was simply doing his job.

PAULINE GEDGE Stargate, 1983 Stargate (6639) by Pauline Gedge

First published 1982.

Published by Penguin Books September 1983 with a cover by Bob Haberfield.
FRED HOYLE The Black Cloud, 1983 The Black Cloud (1466) by Fred Hoyle

1983 reprint with a cover by Jon Harris.
MORE COVERS >>
FREDERIK POHL and C M KORNBLUTH The Space Merchants, 1984 The Space Merchants (2224) by Frederik Pohl and C M Kornbluth

1984 reprint with a cover by Peter Goodfellow.
MORE COVERS >>

This unabashed pursuit of profit and outpouring of mass-market covers was not all bad. The 1984 reprint of The Space Merchants works nicely as packaging and cover art, but its depiction of a futuristic agora is spoiled by the typography stamped obliquely across it. The exaggerated perspective of this deserted square, with its bust in a bra and other strange statuary, is a pastiche of paintings by the founder of metaphysical art, Giorgio de Chirico.

JACK L CHALKER The Return of Nathan Brazil, 1984 The Return of Nathan Brazil (6818) by Jack L Chalker

Part four of the Well of Souls series, first published in 1980.

Published in Penguin Books February 1984 with a cover by Peter Goodfellow.
<< Part 3 / Part 5 >>
JACK L CHALKER Twilight at the Well of Souls, 1984 Twilight at the Well of Souls (6819) by Jack L Chalker

Part five of the Well of Souls series, first published in 1980.

Published in Penguin Books July 1984 with a cover by Peter Goodfellow.
<< Part 4
PAUL PREUSS Broken Symmetries, 1984 Broken Symmetries (7163) by Paul Preuss

First published 1983.

Published by Penguin Books November 1984 with a cover by Mark Harrison.
The Robert Sheckley Omnibus, 1984 The Robert Sheckley Omnibus (3982)

1984 reprint with a cover by Adrian Chesterman.
MORE COVERS >>
KEITH ROBERTS The Furies, 1985 The Furies (7191) by Keith Roberts

First published July–September 1965 as a three-part serial in Science Fantasy magazine.

Published by Penguin Books January 1985 with a cover by Stephen Crisp.
RUDY RUCKER Software, 1985 Software (7291) by Rudy Rucker

First published 1982.

Published by Penguin Books February 1985 with a cover by Peter Gudynas.
MORE COVERS >>
ISAAC ASIMOV et al (Eds) Machines That Think, 1985 Machines That Think (7194) edited by Isaac Asimov et al.

An anthology of twenty-nine stories about robots and computers, first published in 1983.

Published by Penguin Books July 1985 with a cover by Peter Goodfellow.

• Ambrose Bierce : Moxon's Master
• John Wyndham : The Lost Machine
• Harl Vincent : Rex
• Isaac Asimov : Robbie
• Harry Bates : Farewell to the Master
• Robert Moore Williams : Robot's Return
• Lester del Rey : Though Dreamers Die
• A E van Vogt : Fulfillment
• Isaac Asimov : Runaround
• Harlan Ellison : I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream
• Isaac Asimov : The Evitable Conflict
• Murray Leinster : A Logic Named Joe
• Poul Anderson : Sam Hall
• Walter M Miller : I Made You
• J F Bone : Triggerman
• Harry Harrison : War with the Robots
• Isaac Asimov : Evidence
• Michael Shaara : 2066: Election Day
• Philip K Dick : If There Were No Benny Cemoli
• Gordon R Dickson : The Monkey Wrench
• Arthur C Clarke : Dial F for Frankenstein
• Robert Silverberg : The Macauley Circuit
• John Brunner : Judas
• Fredric Brown : Answer
• Philip K Dick : The Electric Ant
• Isaac Asimov : The Bicentennial Man
• Vernor Vinge : Long Shot
• Gene Wolfe : Alien Stones
• George Zebrowski : Starcrossed
KEITH ROBERTS Molly Zero, 1985 Molly Zero (7553) by Keith Roberts

First published 1980.

Published by Penguin Books October 1985 with a cover by David O'Connor.
KURT VONNEGUT Cat's Cradle, 1985 Cat's Cradle (2308) by Kurt Vonnegut

1985 reprint with a cover by Peter Elson.
MORE COVERS >>
PIERRE BOULLE Planet of the Apes, 1985 Planet of the Apes (2401) by Pierre Boulle

1985 reprint with a cover by Peter Jones.
MORE COVERS >>
FRANK HERBERT Destination: Void, 1985 Destination: Void (2689) by Frank Herbert

1985 reprint with a cover by Allan Craddock.
MORE COVERS >>
BRUCE STERLING Schismatrix, 1986 Schismatrix (8135) by Bruce Sterling

First published 1985.

Published by Penguin Books February 1986 with a cover by John Harris.
JOHN BRUNNER The Tides of Time, 1986 The Tides of Time (8240) by John Brunner

First published 1984.

Published by Penguin Books March 1986 with a cover by Terry Oakes.
BRIAN ALDISS and SAM LUNDWALL (Eds) The Penguin World Omnibus of Science Fiction, 1986 The Penguin World Omnibus of Science Fiction (8067) edited by
Brian Aldiss and Sam Lundwall

An anthology of 26 short stories first published by Penguin Books July 1986 with a cover by Alan Craddock.

• Josef Nesvadba : The Half-wit of Xeenemuende
• Hugo Correa : Alter Ego
• André Carneiro : A Perfect Marriage
• Tetsu Yano : The Legend of the Paper Spaceship
• Bob Shaw : Small World
• Leon Zeldis : The Whore of Babylon
• Robert Sheckley : Cost of Living
• Ion Hobana : Night Broadcast
• Konrad Fialkowski : A Perfect Christmas Evening
• Jon Bing : A Meeting in Georgestown
• B Sridhar Rao : Victims of Time
• Bertil Martensson : Myxomatosis Forte
• Karl Michael Armer : BCO Equipment
• Arkady and Boris Strugatsky : Six Matches
• Goran Hudec : The Ring
• Carlos Maria Federici : 'Oh, Lenore!' Came the Echo
• Lino Aldani : Quo Vadis, Francisco?
• Ljuben Dilov : Forward, Mankind!
• Zheng Wenguang : The Mirror Image of the Earth
• René Rebetez-Cortes : The New Prehistory
• Quah Kung Yu : Equality
• Péter Lengyel : Rising Sun
• Annemarie van Ewyck : The Lens
• Philippe Curval : Progenitor
• Bertram Chandler : The Cage
• Victor Sabah : An Imaginary Journey to the Moon
HARRY HARRISON Make Room! Make Room!, 1986 Make Room! Make Room! (2664) by Harry Harrison

1986 reprint with a cover by Adrian Chesterman.
MORE COVERS >>
BRIAN ALDISS (Ed) The Penguin Science Fiction Omnibus, 1986 The Penguin Science Fiction Omnibus (3145) edited by Brian Aldiss

1986 reprint with a cover by Peter Jones.
MORE COVERS >>
GEOFFREY HOUSEHOLD Arrows of Desire, 1987 Arrows of Desire (8949) by Geoffrey Household

First published 1985.

Published by Penguin Books April 1987 with a cover by Stephen Crisp.