Friday, August 29, 2008

Magazine Cover Art: H. Beam Piper's "Omnilingual"

Astounding Science Fiction
Vol. 58, No. 6, February 1957

Cover: Linguist Martha Dane, the main character in "Omnilingual," a short story by H. Beam Piper. Illustration by Frank Kelly Freas.

Here’s how Justine Larbalestier, in her The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction (2002), describes the cover:
Astounding was the leading science fiction magazine at the time. That Astounding had so few 'girls' grace its cover is an indication of the magazine’s superiority. The one girl who was represented on the cover was not just a girl, but a scientist, and a fully clothed one at that. It illustrates the story ‘Omnilingual’ by H. Beam Piper. The story’s protagonist is a linguist, Martha Dane, and it is she who is illustrated on the cover: forehead creased in concentration, poring over various texts, pen in one hand and her other hand held to her temple as though thinking. She is not stereotypically beautiful and her breasts are not noticeable. It is an unusual cover for the time, as is the story.”

To learn more about Piper's “Omnilingual,” read “Discover How Archaeologists Translated Secret Martian Writings!”, a cool review that was just posted over at

If you like intellectual stories about Martian archaeology, linguistics, and Rosetta Stones, you might enjoy Ben Bova’s new novel, Mars Life (2008), which involves an anthropological dig on Mars and the discovery of ancient Martian hieroglyphics.

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