Extended Edition: Alien Nightfall

Extended Edition: Alien Nightfall
Steve R Dodd

Here's another entry I cut from my art book, and the first one to be about an entire theme rather than a specific artist. Somewhat ironically, I opened this write-up by talking about how rare scenes set at night were, and that same rarity is why I wasn't able to find replacement artists when the ones I wanted fell through for a variety of reasons.


Nighttime is a rarer concept on ‘70s science-fiction covers than one might think. Perhaps publishers’ common mandate to keep things colorful dissuaded artists from the idea. Maybe it was confusion over whether “night” even exists on a planet where rotation speed, light sources, and atmosphere don’t match Earth’s. Still, it’s easy to see the quiet beauty in a silent alien night, when what you don’t see matters as much as what you do.

The domed outpost, always a popular motif, looks even more vulnerable in contrast with a beautiful but inhospitable darkness, as Steve R. Dodd and Alfred Kelsner both know.

This Alfred Kelsner illustration was originally for the 1996 cover Testflug, by Hubert Haensel, #395 in the Perry Rhodan planetary novels. This version appeared in 1999 for a hardcover collection of a spin-off series. But you can see more of the art on this one, so I like it more.

Alien nights also justify flipping on the spaceship searchlights, increasing the exploratory mood, as in Chris Foss’s 1973 art for Isaac Asimov’s Earth Is Room Enough.

1973 Chris Foss cover to Earth Is Room Enough, by Isaac Asimov

Michael Böhme serves up consistently amazing nighttime images, plunging a scene in darkness while outlining a mountain range in dewy light blue or a domed base in warm yellows.

Michael Böhme, Twilight, 1994

One work, Pyramidenstadt, brings a night to life with countless stars, glowing foliage, and the twinkling lights of a pyramid city.

Michael Böhme, Pyramidenstadt (City of Pyramids), 1988


That's all I wrote for that entry!

I cut for a lot of reasons: I was never able to get in touch with Alfred Kelsner, due to both a language barrier and the fact he has no online presence whatsoever; I dropped Michael Böhme because his body of work (mostly '90s-2000s) was too modern; and Chris Foss's licensing fee was one of the pricier ones, so I cut any images that I didn't absolutely need.

Michael Böhme is great, though! Here's another fun nighttime scene from him. You can check out some more art highlights from him over here on his website.

I very likely could have gotten the Steve R Dodd, but (I believe) it was unpublished, as Dodd didn't have a long career, making his work a bit off topic for an art collection that aims to be a history of that era. I've linked to this in the past, but check out this short documentary about Dodd for more about him.

Even the one alternate image that I had thrown in – this stellar 1981 cover art by Ken Barr for Night of Masks, by Andre Norton – fell through when I couldn't get in touch with Barr's estate at all.

Rockin' art, though. Just check out that green goo and the anglerfish-style tree lights!

There are a few more night-centric sci-fi and space artworks that I could have turned too, but very few that actually capture that "alien landscape" feel. Here's an interesting uncredited one, a 1983 cover for The Spirit of Dorsai, by Gordon R. Dickson:


This 1976 Don Davis NASA concept is half-nightfall – which highlights how mallable the astronomical concept of "night" itself is.

Don Davis

Perhaps this late-70s Battlestar Galactica concept art by Ralph McQuarrie points out why nighttime sci-fi art is rare: I love McQuarrie so much, but this particular piece strikes me as very muddy!

Ralph McQuarrie

Finally, here's a fun, undated Chris Moore. This one's more of an eclipse image than a nighttime one – and eclipses honestly deserve their own newsletter.

Chris Moore

I have some more examples over on my "night" tag on Tumblr, if you want to keep looking at some great art. Just look how adorable this one is!

Bob Eggleton illustration for the picture book Godzilla Likes to Roar