Venus Plus X by Theodore Sturgeon

Published in 1960, Venus Plus X is a science fiction novel by Theodore Sturgeon. The cover blurb describes this title as “The strangest science fiction novel Theodore Sturgeon has ever written.” Sturgeon himself said that “…my aim in writing Venus Plus X a) to write a decent book b) about sex.” Apparently, he succeeded in that goal; the novel was a 1961 Hugo finalist.

The book includes an extensive postscript mentioning the many works Sturgeon used as references when writing this novel. Books mentioned include Are Clothes Modern? by Bernard Rudofsky, Patterns of Culture by Ruth Benedict, and The Holy Bible. The name of the world the book was set in, Ledom, came from a can of Sturgeon’s favorite tobacco (spelled backward).

This cover, from the novel’s first edition, is the work of artist Victor Kalin. While Kalin frequently painted covers for books and magazines, he was also a photographer and musician. He spent a year touring as a trumpet player with the Jimmy Caton Jazz Band.

During World War II, Kalin was the illustrator for Yank Magazine, a morale booster for enlisted men. It is the most-read publication in the history of the U.S. military. After the war, Kalin created covers for more than 200 paperback books. Later in his career, he returned the the world of music, creating over 100 album covers for labels like RCA Victor and Philco.