Science fiction's mascot is downright terrifying

Although Hugo Gernsback is best-known among fans for creating the first-ever magazine devoted to science fiction, he published a great many science fiction magazines, continuing well into the 1950s. However, while science fiction evolved and progressed around him, he remained firmly rooted in the style of the old Amazing Stories. Even his artists from decades earlier had stuck by him, so his later magazines carried illustrations that looked straight out of the Art Deco era. For Gernsback, sci fi had one and only one purpose: to teach science, and the more science an author could cram into a story, the better Gernsback liked it.

To this end he commissioned the pioneer artist, Frank R. Paul, to create a symbol that represented everything Gernsback thought science fiction should be. The result, published on the back cover of the October 1953 Science Fiction + is kind of scary if not downright disturbing.

Let's let Gernsback describe it in his own words:

Science fiction's mascot is downright terrifying

The symbolization of science-fiction as suggested by many of its components is graphically expressed in a unique illustration on our back cover. The form is that of a functioning robot, motivated by an electronic brain. Its head is Mount Palomar Observatory, and its nose the 200-inch telescope, which gathers light rays billions of light years away and helps piece together the mystery of the universe. Its ears are search radar units which collect the electronic waves of the stars. The trunk of its body is a complex atomic power generator that represents the foundation of our future progress. The right arm is a rocket ship reaching for the stars, and its fingers exploratory off-shoot ships. The left arm is the Hayden Planetarium projector, which brings the stars and planets dose to us and shows us the mechanics of our universe. At the waist, searchlight beams foretell the progress of scientific research. The legs are radio and television masts comprising the structure of modern communication, while the feet are caterpillar tractors capable of surmounting many natural obstacles. The huge crystalline growths symbolize the exploration and conquest of distant and alien worlds. The blazing sun, at left, shows how it appears on an airless planet! Famed veteran artist Frank R. Paul, in his inimitable style, portrayed the idea which was conceived by the editor.

And that's what science fiction is all about.