So I bought a secondhand copy of Samuel Delany’s Nova for one dollar at Bakka and just discovered that it has pages 25-56 where pages 153-184 should be. Bah. Oh well, at least I didn’t spend a lot of money on it!
I’m actually posting this photo to show you the cover because it’s so totally ridiculous. I think it’s the first paperback version from 1969. We’ve got a spaceship that looks like a distant cousin of Marvin from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie, some naked blonde chick hovering in the air wearing a bedsheet (Ruby? but she was black-haired), and Prince Red, a handsome blond man with a ridiculously clunky-looking prosthetic arm that looks like a monkey wrench on the end of a vacuum cleaner tube.
Here’s Ruby as described in the book:
There are two beauties (her face struck the thought in him, articulate and complete): with the first, the features and the body’s lines conform to an averaged standard that will offend no one: this was the beauty of models and popular actresses; this was the beauty of Che-ong. Second, there was this: her eyes were smashed disks of blue jade, her cheekbones angled high over the white hollows of her wide face. Her chin was wide; her mouth, thin, red, and wider. Her nose fell straight from her forehead to flare at the nostrils (she breathed in the wind—and watching her, he became aware of the river’s odor, the Paris night, the city wind); these features were too austere and violent on the face of such a young woman. But the authority with which they set together would make him look again, he knew, once he looked away; make him remember, once he had gone away. Her face compelled in the way that makes the merely beautiful sick with jealousy.
Prince is described as bony-faced and black-haired, wearing a silver glove to his shoulder that hides his prosthetic arm, which is quite as deft as his other one, but considerably stronger:
Prince raised his arm:
Copper mesh and jeweled capacitors webbed black metal bone; pullies whirred in the clear casing.
Lorq took another step.
Lorq dodged for the wall; the two boys spun around each other.
[…] Prince’s prosthetic arm swung up.
It caught him under the chin, bright fingers flat. It crushed skin, scraped bone, went on up, opening lip and cheek and forehead. Fat and muscle tore.
Lorq screamed, bloody mouthed, and fell.
It must be hard to illustrate Delany without dulling the kaleidoscopic imagery of his writing, which I think is why later printings tend to vivid abstract covers; but this is a pretty poor representation nevertheless. Delany writes in his 1998 essay “Racism and Science Fiction” that
[…] I submitted Nova for serialization to the famous sf editor of Analog Magazine, John W. Campbell, Jr. Campbell rejected it, with a note and phone call to my agent explaining that he didn’t feel his readership would be able to relate to a black main character. That was one of my first direct encounters, as a professional writer, with the slippery and always commercialized form of liberal American prejudice: Campbell had nothing against my being black, you understand. (There reputedly exists a letter from him to horror writer Dean Koontz, from only a year or two later, in which Campbell argues in all seriousness that a technologically advanced black civilization is a social and a biological impossibility… .). No, perish the thought! Surely there was not a prejudiced bone in his body! It’s just that I had, by pure happenstance, chosen to write about someone whose mother was from Senegal (and whose father was from Norway), and it was the poor benighted readers, out there in America’s heartland, who, in 1967, would be too upset…
This probably explains the peculiarly Aryan rendering of two secondary characters and the absence of Lorq Von Ray, the “unrelatable” black protagonist, on the cover.