Before today, I had never heard the name John Cayea, but thanks to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB), I was quickly able to find out that Cayea created the expressive but bizarre art featured on the cover of Eando Binder’s Night of the Saucers, which I purchased earlier this morning for a dollar and four cents:
[CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE]
One’s first impression of the above cover is of an attractive human couple about to kiss, but closer inspection reveals that what we’ve got here are two severed heads, each of which is suspended from a flying saucer by lines lashed to its hair. And what’s more, each dead head has not one but two faces, one human and the other bestial, that look in opposite directions like the two faces of the Roman god Janus. Judging from the copy on the back cover, I would venture to guess that image is intended to convey the idea of hidden identities, of aliens masquerading as humans, or maybe aliens as the puppeteers of human hosts, although I must admit that don’t intend to read the book any time soon to find out for sure. I just sampled a couple of pages at random and that’s quite enough for me: the writing is dreadful.
Anyway… turns out that Night of the Saucers, published in 1971, is the earliest listing for Cayea in the ISFDB; the latest is his Bosch-inspired cover for Stephen King’s The Stand, published in 1990. Since I can’t find any earlier work by Cayea on any other sites, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Night of the Saucers was (probably) one of the first cover illustration jobs of John Cayea’s career, and as such, I’d say it was a fine effort.
ISFDB has a small selection of covers with art by Cayea, published between 1971 and 1980 (although someone should tell the site admin that not all of them display properly). What one notices immediately as one browses through the images is that Cayea’s later covers are quite far removed, both technically and stylistically, from the cover displayed above; in fact, if one didn’t know better, one might think they were done by a different artist. To give you an idea of what I am going to call Cayea’s “mature style,” here are three of the best that ISFDB has to offer:
My favourite of the three is the cover of A Wreath of Stars — excellent work!