Great Balls of Fire: History of Sex in Science Fiction Illustration
`Great Balls of Fire' (120 pp) was published in December, 1977 by Grosset and Dunlap.
The cover illustration is reprinted from Ken Barr's painting for the cover of the Marvel / Curtis magazine 'Doc Savage', issue No. 3, December 1975 (`The Inferno Scheme').
The book is divided into 9 (roughly chronological) chapters, covering the presentation of sexual themes and iconography in the genre from the pulp era, up to the mid 70s. One chapter focuses on S & M themes, another on whether Conan (and other barbarian heroes) are gay (!?), and another on the implausibility of inter-species matings.
Harrison's commentary is casual and conversational in style, rather than pedantic.
The book is of course heavily illustrated, and although the illustrations are large in size, some taking up an entire page, many of the black and white images are poorly reproduced.
There are magazine covers from the pulp era, panels from comics, and a surprising amount of material excerpted from 'Metal Hurlant' magazine (at the time `Great Balls' was being written, earlier in 1977, the English version of 'Metal Hurlant', 'Heavy Metal', was just getting started).
The content ranges from PG-13 to R, with little - if any - illustrations vying for an 'X' rating, particularly by today's standards.
Needless to say, modern audiences used to the cornucopia of internet porn are going to find the content of `Great Balls' tame, even quaint.
People under 30 will probably be greatly amused at the idea of 70s stoners seeking, and finding, titillation in the depictions of naked vampire chicks, naked barbarian girls, and naked female astronauts in the pages of 'Heavy Metal', 'Creepy', 'Vampirella', and '1984'.
The nearly 40 years since the book was published have seen such change in the genre and in popular culture that `Great Balls' is best read as a manifestation of 70s nostalgia.
Something belonging on the shelf alongside Jack Boulware's excellent `Sex, American Style: An Illustrated Romp Through the Golden Age of Heterosexuality' (1997).
`Great Balls' is right at home alongside your puka shell necklace, your royal blue with orange trim Puma running shoes, your butternut-hued shag carpet, your roach clip, and your Brut cologne.... and 'Brain Salad Surgery', by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, playing on your stereo......