bug-eyed monster n.

a monstrous alien with bulging eyes, esp. as a clichéd subject for cover illustrations in early science fiction magazines; cf. BEM n.


SF Criticism


  • 1939 M. Alger in Thrilling Wonder Stories Aug. 121/2 page image

    Speaking of The SPWSSTFM, the cover inspired me to organize the SFTPOBEMOTCOSFP. (Society For The Prevention Of Bug-Eyed Monsters On The Covers Of Science-Fiction Publications.) Yours for complete novels and more civilized covers.

  • [ 1939 G. M. Aylesworth Letter in Thrilling Wonder Stories Oct. 122/1 page image

    I like bug-eyed monstrosities on my stf. mags.; the farther out their orbs bulge, the better I like it! ]

  • 1949 F. Brown in Thrilling Wonder Stories Apr. 125/2 page image Fredric Brown bibliography

    B-bems?… You mean you are b-bug-eyed monsters? That’s what Elmo means by Bems, but you aren’t.

  • 1952 J. Blish Surface Tension in Galaxy Science Fiction Aug. v. 35/2 page image James Blish bibliography

    First of all, there was the bug[-]eyed monster. The thing was green and had two snapping claws, either one of which could have broken the ship in two like a spirogyra straw.

  • 1969 M. Z. Bradley Brass Dragon (1980) vii. 128 Marion Zimmer Bradley bibliography

    Evidently the many stories of flying saucers had some foundation in fact after all! But I wasn’t going to believe in Bug-Eyed Monsters!

  • 1979 D. Adams Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy (1981) 50 Douglas Adams bibliography

    Are you trying to tell me that…some green bug-eyed monster stuck his head out and said ‘Hi fellas, hop right in, I can take you as far as the Basingstoke roundabout’?

  • 1989 A. D. Foster Quozl xiii. 159 Alan Dean Foster

    Turns-theme-Over is no bug-eyed monster.

  • 1994 Science Fiction Age July 74/1

    Lehr’s use of bright colors and conventional SF symbols such as bug-eyed monsters, cityscapes, rocket ships.

  • 2018 N. T. Hamilton & J. Landin Set Theory 13

    Consider the statement, ‘Every Martian is a bug-eyed monster.’ This statement can be rephrased in terms of set theory in the following way: Let M be the set of all Martians and let BEM be the set of all bug-eyed monsters. Then the assertion, ‘Every Martian is a bug-eyed monster,’ is expressed by M ⊂ BEM.

Research requirements

antedating 1939

Earliest cite

Martin Alger in a letter to Thrilling Wonder Stories

Research History
Mike Christie found a cite in the 1952 magazine version of James Blish's "Surface Tension". Brian Ameringen checked the 1942 version of this story, "Sunken Universe", and the cite does not appear there.

According to an entry in Richard Eney's Fancyclopedia II, submitted by Leah Zeldes, this was coined in the January 1941 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories by Martin Alger. Frank Robinson located this cite and verified it.
Jeff Prucher subsequently located a 1939 letter by Martin Alger that also uses the term.
David Tate located and Mike Christie confirmed a 1949 cite from Fredric Brown's "All Good Bems".
Ben Ostrowsky submitted a 2018 cite from a book on set theory.

(Earliest cite in the OED is 1953.)

Last modified 2023-08-21 11:33:14
In the compilation of some entries, HDSF has drawn extensively on corresponding entries in OED.