Although you can see Bug-eyed Aliens in modern times (Men in Black, for example), it was already out-dated in 60s. In a special episode of Doctor Who which featured making of Doctor Who, the producer didn't want to include Bug-eyed Monsters because they were out-dated at that time.

Which Sci-Fi work created Bug-eyed Aliens/Monsters?

  • Are you asking for the origin of the phrase "bug-eyed monster" (easy) or the concept, i.e., the first work to describe aliens as having eyes that bulge out (much harder question)?
    – user14111
    Commented Mar 4, 2015 at 11:02
  • 5
    As you probably know, the expression "bug-eyed monster" was coined by Martin Alger in a letter to Thrilling Wonder Stories, August 1939 issue, p. 121.
    – user14111
    Commented Mar 4, 2015 at 12:23
  • user14111, I suggest you submit that as the answer, unless OP asks for the concept. It would be HS Wells that introduced the concept - in The War of the Worlds
    – Jim2B
    Commented Mar 4, 2015 at 14:55
  • 1
    @Jim2B The OP has not responded to requests for clarification, but I think the question must be about the concept, considering the OP's use of the variant form "bug-eyed aliens".
    – user14111
    Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 4:04
  • 1
    BEMs will be "out-dated" when real space aliens are discovered and found not to be bug-eyed. In other words, BEMs will never be out-dated.
    – user14111
    Commented Mar 5, 2015 at 8:10

1 Answer 1


As the OP has not provided a definition of "bug-eyed monster", we will go with the OED definition of "bug-eyed":

Having bulging eyes; esp. in phr. bug-eyed monster, an extra-terrestrial monster with bulging eyes; abbrev. B.E.M.

So we are looking for early instances of extra-terrestrial monsters with bulging eyes.

Apparently it was the cover of the June 1939 Thrilling Wonder Stories that inspired the coinage of the phrase "bug-eyed monster" in a letter by Martin Alger in the next issue (Thrilling Wonder Stories, August 1939), according to the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction. Alger wrote (see p. 121, column 2 at the Internet Archive):

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.

(By the way, the "SPWSSTFM" that Alger mentions is the Society for the Prevention of Wire Staples in ScienTiFiction Magazines, or something like that.)

Of course 1939 is nowhere near the beginning of BEMS in science fiction. As my answer to the question, I propose three covers from the first year of Amazing Stories, namely, Vol. 1, No. 2, May 1926, Vol. 1, No. 4, July, 1926, and Vol. 1, No. 7, October, 1926, all by the artist Frank R. Paul.

This is just a starting point for further research; no doubt earlier examples will be found. A commenter has suggested The War of the Worlds (1897) by H. G. Wells, but I have doubts about that: Wells describes his Martians as having "large dark-coloured eyes", but I'm not sure they are especially bulgy.

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