Thursday, February 08, 2007

Judging Books by their Covers, Part IV

There's an interesting discussion of cover art over on Nethermore. Isaac Stewart talks pretty candidly, albeit pretty humorously, about what works and what doesn't for him, using a batch of recent covers as an example. Obviously, these are his subjective views - how could they not be - but you all know I'm very glad to see interest in/discussion of book cover art in general.

I'm still cracking up over his alignment wheel of "goodness" and "badness". God, we all owe so much of how we see the world to Gary Gygax, don't we? (I try to be Chaotic Good, but sometimes I slide into Chaotic Neutral, it's true).

And, obviously, I'm pleased to hear this: "Watch Tor books and Pyr books. These two are the best in the industry for good design and good art. Pyr is still a little hit and miss, but when they nail a cover, they hammer the goodness spot on." Isaac also points out the grand service that Tor art director Irene Gallo is doing for the entire industry, for artists, publishers and readers alike, just by running her blog, The Art Department. Her blog is one of the few blogs to make the Lou List of "required daily reading." (Aside: the others are Whatever, Roberson's Interminable Ramble, and Locus Online.)

Meanwhile, I just picked up my own copy of, and can't recommend highly enough, the new
Quantumscapes: The Art of Stephan Martiniere. While Martiniere's first book, Quantum Dreams,seemed to highlight mostly the cover illustration work for which he is primarily known in our industry, this book devotes a sizeable chunk of its pages to the creature designs he's done in the gaming and movie industry, aptly demonstrating the range of his talent. The two books fit together nicely to highlight the career of one of my personal favorite artists in the field.


Joe Abercrombie said...

I hear that, man.

I like to think I'm chaotic good. But why do I act like neutral evil?

Lou Anders said...

Ah, hard to trust those neutral evil fuckers.

Robert said...

Speaking of book cover art, just got my copy of Fast Forward 1, and John Picacio's cover just GLOWS. It's great. Looks forward into the SF-nal future while also echoing classic SF symbols of the past.

And now for the stories...


Lou Anders said...

I was impressed with how much the actual cover POPPED when I got it. I mean, I thought it looked great on a screen, but seeing the physical - it's my favorite of all my anthologies now.

In fact, John and I dialogued a lot about illustrator Richard Powers while he was coming up with this, about how forward looking Ballantine was to use Powers on all those SF covers. We wanted to approximate some of that energy for our time, and also, I think, extrapolate SF design "forward" from now. John was even going to write an essay about Powers for the anthology at one point, though it didn't happen for space/time reasons, and (I think) found its way into the Nebula Awards Anthology.

A.R.Yngve said...

What works in SF book covers:

1. Freudian symbolism

2. Surrealism

3. Big Dumb Objects (spaceships, artefacts, etc.)

4. Exotic E.T.s

5. Voluptuous women in skintight spacesuits.

(Just kidding...)

John Picacio said...

Hey, Robert --

Really glad you dig the cover. Yeah, you pretty much nailed where I was coming from....

Like Lou said, we talked a lot about this cover, and what this book wanted to be. I read Lou's introduction early in the process. Incredibly inspiring. Lou mentioned something about "approximating some of that energy (Powers') for our time." I might clarify that by saying that the thing I love about those Powers covers is that they challenge their audience. They refuse to be beauty pageant pieces that desparately preen to be liked for their surface polish. They're so powerful that way. At least to me. As far as the cover for FF1, and really any meaningful cover that I do, it's more and more important to me to create work that doesn't dwell in the cliches of the past. I think that's one of the most powerful lessons in Powers' art....they spoke to the audience of their time. Of course, in the end, I look at the FF1 cover and as much as it's one of my favorites, I see my own shortcomings more than anything. I've got a long way to go....but again, thanks for the kind words. :) I'm incredibly proud to be a part of FF1.