Sunday, July 27, 2008

John Picacio: Behold the Man

John Picacio guests on Stargate: Atlantis executive producer Joseph Mallozzi's blog. John answers questions from Mallozzi's readers - all his comments are well worth checking out.

Meanwhile, here's a taste: "There was a time when cover illustrators weren’t even CREDITED with their work, which is absurd. Today, cover illustrators generally are at least credited for their work, whereas I find that a lot of the pre-90’s paperbacks and novels sometimes didn’t print the credit, and that was especially the case with pre-1970’s books. I think knowing who created the art helps foster an appreciation (and a marketplace) for the art itself in professional sf/fantasy work. From a professional standpoint, history shows that back in the 1950’s when the Ballantines were first building their publishing empire (now owned by Random House as Ballantine Books), they entrusted avant-garde artists like Richard Powers to create ground-breaking covers for their sf books, and they were rewarded with greater critical awareness, and booming sales of those books. Powers’ covers of the time were very modern and anti-traditional (i.e. anti-pulp, at a time when pulp dominated the book racks). Basically, the Ballantines had the courage to allow an artist to work outside the box of the existing marketplace tropes, and it both expanded the readership of the field and made a lot of money for them. These days, I don’t think publishers owned by multinational corporations are as willing to take a chance on ground-breaking artists like Richard Powers, unless they’re guaranteed in advance that it sells well, which means they’re usually chasing the tail rather than heading it. If you notice, when the Ballantines were working, the editorial department dictated the game to the marketing and sales department. Nowadays, that equation seems inverted. Today, marketing, sales, and accounting departments seem to dictate the final creative say to the editorial department, especially in terms of cover art. I don’t think cover art is better for it. Today’s audience is far more sophisticated than marketing departments currently envision. I’d like to see cover illustration in sf/fantasy be more proactive rather than reactive to the latest fads in movies, gaming, and tv."

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