Irene Gallo, Tor’s art director, tells the story of this cover over at Tor.com, including showing off some alternative covers. Go take a look while I write up my own comments here. This post will be updated with those comments within the hour.
Okay. Here’s what I think of this cover:
I love love love love love it.
Why do I love it? Let me count the ways.
1. The title of the book is Redshirts. What should the cover be? I mean, duh, this is not rocket science. It’s simple, iconic and obvious in the best way.
2. Also, the cover looks almost exactly like I imagined it should look like in my head.
3. But it actually looks better than I imagined it in my head, because I am not an art designer or an art director, whereas Irene Gallo and Peter Lutjen are, and this is what they do. I love it when reality is better than what you imagined.
4. And aside from any of this, I think this is a magnificent piece of commercial art. Book covers are advertisements, both to readers and to booksellers. This cover works because it’s clear from the cover what you’re getting in the book, and you can see the thing from across a crowded real world bookstore — or in a tiny thumbnail on your favorite online bookstore. It’s an eye-catcher, and if you know what a “red shirt” is, and almost everyone does at this point, it’ll make you smile.
In short: Love love love love love it. I really could not be happier with this cover.
That said, I also love these alternate, rejected covers. In the article I linked to above, Peter Lutjen explains the idea behind these, and why he fiddled with these before going back to the idea of an actual red shirt. I think these covers are fantastic and very clever (I’m particularly fond of the middle one), but I don’t think they do what the final cover does, which is have the ability to grab you from across the room.
I also think that if Tor ever decides to try to spin the book to a non-science fiction crowd, say in a trade paperback edition for hipsters, these covers are the way to go. My brain is already calling these my “Michael Chabon covers,” with no disrespect to Chabon, who as far as I know has never shied away from his science fiction nerd tendencies. But you see what I’m getting at here. Be that as it may, each of these covers is smart, engaging and witty, and I really adore them all. I just like the final cover more.
And thus this is, for a commercial author, the best of all possible cover art situations: Four exceptionally cool cover treatments, with the best being the final art.
I like my life. I like my job. I like my publisher. And I need to send both Irene and Peter a big-ass fruit basket.
(Also: If you haven’t gone over to the Tor.com article already, here’s another reason to do so: the jacket flap synopsis is over there.)