Cover Art

Charlie Stross is showing off the cover to his upcoming novel Accelerando on his site, and it is indeed a most excellent cover. Being part of the super-secret writers cabal that I am (I could tell you more but then I’d have to remainder you), I’ve had a peek at the novel itself, which I think will be the science fiction book to beat in 2005 (and damn you Charlie, he said, because his own book is in that year, too). Of course, I haven’t read Cory Doctorow’s Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town yet, so we’ll just have to see.

Someone, incidentally, also has excellent cover art, by Dave McKean, and I have to say I’m pleased for both of them that both of them have books whose covers project a higher level of sophistication than you might normally see in the genre. I don’t think it’s any secret that I’m often very critical of science fiction art, and indeed I can think of at least one science fiction publishing house that I would not have sold Old Man’s War to, specifically because their book covers are flat-out embarrassing to be seen with if you’re over the age of 14. Happily for me, Tor was not one of those houses.

In fact, I do have to say that as Old Man’s War hits the stores, I am finally beginning to truly appreciate just how smart Tor was with the cover, and what an excellent choice Tor art director Irene Gallo made in choosing Donato Giancola as the artist. I always liked the cover art, which I thought was appropriate for the book — they story has a classic space opera form, so it made sense to have a more or less classic space opera type cover. I liked it enough that I actually bought it, and in doing so made it so that between what Tor paid him and what I paid him, Donato has made more off Old Man’s War than I have. Well done, sir.

But now that it’s out and people have seen it on the shelves, one of the things I’m hearing from them is how the cover gives the book a different feel from a lot of the other books of the shelves. I think a lot of that has to do with Donato’s saturated blue-green color scheme, which is a color palette you don’t see very often. And I think having the central figure on the cover be an older male is also an eye-stopper; you really don’t see older people on science fiction/fantasy book covers with any frequency, unless they look like Gandalf’s second cousin.

In all, a fine cover both in itself and how it seems to be grabbing people’s eyes. So once again let me take a moment to acknowledge both Donato and Irene, both of whom made my book look good. If the two of them work on The Ghost Brigades, so much the better for me; we’ll know at least one thing about the book won’t suck. If people judge my books by their covers, in these cases, I’ll be just fine with that.

Update: Tobias Buckell, whose novel Crystal Rain comes out this summer from Tor, shows off his cover art here. I dig the parrots.

12 Comments on “Cover Art”

  1. On Dave McKean: I have just never warmed to his art style, going way back to his BLACK ORCHID and ARKHAM ASYLUM comics for DC.

    On the other hand, the cover is rarely the reason I buy or don’t buy a book. I appreciate a well-done cover, though the vast majority of them fall into that “not impressive, not bad” area. Which I guess is hardly surprising.

    Trying to think of SF novel covers which stand out for me: Vernor Vinge’s A FIRE UPON THE DEEP (Boris Vallejo, I think), Joan Vinge’s THE SNOW QUEEN and THE SUMMER QUEEN (Michael Whelan), CJ Cherryh’s CYTEEN (Don Maitz)… I’m hard-pressed to think of others. But I’m a tough audience when it comes to covers. Or maybe “picky” is a better word. (It also is probably no coincidence that these are among my favorite *novels*…)

    I know I am not impressed with “less-is-more” type covers such as those on Ken MacLeod’s “Fall Revolution” quartet, or Alastair Reynolds’ covers. At best, even if the art is good and evocative, I end up thinking, “Wow, think how this would have looked full-size!” Then there are the covers Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s books, which only have some decorative design work to offset the color scheme, and don’t really do anything for me at all. (I’d seen

    Unless the cover is truly stunning, the only way a cover attracts or repels me from a book, really, is to indicate what subgenre the book falls in. I usually stay away from high fantasy and lightweight military SF, and am attracted to high-tech cool-concept space opera. But even then, covers and titles don’t always provide a good indication of what a book is.

  2. I got to choose my cover, which made me very nervous. Fortunately, I had two choices off the bat. One was a dark cover (for a dark story) with faint images of money overlaying the nose of a pistol. I went with that. The other one I absolutely hated: A nearly all grey cover with a magnifying glass and a few coins laying on the table. I rejected that one outright.

    The second cover found a good home, though, one I liked very much. It’s now the cover to Bill Capron’s forthcoming THE COLOR-BLIND DETECTIVE.

  3. Heh. Other than being somewhat bald and occasionally bearded, I don’t look *that* much like this guy.

  4. I’ve had more than a peek at _Accelerando_, I’ve read practically the whole thing — modulo whatever Charlie Stross has done to streamline the stories into the fixup. This by virtue of being part of that super-secret (really rather more secret than the editor and publisher would like!) cabal known as “subscribers to *Asimov’s*”.

  5. Happily, I just ordered my copy of OMW Tuesday – it should be at Brent Books in Chicago later today. So, I’ve got some reading for next week’s train commute!

  6. I’d still love to see someone have their cover done by Gabe of Penny Arcade. I suspect I’d buy it on that alone.

  7. I don’t know if I’d buy a novel for Gabe’s cover art, but I did buy the World of Warcraft strategy guide solely because it features about 25 pieces by Gabe & Tycho in it. In a just world, those guys would be unable to navigate through their homes because of the stacks of cash lying around.

  8. “I don’t know if I’d buy a novel for Gabe’s cover art, but I did buy the World of Warcraft strategy guide solely because it features about 25 pieces by Gabe & Tycho in it. In a just world, those guys would be unable to navigate through their homes because of the stacks of cash lying around.”

    Heh. You know, of course, that virtually *was* the case this Christmas and last. Of course it was all for the Child’s Play charity event.

    As for cover art by Gabe, I don’t think his style quite clicks with me in that context. It’d have to be an unusual book. OTOH, a graphic novel with Gabe’s art & Tycho’s writing, if they could ever sit down and finish one, would be an instant buy.

  9. I knew your cover art looked familiar. Donato roxors–half the kids in the concept art forums want to be him when they grow up. I actually got to see both him and Irene Gallo in Sandy Eggo at Comic-con, and they were both incredibly nice. (Lots of good advice too.)

  10. Yeah, I truly dig Irene; she’s one of my favorite people in the SF publishing industry. I’ve only met Donato once and very briefly (he was at Noreascon last year, curating the art show), but he seemed to be a very nice fellow as well.

  11. John:

    As someone who not only enjoys Charles Stross’s work, but who drools over intelligent SF in general (i.e., as someone who considers cutting-edge SF the equivalent of Ghirardelli chocolate), I’m very interested to learn more about the “real-world” political perspectives of the SF writers I admire. (FREX: China Mieville: pseudo-Marxist; LeGuin: pacifist Taoist; etc..)

    I’ve noticed that the worldviews of many otherwise insightful SF authors–including Charles Stross–become strangely conspiratorial and dogmatic whenever they address current political realities. Are all contemporary SF writers dedicated Leftists? Or what?

    I can think of no one who’s taken the time to do a “break-down.” Perhaps I’m alone in wondering about this–and if you’ve covered the subject before, do let me know.

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