Describe Your Favorite Cover Art

By Carl Slaughter: Roaming publisher and agency catalogs in search of interesting/impressive books/series to feature or authors to interview/profile, I estimate I’ve seen the cover art for 5,000 science fiction, fantasy, and horror books. Few have caught my attention. Fewer still have compelled me to study them in detail. Take, for example, Todd Lockwood’s cover for Visitor, by Hugo winning author C.J. Cherryh, the latest in her long-running Foreigner universe series.

visitor-enlarge

  • The aliens are considerably taller than the visitor.
  • The aliens have dark skin, the visitor has light skin.
  • The aliens have dark hair, the visitor has blond hair.
  • The aliens are muscular, the visitor has a smallish, plain physique.
  • The aliens are wearing soldier uniforms and armor, the visitor is wearing a diplomacy/business suit.
  • The aliens are dressed in solid black, the visitor is dressed in solid white.
  • The aliens are carrying weapons, the visitor is carrying a book (folder? laptop?).
  • The aliens are looking left and right, as if they are wary of their surroundings (are they in enemy territory, are they bodyguards for the visitor?), the visitor’s attention is fixed straight ahead, as if focused on the task he will accomplish when he reaches his destination (or is he departing the building in the background and thinking about the meeting he just attended?).
  • There are 4 aliens, one visitor.
  • The visitor is enclaved within the aliens. Again, are they guarding him? Who is he negotiating with/for? Which side wants to assassinate him?

What caught my attention about the cover art for Visitor is that it’s so vivid, making the vast majority of its competition look crude by comparison. Something about the other covers in the Foreigner series caught my attention and I didn’t realize what until I studied them: They have distant shots of multiple characters. Most speculative covers have closeups of one or two characters. Half the covers of the Foreigner series don’t have the characters in a battle-ready pose. The typical speculative cover has a character clutching a gun/sword ready to slay the nearest dragon, zombie, or imperial trooper.

Daniel Dos Santos cover art for Misfortune Cookie by Laura Resnick

Daniel Dos Santos cover art for Misfortune Cookie by Laura Resnick

Another example of a cover that grabbed my attention and intrigued me is Daniel Dos Santos’ cover for Misfortune Cookie, one of Laura Resnick’s Esther Diamond paranormal mystery novels. Rather than a scene, there are numerous items depicting various elements of the plot. I count at least 4 hands sticking out of that giant fortune cookie. Esther is a striking pose and portrayed as being perpetually on the move as she solves the case. The other art in the Esther Diamond series is almost as good.

What about you? What cover art has caught your attention and why?

Pixel Scroll 5/15/16 Think Baloo, Count Two

(1) TWO FIVES WORTH OF WISDOM. Cecilia Tan shares “Ten Things I Learned at SFWA Nebulas Weekend”. Here’s the outline, click through for details:

  1. We Clean Up Pretty Good
  2. Kickstarters Should Be Pretty
  3. At Patreon a Little Means a Lot
  4. Dictate for Artistry
  5. The Myth of Self-Publishing
  6. White Knights and Online Harassment
  7. Think Globally
  8. You Can’t Be in Two Places at Once
  9. John Hodgman is Really Funny
  10. Not the Hugos or the Worldcon

[Warning: One Filer says this was flagged on her system as NSFW. I don’t see anything problematic on that page. However, Tan does write some NSFW things which may be elsewhere on her site.]

(2) NEBULA WINNERS PHOTO.

Nebulans

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(3) NEBULA LOSERS CELEBRATION. Meanwhile, an informal survey showed only 50% of SFWAns know how to make an “L” sign on their foreheads.

(4) GRANDMASTER CHERRYH. Black Gate’s John O’Neill has posted a video of C.J. Cherryh’s SFWA Grandmaster panel.

This weekend I attended the 2016 Nebula Conference here in Chicago, where CJ Cherryh received the SFWA Damon Knight Grand Master Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Science Fiction Writers of America. Part of the Friday afternoon programming included “An Hour With CJ Cherryh, SF’s Newest Grandmaster.” I sat in the front row, with Nebula nominees Ann Leckie and Lawrence M. Schoen, and captured the first part of the speech, in which Cherryh entertained the audience with recollections of her childhood ambition to be a writer, discovering science fiction, her early career, selling her first novel to Donald Wollheim at DAW Books, and her recent marriage to fellow novelist Jane Fancher.

 

(5) SAME NIGHT, AT THE BRAM STOKER AWARDS. Ace Antonio Hall knew from the look of Scott Edelman’s piñata-colored jacket there was still some candy left….

Ace Antonio Hall seems suspicious as I attempt to feed his sweet tooth at the Stoker Awards after party.

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(6) WISE INVESTMENTS FOR YOUR PLAY MONEY. From Die Welt, “Game of Thrones: Real estate and Prices in Westeros”.

The dungeons and castles located on the continent of Westeros have kept the families known from the tv-show “Game of Thrones” safe and sound for centuries. What if several properties from the show were suddenly listed for sale? Christoph Freiherr Schenck zu Schweinsberg, leading expert on castles for the real estate agency Engel & Völkers, checked out some of the unreal estate objects….

Andrew Porter is skeptical about these exorbitant valuations:

I don’t believe any of the properties have indoor plumbing, and the thought of being shot with a crossbow while sitting on the throne (no, not the Iron Throne!) may give you second thoughts about buying any of these…

(7) TOLKIEN’S FRIEND. Tolkien scholar John Garth contributed to “Robert Quilter Gilson, TCBS – a documentary”.

When Tolkien writes in the Foreword to The Lord of the Rings that ‘by 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead’, he is referring to his friends in a clique formed at school but later bonded by the First World War – the TCBS. Of these, Robert Quilter Gilson was the first to be killed, on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 100 years ago this July. Tolkien’s shock and grief infuses one of the first items in The Letters of JRR Tolkien: ‘His greatness is … a personal matter with us – of a kind to make us keep July 1st as a special day for all the years God may grant to any of us…’

Geoffrey Bache Smith never returned from the Somme either; only Tolkien and Christopher Luke Wiseman, a naval officer, survived the war. The letters written by Tolkien, Gilson, Wiseman and Smith form the heartbeat of my book Tolkien and the Great War. For Gilson, thanks to the wonderful generosity of his relatives, I was also able to draw a little from the many letters he wrote home from the training camps and trenches to his family and to the woman he loved.

Now, with my help, Gilson’s letters have been used as the basis for a 40-minute documentary by the school, King Edward’s in Birmingham.

 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born May 15, 1856 L. Frank Baum. John King Tarpinian has a Baum story —

A number of years back I went to an author event for a friend. She raises Cairn Terriers aka Toto Dogs. The author, a grand nephew of Baum was using a rubber stamp made from an imprint of Toto’s paw to sign the books.

Baum’s house was in Hollywood, just behind Musso & Frank Grill. It is now a mid-60s apartment building. In those days just about every house had an incinerator for burning trash, my parent’s home had one that also worked as a BBQ & wood burning oven.

Shortly after his death a niece came over to the house to visit her aunt to see how she was doing. Baum’s wife was in the back yard burning his papers. She figured since all of his books were on the shelves there was no need for the old papers. The niece explained to her why that was not a good idea to continue. You could feel the people in the event audience shudder at the thought.

(9) CHOOSING HELL. Brad R. Torgersen takes SFWA’s choice of Max Max: Fury Road for its dramatic award as the text for his message, in “The Martian and Mad Max”.

…Of course, The Martian was every inch a Campbellian movie, while Fury Road was almost entirely New Wave.

Guess which aesthetic dominates and excites the imaginations of SF/F’s cognoscenti?

I know, I know, I am a broken record about this stuff. But it never ceases to amaze me (in an unhappy way) how the so-called writers of Science Fiction, seem to be in such a huge hurry to run away from the roots of the field. I’ve read and listened to all the many arguments — pro and con, from both sides — about how Campbell rescued the field from the Pulp era, but then New Wave in turn rescued the field from the Campbell era. So it might be true that we’re finally witnessing the full maturation of SF/F as a distinct arena of “serious” literature, but aren’t we taking things too far? Does anyone else think it’s a bad idea for the field to continue its fascination with cultural critique — the number of actual nutty-bolty science types, in SFWA, is dwindling, while the population of “grievance degree” lit and humanities types, in SFWA, is exploding — while the broader audience consistently demonstrates a preference for SF/F that might be termed “old fashioned” by the modern sensibilities of the mandarins of the field?

Now, I think there is a very strong argument to be made, for the fact that Campbellian vs. New Wave is merely the manifestation of a deeper problem — a field which no longer has a true center. The two “sides” in the discussion have been taking shots at each other since long before I was born. The enmity may be so ingrained — in the internal conversation of SF/F — that nothing can reverse it. Save, perhaps, the total explosion of the field proper….

(10) BAD DAY IN SANTA FE. Bleeding Cool posted screencaps of a con committee’s rude Facebook comments in “Santa Fe Comic Con Makes Social Media Faux Pas”.

Instead of faux pas, how about we just say you shouldn’t call anyone a boob model?

(11) TIME TRAVEL ON FALL TV SCHEDULE. NBC’s new drama Timeless, starring Abigail Spencer, Matt Lanter and Malcolm Barrett, follows a team chasing a criminal intent on destroying America through time.

(12) AND THIS. NBC’s new comedy The Good Place follows Eleanor Shellstrop and her mentor as she tries to become a better person in the afterlife.. Stars starring Kristen Bell and Ted Danson.

(13) TIME OUT. Trouble, as one of last year’s Best Graphic Story Hugo nominees goes on hiatus. Mad Art Lab reads the Twitter tea leaves in “Tess Fowler Pushed Out of Rat Queens?”

Comic book fans were deeply saddened by the recent news that Rat Queens, the Eisner Award-nominated comic book series, was going on hiatus. As fans likely know, Rat Queens has had a tough run since the series launched in 2013. In 2014, artist/co-creator Roc Upchurch was removed from the series after being arrested on charges of domestic violence. His departure made room for Tess Fowler, who was a natural fit artistically – but also seemed to some a symbolic choice, given her history of speaking up for women in comics. Unfortunately, it seems that is at an end. Fowler announced she would be leaving the series a few weeks ago, with creator Kurtis Wiebe making the news of a hiatus official…

(14) MEMOIR COMPETES AT SF BOOK FEST. Congratulations to Francis Hamit – A Perfect Spy received recognition at the San Francisco Book Festival.

A Perfect Spy, Francis Hamit’s memoir from fifty years ago of his adventures as an undercover police operative fighting the drug trade while a student at the University of Iowa has been awarded runner up (or second place) in the Biography/Autobiography category by the 2016 San Francisco Book Festival.  It is an excerpt from a larger forthcoming work entitled OUT OF STEP: A Soldier’s memoir of the Vietnam War Years.

The book also includes Hamit’s encounters with notable figures such as novelist Nelson Algren, filmmaker Nicholas Meyer and the poet Donald Justice, and his enthusiastic participation in the Sexual Revolution even as he resisted the onslaught of the drug culture.  It was a transformative time for him that led to his abandonment of a theatrical career for one as a writer and his enlistment in the U.S. Army Security Agency at the height of the Vietnam War when most of his contemporaries were trying to evade military service.

(15) NEW BFG TRAILER. Disney’s The BFG comes to theaters July 1, 2016.

(16) STUDY TIME. Paul Fraser at SF Magazines reviews the stories in the June 1940 issue of Astounding, including Retro Hugo nominee “The Roads Must Roll” by Robert Heinlein.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, Andrew Porter, Cora Buhlert, Mark-kitteh, and Will R. for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

A Sound Idea

C. J. Cherryh’s first trilogy of novels set in the Foreigner Universe will be produced as a “Movie in Audio.”

What do you mean, Mike? An audiobook? A radio play?

Puh-leeze, that kind of thinking is so 1990! As scriptwriter Sable Jak told Sci-Fi London

The talking book or book on tape is just that, one guy just reading the book to you. This is, essentially, audio drama, but not like those old radio plays with a bit of dialogue and some footsteps and then someone banging two coconuts together for a horse, this is a full soundscape, with atmospherics and state-of-art sound effects, rich dialogue taken directly from the novels, and a completely original music score.

Sable Jak’s website says the projected budget of more than $250,000 will be raised on Kickstarter; the campaign has yet to begin.

Audio Cinema Entertainment, the production company, has already selected several voice actors and received Cherryh’s approval:

Cast as the only human in the story, Bren Cameron, is horror artist and voice actor: Wednesday Wolf. Helen Hayes award winning actress Gin Hammond will bring the role of the Assassin’s Guild bodyguard Jago to life and the actress/singer Jane Cater will provide the pivotal role of Ilisidi. A fourth main character has not yet been cast.

[Thanks to Francis Hamit for the story.]