Pixel Scroll 11/27 The Pixel Scrolled Back from Nothing at All

I’m off to Loscon for the day — so a very early Scroll.

(1) ARTISTS AND NEW WFA. Several tweets of interest about the call for submissions of World Fantasy Award designs.

https://twitter.com/plunderpuss/status/669314888657842176

The first three of nine tweets by John Picacio responding to discussion of his blog post “Artists Beware”.

(2) FAN CRITICS OF TOLKIEN. Robin Anne Reid’s “The question of Tolkien Criticism” answers Norbert Schürer’s “Tolkien Criticism Today” (LA Review of Books).

Fans can and do write critical commentary of Tolkien’s work, and not all critics/academics distance ourselves from being fans, a distancing stance that was perhaps once required to support the myth of academic objectivity. I suspect, given Schürer’s commentary on Tolkien’s work and style as well as his conclusion, that he would not identify as a fan. But his idea that the primary audience for Tolkien scholars is only fans (instead of other Tolkien scholars) strikes me as bizarre as does the idea that fan demands would affect what a critic would say:

Just as importantly, Tolkien should not be treated with kid gloves because he is a fan favorite with legions to be placated, but as the serious and major author he is (para.22).

Since the quote above is Schürer’s conclusion, he provides no evidence for this claim that critics treat Tolkien “with kid gloves” for fear of these legions of fans.

(3) REACHER. Andy Martin observed Lee Child writing the Jack Reacher novel Make Me from start to finish. Martin, a University of Cambridge lecturer, and the author have a dialog in about their experience in “The Professor on Lee Child’s Shoulder” at the New York  Times Sunday Review.

MARTIN I was sitting about two yards behind you while you tapped away. Trying to keep quiet. I could actually make out a few of the words. “Nothingness” I remember for some obscure reason. And “waterbed.” And then I kept asking questions. I couldn’t help myself. How? Why? What the…? Oh surely not! A lot of people thought I would destroy the book.

CHILD Here is the fundamental reality about the writing business. It’s lonely. You spend all your time writing and then wondering whether what you just wrote is any good. You gave me instant feedback. If I write a nicely balanced four-word sentence with good rhythm and cadence, most critics will skip right over it. You not only notice it, you go and write a couple of chapters about it. I liked the chance to discuss stuff that most people never think about. It’s weird and picayune, but obviously of burning interest to me.

MARTIN And the way you care about commas — almost Flaubertian! I tried to be a kind of white-coated detached observer. But every observer impinges on the thing he is observing. Which would be you in this case. And I noticed that everything around you gets into your texts. You are an opportunistic writer. For example, one day the maid was bumping around in the kitchen and in the next line you used the word “bucket.” Another time there was some construction work going on nearby and the next verb you used was “nail.” We go to a bookstore and suddenly there is Reacher, in a bookstore.

(4) ACCESSIBLE CONS. Rose Lemberg adopts a unified approach to “#accessiblecons and Geek Social Fallacies”.

“Geek Social Fallacies” are in themselves a fallacy. There are many people – not just the disabled -pushed away from fandom.

It’s not expensive to get a ramp in the US with pre-planning. Most hotels have them ready because they are ADA-compliant. If you invite a person in a wheelchair to speak at a con, and there is no ramp, you ostracized them. Own it.

It’s not because it’s too difficult, too expensive, it’s not because the fan did not ask nicely or loudly or politely enough. It’s because you did NOT accept them as they are. It’s because you ostracized them. Will you own it?

Year after year, I see defensiveness. I see the same arguments repeat. It’s too pricey. It’s the disabled person’s fault. Where are our Geek Social Fallacies when it comes to access? Can we as a community stop ostracizing disabled fans already?

(5) LON CHANEY. Not As A Stranger (1955) will air on Turner Classic Movies this Thursday December 3 at 10:00 a.m. Eastern; Lon Chaney cast as Job Marsh, father of Robert Mitchum, a moving portrayal that ranks among his very best.

(6) SF SCREENPLAYS. Nick Ransome, “Writing Science Fiction Screenplays” at Industrial Scripts.

Sci-Fi is the only genre, apart from the Western, still to resist the post-modern impulse. This could be due to the fact that Sci-Fi is not a genre at all, but the actual reason that Sci-Fi so completely resists the post-modern relativity of time and meaning is because that is what it was always about in the first place. There are no realities or meanings more relative than those revealed by Science Fiction.

In its purest form, the Sci-Fi narrative presents a polarity of moral choices and asks the most difficult of existential questions. This polarity is encapsulated by the utopian (ordered, no conflict, boring) and the dystopian (messy, intriguing, human).

LOGAN’S RUN is the best example in terms of story theory because although the action begins in a utopia, we soon realise that in fact we are in a dystopian nightmare (the Act One reversal). Films like BRAZIL, DARK CITY and THE MATRIX may start with a semblance of reality (the world as you just about know it) but then fairly swiftly make us aware that we are actually in a version of hell (or rather an allegory of the world as it really is).

(7) CIXIN LIU. A Cixin Liu interview about “The future of Chinese sci-fi” at Global Times was posted August 30, however, I believe this is the first time it’s been linked here.

GT: Some Chinese fans have said they want to band together to vote on the World Science Fiction website next year. What’s your opinion on this? Liu: That’s the best way to destroy The Three-Body Trilogy. And not just this sci-fi work, but also the reputation of Chinese sci-fi fans. The entire number of voters for the Hugo Awards is only around 5,000. That means it is easily influenced by malicious voting. Organizing 2,000 people to each spend $14 is not hard, but I am strongly against such misbehavior. If that really does happen, I will follow the example of Marko Kloos, who withdrew from the shortlist after discovering the “Rabid Puppies” had asked voters to support him.

GT: Many fans believe that even if The Three-Body Problem had benefited from the “puppies,” it still was deserving of a Hugo Award. Do you agree? Liu: Deserving is one thing, getting the award is another thing. Many votes went to The Three-Body Problem after Marko Kloos withdrew. That’s something I didn’t want to see. But The Three-Body Problem still would have had a chance to win by a slim margin of a few votes [without the “puppies”]. After the awards, some critics used this – the support right-wing organizations like the “puppies” gave The Three-Body Problem – as an excuse to criticize the win. That frustrated me. The “puppies” severely harmed the credibility of the Hugo Awards. I feel both happy and “unfortunate” to have won this year. The second volume was translated by an American translator, while the first and third were translated by Liu Yukun (Ken Liu). Most Chinese readers think the second and the third books are better than the first, but American readers won’t necessarily feel the same way. So I’m not sure about the Hugo Awards next year. I’m just going to take things in stride.

GT: It’s not easy for foreign literature to break into the English language market. What do you think of Liu Yukun’s translation? Liu: Although only my name is on the trophy, it actually belongs to both myself and Liu Yukun. He gets half the credit. He has a profound mastery of both Oriental and Western literature. He is important to me and Chinese sci-fi. He has also introduced books from other countries to the West. A Japanese author once told me that the quality of Japanese sci-fi is much better than China’s, but its influence in the US is much weaker. That’s because they lack a bridge like Liu Yukun.

(8) RETRO COLLECTION. Bradley W. Schenck is pleased with the latest use of his Pulp-O-Mizer.

I ran across a post at File770.com featuring the third volume of a collection of stories eligible for the 1941 Retro Hugo Awards at next year’s Worldcon. The collection is an ongoing project by File770 user von Dimpleheimer.

Since the third volume is a big batch of stories by Henry Kuttner and Ray Cummings I followed the link and grabbed a copy, only to discover that von Dimpleheimer had made the eBook cover with my very own Pulp-O-Mizer. This put a smile all over my face. Like, actually, all over my face.

So I went back and downloaded the first two volumes and, sure enough, they had also been Pulp-O-Mized. This may be my very favorite use of the Pulp-O-Mizer to date.

(9) TEASER. A new Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser was posted on Thanksgiving. I’m leery of viewing these TV spots because I’m already sold on the movie and don’t want to dilute the experience of watching it. YMMV.

The minute-long teaser, dubbed “All The Way,” debuted on Facebook, but will also appear as a TV spot. IT finds Andy Serkis’ Supreme Leader Snoke character telling Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, “Even you have never faced such a test.”

[Thanks to Francis Hamit, Will R., and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jonathan Edelstein.]


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245 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 11/27 The Pixel Scrolled Back from Nothing at All

  1. , 2015 at 4:51 pm said:
    I’m not too crazy about the covers on the Ancillary books (softcover editions, but I think the hardcovers were the same). Sort of generic spaceships— at least painted in a different style than other generic spaceship covers I’ve seen, but still. These are the kind of book where I think a slightly wilder, busier, more symbolic graphic design representation of story elements could’ve been great.

    Wait … There was a hardcover edition?

  2. Meredith on November 28, 2015 at 4:58 pm said:
    One thing I kinda like about the Ancillary covers is they’re all from the same painting (or pastels?). Ends up looking very cohesive.

    That is an oil painting or I will turn in my art degree.

  3. @Vasha:

    I agree that the Ancillary covers aren’t quite right, that painting that’s all hardware, for a series that has little description of weapons, engines, or physics, but instead is all about the crews of the spaceships.

    It’s like if the boxes still said Nutty N –

    Er, sorry! I have no idea what came over me there…

  4. @Peace

    Subterreanean Press put out a limited signed hardcover edition of Justice with a gorgeous cover, depicting Breq and Seivarden after, I believe, they had fallen off the bridge. I paid [mumbledy] dollars for my copy on Ebay. They’re also putting out a limited edition of Sword, which I’ve already preordered.

  5. Teach me to have a sudden attack of nerves that my initial assessment that it was a painting was wrong and edit in “pastels” – ha! 😀 He does a lot of his sketches in pastels, you see, and I think that’s partly where his particular painting style comes from – it keeps some of the, hm, blurred appearance.

    I thought of the big ship as Justice of Toren – Breq. I thought the covers effectively represented space opera without implying space battle, but eh, taste is subjective. 🙂

    ETA: Not Ancillary, but here, pastel sketch and following painting.

    ETA2: Yep, definitely a painting.

  6. As for book covers, Penguin and Oxford and whoever else has been putting out inexpensive paperback editions of public domain classics for umpty years have gotten a lot of mileage out public domain paintings for the cover art.

    One has to be careful, because some museums have tried to assert control over the artworks in their collections. They cannot possibly copyright the works themselves, which are often centuries old, but they *do* own the copyright to their own photographs of the artworks and can deny anyone else camera access to them, meaning that they control and authorize all images of otherwise uncopyrightable artworks.

    But nice old paintings can make classy book covers.

  7. Thank you for fixing my broken link.

    I was going to show up here to brag about posting more reviews than Locus did in 2014 once my 300th review went up (was supposed to be today but stuff happened and it will be tomorrow) but then I realized that somehow I got confused about how many reviews Locus had had in 2014. I managed to exceed the actual number on Wednesday without noticing. That means as of now I have reviewed more books in 2015 than any of the books that made the Strange Horizons Count did in 2014. Not that I am bitter about being snubbed.

    (I’ve reviewed a lot more books by women than any of the sites that made the SH count but it’s not like that is especially difficult: the sites that focus on women tend not to have large numbers of reviews and the sites that have a lot of reviews focus on men)

  8. @Meredith:

    I like how he paints the space around his shapes, giving them an interesting atmosphere and letting him do finely detailed silhouettes with less fussiness than if he had just painted them straight over a background, if that makes any sense.

  9. Looking through all the international Ancillary Justice covers, they nearly all chose some kind of spacecraft against a background of stars, planets, and such. The Estonian one is different and cool, though. And the Polish one… aside from having the human in the foreground be too white, that’s plain weird. I’m sure Leckie didn’t intend the the design of her cities and ships to be nearly so trippy!

  10. @Vasha:

    That Polish cover sure suggests living ships, though!

    But yes, way too white a person.

  11. There was a period when my usual “bad art for book covers” candidates alternated between Josh Kirby’s Discworld covers and Darrell Sweet’s Wheel of Time covers. Both were a collection of “size and proportion doesn’t work that way” and “wait, where is this supposed to be from?”

    Despite the circumstances, I was *really* happy when they switched over to Paul Kidby for Discworlds, and a variety of other artists for the WoT ebook covers. It was a considerable improvement.

    Other’s I’ve liked would be the ones for the collected editions of Glen Cook’s Black Company books, and the The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox.

  12. My favorite comment on Darrell Sweet remains George R.R. Martin’s description of his style as “accountants at a Ren Faire”.

  13. @Kendall: I didn’t particularly like that cover design, but I think her comments about the design process are interesting, and when you look at the covers as a series I think there’s a cohesive design sense present. (Who, me, looking at the “all the covers as a poster” covetously? No, no. Not me. *wistful sigh*)

  14. I quite liked the Ancillary covers. They remind me if the Pan covers of the 70s and 80s by Angus McKie.

  15. FYI, ChiZine Publications is having a sale through the 30th (Monday) – all ebooks are $1.99. Even The Hexslinger Omnibus (3 books + 3 short stories) by Gemma Files, which I picked up (on my list for ages) is only $1.99, wow! I’m not super familiar with ChiZine, but they have a book by one of my fave authors (Tim Pratt’s Briarpatch, not-yet-read) so they must be good, right? 😉

    http://chizinepub.com

  16. Umm, seeing as they swapped to Paul Kirby for the diskworld books after Josh died, can you restrain you celebration a tad please?

    I want a tryptich of the Kinoku Craft covers for Sherri Tepper’s Mavin the Many shaped books.

  17. @Lexica: I didn’t realize the others were there. Hey, Brothers in Arms has a cool cover, and Diplomatic Immunity and Barrayar are pretty good, too. A few others are okay, but mostly I’m just not a fan of the style, I guess.

    @Tasha Turner: LOL at having 5 books with basically the same cover! Yay for stock images.

    @Meredith & @Mike Glyer: I love that kind of cover connection! And I like the Ancillary covers, but then I really like John Harris’s work; like Meredith, I felt they worked. A lot of people just think “spaceship = SF” (not necessarily “spaceship = MilSF”).

    @Camestros: LOL, yes, I was confused an annoyed to read Ancillary Magic – clearly a fantasy novel! – with a sci-fi cover. 😉 Hmm, seriously though, the SubPress cover for Ancillary Sword does make it look like fantasy.

    ETA – @tintinaus: I love Kinoku Craft’s work!

  18. Not to reopen recent wounds, but reading the Charlie Stross Thread of Doom tonight it hit me that the Fermi Conundrum* is also an argument against Strong AI (in its Singularity version) being a thing. Because half the suggested “solutions” to the problem of interstellar colonization are “We’ll send robots!” “Mind uploading!” etc. But that just means we add those to the list of things Fermi points out we haven’t observed.

    —————
    *Jim’s standard rant that there’s nothing paradoxical about Fermi’s “Paradox” goes here.

  19. I like John Harris’ work on Scalzi’s Old Man’s War books as well. Which are also a good contrast – they’re much more space battle ish than the Ancillary covers, at least to my eyes. I’ve got Harris pencilled in for Pro Artist.

    I like both artists who have been primarily responsible for the Discworld covers.

    For other good cover art, you could do worse than to check out this item from a Pixel Scroll a few days ago. Some seriously nice stuff, although if you want to see them with the lettering (also an important part of cover design) you’ll have to click through.

    @Peace

    You made perfect sense, and that’s what I really like about his work, too.

  20. Tintinaus: I thought “despite the circumstances” was a pretty clear acknowledgement of Kirby’s passing. As it happens, I feel the same way. I am saddened an artist passed on, but pleased at Kidby’s much more suited covers. Kirby suits the earliest Discworld books (the first 5 or so) but the world grew past his style, and saying I feel so is not disrespectful.

    I’d still take a Kirby cover over most of the US editions (though I liked the original US graphics for Soul Music and Small Gods, they were the exception, and since replaced with worse) and I’d take him over, ghu forbid, the Science Fiction Book Club ones. But I’d take Kidby over Kirby easily.

  21. @Meredith: Yeah Tor.com and their novella line, in particular, has some great covers. I like Karla Ortiz’s cover for The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps a lot! She’s done at least one other cover I recognize (and like a lot) – for Philippa Ballantine’s “Order” omnibus, it looks like. Looking over her site, Karla Ortiz is very, very good, IMHO (as are the others on the page, of course).

    @Harold Osler: Very nice connecting covers and spines! I’m not super-into the art itself, but I really like the overall design/concept.

  22. Bruce Baugh: My favorite comment on Darrell Sweet remains George R.R. Martin’s description of his style as “accountants at a Ren Faire”.

    Bless Mr. Sweet’s memory, but I always thought of his work on the WoT covers as the Thomas Kinkade of the Fantasy World. And those Pratchett covers are absolutely appalling.

    I love John Harris’ work, including the Ancillary covers and the covers he’s done for Scalzi. He does a kind of SF Impressionism, in my opinion. It’s gorgeous.

  23. I have a set of the Earthsea trilogy with the beautiful Pauline Ellison covers (scroll down to see them).

    When the spines are placed next to each other, they show an image of a fish in the water, with the head – middle – tail spread across the 3 books. (I know I’ve seen an image of this before on the Internet, but I couldn’t find it).

  24. JJ on November 28, 2015 at 11:41 pm said:

    Bless Mr. Sweet’s memory, but I always thought of his work on the WoT covers as the Thomas Kinkade of the Fantasy World.

    I hadn’t seen his original covers for the US versions of Stephen Donaldson Chronicles of Thomas Covenant until literally just now. Ewwwww.

  25. Correcting to be polite: Kinuko, not Kinoku. (Think about all those Japanese names you know ending in “-ko”: Keiko, Rumiko, and so on. “Kinuko” is another such.)

    The Worldcon in San Antonio a couple of years back had a big exhibition of Darrell K. Sweet’s artwork, and it gave me a whole new appreciation for his work. Previously I’d only seen his book covers, and thought them ugly. Well, it turns out that when doing work for himself he could do some pretty good stuff. And, much as I disliked his covers…I used to hang out a lot at an SF specialty bookshop, and I have it on good authority that they did their job. Sweet got a lot of work doing book covers because books with his covers sold more copies.

    @Jim Henley: A thought about Fermi that occurred to me recently: what if the solution to the Drake Equation is really low? Like, on the order of .001? It might be that the probability of intelligence ever arising is really extremely remote, to the point where you would search a thousand galaxies to find even one technical civilization. And we think that the lower bound on the solution is 1, because we exist. But our nearest neighbor is outside the Local Group, and we have no way of knowing that.

  26. A thought about Fermi that occurred to me recently: what if the solution to the Drake Equation is really low? Like, on the order of .001? It might be that the probability of intelligence ever arising is really extremely remote, to the point where you would search a thousand galaxies to find even one technical civilization. And we think that the lower bound on the solution is 1, because we exist.

    Yes but why do the dice fall in our favor here? Assume intelligent life is unlikely, then it is unlikely it happened here only by chance. So what is special about Earth? So far, aside from their being intelligent life and life in general, there doesn’t seem to be anything. Further, when we assume that Earth isn’t special that assumption keeps being confirmed by our improved observations – we gain the capacity to look for Sun like stars and we find them, the capacity to look for planets and we find them, the capacity to look for nearish Earth like planets and we find them…

  27. Nothing needs to be special about Earth. This just happens to be the one planet out of 10 trillion where the dice came up with a trillion sixes. Look at enough planets, and the chance of hitting one goes up as high as you want…and for whatever planet that was, the inhabitants are going to ask, “What’s special about us?” But in fact the answer is, “Nothing”.

  28. Camestros Felapton: A corollary to your main discussion, one of my favorite stories is Bruce Sterling’s “Swarm” which argues that intelligence is detrimental to a species’ long-term survival.

    If true, that would make the odds of encountering alien intelligence even more improbable.

  29. And on further thought, make that more like “roll 16d6 and have it come up all sixes”. My only excuse is that it’s late.

  30. @Mike: The big advantage of my idea is that it gets us no neighbors, without having the grim implication that we are doomed to destroy ourselves.

  31. Camestros Felapton:

    “I started writing a comment on how they made the Wheel of Time covers much better. but I put it on my blog instead because it needed pictures.”

    To be honest, I liked the first cover best. The second illustration is very nice… for a card game. The third illustration is for the first page of a comic or role playing book where all the creators are named.

    Only the first one seems like something designed for the cover of a book.

  32. Camestros

    I liked the one you did at home earlier; I strongly suspect that Blue Peter has conditioned people of my age to believe that you could create a FTL drive in the garage if you put your mind to it, as well as one in the TV studio to demonstrate on.

    I realise that this may seem an unfair weight on your shoulders, but I have confidence in your abilities! You probably wouldn’t discover an FTL drive but you would have no difficulties in thinking up official titles for us and an impressive resume of the hive of scum and villainy.

    At that point, we can enter into the Lord Mayor’s Parade for its 801st anniversary, and then all we would need to do is sort out a spiffy theme for our float, cough, work out how to acquire said float withought getting arrested, cough, and hope that the place allocated to our float is fairly near my apartment, because I draw the line at allowing actors to dress and make up themselves.

    After that the world is your molluscs, all the way down, particularly if you recognise that it’s about having fun, and making as much money as possible for the Red Cross who do work in seriously scary places.

    Meanwhile, if anybody is interested, next Tuesday I will be going myself and I would be happy to pay the entrance fee on the second day for anyone who’d like to try it out; think of it as a sample chapter. The Guildhall is one of the great overlooked treasures of London, and it’s one of the very rare times when people can see the medieval masterpiece below the Guildhall in the crypt, plus you get a freebie glass of wine. It’s even free entry on the last evening, and there are lifts and ramps etc. for people who need them.

    It tends to be left off the tourist maps, which regard St Paul’s as the outer limits of civilisation, but old London is the City itself; part of the Wall is in the Barbican private gardens, but, as you would expect from a denizen of the hive of scum and villainy, I would be happy to show my fellow hive members around all the hidden bits.

    There will be a huge food market outside the Guildhall, and I’m fairly sure you don’t have to have a ticket to the main event; you can just turn up and eat. A lot. Food portion control is apparently totally ignored by many of the stall keepers, and is temporarily being totally ignored by whichever of the Worshipful Companies organises the food.

    It should be fun!

  33. David Goldfarb on November 29, 2015 at 1:07 am said:

    Nothing needs to be special about Earth. This just happens to be the one planet out of 10 trillion where the dice came up with a trillion sixes. Look at enough planets, and the chance of hitting one goes up as high as you want…and for whatever planet that was, the inhabitants are going to ask, “What’s special about us?” But in fact the answer is, “Nothing”.

    While it is true that given enough dice rolls it is likely that one really unlikely dice roll will actually occur, the event as observed, is still unlikely and a rational observe is entitled to assume the less unlikely conclusion that the dice were rigged. By which I don’t mean we need to assume some agency behind things just that the unlikeliness should be manifest. For example, consider two ways in which intelligence being unlikely can be manifest:
    1. the conditions in which intelligence CAN evolve as quite common place but it takes lots of unlikely coincidences to occur.
    2. the conditions in which intelligence CAN evolve are quite unlikely – it takes a whole bunch of things to be just right.
    3. the conditions in which intelligence CAN evolve as quite common place and it takes only a few coincidences to occur but each of those are really, really, really unlikely.
    It is only that third option in which the question “Why here and why us?” will lack a satisfactory explanation.

  34. One thing that bugs me about that cover on the Polish edition of Ancillary Justice is the unambiguously female figure on the front cover.

    It’s not just that she’s way too pale. She can’t possibly be any of the main characters because she has super blatant (contemporary stereotypes of what are supposed to be) female gender characteristics, up to and including mascara to enhance her eyelashes.

  35. Stevie on November 29, 2015 at 1:36 am said:
    strongly suspect that Blue Peter has conditioned people of my age to believe that you could create a FTL

    Absolutely. I just need sticky-backed plastic and some coat-hangers. The problem really isn’t the FTL drive at all – I’ve got that all figured out – it is the time-machine I need to power the FTL drive that is the problem.

  36. I’m not a fan of the Subterreanean Press covers of the Leckie books at all. But that maybe a US vs UK cover aesthetics thing.

  37. @MIke Glyer

    That’s a very nice O’Brian collection. A number of years ago I was cheerfully buying them in all a very nice matched edition, and then the publisher decided to junk the old design and move to a new version, that while keeping the Geoff Hunt artwork changed the rest of the design…and the size of the books. Messing with the flow of my bookshelves Is Just Not On.

    ——

    My go-to for “huh what” cover art has always been Geoff Taylor’s covers for authors like Feist and Eddings. Thing is, he’s a really good artist (e.g. his Games Workshop stuff) but those covers either never bore more than a cursory resemblance to what was in the books, or depicted a sort-of-recognisable scene but with various details that were horribly horribly wrong. My suspicion is that he got commissions along the lines of “Like that last one you did, but the character’s a girl this time” and just did his best.

  38. JJ on November 29, 2015 at 12:03 am said:

    I have a set of the Earthsea trilogy with the beautiful Pauline Ellison covers (scroll down to see them).

    Those 1970’s Puffin Book covers are the ones I had as a kid!

  39. snowcrash on November 28, 2015 at 7:51 pm said:
    There was a period when my usual “bad art for book covers” candidates alternated between Josh Kirby’s Discworld covers and Darrell Sweet’s Wheel of Time covers. Both were a collection of “size and proportion doesn’t work that way” and “wait, where is this supposed to be from?”

    Despite the circumstances, I was *really* happy when they switched over to Paul Kidby for Discworlds, and a variety of other artists for the WoT ebook covers. It was a considerable improvement.

    I found Paul Kirby’s artwork for the Discworld books ugly, inappropriate, and offputting and wonder if it had something to do with the series’ abysmal sales in the US in the twentieth century. Paul Kirby’s artwork is much more true to the stories.

    It’s no reflection on the artist. I hear Darrell K. Sweet was quite a lovely person, for all that his cover art was generally an eye-searing, anatomically muddled Readers-Digest-illustration mess. One may wince at it, but it shifted books.

    I fell in love with Kinuko Y. Craft’s work the instant I saw it on her first Sherri Tepper book new in the store. She has made some beautifully illustrated children’s picture books of fairy tales and myths.

  40. I din’t really know the odds or the maths (fine art major), but one of the things I got from reading historical geology texts was how really extraordinarily unlikely coincidences may have paved the way for life on Earth.

    This is, however, only my understanding and it’s seriously not my field so I could be way off. Please take with a grain of salt.

    There are some really useful things about the Earth, like our particular axial tilt, which gives us variable seasons but not really extreme ones, and our magnetic field, which protects us from blasts of charged particles and bursts of radiation from the sun which would otherwise have blasted any nascent life on the planet’s surface and slowly stripped away our atmosphere.

    Both of these seem to be the results of a very early collision between the cooling proto-Earth and a planet the size of Mars, which also produced our planet’s disproportionately large moon.

    The other planet was completely engulfed, its heavy iron core fused with ours (giving us a much bigger iron core than would have naturally accumulated and thus a much stronger magnetic field) and some of its lighter crust elements splashed up into orbit with some of ours to form our moon. This also seems to be when the Earth’s axial tilt of roughly 23 degrees off its orbital plane was established.

    Axial tilts are common enough. Clearly lots of catastrophes happened to early planets. Uranus is tipped almost on its side and Venus actually got spun upside down so that it appears to rotate backwards compared to the other planets in the system.

    But the magnetic field is unusual. Without that collision it wouldn’t have been nearly as strong, and it seems to play a really large part in protecting the surface from deadly radiation.

    So … How common are events that for one reason or another provide enough energy to evolve life while protecting that life from the destructive aspects of the energy?

  41. I like the Subterranean Press Ancillary covers as art, but I’m not that into them as Ancillary covers. The John Harris covers are closer to the book-in-my-head.

  42. andyl: I’m not a fan of the Subterreanean Press covers of the Leckie books at all. But that maybe a US vs UK cover aesthetics thing.

    I’m glad that I’m not the only one who feels that way. I find them to be a “close, but no cigar” kind of thing.

  43. I like the Ancillary covers, the artwork is really nice but yes, the “fighters” on the front don’t make sense, story wise (in fact there’s a noticeable lack of them in the stories) but it would look less busy without them now.

    As for the hardcovers, I don’t like them as much but I think it’s clever that Seivarden can’t be pinned down as definitively male on the Justice cover. Also the Sword cover looks like a scene from Justice because I can’t recall Anaander Mianaai being in that book except in spirit.

    On the Drake equation (love the many different conversations at this place) I listened to a really good podcast/lecture from an astronomer on this and she spoke really well and gave as fascinating take on it as I can remember. If I find it I will link to it!

    Thea taking one for the team for the sake of the main character (Earth) sounds like a start (or ending) of another space opera 😀

  44. @ Stuart M.

    I am pretty sure Aanander shows up in _Ancillary Sword_ because I seem to recall the first scene is Aanander making Breq a captain of a Sword.

    What bothers me about that cover is that her tea bowl seems wrong. Too tall. Not that I know much about tea bowls but they are important in that culture and any Aanander would have a particularly nice one.

    @ Stevie
    Oh, that sounds like wonderful fun. What a shame I’m on the wrong continent.

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