Abyss & Apex : First Quarter 2008 : Guest Editorial

DISCLAIMER: Abyss&Apex does not solicit art for its publication.

Guest Editorial by Eric T. Reynolds, publisher/editor of Hadley Rille Books.

Cover Art We all love cover art, but we “never judge a book by its cover,” right?

 

During the first half of 2007 I was busy editing the anthology: VISUAL JOURNEYS: A TRIBUTE TO SPACE ARTISTS, for which authors selected works of space art and wrote stories based on them. I was inspired to do this anthology one day, a couple of years before, while reading a science fiction novel; partway through it I paused to look at the cover. The artwork was inspiring and a good representation of the contents within. So I thought, “I’ve got to know who this artist is.” Sadly, the artist was not acknowledged anywhere in the book, nor on the cover. No small print in the front matter, no copyright, no “cover art by” . . . nothing.

I thought it was a fluke, just an oversight. So I pulled out another mass market paperback, an anthology, and looked for an acknowledgment of the artist. Nothing. I picked up another book. Nothing. Finally, on the fourth try, the copyright page had the artist listed. I spent a few more minutes looking through trade paperbacks and hardcovers. Three out of four trade paperbacks mentioned the cover artist, all of the hardcovers acknowledged them.

It was a small sample size so I don’t know if this ratio of artist acknowledgment vs. non–acknowledgment is typical; I suppose my encounter with the non–acknowledgment variety was higher than normal.

During that time I was in the middle of preparing to edit my first anthology, GOLDEN AGE SF: TALES OF A BYGONE FUTURE, but I took a break from that to think about the next one: why not produce an anthology that showcases some great works of space art along with the fiction? Of course, this idea was not new. In the 1920s and 1930s Hugo Gernsback had authors creating stories around cover art by such legends as Frank R. Paul for his pulp magazine SCIENCE WONDER STORIES. My new anthology would be a little different: authors would be asked to select from existing works of space art, choosing pictures that really inspired them on which to base their stories. The result was eighteen fantastic stories based on works of visual wonders by such great artists as Frank Wu, Bob Eggleton, Ron Miller, Michael Carroll, Delphyne, Wolf Read and Joe Tucciarone. The book also includes works by legends Chesley Bonestell and Frank R. Paul.

The cover for this new book had to be designed. I chose a beautiful scene painted by Joe Tucciarone of a moon in orbit about a Jovian planet with twinkling stars in a blue background. (Yes, the finished painting is static, but Joe has those stars twinkling just the same.) And the text overlay? Only Joe’s name, those of the authors and the book title and editor (plus that pesky ISBN barcode) block any of the image. I decided to minimize the text overlay to reduce any intrusion into Joe’s art.

Why?

Because the cover art plays a large part in selling the book. Because of this, there are two important points I like to keep in mind for the cover design. 1) Let the artwork shine and don’t clutter it up with gaudy text, particularly on the front. 2) Choose or commission art that represents what’s inside. Have you ever bought a book (yes, once again, don’t judge a book by its cover) based on the cover only to find the catchy picture was just that, but had nothing to do with the contents?

I choose books for other reasons: authors I like, or want to try out, as well as subject matter. I also consider the book’s reviews. But for the love of art it’s hard to resist a book that grabs the eye and draws one in, a picture that invokes the sense of wonder. The cover art sets the mood for the book. As I slide into that mood I want it to remain as I read the stories.

Next time you’re browsing in your favorite bookstore and a flashy cover takes you into another world remember that that cover art took a great skill and patience. And take a moment to recognize who created that piece of work as you start to flip through the pages. You’ll only enhance your total experience with the book.

— Eric T. Reynolds

Eric T. Reynolds has edited several anthologies for Hadley Rille Books, a small press he founded in 2005. His anthologies have included science fiction, fantasy, horror and mainstream stories with more anthologies planned for 2008, and his fiction has appeared in small press. He is a Master of Science candidate in the Distance Program of the Buzz Aldrin–founded Space Studies Department at the University of North Dakota. He has appeared in the journal SCIENCE and several of his articles will appear in the forthcoming encyclopedia SPACE EXPLORATION AND HUMANITY: A HISTORICAL ENCYCLOPEDIA, published by ABC–CLIO.Visual Journeys Cover art copyright © by Joe Tucciarone Visual Journeys Cover art copyright © by Joe Tucciarone


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Editorial © 2008 Eric T. Reynolds.
All other content copyright © 2008 ByrenLee Press
 





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