I thought I’d have a go at giving All the Birds in the Sky the kind of wizz-bang nonsense cover that the nutty-nuggets demand SF should have. Apologies to Charlie Jane Anders and to Will Staehle who designed the actual (and very effective) cover.
I’ve only used stock photos and include things at least related to the book.
Inspired by an unfinished edit.
OK, This cover isn’t real – just my half-baked attempt to do a cover in the same style as a new boxed set of SF Classics from Penguin.
When Jim Henley on Twitter is pointing out they are not very nice https://twitter.com/UOJim/status/785886385710305280 and Larry Correia on Facebook is doing the same https://www.facebook.com/larry.correia/posts/1385075248170067?pnref=story , it is reasonable to assume there is a consensus that there is something not good with them.
The source is here http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/series/PGX/penguin-galaxy
Basically a slick looking box set of SFF classics packaged together, with a joint introduction from Neil Gaiman in hardback (the books that is – not Neil Gaiman about whose back I am not fit to comment on its relative hardness).
The context matters here – the covers aren’t intended to play exactly the same role as your standard book cover. These covers are not supposed to be the standard marketing wrapper for a book that might entice somebody to try a new author or an unfamiliar story. Rather it is meant to be a set of collectables that will look good on your bookshelf.
Maybe they will appeal to somebody but even judging them as a distinct collection I really don’t think they work.
I’ve organised the contenders into eleven places. Lots of joint positions. It was a fun exercise. Thanks for everybody’s input and comments! I should say up front, that these were all quite good covers.
Joint First Place: Two clear favourites from the start. If I was to do a tie-breaker I’d give it to Tommy Arnold’s Updraft artwork. However, Sam Weber had two great covers in the running.
12 points – The Traitor, Baru Cormorant – Seth Dickinson : Artist/Designer − Sam Weber(Artist)
12 points – Updraft – Fran Wilde : Artist/Designer − Tommy Arnold(Artist)
Joint Second Place: A really nice selection of covers. Lots of variety and different approaches. I really like each of them in their own way.
11 points – Arcadia – Iain Pears : Artist/Designer − Nameless Hero(Artist)
11 points – The Book of Phoenix – Nnedi Okorafor : Artist/Designer − Joey Hi-Fi, aka Dale Halvorsen(Artist)
11 points – The Grace of Kings – Ken Liu : Artist/Designer − Sam Weber(Artist)
11 points – Rolling in the Deep – Mira Grant : Artist/Designer − Julie Dillon(Artist)
10 points – Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard – Lawrence M. Schoen : Artist/Designer − Victo Ngai(Artist)
10 points – Updraft – Fran Wilde : Artist/Designer − Stephan Martiniere(Artist)
10 points – Uprooted – Naomi Novik : Artist/Designer − Scott McKowen(Artist)
10 points – Uprooted – Naomi Novik : Artist/Designer − crushed.co.uk(Designers)
10 points – Karen Memory – Elizabeth Bear : Artist/Designer − Cynthia Sheppard(Artist)
Joint Fourth Place: Another good bunch but a few are more conventional
9 points – Ancillary Mercy – Ann Leckie : Artist/Designer − John Harris(Artist)
9 points – Somewhither: A Tale of the Unwithering Realm – John C. Wright : Artist/Designer − Jeremiah Humphries(Artist)
9 points – The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass – Jim Butcher : Artist/Designer − Chris McGrath(Artist)
9 points – The Watchmaker of Filigree Street – Natasha Pulley : Artist/Designer − David Mann(tbc)
9 points – Way Down Dark – J.P. Smythe : Artist/Designer − Nameless Hero(tbc)
Joint Fifth Place:A mix of the brave and the conventional.I think this group would scatter very differently depending on the scoring method.
8 points – Ctrl Alt Revolt! – Nick Cole : Artist/Designer − Nameless Hero(tbc)
8 points – Envy of Angels – Matt Wallace : Artist/Designer − Peter Lutgen(Artist)
8 points – Half a War – Joe Abercrombie : Artist/Designer − Mike Bryan(Artist)
8 points – Raising Caine – Charles E. Gannon : Artist/Designer − Bob Eggleton(Artist)
8 points – War Factory – Neal Asher : Artist/Designer − Larry Rostant(Artist)
8 points – Voices in the Night: Stories – Steven Millhauser : Artist/Designer − Janet Hansen (Designers)
Joint Sixth Place: I think this is the most conventional set of covers. Solid cover designs but with few risks taken.
7 points – Children of Time – Adrian Tchaikovsky : Artist/Designer − Nameless Hero(tbc)
7 points – Hell’s Foundations Quiver – David Weber : Artist/Designer − Stephen Youll(Artist)
7 points – The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet – Becky Chambers : Artist/Designer − Christopher Doll(Artist)
7 points – The Shepherd’s Crown – Terry Pratchett : Artist/Designer − Paul Kidby(Artist)
7 points – The Shepherd’s Crown – Terry Pratchett : Artist/Designer − Jim Tierney(Artist)
Joint Seventh Place:Another very diverse set of styles. Each is playing with the form but maybe not quite hitting the target as well as the number 1 and two places. All really nice work.
6 points – Arcadia – Iain Pears : Artist/Designer − Thomas Cole(Artist)
6 points – Seveneves: A Novel – Neal Stephenson : Artist/Designer − Jonathan Knowles(Artist)
6 points – The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet – Becky Chambers : Artist/Designer − Christoffer Meyer(tbc)
5 points – League of Dragons – Naomi Novak : Artist/Designer − Nameless Hero(tbc)
5 points – Son of the Black Sword – Larry Correia : Artist/Designer − Larry Elmore(Artist)
Joint Eighth Place: Two covers resting on the strength of the art alone. Nice but not exceptional.
5 points – Souldancer – Brian Niemeier : Artist/Designer − Marcelo Orsi Blanco(Artist)
5 points – The Deep Woods – Tim Pratt : Artist/Designer − Galen Dara(Artist)
Ninth Place: This is a great cover and probably the best choice for the book concerned but it isn’t a particularly notable cover.
4 points – The Fifth Season – N.K. Jemisin : Artist/Designer − Lauren Panepinto(Art director)
Joint Tenth Place: It is only at this point where I get to covers I wasn’t keen on.
3 points – Europe at Midnight – Dave Hutchinson : Artist/Designer − Clint Langley(Artist)
3 points – Sorcerer to the Crown – Zen Cho : Artist/Designer − Nameless Hero(tbc)
Joint Eleventh Place: Now I feel like a really mean, bad person. This cover didn’t deserve 0 points. I avoided looking at the scores for earlier stages, so as to not try and compensate too much between criterion. I also avoided tallying the scores so that the result would be a surprise to me. Look, this is a nice cover, its just a bit busy.
0 points – Sorcerer to the Crown – Zen Cho : Artist/Designer − Nameless Hero(tbc)
So, congratulations to Sam Weber and Tommy Arnold. Congratulations to the nameless heroes of cover design. Hooray for book covers!
CF: So, I need that manuscript. I told everybody the book was finished. It generated a lot of interest.
Timothy: I’ve been making some editorial changes.
CF: That’s fine, so long as its done.
Timothy: …we’ll need a new cover…
CF: [sigh] So long as it is basically the same as the last one I drew. What do you need? A different angle for the walrus?
Timothy: Well, you see…it is a cook book now.
CF: Ohfergawdssake. If this is the whole Nigella Lawson thing again then I want no involvement.
Timothy: No, no, I understand now. She is not the former Chancellor of the Exchequer and she can’t cook a life-sized cake of Margaret Thatcher and then maybe bring it back to life. You convinced me.
CF: Ok, I’ll see what I can get done quickly.
Timothy: Why are there giant planets looming over it?
CF: They’re mixing bowls.
Timothy: And the missiles being launched from the souffle?
CF: That actually happened the last time you cooked.
I’m going to take this with a pinch of salt but he says he has written any blog posts recently because he has been working on his new ‘book’.
I’ve read his ‘manuscript’ and it says “Copy whatever John Scalzi has written but use find/replace on the words ‘space’, ‘galaxy’, ‘star’ and ‘planet’ with the word ‘walrus'”
Because of the disparity of male v female artists in the selected covers, I’m adding some additional late entrants using my executive powers!
Karen Memory – Elizabeth Bear : Artist/Designer – Cynthia Sheppard(Artist)
Rolling in the Deep – Mira Grant : Artist/Designer – Julie Dillon(Artist)
Stretching the made-up-rules a little with a novella.
The Deep Woods – Tim Pratt : Artist/Designer – Galen Dara(Artist)
Again, a novella.
Voices in the Night: Stories – Steven Millhauser : Artist/Designer – Janet Hansen (Designer) Making another unwritten rule exception and including a book of short stories by one author. Worth it though for an exceptional cover design.