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.
The Book of Phoenix – Nnedi Okorafor : Artist/Designer – Joey Hi-Fi, aka Dale Halvorsen(Artist)
Neatly done. The quote isn’t visible at this size (which is OK) but it is a great one from Ursula Le Guin. Likely to pull people in. 2 points.
The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass – Jim Butcher : Artist/Designer – Chris McGrath(Artist)
Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling author! Gosh. “The Cinder Spires” looks a bit lost, but otherwise the cover does all its jobs well. Who and what. Oh something steampunky by Jim Butcher? 2 points.
The Fifth Season – N.K. Jemisin : Artist/Designer – Lauren Panepinto(Art director)
Title, author and a review quote from a somewhat anonymous Salon.com. There is the odd tag-line “Every age must come to an end.” I assume its there because pictorially hard to express what the book is about. No indication that it is part of a series or that the series has a name. 1 point.
The Grace of Kings – Ken Liu : Artist/Designer – Sam Weber(Artist)
A variant of this cover has “Book One of the Dandelion Dynasty” on it instead of the murky quote from Saladin Ahmed (which I can’t read even in the big version). 1 point, 2 points? I’ll be nice and go with 2 points.
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet – Becky Chambers : Artist/Designer – Christoffer Meyer(tbc)
Name, title, looks SFish but otherwise why would I want to buy this? 1 point.
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet – Becky Chambers : Artist/Designer – Christopher Doll(Artist)
Name, title, oh space-opera! oh Ann Leckie liked it! Looks fun. 2 points.
The cover above is better in lots of ways but this one gets the job done better (arguably).
The Shepherd’s Crown – Terry Pratchett : Artist/Designer – Paul Kidby(Artist)
The title actual gets a bit lost. A Discworld Novel – OK but lets assume I didn’t know what that was. Looks a bit like a kid’s fantasy novel about a girl witch…If I do know who Terry Pratchett is but have only dabbled in Discworld, then I’m not going to know this is a series within a series. o points.
The Shepherd’s Crown – Terry Pratchett : Artist/Designer – Jim Tierney(Artist)
Less arresting cover but avoids preconceptions about the content. Looks a bit like a pub sign but that is neither here not there. A Tiffany Aching Adventure (but not apparently a Discworld novel…) possibly the better choice. If I liked the look of this it is probably best to track down other Tiffany Aching stories rather than random Discworld stories (and eventually will be sucked into Discworld anyway). 2 points.
The Traitor, Baru Cormorant – Seth Dickinson : Artist/Designer – Sam Weber(Artist)
The quote from Kameron Hurley is surprisingly* useful, telling us the book is smart, brutal and gut wrenching. Don’t know if this will be a SF, fantasy or historical novel but looks like there is going to be intrigue, politics and personal danger. 2 points
*[Not surprising because of Kameron Hurely but surprising because these quote don’t usually contain much information beyond [NAME] likes [BOOK]]
The Watchmaker of Filigree Street – Natasha Pulley : Artist/Designer – David Mann(tbc)
Name and title and either a Victorian or steam-punk setting. Not much else though (hints of bombs, clockwork an octopus…). 1 point.
Updraft – Fran Wilde : Artist/Designer – Stephan Martiniere(Artist)
Everything we need to know is there. I know there is a sequel but I think this was intended as a standalone? 2 points
Updraft – Fran Wilde : Artist/Designer – Tommy Arnold(Artist)
Same as above. 2 points
Uprooted – Naomi Novik : Artist/Designer – Scott McKowen(Artist)
Both of these covers get the job done. Folkloric-style fantasy. Author, title, recommendation. 2 points.
Uprooted – Naomi Novik : Artist/Designer – crushed.co.uk(Designers)
As above 2 points.
War Factory – Neal Asher : Artist/Designer – Larry Rostant(Artist)
ONE MAN WILL HAVE HIS REVENGE! Interesting that this and The Fifth Season both rectify a more general cover with a tell-don’t-show tagline. It’s a bit hidden in this case. Two recommendation at the top, flanking “neal ASHER”. Howver, apparently this is Book 2 and there is no clue of this on the cover! A big oversight given Asher is very prolific. 1 point
Way Down Dark – J.P. Smythe : Artist/Designer – Nameless Hero(tbc)
Way Down Dark is book 1, in a trilogy, by J.P Smythe and it is action packed and has a twist. OK, I can’t tell it’s set in space but I’ll save that for the relevance round. 2 points.