A dinosaur’s world

As I’m writing about dinosaurs in SF, Hugos and because I’ve written about book covers a lot, I just need to write a short post about the cover art to “The Mystery of Ireta” aka Dinosaur Planet book 1 and 2 (2004 Del Rey edition)

Here’s the cover art zoomed in:

Cover art to The Mystery of Ireta by Anne McCaffery, Del Ray 2004, art by Bob Eggleton
Cover art to The Mystery of Ireta by Anne McCaffery, Del Ray 2004, art by Bob Eggleton

It does rather look like that the t-rex is trying to spit rainbows at that pterodactyl. There’s obviously a lot of skill and thought put into the painting but the composition is a bit off.

The painting is actually by the Hugo Award winning artist Bob Eggleton, who has painted many many dinosaurs, dragons and Godzillas over the years. He’s been a finalist for Best Professional Artist over twenty times and won eight times — so he knows his stuff.

The issue becomes a bit clearer when looking at the same image on his website:

‘Sue’s World” by Bob Eggleton http://www.bobeggleton.com/images/suesworld.jpeg
‘Sue’s World” by Bob Eggleton http://www.bobeggleton.com/images/suesworld.jpeg

The poor pterodactyl got moved so that it would fit into the cropped section of the bigger painting. The move put the flying reptile along the same band as the t-rex’s gaze and the two rainbows creating that weird visual connection between the two animals.

The painting itself also has a Hugo connection:

“Sue’s World (2000) Done for one of the two covers for the program books to Chicon 2000, held in Chicago Aug 31st to Sept. 4th 2000. Chicago’s Field Museum is the home to “Sue” the T-Rex, the largest T-Rex skeleton ever found.”


Chicon 2000 being the 58th Worldcon. To tie that back into the Hugosauriad, Michael Swanwick’s “Scherzo with Tyrranosaur” won the Hugo for Best Short Story that year. And for File 770 readers, guess who won Best Fanzine that year!

The Consuming Book Title

Tor Books have revealed the cover of the third book in John Scalzi’s ‘Interdependency’ series. It’s very nice: big bold text over gorgeous space-art. For reasons far too complex to recap, I have ended up being something of a student of the covers of these books and I’m kind of disappointed that there isn’t going to be a book four in this series because there are some definite trends in these covers.

The title text has got progressively bigger with each one and almost systematically so.

With apologies to Sparth (cover artist) and Tor Books

The ‘the’* has been wandering leftwards** as well, so that a hypothetical book four would have the ‘the’ falling off one side or perhaps appearing on the right hand side like your spaceship in a game of Asteroids.

I’m in two minds as to whether this is a really effective use of text elements on a cover or whether it is annoyingly obscuring the great artwork underneath. With the author name as another text element, there’s only a small window in which the artwork details can be glimpsed.

Is there method in commissioning amazing artwork and covering it in text? I don’t know the actual reasoning but the window the text creates in the bottom third quarter is enough to show the main focus of the picture. The text occludes the rest of the image but it is a kind of tease, a suggestion that more can be seen. You won’t literally see more of the picture inside the book but I can see how that teasing element encourages you to look inside.

*[Not to be confused with https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_The ]

**[ I should make a joke about John Scalzi wandering leftwards before one of his detractors do.]

Amazon crackdown?

Has Amazon taken down books from the far-right Castalia House publishing outfit aka Vox Day’s vanity publisher? Vox Day is claiming that they have:

“You may have noticed that you can’t find any Castalia House ebooks on Amazon right now. That’s because Amazon shut down our KDP account on the basis of a wildly spurious claim of publishing material to which we do not have the necessary rights. “

[archive link]

The work that seems to have caught Amazon’s attention is Corrosion (The Corroding Empire Book 1) which Day published (and probably wrote) as a kind of spoiler for the release of John Scalzi’s Collapsing Empire (which I read here).

The book in question already had a checkered history. Back in March 2017 Mike Glyer covered the various ins-and-outs of its availability: http://file770.com/amazon-keeps-freeze-on-sales-of-castalias-corrosion/comment-page-1/

Checking Amazon right now, I can see a variety of Castalia House books being listed. I can also see the audio-book version of Corrosion (The Corroding Empire Book 1)  but not the ebook. It’s possible that Amazon had a more sweeping in its takedown of Castalia House earlier but we only have Day’s word for it and he’s not a reliable source.

Day is, of course, presenting this as some kind of authoritarian crackdown etc. etc. but the whole “joke” of his book was that it was meant to have a cover and title and author name intended to look like a more popular book. The rationale given was that it was a parody but the book itself isn’t a parody of John Scalzi’s book aside from its cover.

In short, the self-own keeps owning. A poorly thought-out attempt by Vox Day to strike another blow in his long-running “gamma” grievance against John Scalzi continues to disrupt his own business and its main source of income. A borderline case of deceptive marketing will continue to be a borderline case of deceptive marketing and will keep on biting him on his metaphorical bottom. The master strategist strikes again…

[eta: and apparently Castalia has been re-instated http://voxday.blogspot.com/2019/01/reinstated.html?m=1 ]

Space Opera Book Cover Maker

Ladles and Gentlebens, here it is: The Space Opera Book Cover Maker Thing!


First a word of warning. The images take a while to load and might be even slower depending on your internet connection. However, that speeds up as your browser caches some of them.

The basic idea is this. There are seven layers of images which you can control. The images load as thumbnails (actually the full image is loading into your browser’s memory hence it being a bit slow). You then press a button and all the images you’ve picked get stacked together into an HTML Canvas. If you right click on the canvas then you can save the combined image to your computer.

Some layers are solid (with some 100% transparent bits) and some are semi-transparent and add effects. Every layer has the option of a 100% transparent image called blank.png which helps you dial back a bit when it all gets just too much.

The “randomise” button will set each layer to some random image.


Best way to use it: Hit “randomise” and then blank out a few layers.

  • 1. background: This is the base of your image and is a solid image. The images are a mix of gradients, swrily nebulas and star fields.
  • 2. back atmosphere: This is a semi-transparent layer and includes more swirly nebulas or extra stars.
  • 3. distant features: This layers has planets and asteroids and other lurking background objects. There’s also giant space skulls and looming heads and other things.
  • 4. mid atmosphere: Another layer of colours! This layer can help add depth to your image. This layer is a bit hit or miss. It’s great if you want to make a bakground planet look more distant but can make your image look a bit busy.
  • 5. lower left object and 6. upper right object: These two layers contain similar images in a variety of positions. The layers contains things like space ships or foreground objects. Lots of trial and error are needed here. Best option is to either have one of the two layers blank or to have quite contrasting styles. Two big spaceships in both sections rarely works I’ve found.
  • 7. front effects: Finally a few extra effects to add a bit of flare!

Can you use it for…Yes! Doesn’t matter what. I’m lazy and the laziest IP option is Public Domain because I’m not going to spend any time or effort policing how people use it. Your combination of images is your expression 🙂 Feel free to download individual elements sperately if you like.

Titles and other text elements I decided to avoid. You will need to add your own. The HTML Canvas object does have text functions but they are too fiddly to add in a way that are both flexible and easy to use.

Work in Progress

Last year my walrusfysing sci-fi cover maker was fun but I wanted to do something a bit better. I made the last one quickly using a tool called Hype, but I wanted to make something with leaner code that would let people make a big colourful space opera cover. In particular, I wanted the final image to be downloadable as an image file with enough resolution to use as a legitimate book cover

And I’ve done that! The code works and I’ve got a lot of images together (more still to do though. My main issue now is finding a home (the attic workshop can’t hold the number of image files needed).

When everything is ready I’ll announce it 🙂

Meanwhile, here is an example of what it can make. Each image has seven layers (some of which can be blank) and you can pick an image for each layer.