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.


Loved Books: Introduction to Logic by Irving Copi

This is a famous textbook on logic but I didn’t know that when I bought it…

I found it on a shelf of withdrawn-from-lending books in a public library somewhere in Humberside (almost certainly the main public library in Hull but I’ve a vague memory it was somewhere more weird than that).

To be honest I just thought it looked cool with its green cover and minimal title.

It cost 25 pence and I bought it in 1989 it seems. The cut out page was done by the library when they removed the record of when it had been lent out.

This is my second favourite withdrawn library book that I own. It is also a really decent text book on logic.

Loved Books: Sacred Mathematics – Japanese Temple Geometry

I don’t own books that you could call coffee table books (also I prefer coffee in cups rather than tables) but this one has the glossiest paper and a cover that looks like it has been gift wrapped.

This is a book about Sangaku ( – a topic about which I knew nothing. Reading about it briefly for the first time, I had one of those ‘how did I not already know about this!’ moments. I also, coincidentally, had money to spend on books! So I bought this as a present to myself.

The concept is/was that geometry problems or solutions to problems as a temple offering. How delightful is that! It’s symbolic but also requires personal effort, so it has many aspects of a kind of ritual sacrifice or penance (to cast in Western religious terms) but also very meaningful in other ways.

The idea of mathematics as belonging primarily with the sciences and materialist domains is a relatively new one. Sangaku is just one example of how mathematics often intersects with spiritual aspect of human inquiry as well as aesthetic ones.

Plot Concept – Extract

Terby’s agent looked at the distraught author with both scepticism and sympathy. She had always thought it was a professional hazard for creative people to be highly strung but Terby was normally so self-confident.

“So you mean that somebody made a prank cover?” she asked the wild-eyed author, “You should probably find that flattering. All publicity is good publicity!” Perhaps, if she could just find a positive spin on this Terby would calm down.

“No, no, no! Not A prank cover! All the covers! Of every edition! Of every COPY!” exclaimed Terby.

“Oh don’t be ridiculous Terby!” she scoffed as sympathetically as anybody can scoff, “Look I’ve got a copy of your breakout novel right here. You’ll soon see everything is just fine.”

She reached over to the bookcase and pulled out a paperback fantasy novel and confidently placed it face up on the desk. The colour drained from Terby’s face and sweat broke out on his brow. Only then did she look at the cover. A garish, plasticine-like creature dominated the central image. Underneath the day-glow earth-pig was the title:

Aard’s First Rule

The Libri Operimentum Artifex had struck.


Book Cover Thing 2017 – The Final

Previously: Start, Longer list, Culling, Artwork, An Aside, Functionality, Design, Relevance…

I do enjoy doing this. The idea of using different categories is to force me to look at the covers in different ways. It doesn’t make the scores more objective but it does encourage me to look at how covers serve multiple roles and it also makes some of the apples versus oranges comparisons easier to do. A fun side-effect is I don’t keep or look at a running score for each cover until the end. That means that I don’t know which cover was my favourite until this final post!

Of course, I probably already had a favourite and that bias will have impacted on each of the scores I gave. So I am not surprised by the top covers I picked out. Please do wade in with comments on your favourites!

The Top Three

I love each of these. I didn’t have a category that explicitly captures that “Oooh, I want to see what this books about!” feeling but I think each of these has that feeling for me. I’ve only read one of them though! Central Station is in my TBR pile.

  • Rank:1 Score:15 – Hammers on Bone ArtistĂ·Designer: Jeffrey Alan Love| by Cassandra Khaw, Tor ISFDB or Amazon Entry
  • Rank:2 Score:14 – Central Station ArtistĂ·Designer: Sarah Anne Langton | by Lavie Tidhar, Tachyon Publishing ISFDB or Amazon Entry
  • Rank:3 Score:13 – Firebrand ArtistĂ·Designer: Michael Heath| by A.J.Hartley, Tor ISFDB or Amazon Entry

The Honourable Mentions – Rank 4 and 5

All great covers. Given the arbitrary way I’m dishing out points, each of these may have made it into the top 3 if I ran my choices again with a fresh brain.

  • Rank:4 Score:12 – The Changeling ArtistĂ·Designer: Yuko Shimizu | by Victor LaValle, Spiegel & Grau ISFDB or Amazon Entry
  • Rank:4 Score:12 – Lovecraft Country ArtistĂ·Designer: Jarrod Tayler| by Matt Ruff, Harper ISFDB or Amazon Entry
  • Rank:4 Score:12 – The Days of Tao ArtistĂ·Designer: Galen Dara| by Wesley Chu, Subterranean Press ISFDB or Amazon Entry
  • Rank:4 Score:12 – The Drowning Eyes ArtistĂ·Designer: Cynthia Sheppard| by Emily Foster, Tor ISFDB or Amazon Entry
  • Rank:4 Score:12 – Too Like the Lightning ArtistĂ·Designer: Victor Mosquera | by Ada Palmer, Tor ISFDB or Amazon Entry
  • Rank:5 Score:11 – A Fierce and Subtle Poison ArtistĂ·Designer: Allison Colpoys| by Samantha Mabry, Algonquin Young Readers ISFDB or Amazon Entry
  • Rank:5 Score:11 – Breath of Earth ArtistĂ·Designer: Gene Mollica| by Beth Cato, Harper Voyager ISFDB or Amazon Entry
  • Rank:5 Score:11 – Everfair ArtistĂ·Designer: Victo Ngai| by Nisi Shawl, Tor ISFDB or Amazon Entry
  • Rank:5 Score:11 – Final Girls ArtistĂ·Designer: Julie Dillon| by Mira Grant, Subterranean Press ISFDB or Amazon Entry
  • Rank:5 Score:11 – Ninefox Gambit ArtistĂ·Designer: Chris Moore| by Yoon Ha Lee, Solaris ISFDB or Amazon Entry
  • Rank:5 Score:11 – The Underground Railroad ArtistĂ·Designer: Oliver Munday | by Colson Whitehead, Fleet ISFDB or Amazon Entry
  • Rank:5 Score:11 – Witchy Eye ArtistĂ·Designer: Daniel Dos Santos | by D.J.Butler, Baen ISFDB or Amazon Entry

The Covers I’m Surprised Didn’t Get More Points – Rank 6

Remember that aside from one book, all of these covers had already been through a substantial set of filters. So there aren’t bad covers here, just ones that didn’t grab me quite as much as the higher ranked ones.

This also where the category system might show its bugs. I really thought I’d give Walkaway a lot more points!

  • Rank:6 Score:10 – Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet ArtistĂ·Designer: Joan Wong| by Charlie N. Holmberg, 47North ISFDB or Amazon Entry
  • Rank:6 Score:10 – Walkaway ArtistĂ·Designer: Will Staehle| by Cory Doctorow, Tor ISFDB or Amazon Entry
  • Rank:6 Score:10 – Fallout: The Hot War ArtistĂ·Designer: David G. Stevenson| by Harry Turtledove, Del Rey ISFDB or Amazon Entry

Fun but Flawed – Rank 7 to 9

Well done to Sieging Manganela – it did manage to hold its own against some big publishing house covers. Again, some nice covers here. Generally, they lost marks for reasons: not enough information or too much information, being too literal or not literal enough, and so on. All good in other ways though.

  • Rank:7 Score:9 – Sieging Manganela ArtistĂ·Designer: Brian Allen| by Charon Dunn, Amazon Digital Services ISFDB or Amazon Entry
  • Rank:8 Score:8 – The Sunlight Pilgrims ArtistĂ·Designer: Suzanne Dean, Kai & Sunny| by Jenni Fagan, William Heinemann ISFDB or Amazon Entry
  • Rank:8 Score:8 – A God in the Shed ArtistĂ·Designer: an unsung hero| by J.F.Dubeau, Inkshares ISFDB or Amazon Entry
  • Rank:8 Score:8 – Of Sand and Malice Made ArtistĂ·Designer: RenĂ© Aigner| by Bradley P. Beaulieu, DAW books ISFDB or Amazon Entry
  • Rank:8 Score:8 – The Hammer of Thor ArtistĂ·Designer: John Rocco | by Rick Riordan, Disney Hyperion ISFDB or Amazon Entry
  • Rank:9 Score:7 – After Atlas ArtistĂ·Designer: Anxo Amarelle | by Emma Newman, Roc ISFDB or Amazon Entry
  • Rank:9 Score:7 – Borderline ArtistĂ·Designer: an unsung hero| by Mishell Baker, Saga ISFDB or Amazon Entry
  • Rank:9 Score:7 – Occupy Me ArtistĂ·Designer: Sidonie Beresford-Browne| by Tricia Sullivan, Gollancz ISFDB or Amazon Entry

The Judge is an Idiot – Rank 10 and 11

I think both of these scored poorly because they are BIG ART on a tiny cover with text on top. On reflection, my low scores seem mean and your own judgement might put these much higher. Still, somebody has to come last and it was a tough field.

  • Rank:10 Score:6 – Babylon’s Ashes ArtistĂ·Designer: Daniel Dociu| by James S.A. Corey, Orbit ISFDB or Amazon Entry
  • Rank:11 Score:5 – Death’s End ArtistĂ·Designer: Stephan Martiniere | by Cixin Liu translated by Ken Liu, Tor ISFDB or Amazon Entry

This Score is too Good For It – Rank 12

Enough categories and enough lapses of judgement on my part and this monstrosity still managed to pick up some marks here and there.

  • Rank:12 Score:4 – MAGA 2020 ArtistĂ·Designer: Dawn Witzke| by ed Marina Fontaine, Superversive Press ISFDB or Amazon Entry