Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The September '09 ASIMOV'S Is Here!

I mentioned this over at MISSIONS UNKNOWN yesterday, but didn't have time until just now to mention it here. The September issue of ASIMOV'S SCIENCE FICTION went on sale yesterday and it features my cover art for Lisa Goldstein's story "Away From Here." Despite these days being stormy ones for the magazine publishing world as a whole, ASIMOV'S is still going strong with 44 Hugo Awards and 24 Nebula Awards to its credit to date. This month's issue is loaded with phenomenal authors and content, and I'm proud to be associated it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

An Open Letter to Adam Roberts

Hi, Adam --

I'm pleased you're a working science fiction author because as a driveby art critic, you're a mess. In your July 17th post about the Hugo Awards, you labelled the work of four of the five Best Professional Artist Hugo nominees as dull and mediocre, and not deserving of Hugo recognition. You're entitled to your opinion, just as all fans are. Being one of the five Hugo nominees in this category, I can safely speak for myself and all of the pro artist nominees in that we all relish good criticism. It's part of being a pro.

That said, hopefully you and I will someday sit down at a con and have a beer together. We have a shared love for science fiction. Both of us wish the best for its progressive growth. We have mutual friends. Many of them speak highly of your ability as an sf author. I hear that you're the kind of challenging author that I love to cover-illustrate. That said, even if I just have the pleasure of reading one of your books someday, I hope I'll actually be able to find one.

I applaud your self-appointed stance as a champion of literary excellence and that you demand excellence of the rest of the sf world. However, in doing so, it's only fair that you live up to the same. As an art critic, you fail miserably, sir. Two statements you make in your post that betray you as a poseur in this regard:

1. Of the work of Donato Giancola, Dan Dos Santos, Bob Eggleton and myself, you claim that the work is "conventional; all surface technique and no soul; artworks exactly like and in not one quarter-degree superior to pretty much every SFF novel or magazine cover printed since 1966."

Response: Since 1966, you say? "Pretty much every", you say? Sounds like you worked overtime to calculate that one. Since you've so conveniently couched your opinion as fact, I'm sure you'll be willing to enlighten us with your well-researched thesis about 43 years of sf art from which your conclusion no doubt originates (maybe somewhere within your labyrinthine HISTORY OF SCIENCE FICTION?). Pardon me if I don't hold my breath waiting.

2. A second excerpt from your blogpost: "Remember, Fandom, my question is not: are these artists competent, because clearly they all are. But are they the best? What are they doing that is new? That stands out? That shakes or moves or inspires us? The moleskin-notebook doodlers on Skine-art produce more interesting art than this in their spare time every day. We can do better. Or—and this is the angle that worries me, Fandom: or (sic) you really think that these images are the best that visual art can be?"

Response: It's up to me to make the decisions within my own work. It's up to the audience to judge how it assimilates into the culture stream. It's up to me to make my work the best I can, and once done, I leave the value judgments to the audience, and to history. That said, I'll leave you and the rest of the world to judge my work, but as a working professional artist, I'm qualified to make the case for three very worthy 2009 Hugo Award Professional Artist nominees, Donato Giancola, Dan Dos Santos and Bob Eggleton. You say that "the moleskin-notebook doodlers on Skine-art produce more interesting art than this in their spare time every day." I took a look through this site which you claim is more "interesting". I encourage all to do the same and make their own judgments. Meanwhile, I offer the following personal opinions on Giancola, Dos Santos, and Eggleton. (Readers please note that I'm also a huge admirer of Shaun Tan's work and he's equally Hugo-worthy, but he wasn't a target of clumsy generalization and therefore, not relevant to present discussion.)

Why I believe Donato Giancola is Hugo-worthy:

This is Donato's cover art for THE GOLDEN ROSE. It not only displays a masterful command of oil paint but packs an emotional wallop. Technically, it's one of the richest oil paintings I've seen on an sf/f cover in 2008. Note the rocks vs. the foamy tide; the undertones of the fish skin vs. those of the human skin; the textures of the tentacles vs. those of the neighboring seaweed; the triangular shapes of the tide echoing the triangular shapes of the rocks. All of this interplay is happening within a simple but dynamic birds-eye composition that frames the forms and drama in perfect measure. The body language of the figures is gut-wrenching and engrossing. To call this "soulless art" signals character flaws within the accuser, not within the art or the artist. If this is "mediocre art" that shows sf/f in a poor light, then go talk to the Society of Illustrators New York who are very much NOT a genre association and recognized this painting with their highest 2008 honor -- the Hamilton King Award, awarded to the outstanding illustration of the year by a peer group of some of the most respected American artists.

Why I believe Dan Dos Santos is Hugo-worthy:

This is Dan's cover for POISON SLEEP. What I love about this one is it's an ingenious and unconventional compositional solution that doesn't succumb to the formulas of a standard mass-market paperback. The color scheme is restrained and smart. It stands out versus its adjacent competitors on a given bookstore shelf. There's an economy of form here, and a delicacy in the skin tones, expressions and gestures. It does what only the very best book cover art does -- draws the reader across the store to pick up the book, while standing on its own as a compelling piece of visual storytelling.

Why I believe Bob Eggleton is Hugo-worthy:

Bob will never be confused for artists pushing the envelope of genre art, but in fact, that's his super power. He's unapologetically in love with pulp, and while that may not be my personal cup of tea, his work regularly seduces my eyes, unlike any other living pulp-loving painter. That's a pretty neat trick when pulp is not my primary interest and yet I enjoy it when Bob does it. Paintings like this one are why his work connects so powerfully with the sf audience. They transport viewers time after time, and his brushwork is some of the most emotional that we currently have in the sf field. Some may argue that Bob's thematic wellspring doesn't speak to the present time, but I think that's precisely his point. I think he's consciously trying to use the fantastic to remind us of simpler times past and future, and and he does it as well as anyone ever has in sf art.

Adam: You attempted to make the case for sweeping change in the Hugos (which is very much your right), but you utterly failed to make a convincing case why one form of visual art is more desirable than the current nominated choices in the Best Professional Artist category.

Instead, you displayed that it's much easier for you to wield poorly-crafted generalizations, a familiar trademark of amateur writers. Again, your opinions are your right, just as they're the right of any fan, but it's a working professional's equal right to call you out when you pound your chest, demanding excellence, and yet don't expect the same of yourself in this conversation. I'm disappointed that someone of your regard prefers to be just another intellectual bully trying to look oh-so-cool and above reproach, lobbing cheap shots, while trading on his reputation. Science fiction is my field too, and it deserves better than that.

Again, I hope we can have a beer together someday. It would be a sincere pleasure, and I mean that with no sarcasm. And one last thing -- should you again decide to take potshots at Giancola, Dos Santos, or Eggleton, please bring your A-game next time.

Very best,
John Picacio

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cheryl Morgan & Convention Reporter

Cheryl Morgan has unveiled her latest creation -- Convention Reporter. Ever spent big chunks of time trolling the internet searching for threads and reports about an sf/fantasy convention that's currently happening? Well, this website is the answer to your prayers (and just in time for the upcoming World Science Fiction Convention in Montreal). First, a quick word about Cheryl -- she's one of the nominees this year for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer, and it's not just because she generates some of the best fan reporting and discussion found anywhere. It's just as much for her commitment and vision, creating sites like Convention Reporter and the well-regarded Science Fiction Awards Watch. For my money, she's one of the essential voices of today's sf community, and when she talks, smart people listen.

Have a look at some of the folks that will be joining me as "con reporters" in this new effort -- Lou Anders, Neil Gaiman, John Scalzi, Mary Robinette Kowal, Cory Doctorow, and more. Decent company, I'd say.

So how does this work? Cheryl explains: "This is what you might call a 'mashup'. That is, it is an online service that works by collating information from a variety of other online services and presenting it in an single, simple interface.

Science fiction conventions are very well reported on these days. Convention attendees write reports on their blogs, and on web sites such as LiveJournal and Facebook. They upload photos. They may even tweet live from the convention. Modern smart phone hardware is starting to allow direct creation and uploading of YouTube video. The potential is endless.

But how do you find these reports? Hashtags are one solution; this is another. Very simply, we ask people who are planning to cover a convention to register with us, and we make all of their reports easily accessible in one place."

Should be a lot of fun being a part of this effort in Montreal, and beyond. :) Thanks, Cheryl!

Monday, July 13, 2009


Been busy, busy over here. Just noticed that this weekend, Subterranean Press unveiled the final cover for their limited edition of Dan Simmons' THE TERROR. I did the cover art for this one and Subterranean is now accepting preorders for the book. The previous two covers I've done for Subterranean Press were also for Dan Simmons limited editions (MUSE OF FIRE and DROOD). Both of those books have completely sold out. I would expect that THE TERROR will likely do the same, so you might consider ordering yours soon before they're gone. :)

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Locus Awards Results + Odds & Ends

Can't believe it's already been a week since I last posted here! Some odds and ends that I haven't had time to post, until now:

1. The full Locus Awards results have been published in the print edition of this month's LOCUS MAGAZINE. I'm pleased to see that I finished #3 in the poll. Many thanks to all who considered me on their ballots. As most folks know, Michael Whelan finished #1, and Bob Eggleton finished #2. It's a heckuva list and I'm honored to be included.

2. Enjoyed this short Lev Grossman TIME MAGAZINE/Nerd World Q&A with the great Michael Moorcock. In it, Lev pimps Tachyon's terrific new book THE BEST OF MICHAEL MOORCOCK.

3. Jeff Vandermeer recently posted about Mark Chadbourn and the AGE OF MISRULE trilogy over at Omnivoracious. Solid piece -- check it out. :)

4. Been working on several illustration fronts here -- mostly drawings for the 6th Del Rey ELRIC book! Will hopefully be sharing some of it here when the publisher gives the greenlight. :)

5. If you happen to be on Twitter, or are considering it, I seem to be dropping by there at least once a day to offer a thought or comment. Here's my Twitter feed if you'd like to follow it. (And by the way, no plan to abandon this blog! In fact, Paul Vaughn is currently working on revamping it and my website with a brand-new look! Stay tuned.) :)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

WAR AND SPACE next month!

Editor Steven Silver sent me this the other day -- the final jacket layout for NESFA Press' forthcoming WAR AND SPACE: THE BEST OF LESTER DEL REY, VOL. 1. NESFA's website says the book is slated for release next month, so I'm guessing that means they'll have copies available at the World Science Fiction Convention in Montreal. Can't wait to see how it turns out....should be a winner. :) Cover illustration by me, and jacket design by Alice N.S. Lewis. Alice is also the designer responsible for the cool Boskone poster that's been distributed recently. Way to go, Alice!