I'm now looking at an advance copy of one of the 2009 hardcovers I've most wanted. It's ARE YOU THERE AND OTHER STORIES
by Jack Skillingstead (Golden Gryphon Press). Yes, I illustrated the cover art for this story collection, but that's not why I've been looking forward to it. Quite simply, I envy the rest of the world that hasn't read this one. The major editors of sf/f, such as Gardner Dozois, Gordon Van Gelder, and Lou Anders, know how special Skillingstead is. They're the ones that first commissioned his stories. Beyond them, I suspect Skillingstead is still a relative unknown to many, but perhaps not for much longer. Skillingstead is one of my new favorite writers, and even better, he's one of the rare ones that seeks big questions rather than big answers. As 2009 World Fantasy Award nominee Daryl Gregory says, "Jack Skillingstead is fearless. No one in SF writes about death, sex, loneliness, and love with such searing honesty." Well said.
I was hired for this gig back in '08, and was privileged to read the manuscript back then. I suspected this might be one of the very best sf books of 2009. That's how good it is. I want to know what you think. This book is not for everyone. I envy anyone reading these stories for the first time. This is my favorite kind of sf -- the kind that inevitably make me see the world a little more clearly, with all of the shades of love, hurt, and hope illuminated a little richer and deeper than the day before. Golden Gryphon has it available right now
, and Amazon will start selling it on September 6th
. (Note that Amazon's cover image is a mockup, not the final. The one you see above is the final.)
A final note about the cover art -- gosh, this was a hard book to cover-illustrate. This book demanded a personal response, rather than a literal one, which is the way I prefer to work, but it wasn't easy. I originally thought the cover might be a man trying to hug a ghost (if you catch that Amazon image before they change it) and I cobbled together a rough assemblage image using a piece of a previous cover to try to grasp the basic image, in hopes of reshaping and refining. The publisher liked it. Jack liked it. I liked it, but I couldn't shake the feeling that it seemed awfully heavy-handed. It just wasn't the iconic image this cover demanded. The final cover art sprung from one of my alternate ideas, and as it turned out, it was the right one. Thanks to Matt Fulcher and Sanford Allen for helping me find my way. I wish there were more books like this.