Thursday, December 24, 2009


Here's my cover art for James Dashner's THE 13TH REALITY: THE JOURNAL OF CURIOUS LETTERS, just released this week in a fresh new edition from Aladdin. When you see the book on the shelf, you'll notice it's got a different color scheme. Although I did both versions, the one pictured left is my preferred version.

Why two versions? When the job came to me, it was noted that the book was targeted toward "independent readers" which is defined as 9-12 year-olds. It was also noted that the cover would be printed on silver foil. Early in the process, I went to the bookstore and stared at the shelves of books that this cover would compete against. It was immediately obvious that this market uses a LOT of color and flash to grab eyeballs. Every cover seemed to be trying to out-flash the one next to it. That's not unlike the adult sf/f section, but the tendency was perhaps a little more aggressive throughout the independent reader shelves. That's what inspired the color scheme you see here -- a direct counterpoint to the book's competition -- spare and ultra-restrained, where one key element (the scarf) calls out, and the rest of the art plays off the shimmer of the foil material. It seemed like a surefire strategy to help the book stand out and sell, and I was excited to see the final result. Well, you know what they say about the best-laid plans of mice and men....;)

The version you see here was deemed "too sophisticated for 9-12 year-olds". Oy. Anyone have any 9-12 year olds in their family? If you do, you know that one thing you can count on is they're extremely visually sophisticated, and probably more so than most of us adults.:) Best wishes to all at Aladdin and to Mr. Dashner himself, who seems to be having a heckuva year thanks to THE MAZE RUNNER's steamrolling success.

Time to wrap some presents over here. Happy Holidays to all!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Magazine of the SF/F Field

That's what LOCUS MAGAZINE's masthead says at the top of every issue. Over the last year or so, I've been wondering if that's really true. Or should the word "Field" be replaced with the word "Writer"? Reason: virtually every LOCUS interview for the past decade has been writer-centric. I mentioned on Twitter and Facebook today that I wondered if subscribers would stop buying if LOCUS did full-length interviews with illustrators as frequently as they do with writers. There's already been several comments and I thought I'd bring the discussion over here where it's open to everyone and comments don't have to be limited. A few points:

1. I'm currently a subscriber to LOCUS MAGAZINE. Have been for the last several years.

2. The people that publish LOCUS are amongst my favorites in this business. They're fun, smart, insightful, and amongst the hardest-working folks in our field.

3. They've had a tough year with the death of LOCUS founder Charles N. Brown. It's a credit to Liza, Amelia, Kirsten, Tim and everyone over there that the magazine has not missed a beat. LOCUS is clearly in the best hands possible.

4. Here's what bothers me though -- if LOCUS is indeed the magazine of our field (the sf/f field), then why do virtually all of its regular interviews focus on writers? Doesn't "the field" encompass more than just writers? What about illustrators, editors, and art directors as well? Aren't their processes and opinions also an integral part of what advances our field? And if so, then why don't we see more interviews with those folks in LOCUS? In the last decade, to the best of my recollection, the only illustrators interviewed for LOCUS are Shaun Tan, Bob Eggleton, and Kinuko Craft. If LOCUS runs two full-length interviews per issue, then that's 240 interviews over a decade, and only three artists (or so) represented in the last ten years. Fair to say that those are three excellent choices, but three out of 240 possible interviews is a staggeringly low figure, to say the least.

5. In fairness, I've spoken to editor-in-chief Liza Trombi twice this year about this very subject, and without disclosing private details, I think it's fair to say that LOCUS is in a tough position. Think about this question from their standpoint -- they're a business, and quite frankly, these tough financial times aren't easy for ANY print magazine business. Change is especially risky right now. LOCUS only has so many pages and adding page count is expensive, if not prohibitively so. They're used to being a writer-centric magazine and have been lauded for it time after time (see their 29 Hugo Awards). Under those circumstances, I think I can understand their position to "hold the line" and not change their formula. At the same time, they are a print magazine that (like all print magazines) is always looking to increase its subscription base, especially in these challenging times.

6. Thus my question -- if LOCUS were to publish more full-length interviews with illustrators, editors, and art directors in addition to their already-outstanding writer interviews, would they diminish their base? Or possibly grow it?

7. Here's another question -- I wonder if perhaps LOCUS is completely justified to continue as they have (except perhaps change their masthead to "The Magazine of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer"). Perhaps I've been slow to understand that I'm NOT the audience for this mag because I'm not a writer? Perhaps their magazine is purely a magazine about the sf/f writer and for the fans of those writers, and that's the way it always has been and should be? Maybe LOCUS and I disagree that the art of sf/f is a significant part of "the field" and therefore of genuine interview interest to its readers? If so, then I'd have no problem wishing them continued success, and subscribing instead to another magazine like ImagineFX, where I would learn more about my sf/f art peers and their craft, in the same way that writers learn the same from LOCUS' interviews.

Last thought -- LOCUS doesn't exist to make artists, editors, or art directors happy. They're a business, and if indeed their audience doesn't want interview coverage of those communities, I'm fine with that. But I'm curious to hear people say that's true or not. For LOCUS' sake, please keep comments productive here. If you're getting ready to launch slings and arrows at them, don't even think about it. I don't have time for that. This post is not about that. For the time being though -- I'm just curious if I'm alone in my observations. Remember -- it's their magazine. They're the ones doing the heavy lifting. :)

Sunday, December 06, 2009

SMOFCon 27 Final Thoughts

Made a quick visit to SMOFCon 27 in Austin, TX yesterday afternoon. Quick thoughts:

1. Thanks to Karen Meschke for graciously inviting me to participate on a panel called "Artists -- What They Need and Expect From Conventions". Scott Zrubek, Laura Domitz, Rocky Kelley, and Vincent Villafranca were my fellow panelists. Scott did a tremendous job moderating a 1.5 hour, frenetic, and highly-energized room of opinions and exchanges. I learned A LOT from this panel, and I hope the audience did as well.

2. Props to Craig (last name unknown) who sat in the back row and had a treasure trove of articulate knowledge about the pricing and ease with which future Worldcons can create banners of the Artist Guest of Honor's work in order to provide a massive visual beacon for the show, build pride in its attending membership, herald the show's arrival to the host city, and increase artists' desire to attend Worldcon. I've been championing this idea for the last year-and-a-half. When I raised the point, he had a wealth of info to corroborate. It never occurred to me that extra banners could also be produced and sold to membership as a collectible, but that's a fantastic idea for another revenue stream for future Worldcons. Very smart.

3. I'd love to see Worldcon increase their outreach toward art directors. Writers attend Worldcon for the sake of one thing -- jobs. It's no different for artists. I suspect most writers are less concerned about discussing their past work, as much as they are about promoting their current work, and most importantly, planting the business seeds with editors and publishers for their next gigs. It's no different for artists. Art directors hire artists, just as editors call the shots for writers. I advocated an expansion of programming mindset toward artists where Worldcon doesn't just do a good art show and call it a day, but in fact, expands the job networking possibilities for artists via increased outreach to art directors in books, gaming, film, and media (perhaps Art Director Guests of Honor?). Add to this expanded opportunities for portfolio reviews for young artists. Right now, Irene Gallo and Lou Anders are the only art directors who have consistently attended Worldcon in recent years. Artist attendance at Worldcon has declined in large part because the vast majority feel the show doesn't promote enough job opportunity and career advancement for artists. Worldcon would gain amazing vibrancy and energy from an ongoing effort toward this one major move. It would lift the whole con to another level.

4. Lighting, lighting, lighting at art shows. Much talk about this and how to establish and improve standards. Good stuff. I don't know enough about lumens to be an expert, but hopefully some of us will start looking at this and gains will be made for the overall.

5. SMOFCon -- I'd like to just give a heartfelt thank-you to all of you for being gracious to me, and especially to all who attended that panel. On the drive home, my wife Traci and I talked about how fortunate science fiction is to have people who give so much of themselves to make these cons happen. That goes for all of the SMOFs in the house. I tip my hat to all of you, who attended from around the world. You have my utmost respect. Happy Holidays. See you at Boskone and around the continent in 2010. :)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


Subterranean Press has announced that their limited edition of Dan Simmons' epic novel THE TERROR is all done and ready to ship. I did the cover art for this one. It's my third Simmons limited edition cover. The first two Simmons books that I cover-illustrated sold out their first editions (MUSE OF FIRE and DROOD). Here's what awaits readers in THE TERROR (text courtesy of Sub Press' website):

In the spring of 1845, Sir John Franklin leads a company of two ships and 130 men on a hazardous voyage to the remote, uncharted Arctic. His goal: to locate and map the legendary Northwest Passage. Two years later, the expedition, which began in a spirit of optimism and high purpose, faces disaster. Franklin is dead. The two ships -- the Erebus and the Terror -- are hopelessly trapped by gigantic, shifting ice floes. Supplies are dwindling, and the crews struggle daily against lethal, unimaginably frigid conditions. And something -- some Thing -- is stalking the survivors, spreading death, suffering, and chaos in its remorseless wake.

THE TERROR is both a rigorously researched historical novel and a compelling homage to one of the seminal SF/Horror films of the 1950s. It is popular fiction of the highest order, the kind of intense, wholly absorbing epic only Dan Simmons could have written.

Subterranean still has copies available, but I don't know how much longer they will. If you're interested, you might want to order very soon. :)