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grant hutchison
2014-Sep-14, 02:50 PM
In the late 80s/early 90s, Paul Preuss wrote a series of novels based on Arthur C. Clarke short stories, collectively called the Venus Prime series. These were more-or-less simultaneously published by Avon and Tor UK. Both publishers decided to produce uniform cover art, and both decided to feature the heroine of the stories on the covers. Apart from that, the art choices couldn't have been much more different, I think.

Here are the six books in the series (200KB jpgs). The first three are Tor covers, the second three Avon:

Volume One (http://www.ghutchison.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/preuss/1.jpg)
Volume Two (http://www.ghutchison.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/preuss/2.jpg)
Volume Three (http://www.ghutchison.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/preuss/3.jpg)
Volume Four (http://www.ghutchison.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/preuss/4.jpg)
Volume Five (http://www.ghutchison.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/preuss/5.jpg)
Volume Six (http://www.ghutchison.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/preuss/6.jpg)

It's an old example, but I think we can still see this sort of divide in the approach to SF cover art today. Anyone have any views or perferences?

Grant Hutchison

grapes
2014-Sep-14, 03:22 PM
All six Avon titles, on Ebay: http://www.ebay.com/itm/ARTHUR-C-CLARKS-VENUS-PRIME-books-1-6-by-Paul-Preuss-/181525021626?_trksid=p2054897.l5670

Volume five, intermediate cover: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Venus-Prime-5-by-Preuss-Paul-Paperback-/350629714295?pt=US_Fiction_Books&hash=item51a328d977

ETA: Spanish translation: http://sideravisus.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/maxima-tension-venus-prime-i-clarke-arthur-c/

Van Rijn
2014-Sep-14, 11:57 PM
It's an old example, but I think we can still see this sort of divide in the approach to SF cover art today. Anyone have any views or perferences?


My preference is for realistic covers that show something about the story. I especially like imagery similar to work by Don Davis, Roy Scarfo, Chesley Bonestell and similar. Astounding/Analog magazine has had a lot of covers that I've liked, some very memorable. My least favorite is abstract art, as was popular on '70s paperbacks. Of your examples, of the first three:

Volume One (http://www.ghutchison.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/preuss/1.jpg)
Volume Two (http://www.ghutchison.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/preuss/2.jpg)
Volume Three (http://www.ghutchison.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/preuss/3.jpg)

The first one looks a bit interesting, but none of them give me any clue about the story, and I doubt I'd much notice the second and third in the store.

Of these:

Volume Four (http://www.ghutchison.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/preuss/4.jpg)
Volume Five (http://www.ghutchison.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/preuss/5.jpg)
Volume Six (http://www.ghutchison.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/preuss/6.jpg)

Number four would likely get my attention enough to look over the book - a heroine, and it looks like there's an asteroid colony or spaceship near Jupiter? That would be interesting to me. Still, I'd like it to look a bit less like a comic style and a bit more realistic.

Number five I'd probably avoid. In this one, she has a *very* young face with a mature body. No thanks, and if they're trying to get my attention like that, I would suspect it's a bad story. Also, she's in a machine of some kind, but that's all I can tell, so not much better than the first three in telling me about the story. The intermediate version Grapes linked to is better.

The last one is so-so. I can't tell what's really going on, but it's something happening in space. Maybe enough to get my attention, but forgettable after I buy the book.

grant hutchison
2014-Sep-15, 12:22 PM
That's interesting.
I've never been much bothered about whether a cover tells me about the story or not. Maybe this relates to my formative paperback-buying years in the early 70s, when SF publishers often just reached for some random bit of Chris Foss art (http://www.ghutchison.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/preuss/vanvogt.jpg), while thriller publishers featured some horribly naff photo purporting to illustrate the plot (http://www.ghutchison.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/preuss/bagley.jpg) - I generally loved the Chris Foss and laughed at the photos. So from where I sit, covers should suggest the broad category of content (I got very vexed when Grafton used a Chris Foss SF cover on a collection of Asimov's factual essays (http://www.ghutchison.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/preuss/asimov.jpg)), but they needn't sweat the plot details.
I'm also not keen on clutter, either in terms of the artwork or the typography, and I just hate it when the artwork and typography are out of harmony - poor colour and layout choices, and the book goes back on the shelf. So I think I'm most likely to examine a book further if it has a fairly minimal cover, nicely laid out, featuring some theme that tells me roughly where I'm going to end up in terms of content.
So for me, the first three covers win hands down. We've got a capable-looking (but slightly stressed) woman in a tech-y setting. The layout's sparse and unshouty, and there's this intriguing mention of Arthur C. Clarke in small print at the bottom - so I'm going to turn that one over and take a look at the back material.
The second three turn me right off. Lots of bold colours coming together in detailed cover art, and then that two-colour "Venus Prime" overlay which is too big for the space assigned, so that it fights with the background detail. Author detail and title scrunched at the bottom - they're really, really keen that I know this has something to do with Arthur C. Clarke and some series called Venus Prime, and they don't think I should be interested in who actually wrote the thing. Hmm. And the babe-in-a-spacesuit thing just makes me go "eeew".

Grant Hutchison

Paul Beardsley
2014-Sep-15, 08:12 PM
I like a cover to be intriguing or at least pleasant to look at but, unless it's embarrassing (nudity would embarrass me when I was in my teens and early 20s) it wouldn't have much effect on my buying decision.

The killer for me here is not the art. I actually wondered if "cover" was being used in the sense of a cover version of a song - as in, sung by a different artist to the one who wrote it or is normally associated with it. No, I can't understand how a short story, conceived and written by no-one less than Sir Arthur C. Clarke, who obviously thought it would work best as a short story, can be expanded to novel length by a writer who isn't exactly a household name, let alone a recognised literary talent. Honestly, who read these classic Clarke shorts and said, "These need expanding - and Paul Preuss is the man to do it!"

Solfe
2014-Sep-15, 09:41 PM
I love the artwork on Louise Cooper's Time Master Series. Here is a link to a cover (http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1189161223l/1253331.jpg). This is fantasy, but it is one of my favorites. H. M. Hoover's, The Delikon has artwork that is similar (at least the 80's version of the book did).

As far as sci-fi goes, I like the old washed out art that appears on The Forever War (http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-_576pORNmbg/UT52uFZjpyI/AAAAAAAAKy0/da4oZn5Rk10/s400/forever-war-pb.jpg) cover.

grapes
2014-Sep-15, 09:49 PM
No, I can't understand how a short story, conceived and written by no-one less than Sir Arthur C. Clarke, who obviously thought it would work best as a short story, can be expanded to novel length by a writer who isn't exactly a household name, let alone a recognised literary talent. Honestly, who read these classic Clarke shorts and said, "These need expanding - and Paul Preuss is the man to do it!"
Clarke must've had something to do with it! He wrote the intro--although, not glowingly. But at least, he was convinced, somehow. :)

grant hutchison
2014-Sep-15, 11:16 PM
No, I can't understand how a short story, conceived and written by no-one less than Sir Arthur C. Clarke, who obviously thought it would work best as a short story, can be expanded to novel length by a writer who isn't exactly a household name, let alone a recognised literary talent. Honestly, who read these classic Clarke shorts and said, "These need expanding - and Paul Preuss is the man to do it!"Well, no-one really. It started life as an "Arthur C. Clarke's" text-based PC adventure game in the mid-eighties, commission by Byron Preiss. Preuss got the original job of story-boarding the adventure game, and had accumulated a huge overarching plot framework before the game was cancelled, despite an attempt at adding graphics to keep up with the market. The plot outline ended up being converted into the Venus Prime novels, with Clarke still on board - presumably he'd taken a look at Preuss's outline and his four existing novels and decided he could do the job. Some of the wire-frame graphics from the game development were used as rather odd illustrations in the novels, too.

Anyway ... I only chose the Venus Prime series because it was neat illustration of what I was trying to get at about styles of cover art, rather than as a particular focus for incredulity. ;)

Grant Hutchison

Paul Beardsley
2014-Sep-16, 06:25 AM
Well, no-one really. It started life as an "Arthur C. Clarke's" text-based PC adventure game in the mid-eighties, commission by Byron Preiss. Preuss got the original job of story-boarding the adventure game, and had accumulated a huge overarching plot framework before the game was cancelled, despite an attempt at adding graphics to keep up with the market. The plot outline ended up being converted into the Venus Prime novels, with Clarke still on board - presumably he'd taken a look at Preuss's outline and his four existing novels and decided he could do the job. Some of the wire-frame graphics from the game development were used as rather odd illustrations in the novels, too.

Interesting adaptation process - I had no idea. I loved text adventures - still do - so it's a shame it never happened.


Anyway ... I only chose the Venus Prime series because it was neat illustration of what I was trying to get at about styles of cover art, rather than as a particular focus for incredulity. ;)

Sure. I find the whole phenomenon of cover art quite an interesting one. I've tended to find that often the hardback or US covers are more likely to be of a scene in the book rather than something as generic as a random Foss. The paperback edition of Clarke's Imperial Earth just featured a picture of Earth, as I recall, but other editions had tourists on a spaceship crowded by a large window to see the home world for the first time. Looking at the first few James Bond books, the Penguin covers tend to try to convey a mood - a casino late at night for Casino Royale, a blurry shark for Live and Let Die. Other editions had more pulpy covers, bordering on cartoonish, promising gunfights with villains and encounters with sexy ladies. I have seen many covers for The Time Machine, and nearly all of them go out of the way to avoid conveying a story about a machine that carries a man into the far future - one cover just had some Victoria men standing around some chemistry equipment.

grant hutchison
2014-Sep-16, 04:36 PM
Looking at the first few James Bond books, the Penguin covers tend to try to convey a mood - a casino late at night for Casino Royale, a blurry shark for Live and Let Die. Other editions had more pulpy covers, bordering on cartoonish, promising gunfights with villains and encounters with sexy ladies.The recent Vintage reissue went for a series of very minimalist, rather retro covers; Moonraker (http://www.ghutchison.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/preuss/fleming.jpg) is a good example. Presumably there's an assumption that they're not needing to hook in new readers who have no idea what the books are like.


I have seen many covers for The Time Machine, and nearly all of them go out of the way to avoid conveying a story about a machine that carries a man into the far future - one cover just had some Victoria men standing around some chemistry equipment.That'd be the Everyman (http://www.ghutchison.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/preuss/wells.jpg) edition, I guess. Taken from this painting (http://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/result.html?*sform=wellcome-images&_IXACTION_=query&%24%3Dtoday=&_IXFIRST_=1&%3Did_ref=V0006859&_IXSPFX_=templates/t&_IXFPFX_=templates/t&_IXMAXHITS_=1), but bizarrely misattributed on the back cover, using a rearrangement of the artist's name to provide both the supposed name of the picture and the supposed artist.
(Presumably the worthy Victorian chemists on the cover of The Time Machine are creating thiotimoline (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thiotimoline).)

Everyman and Penguin often (usually?) reach for vaguely related public-domain images when reissuing classics. Again, I suppose the idea is that they have no need to sell the book to a new audience. You're buying the book because you know of the story and you want to read it. Nowadays, of course, the public-domain cover image is a good flag for a self-published work, too.

Grant Hutchison

SkepticJ
2014-Sep-17, 12:48 AM
I don't have much of a preference for book covers, beyond that they look good, feel right for the novel, and ideally have a design that won't look corny a few decades later.

One of my favorite book covers is for The Diamond Age (http://ourdailyread.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/diamondage.jpg)

I wish I still had that version. I loaned it out, didn't get it back, and I presumed that the publisher had good judgment. I was wrong.

In the last reprinting is was replaced by . . . this (https://p.gr-assets.com/max_square/fill/books/1388180931/827.jpg).

It could be worse (http://www.jpoki.net/wp-content/uploads/the-diamond-age.jpg) though.

Noclevername
2014-Sep-17, 02:56 AM
Most of the time I barely look at the cover art unless it's egregiously unconnected to the tale within. It doesn't really alter my enjoyment of the story. (Except once, as an adolescent, I tried to buy Heinlein's Friday, which I'd heard about as part of his Future History setting, but that particular edition bore a semi-pornographic cover (http://www.alice-dsl.net/aymar/Reviews/Reviews_Robert%20Heinlein/Whelan/Robert%20A%20Heinlein_Friday_BEAN_Whelan%201.jpg) of the title character posing in an unzipped jumpsuit. Consequently my Dad saw it, vetoed the book, and I bought a Garfield comic instead.)

Solfe
2014-Sep-17, 03:34 AM
I managed to sneak a variety of questionable books into my reading list at a young age, despite content and cover art. The aforementioned Cooper book covers lead me to purchase "Swordpoint" by Ellen Kushner. The cover must have been by the same artist. While intriguing, the cover did not hint at the subject matter.

The book is about a swordsman name Richard and his lover Alec, who is a slight suicidal young man who is heir to something or other. I believe I was 16 or so when I purchased this one. Needless to say, it wasn't my normal fare of topics. Since I already been reading Harlan Ellison, it wasn't too shocking. I actually enjoyed it.

Speaking of Ellison, many of his book covers are psychedelic and while weird, don't tip people off to the contents.

The opposite of this is my black, leather bound copy of "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". When I met the woman who would become my wife, I happened to reading it in the break room at work. After a few days of chatting with her at lunch, she finally pointed to the book and asked "Do you always read The Bible at work?" I cracked up and read the first page to her.

She shook her head and call me a nut. Little did I know that I would spend many days reading aloud to her and our kids.

Paul Beardsley
2014-Sep-17, 07:03 AM
The recent Vintage reissue went for a series of very minimalist, rather retro covers; Moonraker (http://www.ghutchison.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/preuss/fleming.jpg) is a good example. Presumably there's an assumption that they're not needing to hook in new readers who have no idea what the books are like.

Possibly - although I would want to assure potential readers that Bond novels are worth a read even though they don't remotely resemble Skyfall (which, incidentally, is one of my favourite films). To my mind, that minimalist cover comes across as the publishers distancing themselves from the thriller aspect of the series. They seem to be saying, "The series is over half a century old now, so it counts as literature, and nobody is going to take literature seriously if we hint that it might be exciting." But that could be just me.


That'd be the Everyman (http://www.ghutchison.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/preuss/wells.jpg) edition, I guess. Taken from this painting (http://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/result.html?*sform=wellcome-images&_IXACTION_=query&%24%3Dtoday=&_IXFIRST_=1&%3Did_ref=V0006859&_IXSPFX_=templates/t&_IXFPFX_=templates/t&_IXMAXHITS_=1), but bizarrely misattributed on the back cover, using a rearrangement of the artist's name to provide both the supposed name of the picture and the supposed artist.
(Presumably the worthy Victorian chemists on the cover of The Time Machine are creating thiotimoline (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thiotimoline).)

Yes, that is the one I had in mind. I like your thiotimoline joke!


Everyman and Penguin often (usually?) reach for vaguely related public-domain images when reissuing classics. Again, I suppose the idea is that they have no need to sell the book to a new audience. You're buying the book because you know of the story and you want to read it. Nowadays, of course, the public-domain cover image is a good flag for a self-published work, too.

Again, you are probably right but I don't like their reasoning. The Time Machine is a fun, exciting book that deserves to be discovered by new readers. Yes, I know a good deal of it is taken up with Wells lecturing the reader about his political views, but there are also adventurous and thrilling scenes involving fights with Morlocks and climbing down wells into dark places. And the time travel itself, of course, which is simply wonderful.

Incidentally, it's not the first published work to feature a time machine - the French got there first! And I live fairly close to Uppark House, where a young Wells lived, and where you can visit the grounds that inspired the Morlocks' wells and tunnels.

Paul Beardsley
2014-Sep-17, 07:04 AM
The opposite of this is my black, leather bound copy of "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". When I met the woman who would become my wife, I happened to reading it in the break room at work. After a few days of chatting with her at lunch, she finally pointed to the book and asked "Do you always read The Bible at work?" I cracked up and read the first page to her.

She shook her head and call me a nut. Little did I know that I would spend many days reading aloud to her and our kids.

Nice story!

grant hutchison
2014-Sep-17, 09:14 AM
Possibly - although I would want to assure potential readers that Bond novels are worth a read even though they don't remotely resemble Skyfall (which, incidentally, is one of my favourite films).Whereas I assure potential readers that Bond novels are worth a read because they don't remotely resemble Skyfall! (Skyfall was the final straw for me - as we walked out of the cinema I was forced to inform my wife that, although I love her very much, she is going to have to indulge her enthusiasm for Bond films alone in future.)

Grant Hutchison

galacsi
2014-Sep-17, 09:24 AM
Most of the time I barely look at the cover art unless it's egregiously unconnected to the tale within. It doesn't really alter my enjoyment of the story. (Except once, as an adolescent, I tried to buy Heinlein's Friday, which I'd heard about as part of his Future History setting, but that particular edition bore a semi-pornographic cover (http://www.alice-dsl.net/aymar/Reviews/Reviews_Robert%20Heinlein/Whelan/Robert%20A%20Heinlein_Friday_BEAN_Whelan%201.jpg) of the title character posing in an unzipped jumpsuit. Consequently my Dad saw it, vetoed the book, and I bought a Garfield comic instead.)

Semi-pornographic !! :rolleyes: Poor boy ! This is where one can see the cultural difference between the two sides of the pond.

Van Rijn
2014-Sep-17, 10:00 AM
Semi-pornographic !! :rolleyes: Poor boy ! This is where one can see the cultural difference between the two sides of the pond.

That surprised me too (American here). You'd have to have done a lot to avoid seeing women in less. Also, I have a suspicion his father didn't know much about what you might find in the text of an adult Heinlein novel. Heh.

Van Rijn
2014-Sep-17, 10:20 AM
This reminds me - One of my favorite wasn't quite a cover. The paperback of Rendezvous with Rama had a little window that let you see a bit of this:

http://mlkshk.com/p/1L17

I think that's a hardback, but it was about the same for a paperback. The only problem was that it was a bit fragile. But it worked wonderfully, I remember being very excited to read the book, and went back to look at it repeatedly.

They'd taken strong hints from the Roy G. Scarfo picture for Dangridge M. Cole's book Beyond Tomorrow. That same idea was used for the O'Neill Island Three.

Here's the painting:

http://img.ffffound.com/static-data/assets/6/8e217adf8345c46ae1be07995789154b50a02ffa_m.jpg

Beyond Tomorrow is more intended as a futurist book than a science fiction book, but I remember checking that out repeatedly from the school library in grade school. For some reason, that book has almost disappeared from sight, but I saw a reference to it recently. I looked to buy a copy, and some were quite expensive, but Scarfo still had some copies for $75 (which I don't usually spend on a book, but this one has great memories). I bought one, and it was in very good shape, but stank badly of mold. It took a few months for it to mostly fade.

Anyway, that isn't about the cover images, but it does have some great images. Another one was pretty funny in retrospect: A fission gas-core reactor powered Earth to orbit ship that sits on the water near a big city, and is the size of a passenger ship. I remember thinking it looked like a great idea when I first read about it. Now I think about having something like that near a city and laugh.

Noclevername
2014-Sep-17, 01:10 PM
Anyway, that isn't about the cover images, but it does have some great images. Another one was pretty funny in retrospect: A fission gas-core reactor powered Earth to orbit ship that sits on the water near a big city, and is the size of a passenger ship. I remember thinking it looked like a great idea when I first read about it. Now I think about having something like that near a city and laugh.

Would that be the Aldebaran (http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/surfaceorbit.php#id--Aldebaran)?

grant hutchison
2014-Sep-17, 04:57 PM
Bright, detailed cover art with big, complicated text seems to be a particular style in SF publishing. I'm not sure who it's designed to appeal to, but it's the default position for pretty much the whole Baen (http://www.baen.com/schedule.asp) catalogue.

Grant Hutchison

starcanuck64
2014-Sep-18, 03:48 AM
In the late 80s/early 90s, Paul Preuss wrote a series of novels based on Arthur C. Clarke short stories, collectively called the Venus Prime series. These were more-or-less simultaneously published by Avon and Tor UK. Both publishers decided to produce uniform cover art, and both decided to feature the heroine of the stories on the covers. Apart from that, the art choices couldn't have been much more different, I think.

Here are the six books in the series (200KB jpgs). The first three are Tor covers, the second three Avon:

Volume One (http://www.ghutchison.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/preuss/1.jpg)
Volume Two (http://www.ghutchison.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/preuss/2.jpg)
Volume Three (http://www.ghutchison.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/preuss/3.jpg)
Volume Four (http://www.ghutchison.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/preuss/4.jpg)
Volume Five (http://www.ghutchison.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/preuss/5.jpg)
Volume Six (http://www.ghutchison.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/preuss/6.jpg)

It's an old example, but I think we can still see this sort of divide in the approach to SF cover art today. Anyone have any views or perferences?

Grant Hutchison

I really like Volume One, it would have caught my eye and at least made me take a look at the book. The next two are redundant. Of the second three Volume Four is the most appealing and Volume Five is a little disturbing for the reasons mentioned by Van Rijn.

One of my favorite covers from Niven, the Intergral Trees (http://sfwinners.blogspot.ca/2010/09/1985-locus-integral-trees-by-larry.html).

Noclevername
2014-Sep-18, 04:18 AM
Semi-pornographic !! :rolleyes: Poor boy ! This is where one can see the cultural difference between the two sides of the pond.

It's Europe's fault for sending us their most repressed settlers. There's a reason the word "Puritanical" is used to mean prude.

NoChoice
2014-Sep-18, 04:26 AM
It's Europe's fault for sending us their most repressed settlers. There's a reason the word "Puritanical" is used to mean prude.

Just a moment!
We did not send them.
They didn't fit in here with their already warped views and puritanical nonsense and they escaped.

We were quite happy to get rid of them.
Little did we know of course that they would go on and become the most repressed and aggressive nation on the planet.
No surprise really, given the state of mind they were in when they left Europe...

starcanuck64
2014-Sep-18, 06:15 AM
Just a moment!
We did not send them.
They didn't fit in here with their already warped views and puritanical nonsense and they escaped.

We were quite happy to get rid of them.
Little did we know of course that they would go on and become the most repressed and aggressive nation on the planet.
No surprise really, given the state of mind they were in when they left Europe...

Interesting take on history, ignoring completely the role an isolationist US played in restoring some sanity to a war torn Europe...twice.

And having nothing at all to do with SF cover art.

slang
2014-Sep-18, 09:13 AM
It's Europe's fault for sending us their most repressed settlers. There's a reason the word "Puritanical" is used to mean prude.


Just a moment!
We did not send them.
They didn't fit in here with their already warped views and puritanical nonsense and they escaped.

We were quite happy to get rid of them.
Little did we know of course that they would go on and become the most repressed and aggressive nation on the planet.
No surprise really, given the state of mind they were in when they left Europe...

Do I really need to explain that these kinds of mudslinging are not the kinds of posts we would like to see? Infractions on the way.

ETA: starcanuck64: if you have an issue with a post, please just report it, we'll handle the moderating.

publiusr
2014-Sep-27, 08:40 PM
Would that be the Aldebaran (http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/surfaceorbit.php#id--Aldebaran)?
Sounds like it.