by Andrew Leon Hudson
I just spent a whole lot of time waxing extensive about cover art in fantasy and scifi, the reason being that I wanted to explain why my book has the cover it has – and then I realised:
Shut up and show the cover, idiot!
Hope you like it!
Now that’s out of the way, here’s that essay I mentioned.
A lot of genre fiction ends up hiding behind certain kinds of image and, though I’d like to claim that I’m a science fiction writer, it’s probably true to say that Steampunk is as much fantasy as it is scifi.
The popular choice for fantasy covers (at the moment, in my opinion) tends to include a strikingly heroic figure before some strikingly striking background, often making strong eye-contact with the prospective reader while wielding a sword, or a gun and a sword, or (if female) touching a dragon, or (if male) dropping into sight like the assassin hero of some popular computer game franchise… you may know the one I mean.
Scifi can do all of that too, apart from the dragon, probably, but in place of that we have lots of dystopian fiction, so we get to see the hero/ine(s) viewed from behind as s/t/he(y) nobly survey some crumbling wasteland… All that’s fine, of course, and this is more or less the way the other covers in the Darkside Codex have gone so far; but my heroes aren’t the dragon-touching, sword-and-gun-wielding type. Eyebrow pencil or screwdriver wielding is more their normal pace. I wanted something different.
However, scifi also has another option in its cover art arsenal: the Symbol. In recent years there have been the three bird emblems from The Hunger Games, and other YA titles have used some iconic visual hook to good effect, but there is a fine old tradition in the genre – Alan Moore gave us two, one in Watchmen‘s adoption of the smiley-face pin, another in the anarchy-inspired graffiti of V for Vendetta – and the Circle-A was at the front of my mind when Kelly Shorten, Musa Publishing‘s Art Director, asked what I wanted for my cover art.
My story features a little bit of social unrest – it was partly inspired by Occupy Wall Street, as filtered through the dusty lens of England’s Industrial Revolution. Enter the Workers’ Movement, an illegal meta-union of disillusioned, dispossessed and displeased labourers who decide they will no longer stand by while the idle rich lord it over them. And, like any good anarchists, they leave their mark in the wake of their protests…
In the text I describe it as “two vertical chevrons crossed in a rough-painted circle, to form the letters W over M” – but I always worried that my description wouldn’t convey to the reader what I meant. The cover art was my chance to make it crystal clear: it might not be glamorous, but a grey brick wall with my symbol painted on it would also paint a thousand words (and, conveniently, it also colour matched the branding on the lower half of the cover, which all the Darkside Codex books must carry).
The final version is pretty close to what I imagined. Kelly put up with my repeated suggestions far longer than she need have, but given the chance I’d still be asking for tweaks come publishing day. In the end I bit my tongue, said “that one”, and we were both free to get on with our lives.
So, my thanks to Kelly for her work – now I just have to wait and see how it looks on my Kindle!