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Graphic Design

Disingenuousity?

And, I’m back (he says, before anyone notices that he’s been away).

I’d like to say it’s been astoundingly productive, but in fact its been all about assessment and cross marking projects. Which is productive, but not really so in any way that’s liable to inspire a blog post or three. Still, give it a week and the office will return to normal, with no boxes full of work for me to fall over.

There is a blog entry I’ve been meaning to write, about the manner in which SF expresses itself through book covers and illustration. I’ve noticed a quiet little meme running around the web lately (semi-random examples here, here and here) that’s been niggling at the back of my mind. I don’t object to the ‘vistas of space’ genre of book cover, but I do think that the field is capable of so much more. I’m in danger of quoting something a committee of judges once wrote about me (hunts around the internet for a minute or two, and finds it. I’m not going to link to it, but it’s there if you want to read it, and while my opinions (and educational status) are a few years out of date, it’s not a bad piece):

(with regard to my work winning a ‘best of the year’ award for science fiction & fantasy art)

I do think that by next year it’ll have come full circle, though, and very professional sf-based work with a high finish will take both prizes, and I’ll go down as an oddity.”

Yep, I’m still an oddity.

And, in 2008, this is from the comments on Niall’s blog:

There is undoubtedly a trend towards graphics which, while I applaud diversity on principle, doesn’t often make arresting imagery. Real *artwork* seems to be getting more and more scarce

The notion that (sorry Pete Young – not having a go, but responding) ‘artwork’ that ‘portrays’ something is somehow more real than a piece of design, or god help us, sculpture or puppetry is a little off-putting. Arresting imagery is surely arresting no matter what the material or tools used to compose it, and in a field that celebrates diversity and the experimental, it seems a little disingenuous for publishers (for it is they who decide these things, no matter what we might persuade ourselves) to stick to what’s essentially a lowest common denominator for the field. Nothing really seems to have changed in ‘regular’ SF.

Except. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and Chuck Palahniuk’s Rant, both published within the last couple of years, are explicitly (if not completely successfully) SF. And neither relies on a genre-led cover. Nor does Winterston’s The Stone Gods. Now it’s a separate argument about the extent to which novels not marketed as genre are guilty of cowardice if they continue to play in ‘our’ sandbox but not tell their friends that’s where they’ve been, but that these three examples all push the envelope of what might be considered as SF cover art is relevant, no?

Discussion

2 comments for “Disingenuousity?”

  1. I noticed you’d been away, and I’m sure the Dissertation Donkey did too.

    Posted by Simon | January 22, 2008, 2:54 pm
  2. I actually really like a lot of the design-led covers we’ve been seeing for sf novels. I’m just not entirely sure they really count as sf artwork — and since covers are the major venue for new sf artwork, that makes nominations harder to come up with.

    (I should note that I got the category wrong in the title of my post, which confused the issue somewhat — it’s “Best artwork” not “best cover”. If it was “best cover”, there wouldn’t have been a problem.)

    Posted by Niall | January 22, 2008, 11:21 pm

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