Cécile Matthey’s Vector 271 cover art

Back in May of last year, when I put out a request for help with images of London for Vector 271, Djibril al Ayad, editor of The Future Fire, pointed me to a piece which Cécile Matthey had done for a story published there, “The Recycled Man”, by Rob Sharp. (Image is on the story’s second page.) Cécile not only gave us permission to use her image for Vector, but kindly scanned it in at a higher resolution so it would be viable as cover art.

Ian Whates has taken on a cover art project for future issues of Vector. He’s soliciting artwork to use on future Vector covers, together with interviews with their artists, the better to showcase science fiction artists working in the British science fiction community. His work is for future issues, but Djibril interviewed Cécile about her work as a freelance and scientific illustrator just last year, so in the spirit of the new cover art project, I’ll link you to that instead.

BSFA Award Nominations: Art Statistics

Interest in the art category was down this year compared to the year before. Or perhaps there were just fewer works which happened to catch the eyes of BSFA members.

This year, a total of 24 BSFA members nominated a total of 44 works of art for the art category of the BSFA awards. That means that it was the second-least nominated-in category, although non-fiction trailed well behind it with both sets of numbers. Only 4% of the BSFA’s total members nominated in this category.

It’s important to note that this isn’t a consistent pattern. Last year, about as many entries were nominated for this category as for the art entry, although a larger number of nominators – 30 – nominated the same number of works, 44. Still, that makes it far more competitive than two years ago, when nominators agreed on only 22 works to nominate.

It strikes me every year how dominated this category is by cover art. There’s nothing wrong with that! But it is the common way by which imagery reaches the households of voting Eastercon and BSFA members, arriving on the cover of an anthology, a magazine, or a novel. Perhaps that’s even what tipped the balance to buying it, judging a book by a quite magnificent cover. There is plenty else out there though, from the artwork for board and card games to artists’ published collections to the work shown in the art shows at conventions such as Eastercon itself or Novacon.

In any event, this too is a category about which prospective BSFA award voters might like to be more mindful for potential nominees as they go through the coming year.

Sooner than next year’s ballot is this year’s vote however: as a reminder, here are the shortlists for the four BSFA awards. Ballots were sent out with the most recent BSFA mailing, and will be available at the forthcoming Eastercon, Illustrious, where the votes will be tallied and the awards presented.

The Art of Penguin Science Fiction

Your nifty website of the day: James Pardey’s collection of the art of Penguin science fiction.

There’s a full table of contents here, and something of an explanation here:

Penguin books and their iconic covers have a place in history that merits study and appreciation. They have influenced generations of readers and played an important role in our cultural heritage. Over the years new cover designs have appeared, and in the 1950s a transition took place from typographical to pictorial covers. This was followed by the introduction of a radically new cover design in the 1960s, and the launch of a Penguin science fiction series with covers featuring reproductions of abstract and surrealist art.

This curious linkage of modern art and sf is at the heart of this website, and is made all the more intriguing by the subtle and often ingenious connections between the artworks and the stories within. Following on from this, Penguin continued to publish sf as a number of mini-series, with covers that reveal the influence of Pop Art and to some extent Op Art. But to put these later developments in perspective it is necessary to go back to the first sf titles that Penguin published in the 1930s, for these early covers, now celebrated on a stamp, have come to be regarded as artworks in their own right.

Until recently the history of Penguin sf and its cover art has been largely overlooked. This website, along with a series of articles on the subject, attempts to rectify this. But what the articles convey with words this website does with images, and thereby offers what words cannot: over 150 Penguin sf covers, and the ability to trace their evolution at the click of a button, as titles were reprinted and different covers came and went. As such this website complements the articles, which focus more on the science fiction and its linkage to each book’s cover art. Here, however, it is the covers themselves that light the way along the multiple paths that weave through the history, and art, of Penguin sf.

One of the mentioned articles is available here; the others are forthcoming. Still, plenty of browsing pleasure to be had!

Totally Space Opera

At the risk of disappointing Jonathan, I’m going to talk about some book promotion.

Specifically, I’m going to talk about the next Gollancz promotion, following on from those round-cornered masterworks, the future classics, the ultimate fantasies earlier this year, and the terror 8. Next up? Yes, space opera.

This does strike me as an odd list. Clearly there were some constraints in terms of what’s already popped up in other promotions — so no Revelation Space and no Hyperion, which strike me as better picks for their respective authors than Century Rain and Ilium. It also looks to me as though there’s some element of selecting authors to be promoted, rather than just going with the best space operas on the Gollancz list (otherwise the exclusion of A Fire Upon the Deep really is inexplicable). Indeed, it’s not actually a very space opera-ish list at all. And, obviously, there’s a lack of women again, although in this case I can’t even think of a woman published by Gollancz who writes space opera, even under this flexible definition — except Gwyneth Jones with Spirit, which isn’t out yet. They do get points from me for including Last and First Men, though it really does stretch the definition of “space opera” to breaking, and as has already been pointed out elsewhere the cover makes it look like it’s a book about either “gay men or male toilets”. I’m not sure about the covers in general — though as with the future classics, they may well look better in person, as it were — though I am partial to that Stapledon cover, and The Centauri Device.

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