Celebrating Genre Writing and Cover Art
Rowena here. It’s my turn to do the Saturday post.
I think you might have gathered by now that I’m a visual person. From the polls I’ve done it seems most writers are aural – they make up play lists and immerse themselves in certain music while writing their books. I have a background as a graphic artist and have always loved art.
So when I found this article by Natalie Baaklini on ‘How Pulp Science Fiction Cover Art got its Sense of Wonder, I was delighted. It has examples from 1872 through to 1925. Next week’s article will cover 1925- 1955.
This particular piece of art is so appropriate for steampunk, I thought it had been done especially for the article/cover, but discovered it was the cover of The All-Story, artist, Harry Grant Dart. 1900- 1910.
This looks like a book on the topic but when I googled it, it doesn’t come up as as a book title on Amazon. There’s Fantasy Art of the Masters and Sci FI Art: A Graphic History and … wait for it … Strange Sisters: The art of Lesbian Pulp Fiction. I could spend hours pouring through books like this. In fact I did, when I had my bookshop.
The covers bring back the thrill of discovering SF& F. Over here on Cracked.com Chris Bucholz has written a post on The Best (Worst) Fantasy and Science Fiction Book Covers. He says :
‘If you’ve been in any bookstore in your lifetime, you’re probably familiar with that most peculiar of book retail locales: the Fantasy & Science Fiction section. This strange and sweaty place is kept separate from the rest of the bookstore so that its residents, the soap-averse fans of Fantasy & Science Fiction novels, can go about their plots and dark rituals without disturbing any of the normal-smelling clientele.’
But all scorn aside, I must confess a love for these books and their cover. He cites one of my all time favourite Frazetta covers in his list of worst covers.
How could you not love this cover? (For more on Frazetta see here).
So this post is going to be dedicated to the books of the 70s and their covers. Firstly there is no going past Frazetta. I watched a documentary on him, which included footage of the opening of the Frazetta museum. He was brilliant from a very young age. He influenced the way covers were drawn and I see evidence of his influence in a great deal of computer game art.
Then there is my favourite Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser cover. (I must re-read Fritz Leiber’s books. Some of the scenes are still vivid in my mind after 30 years). Ah, the joy of discovering books and authors for the first time.
In the pre-internet days you couldn’t find out anything about artists or authors. You had to hope to come across a book about the artist or a book by the author.
One author I discovered and found refreshing was Joanna Russ. I didn’t realise I was reading feminist SF, I just loved her way of seeing the world.
I was looking for an old cover of Ursula K Le Guin’s Earthsea books or The Left hand of Darkness and found this one.
This is another book I feel I should re-read, especially as the question of gender is something I’ve been exploring in my new trilogy. It’s so long since I’ve read it, I can hardly remember it, so re-reading will be like reading it for the first time.
I discovered S &F when I went to Melbourne when I was 18 and then the following year I opened my bookshop and read non-stop. Before this, I’d always loved these kind of stories, but I wasn’t aware that there was such a thing as genre.
When did you discover speculative fiction and do you still have some of the books from that period on your bookshelf?