It’s been a busy week, what with final edits on my next work before release, plus I’m writing for a competition that ends this month. When it’s busy, it’s hard to find the time to sit down and read, so I thought I’d give a reading recommendation for those moments when you want to read, but don’t have much time to dedicate.
Cover art trends and science-fiction/fantasy covers
Having recently met with my cover artist to discuss the cover for my next work, which should be released sometime this month (follow me on Amazon for e-mail notifications of new releases), I wanted to write a post on the topic of cover art.
A few months ago, I ran across an interesting article in which the author collected the cover art of bestsellers throughout recent years (2000-2012) and compared them side by side. He found a number of interesting trends, such as white covers were popular in the beginning of this time period, then in 2008 black covers flooded the charts (mostly comprised of the hugely popular Twilight series). At the end of this span, he observed that overall the trend in cover art has seemed to move towards “bright saturated hues.”
This got me thinking of the trends that I have noticed in science-fiction and fantasy covers, specifically, what appears to be a move away from the grandiose, scene-setting covers of old and towards simpler, more abstract covers which focus on the title and author text.
A few of my favorite things: Isabella Rossellini in Green Porno
In my novella The Joining, the aliens’ reproductive method is described in great detail. For comparison, the human biologist uses some parallel examples taken from Earth’s own animal kingdom. If you find reproductive biology interesting and want to get into some bizarre and downright alien reproduction right here in our own backyard, you need to check out Green Porno.
Isabella Rossellini writes, directs and stars in this webseries that explores a variety of reproductive methods from all over our crazy little planet. I discovered Green Porno soon after it began in 2008 and I have really enjoyed watching the series develop. I am fascinated by the reproductive biology of different species and through some of the examples brought up in this webseries I have found food for thought and sometimes inspiration in developing alien biology for stories.
Green Porno is not your average nature documentary of David Attenborough narration spoken over gorgeous scenery, lush landscapes, and spectacularly filmed animals doing whatever it is those particular animals do. No: this is Isabella Rossellini dressed up as the animals and acting out the nature documentary. Sound funny? It’s supposed to be: though the information is accurate and educational, ultimately “the purpose of each film is to make people laugh, to entertain them.”
First contact: Robert L. Forward’s Dragon’s Egg (1980)
How do I even begin to talk about Dragon’s Egg?
This book was a real game changer for me. Dragon’s Egg by Robert L. Forward was probably the first hard science-fiction book I ever read. I came across it when I was 11 or 12, and it hugely expanded my conception of what science-fiction could be. As Forward was a physicist, his novels are filled with credible scientific inferences of what technology would be used for space travel, as well as interesting hypotheses of what life might look like on worlds much different than our own.
Published in 1980, the world that Dragon’s Egg focuses on is not a planet at all, but a neutron star, Dragon’s Egg, in the star constellation Draco. The life that evolves on that star is hyper accelerated in comparison with the pace at which humans move due to exposure to the extremely high gravity. Forward explores the evolution of this life with an attention to the impact of the neutron star on the alien cheela. In addition, he outlines the beliefs and culture of the cheela with the care of an anthropologist. In both ways, he manages to hit the nail on the head and the result is a three-dimensional, believable alien species.
On writing: Naming characters
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
― Romeo and Juliet, Act II Scene II
“What’s in a name,” indeed.
There are two main methods for naming characters. One is the name of significance. In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet argues that names are interchangeable and do not ultimately affect the nature of what is named. This runs contrary to the method of naming for significance.
An example of this is in the 2003 film Oldboy, which I saw for the first time last week. The main character of Oldboy is named Oh Dae-su and, in an interview with director Park Chan-wook, Park stated “I named Oh Dae-su in Oldboy to remind the viewer of Oedipus. I was thinking of Greek myth or the classics.” In this case, Park deliberately uses the name to refer to the themes of incest, shame, and predestination from the myth of Oedipus. These same themes run through Oldboy, building upon one another as the film’s mysteries unfold. To me, the best part of this naming is that it is not an in-your-face reference, demanding attention from the viewer. Even as someone quite familiar with the myth of Oedipus, I did not realize the connection until I read up on the film afterwards.