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.
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.
First contact: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s “Emissary” (1993)
This will be the first post in a series exploring various first contact scenarios. As those who have read my novella, The Joining, might surmise, first contact is one of the aspects of science-fiction that I find most interesting and compelling. To me, one of the important aspects of first contact is that it challenges some part of the human experience and this is what I will be discussing here. I start with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s pilot episode “Emissary” for no reason other than I began rewatching the series a few weeks ago.
A quick recap and scene setting for those who may not be familiar with the series: ST:DS9 takes place on a space station the Federation has taken over from the Cardassians, the main enemy of Bajor, the planet nearest to DS9. Commander Sisko, our brave protagonist, has assumed command of DS9 to assist the Bajorians, now recovering from the Cardassian occupation. The challenges Sisko faces in assuming command of the station is the Bajorians, some of whom believe that the Federation’s help will turn into another form of exploitation, and the fact that he is troubled by the death of Jennifer, his wife. In a meeting with the spiritual leader of the Bajorians, Kai Opaka, she declares Sisko to be the Emissary of the Prophets and shows him the Orb of Prophecy and Change, a seemingly mystical object that allows him to relive a memory of the first time he met Jennifer. Kai Opaka explains that the Orbs have mysteriously appeared above Bajor and as the Emissary Sisko is destined to find where they come from, the Celestial Temple of the Prophets.