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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

New Hero covers for Stone Skin Press

I wanted to get the word out on the covers I did for two new fiction anthologies, Robin Laws' The New Hero and The New Hero Volume 2. If you want to hear about the kind of stories inside, the Stone Skin Press blog is previewing some of the new Heroes and their uncolored line art (by me!). Stone Skin has a Kickstarter going if you're half as excited about these books as I am, or if you just want to get some sweet swag. It's a minimum $1 donation, but at $300 you get to "Inspire a Writer" and suggest an idea for a story, plus some more exclusives. There's some pretty major scifi/fantasy/spec fic names writing on these books so that's a bargain for getting your dream story yanked out of your skull!
Stone Skin Managing Director Simon Rogers asked that I say a few words about how I made the covers for two of their first books.
I’m here as a Robin Laws fanboy. I first found him through tabletop gaming books like Robin’s Laws of Good Game Mastering and the groundbreaking RPGs Feng Shui and Gumshoe. Much like Apple's design philosophy for the iPhone and iPad, it's brilliant work because of all the dreck he didn't include. He’s not just a gaming geek: Hamlet’s Hit Points is a brilliant dissection of what makes drama works. Robin has an uncanny ability to look at how people tell stories, ignore the established rules, and figure out what they’re really trying to do. No matter if the stories are in print, on screen or around a game table.

When Robin and Simon started the
New Hero anthologies I knew I wanted to be on board. They knew they didn’t want a typical action cover, another 8th generation Frazetta homage or Syd Mead swipe. They wanted something that would make the reader think and ask questions, in the same way that Robin and his writers took a step back and figured out what makes the Iconic Hero different than the screenwriting class Dramatic Hero.

We played with a few ideas, but in the end we all liked incongruity. The first cover is a Greek vase painting of our myriad heroes of other lands and times. I worked hard to get it right because the more authentically ancient Greek it looks, the longer the reader pauses to think.

How did the vase painters portray a horse or an African woman or a pile of corpses? How would they paint a Japanese demon or US Army jungle fatigues?

Playing with the layout, I realized I could fit in every new hero. My reaction was horror. I’m proud of it now, but that meant a careful reading of every story and taking notes, and then research. What the hell is a kaross? How do you serve a hand mixed cocktail in zero-g?

This ended up being far more work than my typical painted superhero covers. But I’m also prouder of it. Every element means something, not just the figures and props. The texture and the limited palette and cracks all serve to explain what this book is about. Nothing has been taken for granted, every bit is deliberate.

I hope we’ve succeeded. When you hold this book in your hand and look at the cover and read those first words, savor it. Enjoy the familiar newness of hard boiled pirate rabbis and ex-boyfriends who rule Hell. Then think about why it’s fun and why it’s different.  Because everyone else working on this book put as much thought and care into the details as I did.


Blogger Robin D. Laws said...

One thing I hadn't anticipated was how great the individual B&W versions would look as thumbnails on Facebook links.

5:20 PM  
Blogger Gene Ha said...

I knew they'd come in handy! It was extra work making sure they didn't overlap, but I figure we've all been working for love, not money. I cannot be the lone shirker cutting corners.

10:49 PM  

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