ext to romance and fantasy, I can’t think of any genre other than science fiction that relies so heavily on base images. The possibilities with design are wide open for fiction and arguably non-fiction as well. Mystery and its sub-genres are also able to utilize a larger palette of concepts and mediums, and there are more than a few genre authors out there who signed with publishing houses smart enough to utilize brand and art direction to prove it.
But within the world of sci-fi/fantasy, the art is pretty much stuck with the task of presenting to the reader a fairly non-speculative visual representation of the non-existent world we are about to enter. Paint and ink seem to be the medium of choice to achieve a realistic look that remains firmly rooted in fantasy — its properties, the artist’s hand and even the brush itself reminding us that this is man-made.
I haven’t read a true sci-fi book in awhile, but what’s been making me think of it more and more is the artwork of John Harris. Through coming across the random Orson Scott Card, Ben Bova or John Scalzi books I find when I hunt for books, I have really taken to his covers. His use of scale is unparalleled. One clearly feels there is an epic plot lurking in the pages based on the cover alone, but what initially piqued my interest was his use of abstraction.
Clearly capable of intricate technical detail as seen in his early works, it’s his soft, slightly surreal covers that I find most interesting. The pastel colors and abstract brush strokes grant an entirely new vision of science fiction, one slightly matured and without the need for fanfare. The fragmented images of spaceships and structures with their lack of detail actually allow the bigger picture to become the focus and we immediately feel the vastness of space and how small and minute we are in comparison.
It might be a while before I even have time to contemplate starting a new sci-fi series but if and when I do, it will surely have the art of John Harris on the cover. Everything he’s done artwork for just screams epic which is exactly what I like.