The Future’s Past, By Way of Modern Irish Fables
July 2, 2013 § Leave a comment
These are some of the cover designs I worked on recently for a series of science fiction novels by Irish author Ian McDonald. These novels have just being released today, in e-book form, from Open Road Integrated Media (for whom I also did other cover designs, blogged here a few weeks ago).
Most of these books appeared originally in printed form sometime between the late ’80s and early ’90s. Going by the detailed briefs the art director sent me, I got the sense that these are imaginative, unsettling novels with layered narratives that deal with political and moral issues; as much as they are time-warped fables populated by improbable, somewhat tormented characters.
Sacrifice of Fools tells the story of an alien race settling in (as opposed to invading) already-divided Belfast, where a series of murders soon take place, forcing the town’s human residents to come to terms with the eerie turn of events. Rather than illustrating this plotline literally, I wanted a cover design that captured the tone of the story without giving too much away. Somehow, I had the work of Charles Burns in the back of my mind while working on this image—I was never a fan of his comics and graphics, but it seemed to be an appropriate stylistic reference for this particular cover.
Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone takes the reader to a Buddhist pilgrimage in a futuristic Japan, where the lead character seeks to redeem himself from a destructive, mind-controlling visualization method of his own invention. Piecing together this cover was good fun: looking for just the right color combination for the dawning sky in the background to set the mood, or turning a human eye into a violent, interior sun.
King of Morning, Queen of Day is the tale of an elusive, seemingly ideal romantic interest and several generations of a family of Irish women who have to face a burdensome hereditary gift. This image was the result of my avoiding drawing faeries—I don’t really know what to make of them, probably because I come from a cultural background that is far removed from those ancient folk tales and traditions—which I think worked quite well with the half-hidden, dream-like feel of these covers.
And finally, The Broken Land conjures a fictitious, peaceful village that becomes ravaged by clashing religious beliefs, and where its residents tamper with DNA structure to produce handy new objects. This cover came together just like all the others in this series: all elements were drawn individually with brush and India ink, then composed together, colored, and tweaked in Photoshop (which I also used to do all the typesetting).
Since all these stories seem to have a troubled, divisive main character at their center, it seemed natural to emphasize this with each design. The murky, graphic quality of the covers, and the clean, machine-like typographic treatment were all suggested by the imagery and atmosphere of each story, by way of the assignment description.
If these have a similar feel to the Jane Yolen covers I posted earlier, it’s because I worked on them around the same time earlier this year, one right after the other. Big thanks go out again to art director Andrea C. Uva for these commissions. All of these e-books are currently available through Amazon, iTunes, etc.