The Importance of Good Fantasy Art

Wednesday, June 24th, 2020 | Posted by Robert Zoltan

FrankFrazettaConan-small MichaelWhelanStormbringer-small JeffreyCatherineJonesSwordsAndDeviltry-small

Art by Frank Frazetta, Michael Whelan, and Jeffrey Catherine Jones

An adventure tale isn’t good just because it features a bare-chested hero and a sword, and neither is a painting. Stories and art are successful because they are created by talented people who have devoted long hours (usually 10,000 or more) to educate themselves about their field and develop the proper skills and style to express that talent. And the presentation of that talent is absolutely vital to the success of the fantasy genre — creatively, culturally, and commercially.

In Flame and Crimson: A History of Sword and Sorcery, Brian Murphy discusses the root causes of the sword and sorcery revival of the 1960s:

…published in paperback with arresting covers by the most talented artist ever to work in the subgenre, the convergence of authorial and visual artistry, marketing, and business acumen led to the re-emergence and conscious reawakening of sword-and-sorcery in the subgenre’s “silver age,” or renaissance.

No doubt all those elements were important, but I can guarantee you that those books never would have sold in those numbers without that great cover art by Frank Frazetta.

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The Art of Author Branding: The Paperback Robert Silverberg

Sunday, May 24th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

The Seed of Earth Silverberg-small The Silent Invaders Silverberg-small Recalled to Life Silverberg-small
Next Stop the Stars Silverberg-small Collision Course Silverberg-small Stepsons of Terra-small

The Ace Robert Silverberg: skewed titles and unclutterd art. The Seed of Earth, The Silent Invaders, Recalled to Life,
Next Stop the Stars, Collision Course and Stepsons of Terra. All from 1977. Covers by Don Punchatz

If you cruised the bookstore and supermarket racks in the 70s and 80s for science fiction paperbacks, Robert Silverberg was everywhere. I mean, everywhere. It wasn’t just that he was enormously productive — that was certainly true. But his books remained in print, or were returned to print, countless times by different publishers.

This was the era when agents would package up backlists by top writers en masse, selling the rights to multiple novels, and publishers would release them virtually simultaneously, usually with the same cover artist. If you had a popular novel — and Silverberg had many — a diligent agent could package and re-package it many times. That’s how Silverberg’s Hawksbill Station was released by Doubleday, The Science Fiction Book Club, Avon, Tandem, Berkley, Star, Warner Books, Tor, and many others between 1968 and 1990, just to pick one example.

The 1977 paperback edition of Robert Silverberg’s Collision Course was one of the first science fiction books I bought (the other was Star Trek 2, by James Blish). Mark Kelly reviewed it for us here last month, calling it “a fascinating, ordinary 1950s science fiction novel.” The mix of far-flung space adventure and galactic intrigue was perfectly pitched for a 13-year old however, and I loved it. Naturally I returned to the bookstore to find more in the same vein, and lo and behold, I did: five more Robert Silverberg novels, cleverly packaged by Ace Books to capitalize on the natural brand loyalty of young SF fans (see above).

This practice of bundling authors, and creating custom cover designs for each, was by no means unique to science fiction, of course. But if you’re a student of SF art there’s an enormous amount to learn by examining the visual language built up around the most popular SF authors in the 70s and 80s, and the ways editors and Art Directors at the major publishers used that language to draw in readers with familiar images and themes, and simultaneously differentiate themselves from the competition on overcrowded paperback racks.

There are countless examples, of course. But for our purposes, I’m going to single out Robert Silverberg, mostly because he’s the one I think of when I think of author branding. Well, Silverberg and Larry Niven (whom we’ll get to in a minute).

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Future Treasures: Fantastic Paintings of Frazetta by J. David Spurlock

Monday, May 18th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Fantastic Paintings of Frazetta-smll

There’s not many novels in the publishing pipeline this month, to be honest with you. The regular flood of advance proofs and review copies that wash up in the mailroom at Black Gate‘s rooftop headquarters here in Chicago has slowed to a trickle, and the only thing flooding in these days is book cancellations and postponements.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t have exciting publishing news for you. Would we ever let you down? (Hint: no.) The upcoming month of June is looking lighter than usual from a publishing perspective, but that just means the books remaining in the schedule will be all the more cherished. And that goes double for J. David Spurlock’s oversized tribute to one of the great fantasy artists of the 20th Century, Fantastic Paintings of Frazetta.

J. David Spurlock is the author of Art of Neal Adams, Alluring Art of Margaret Brundage: Queen of Pulp Pin-Up Art, and Paintings of J Allen St John: Grand Master of Fantasy, all from Vanguard, as well as multiple volumes dedicated to Frank Frazetta, including the Frazetta Sketchbook (two volumes) and The Sensuous Frazetta. His latest is Fantastic Paintings of Frazetta, which repackages and expands the long out-of-print The Fantastic Art of Frank Frazetta from 1977 into a 120-page coffee table book. It arrives in hardcover next month from Vanguard.

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Horror in a Time Of Coronavirus

Thursday, April 16th, 2020 | Posted by Elizabeth Cady

The Nightmare Henry Fuseli-small

The Nightmare, Henry Fuseli, 1781

Horror is a reflection of its times.

All story-telling is: you can read the words of any time and find its birthday stamped in all its pages. Jane Austen couldn’t write a Renaissance novel, Hemingway didn’t write regency fiction, and Shakespeare couldn’t write in the sparse, bare bones prose that Hemingway did.

But horror is rather specifically tied to its own moment. When it works, it grows out of not just an individual’s fear but the atmospheric fear of an age.

Every generation of Horror has its own kind of terroir (a term from wine making that means the taste-remnants of every factor that goes into a bottle, from sun to rain to the trace minerals in the soil to the specific woods in the barrel a vintner uses). Frankenstein is stamped with Mary Shelley’s own biography (the loss of her children, her strained and strange relationship with her father and the ghost of her mother), but also a Romantic-era tension between technology and nature, Humanism and the ideas of divinity. Dracula is most obviously steeped in Edwardian era anxiety about sexuality, women’s role in society, and how rapid social changes are affecting both.

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Call for Backers! Artist Elizabeth Leggett Discusses Her Illustrations for DreamForge Magazine, and More!

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020 | Posted by Emily Mah

BethFP-PPD-16-2002In the second of two interviews supporting DreamForge’s Year Two Kickstarter Campaign I had the privilege of interviewing Hugo Award winning artist, Elizabeth Leggett, who has provided several illustrations for DreamForge.

She has also illustrated for magazines such as Lightspeedand art directed, Women Destroy Fantasy and Queers Destroy Science Fiction. But I’ll let Elizabeth and her gorgeous art speak for themselves.

Emily Mah: You’ve illustrated several stories for DreamForge, that I’m aware of. How many have you done for them and what were the stories?

Elizabeth Leggett: I have been profoundly lucky. DreamForge has found some of the most talented writers and they have let me play in their sandbox through illustration.  The first two pieces I did for them was for Lauren Teffeau’s short story, “Sing! And Remember.”  The first was the cover image and the second was a black and white design.

My next contract was for David Weber’s story, “A Certain Talent.”  This one is close to my heart because I was not only allowed to illustrate the main character, but also conceptualize Jim Moore (Jane Lindskold’s husband) as the power player!  Next, I needed to leave my comfort zone and illustrate Jennifer Donohue’s story, “The Fundamentals of Search and Rescue.”  Good heavens. wreckage sites are a challenge to draw!

My last illustration for last year was for John Jos Miller, “The Ghost of a Smile.”

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Cover Reveal: Carson of Venus: The Edge of All Worlds by Matt Betts

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019 | Posted by christopher paul carey

EntertheERBUlogo

Science fiction author Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan and John Carter of Mars, wrote four novels and a novella about former stuntman Carson Napier and his wayward adventures on the planet Venus (or Amtor, as it is known to its inhabitants). Now get ready to transport yourself into the Edgar Rice Burroughs Universe with the first new Carson of Venus novel to be published in more than fifty years: Carson of Venus: The Edge of All Worlds by Matt Betts.

The Edge of All Worlds releases Spring 2020 from Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., and launches the canonical ERB Universe series of interconnected novels.

Stranded on the planet Amtor for nearly two decades, Earthman Carson Napier returns from his latest adventure to discover a mysterious enemy has struck his adopted nation of Korva and reduced one of its cities to ash and cinders. The trail of the mysterious threat leads Carson and his love Duare through dark cyclopean corridors deep beneath Amtor to a distant land, where they must confront both a powerful new alien species and the shadows of Carson’s past.

I’m pleased to present the exclusive cover reveal for Carson of Venus: The Edge of All Worlds, featuring the artwork of the amazing Chris Peuler.

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The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog on the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of November 2019

Sunday, December 1st, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Fortuna by Kristyn Merbeth-small Made Things Adrian Tchaikovsky-small The Killing Light Myke Cole-small

It’s December already. Hard to believe, I know. But it’s true.

It’s many ways I’m not sad to have November in the rear view mirror. For one thing, the weather was terrible. More importantly, it brought disturbing changes to one of my favorite genre websites, the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, which fired all their freelancers on November 26th. I don’t know if the ongoing changes will also impact folks like founding editor Joel Cunningham, or Jeff Somers, who writes the top-notch book survey every month, but I really hope not. We’ve benefited greatly from their work here at Black Gate, and I hope it continues.

In particular, Jeff Somers’ monthly survey of the best genre books is something I always look forward to, and he never disappoints. His November column — with 25 titles by Neil Gaiman, Myke Cole, Walter Jon Williams, and many others — is a classic example. Packed in there with the blockbuster new books by E.E. Knight, Howard Andrew Jones, and Rebecca Roanhorse, are several genuine surprises. Here’s a look at the best unexpected books on the list.

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Gahan Wilson, February 18, 1930 — November 21, 2019

Friday, November 29th, 2019 | Posted by Andy Duncan

Gahan-Wilson-I-think-its-his-beeper cartoon

The cartoonist Gahan Wilson, who died last Thursday, was a Guest of Honor at the first International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts that I ever attended, in 1995, and that is the scene of this story.

I arrived at the con hotel a day early, knowing no one, and mostly roamed the halls, hoping someone might talk to me. Seeing a propped-open door, I walked through it, and found myself in a big room set up for an art show, a maze of temporary walls. Hanging on them were dozens of original Gahan Wilson drawings. So much larger than the published versions, several feet to a side, these were museum-quality works, in pen and ink and pastel, their captions handwritten across the bottom.

I slowly roamed the exhibit, taking my sweet time in front of each piece. I examined them up close and from a distance. I savored every moment of that private viewing, that wholly unauthorized VIP preview experience.

And repeatedly, my path kept crossing that of the only other person in the room: a balding man in a safari jacket, holding a clipboard, who stopped in front of each piece and jotted a note. I assumed he was a conference official, some sort of curator, and I expected him to ask me, politely, to leave, and to come back when the exhibit was open.

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A Tale of Two Covers: Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely

Wednesday, November 27th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Gunslinger Girl 1-small Gunslinger Girl-small

Covers by Mark Owen/Trevillion Images (left) and uncredited

While I was at Windycon here in Chicago last week, I stopped by Larry Smith’s booth in the Dealer’s Room and ended up buying a small pile of books from Sally Kobee. Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely was an impulse buy, but a good one, I think. It’s part of the James Patterson Presents line, and was an Amazon and B&N Best Book of the Month, and an Indie Next pick. It’s also the tale of a female sharpshooter in a dystopian near-future West, and I like the sound of that. Here’s the description.

Seventeen-year-old Serendipity “Pity” Jones inherited two things from her mother: a pair of six shooters and perfect aim. She’s been offered a life of fame and fortune in Cessation, a glittering city where lawlessness is a way of life. But the price she pays for her freedom may be too great….

In this extraordinary debut from Lyndsay Ely, the West is once again wild after a Second Civil War fractures the U.S. into a broken, dangerous land. Pity’s struggle against the dark and twisted underbelly of a corrupt city will haunt you long after the final bullet is shot.

My problem with the book is that I bought the trade paperback on the left, and when I was checking out the details online I discovered the mass market paperback edition on the right, with the gorgeously colorful cover. It was vividly different and inexpensive enough ($5.49) that I decided to get a copy of that one as well, this time as a gift for my daughter. I ordered it from Amazon… and promptly received a second copy of the book at left. Every edition Amazon lists online has the cover at right (including the audio, paperback and hardcover editions), but I don’t see any way to actually get one.

Well, I love a book challenge, and I’m not ready to give up yet. I’ll let you know how it turns out. Here’s the back cover of the trade edition.

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The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Alexis Gilliland

Friday, November 22nd, 2019 | Posted by Steven H Silver

by Alexis Gilliland

by Alexis Gilliland

Alexis Gilliland

Alexis Gilliland

by Alexis Gilliland

by Alexis Gilliland

The Best Fan Artist category was not one of the original Hugo categories in 1953, not introduced until 1967, when it was won by Jack Gaughan. The award has been presented every year since then. Gilliland was nominated for the Hugo every year between 1978 and 1985, winning that award in 1980 and for three years running from 1983 to 1985. While several fan artists have won the award more times than Gilliland, his three year streak ties those of Tim Kirk and Brad W. Foster for consecutive wins.

The Fan Activity Achievement Awards, or FAAN Awards were founded in 1976 by Moshe Feder and Arnie Katz. Created to highlight writing in fandom, they differed from the Fan Hugos in that they were voted on specifically by fanzine fans. The original awards were presented at various convention. Following the 1980 awards, the awards were on hiatus until 1994 and have been presented each year since, with the exception of 1996. Alexis Gilliland won the last of the original run of FAAN Awards for Best Fan Artist—Humorous, his third sequential win. The first winner was Bill Rotsler. The category was not revived after the hiatus, being combined with the Best Fan Artist—Serious category and replaced by the Best Fan Artist category. Gilliland was nominated for The FAAN Award for Best Humorous Art in three consecutive years from 1978 through 1980.

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