Thursday, 24 May 2012


The world of science fiction publishing, in contrast to the forward-thinking concepts often found in its texts, has traditionally been let down by uninspired marketing and jacket design. It’s as if the publishers didn’t understand the material, and therefore had no trust in the audience having any level of sophistication, either.

Thankfully, in recent years things have begun to change, with reprints of cult authors sporting interesting uses of layout, texture and typeface. ( A great long-running example of this, is Vintage US’ Philip K. Dick reprints, decked out in quirky 80’s computer imagery that neatly captures the nascent collision of counter-culture ideas and Silicon Valley futurism. With a consistent look and feel across all of PKD’s canon, Vintage succeed in making the entire catalogue highly collectable ).

Another reason for publishers trying to make their product stand out, must surely be the advent of the e-book. Presumably, they must hope that, if we are all inevitably going to gravitate to this much more convenient format, aficionados will still want the sheer tactile thrill of a real-world volume - especially if it’s wrapped in a beautiful cover – one that will look great on a bookshelf.

Alastair Reynolds’ book Century Rain ( see photos ), is part of the Gollancz Space Opera series, and recently caught the eye of MONOBLOG for exactly this reason. The smooth matte texture and low-grade photocopied look of the cover is entirely ironic, as the book is a page-turning mash-up of French Noir, and futuroid nano-tech.

Sanda Zahirovic’s work for this series is a great example of inventive and cohesive cover design. Orion Publishing Group originally sent out a brief to students to come up with a design that would bring sci-fi out of its ‘ghetto’, and give it a serious image makeover. 

With a clear concept in mind, Zahirovic followed the brief by researching paper-folding techniques and then setting up a makeshift studio to shoot her ideas. Orion loved the work, and, using their in-house art team, recreated it in the publisher’s studio, taking pains to create images that did not need digital retouching in Photoshop. 

Stark matte black and white, they’re a beautifully low-tech response to the high-tech nature of the material. The designs won a commendation at the D&AD Student Awards, and went on to win a bronze in the organization’s professional awards.