Sunday, June 23, 2019


The first syllable pronounced gutturally and very thickly. The u is about like that in full; and the first syllable is not unlike klul in sound, hence the h represents the guttural thickness.
H.P. Lovecraft
As we were paying for our purchases at Munro's, Karli glanced down at my little stack of books and said, "Oh, a Cthulhu book, good for you!"

I was a little touched by her comment - it's a testament to her ongoing support that she knows about Cthulhu, let alone being able to pronounce it correctly (insofar as anyone can).

Just when I think I can't find another reason to love you, Karli...

- Sid

Saturday, June 22, 2019

A cover IS nice. (With apologies to Mary Poppins Returns)

Karli and I are spending the weekend in Victoria, and as part of our visit, we did a little shopping at Munro's, Victoria's excellent independent bookstore.  As I stood looking thoughtfully at the shelves in the science fiction section, I realized that in spite of conventional wisdom, I first judge a book by its cover.

As someone who works in the graphics industry, I appreciate a well-conceived book design, but outside of that, I have all kinds of memories and associations that go with particular books, which is one of the reasons that when I buy a replacement copy, I try to get the same edition - or at least, the same cover.*  As an example, I'm probably on my third copy of the 1965 Pyramid publication of E. E. Smith's Second Stage Lensmen and its unique Jack Gaughan cover artwork.  It's the version that my mother owned, and the one that I read first.

I feel that there's a time in the 60s and 70s when almost everything had a cover by either Jack Gaughan or Kelly Freas**, and a period in the 1970s and early 80s when almost everything had a cover by Michael Whelan - other times, other customs, as the Romans said. (I remember when Whelan finally withdrew his name from further consideration at the Hugos after winning 15 awards - 13 as best professional artist - and a SuperHugo at the 50th Annual Worldcon in 1992 for being the best artist in the last 50 years.)

My Edgar Rice Burroughs collection is all over the map in terms of cover art: green Martians by Gino D'Achille and Michael Whelan for the Mars books, the classic Roy Krenkel Jr. covers from the early 60s for the Venus series, Neal Adams' skillfully muscular take on Tarzan, and a couple of  Frazetta covers for Pellucidar - pretty much a who's who of fantasy art.  It's a little tempting to get some kind of consistent set of editions, but I bought all these books at different times in my life, and the covers all bring back different memories of those times.That being said, I'm a little tempted by the Michael Kaluta covers that I found while researching this posting, they have a great steampunk/art nouveau feel to them that's ideally suited to John Carter's adventures on Barsoom.

Burroughs, by Krenkel, Whelan, and Kaluta.
This posting could easily become a book on its own, there are so many memorable artists: Frank Frazetta's Conans, Josh Kirby's great work on Terry Pratchett's Discworld paperbacks, the Pauline Baynes illustrations that perfectly visualized Narnia and its inhabitants, the incredible mixed bag of Ace Double covers, and so on and so on and so on.


As with fans of vinyl and classic album artwork, I mourn the possible end of science fiction and fantasy cover art due to the switch to digital editions. I know that there will still be artwork - the cover artwork by Michael Gauss for the ebook version of my friend Annie's prequel novel, Children of Lightning, is brilliant - but somehow the impact of a 200 pixel thumbnail just isn't the same.

 - Sid

* I've never understood the surprisingly common habit of doing something strange with cover art in later editions of novels - borders, framing, and other little tricks that minimize the actual art.

** This mockup is a deliberate homage to Kelly Freas and his characteristic affection for red shadows on faces.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

"Now boarding..."

I'm going to Mars.

Okay, not actually me, that would be a bit of a miracle, but my name is.

NASA has introduced a program that allows people to submit their names for the upcoming Mars 2020 mission.  The submissions* will be etched onto a microchip that will be on the Mars 2020 rover when it lands on Mars.

It's a fun idea, and I applaud NASA for the insight displayed in creating this opportunity.

For those of us who will never leave the planet, never have an asteroid or a crater named after them, and never set foot on another world, it's a cool little piece of personal involvement in space exploration.

However, I was saddened to see that I'd missed a couple of other opportunities to participate.  Given the distances involved, I feel that it's going to take a lot more than 300 million NASA frequent flyer points to even get off the ground, let alone qualify for a seat upgrade.

- Sid

* The submitted names are vetted before addition to the list, presumably to avoid Bart Simpson sneaking I.P. Freely or Mike Rotch onto the chip.