I actually talked for a long time with the reporter about the history and evolution of spec cover artwork but as happens with all articles, most of what I said did not make it into the final product. Such is life. However, I did want to mention one thing I talked about for a bit, and that was how the 60s had a very different set of covers than in previous decades. We went from realist artwork to abstract artwork, and some of the trippy, experimental designs were frankly an eye sore, but there was some stuff that was truly out there and awesome. At its best, artwork from the 60s and early 70s was striking, vivid and audacious. It turned away from the pin-ups and rocket ships, and gave us some very interesting food for thought. Yes, this was also the time period when Frank Frazetta was painting muscled men and gorgeous women, but other stuff was happening in parallel. Also, Frazetta does not occur out of nowhere, as he is taking inspiration from the pulp illustrations of Brundage, but that’s another tale.
As a visual example, here is the first edition of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep compared to two later editions (1997 and 2009):
This is a good visual example of how sci-fi covers have changed since the 60s, switching from abstract back to realistic, representational images. For example, we now see a lot of photos on covers (Photoshopped, of course).
Here is the first edition cover of the sci-fi novel The Rowan next to the re-release, illustrating the point about photographs:
Some sub-genres, like urban fantasy and paranormal YA, have moved towards a recognizable aesthetic which is so common it is sometimes hard to tell books apart. Take these three titles released last year, for example:
Times changes and trends change with it. Are we an era in which too many book covers resemble one another, or has it always been the same? Do you prefer the current desire to use photos on covers or did you like painted illustrations? I admit I miss some of the 60s and 70s abstract covers. As my friend Paula R. Stiles pointed out, they gave us covers such as this one for The Sheep Look Up:
There are covers so striking from that era that I never forgot them, even if I forgot the title of the book. I could go into a book store and ask for the book by the cover alone. I’m not sure I could do that with certain sub-genres today. Here is another cool cover from that era: