Continuing the discussion from Draft cover for a new players' brief:
Professional cover art isn’t cheap, but on the other hand (a) my finances have been pretty robust since I paid off my mortgage and called a halt to renovations, and (b) neither is the art that I occasionally buy to hang on my walls. I am thinking about indulging myself by commissioning a semi-pro Flat Black cover illustration (which I might also use as a desktop image etc.). Patrick Turner’s work is awesome but would cost more than I am prepared to spend on a personal indulgence; Kenn Yap’s quality seems acceptable and his ballpark quote is affordable. Vlad Voronchiukov’s work seems okay and is very reasonably priced.
If I go ahead with this, then whatever artist I commission is going to need a clear and explicit brief. So it behoves me to think carefully about what the cover art on Flat Black ought to show. It doesn’t need to be informative, on the other hand it does need
- to be recognisable and
- to attract the attention specifically of potential readers likely to be interested in a Flat Black campaign.
The images that I have been toying with in the last thread (dramatic landscapes photographed at night, with streaks of green light from meteoric fireballs) are pretty enough, and maybe distinctive, but I’m afraid that they issue a cheque that Flat Black’s bank of adventures will not cash. Flat Black is not about spaceships, orbital bombardments, meteoric drops of Imperial marines, hard men making hard decisions in futuristic heavy armour, or even man-vs-wild tales of survival on exotic planets. A cover that suggests that it is runs the risk of disappointing the reader that it does attract while failing to attract the reader who would like the content.
So I have to thrash out an idea for a a cover image that conveys an impression of the WEIRD meeting the bizarre on an alien planet, perhaps with an eclectic mix of speccy and basic technology. It has to give a clear impression of being SF and not fantasy or sci-fantasy.
My first idea was way too fussy:
The idea that I have in mind is a street scene on the planet Sehausie. There is a group of Imperial marines off duty, physically diverse but dressed alike in drab olive uniforms. One of them is trying to strike up a conversation with a passing local lady, elegantly dressed, who looks at him as though he were a bug. Behind her a little knot of local men stare at the scene: they are physically similar to each other and the lady, but no two of their gorgeous but stripperific outfits is in the least alike. The architecture is consistent with mediaeval technology (massive masonry for the a womens’ palace, maybe, or carved wood and shingles for a mens’ lodge) but should not look like mediaeval European designs.
Once that was reduced to 32 × 45 mm for a thumbnail it would be nothing but a blur of indistinguishable detail.
My second thought is a bit clichéd, and has the fault of putting the subjects at the edge of the composition instead of the middle:
At bottom left is a couple of people in drab trousers and tunics, with techy-looking equipment on their tool-belts. They are seen in rear semi-profile because we are taking their point of view. The man might be wearing a visor; he has his hands behind his back and is holding a drawn pistol while the woman leads the interaction. There is a bright camping-light on the ground in front of them, and beyond it (at the right of the composition and somewhat higher) a couple of gorgeously-accoutred colonials, the man dressed very differently from the woman, and with middling-tech gear such as an AK-47 or a lever-action shotgun. We see them in three-quarter face. The background is beyond the light of the lamp, and generally dark, but perhaps we are on a mountain overlooking a city or something.
A variation on that has the WEIRD figures as before, but they are facing a colonial dignitary on a throne with bodyguards, perhaps a Navabharatan god with green skin and ~Egyptian regalia, flanked by two bodyguards who are painted vermilion on one side and white on the other, wearing black torso armour and visors, and armed with AK-47s.
My third thought is getting a bit simpler
A person in drab trousers and shirt has been seriously injured, and an EMT in aqua scrubs is crouched over them. The EMT has a head and face that have been modified to look like a coyote, her scrubs have a bag at the back for her tail. A man armed with an AK-47 looks on: he is painted vermilion on one side and white on the other, and is wearing a helmet, black sandals, a black bullet-proof vest marked “POLICE”, and a black gun-belt with a shiny revolver. He has a pleated piece of gorgeously-printed cloth tucked through his gunbelt at the hip, in token of a breechclout.
We definitely aren’t in Kansas any more. But perhaps we’re looking like an emergency-services game?