The re-branding of a fantasy author. . . . . . .
By : Deborah Susan Jones : Editor
That probably sounds strange if you are a Marion Zimmer Bradley fan?
Read on . . . . .
The Artist's name for a picture created for Arrow Books in the UK who re-published Sharra's Exile, a fantasy novel written by Marion Zimmer Bradley and part of the Darkover series of books. This was a unique commission, in fact the whole series of cover pictures created by the Artist for Arrow's re-release of the Zimmer-Bradley books were, in that the design task was NOT to illustrate a fantasy novel as if it were for the Science Fiction and Fantasy market.
In "fannish" terms, a wikki site states "After the Age of Chaos had almost destroyed civilization on the planet of the Bloody Sun, even the Sharra had been exiled, but now the Sharra had returned, embodied in the image of a chained woman wreathed in flames, an image which could change the history of Darkover forever . . . . . . . . ." which is the kind of description that would get any Science Fiction and fantasy Artist's creative juices flowing, but in Peter's case, because he had gained a reputation with publishers of increasing sales in books because his works had both fan and genre-focused elements in his them but also attributes that made them far more widely accepted, in what publishers termed "the main market" and these days would be described as "the mass market" he was commissioned to expressly design pictures that aimed their re-published series of books specifically at this wider market.
The brief stated that "these books don't sell any more, beyond what they have already achieved, so we want to get a second life out of them and we want to do this via a new way of pitching the cover imagery."
In short, in order to sell more Zimmer-Bradley fantasy books the art direction was to not make then look like "genre" books.
The novel itself and the second chapter of book one Sharra's Exile was originally published as a a short story titled "Blood Will Tell" which the Artist originally considered titling his painting. In the final outcome he decided he wanted to paint a series of images based on this one and revolving around the idea of the elements, fire, wind, air and water.
Although the Artist paints many other subjects, the roots of all of it, even his rural art and in some small ways his aviation art, have their roots in his Science Fiction works, for it is his vibrant imagination that fuels it all.
There are many Science Fiction writers who enjoyed a second if not third lease of life in some of their writings as a result of the Artist's willingness to break conventions, challenge accepted views and find what the paperback industry referred to as "cover treatments" to extend sales and therefore awareness of writer's works.
Ironically, paradoxically, that sometimes meant flying in the face of fannish or genre-based views of how "a Science Fiction cover should look".
In case anyone thought these pictures "just happened" with nothing other than a "what shall I paint today" attitude you may be surprised to here that I once had the (exhausting) experience of a five-hour design meeting with the Art Director on another famous series of covers by the same publisher .
"Progress" was never an ill-considered matter, no matter the outcome . . . . .
Deborah Susan Jones : Editor