Page 1 of 5
By Patrick (2007-02-06)
Q: For the benefit of those of us new to your work, without giving too much away, give us a taste of the story that is BLINDSIGHT.
If you want a one-line precise, Blindsight uses the conventions of a first-contact tale to explore the nature and significance of sentience. But I can do better than that-- the whole damn novel's posted on my website, here http://www.rifters.com/real/Blindsight.htm. Or if you're just looking for a taste of cinematic atmosphere, go here http://www.rifters.com/blindsight/BS_main.htm. Poke around a bit. The site's still under construction - I haven't finished the alien necropsy page yet, for one thing - but there's more than enough to give you a sense of the book.
Q: I was able to catch a part of your rant against the dustjacket art for BLINDSIGHT at Readercon.
Okay, this is a bit disturbing, since as far as I can remember the only times I talked about that were at a private book-signing session in the Clarkesworld suite (with only two other people present) and at my reading (which was scarcely better attended). So unless this rant of which you speak was just a part of an conversation overheard at a urinal somewhere, I really am a nutjob. With senile dementia.
Q: What exactly was it about the original art that upset you to the point of having so many alternate covers created?
Right off the bat I want to make two points First, the artist, Thomas Pringle, has scads of talent and I really like his stuff (his Blindsight concept sketches that Tor didn't use -- which I recycled for the alternates -- are just gorgeous). Secondly, while I have had my share of problems with Tor over the years, the one thing they never ever dropped the ball on -- prior to Blindsight -- was cover art. No one could ask for better covers than the ones Bruce Jensen conjured up for my rifters books. So I'm slagging neither the artist nor the overall performance of Tor's art department here.Further, I even liked the concept sketch that the final cover was based on -- it wasn't my favorite of the dozen or so that Thomas submitted to Tor, but it was my favorite of the three that Tor passed on to me.
Nothing at all against the concept, even if it does give away a bit more than I'd like about the McGuffin. But the execution, boys and girls. The layout. It sucks the one-eyed purple trouser eel. The spaceship, originally a dark ominous contraption that evoked the hardware of 2001 or Alien, has inexplicably morphed into some brightly-lit Buck-Rogers corkscrew with wings. It has the texture and detail of a pencil sketch imported from an entirely different illustration-- the lighting isn't even consistent with the rest of the image. The red border, the Exorcist-pea-soup color of the lettering-- the word "lurid" comes to mind. And the blurbage-- for some reason, every blurb on the cover raved about some book other than Blindsight, which to me (speaking as an sf reader here, not a writer) is always cause for suspicion. This is especially puzzling because I know that Tor had some really kick-ass Blindsight-specific quotes in hand, and I've never received a satisfactory answer as to why at least one or two them weren't used.
So. Cover art and blurbs, which I'm given to understand comprise two of the three primary variables upon which retail chains base their purchasing decisions (the third being author's previous sales figures, which can't be tweaked retroactively short of time travel and/or fraud, and which in my case were evidently pretty dismal). Is it any wonder that one of the two biggest book chains in the country chose not to preorder any copies?
Now I should point out that a few people have told me that they don't mind the official cover at all, and one or two (not even connected with the industry) opine that the official cover is actually better than any of my alternates. But that seems to be the opinion of a small minority. And when I saw the sketches that Tor opted not to use, I just about cried. They were great. They conveyed loneliness, they conveyed carnage, they conveyed darkness and light and haunting mystery, and it just seemed that they all put a more evocative face on my words than did the official jacket. So, with the artist's permission, I did the alternates (which also come with relevant blurbage)
(BTW, if any of you are interested in how I envisioned Theseus when I wrote the book, check out http://www.rifters.com/blindsight/theseus.htm. There, you'll find a full-frontal-nudity annotated shot. (Fully clothed, as in the book, Theseus wears a carapace that makes it look a lot less interesting to the geeky eye.) It's based on one of Pringle's sketches, although I've radically changed the morphology of that ship to reflect my mind's eye.)
Q: And for the collectors out there, are these alternate covers still available?
Infinitely available. There are half a dozen alternates (seven if you could the featureless black "Smell The Glove" homage) Just go to .and download whichever jpegs you want. They're formatted to print at the correct size, although you're on your own when it comes to finding a piece of paper 20" long. I got a bunch of laminated copies done at the local Staples and I gotta say they look pretty good.