Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Other Half of the Sky

I've been really looking forward to sharing the cover I made for The Other Half of the Sky, to be published by Candlemark & Gleam in April 2013.

The Other Half of the Sky is an anthology of science fiction stories with women protagonists, a theme that could hardly be closer to my heart. In science fiction female characters are often on the sidelines, passive and flat; I suppose because of a widespread belief that women are uninterested in the whole space idea. This collection of stories turns this stereotype down a notch, so I was understandably very happy to make the cover for it.

Athena Andreadis, the editor of the anthology, was particularly helpful throughout the process of making this image. She had a clear vision of what she wanted the cover to look like, and was precise in communicating it.

The character is not chosen specifically from one story of the lot; I made her generic enough so that she could fit any of the protagonists. It was important to set the tone through her expression and stance rather than any particulars of her appearance.

On a technical level, this was mostly straightforward. I set up a model in Poser to help me with the odd lighting and angle (not pretty, but it did its job). I tried out a couple different colour schemes, and even one lighter version, with a planet instead of nebula in the background. The eventual nebula background has a composite of various nebulae images (thanks, NASA!) as a basis, further rendered with watercolour-like brushes alongside with the plain old round brush.

I got the idea of the twisting spires from the Dynamic Tower concept, though I tried to make them look a little more organic (likely at the expense of structural integrity!).

For the character's outfit, I had initially thought of something more armour-like, but that would put too much military emphasis. In looking for inspiration and reference, I kept stumbling upon the extremely bulky EVA space suits currently in use, but then I came across the Bio-Suit concept, and took it from there. Its decorative elements were inspired by a lovely gif circulating tumblr.

Once I had put everything together in satisfactory detail, I extended the image so that it could make a full wraparound cover. (Already a large file, the full wraparound was over 12000 pixels wide, some 1,5GB in size, and working with it turned much, m u c h  s l o w e r.)

The text treatment had its challenge, too. Diehl Deco was chosen as a typeface for all capitals, and Pyke's Peak Zero for lowercase. The two were a good match, but Pyke's Peak is really a display font, so I took it to an editor and changed a few glyphs to increase legibility. The version on the cover has slight changes in the letters s, v, w and q compared to the original. This was a new one for me, but I had much fun with it.

Lastly, the cover without the text: