Back in the 1970s, beginning (I think) with the first-edition paperback of Dhalgren, Bantam Books initiated a project to (re)print Samuel R. Delany’s novels under a unified design, which they also used for some other SF novels, such as Walter M. Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz. I have seven of Delany’s novels that were published under the new design in my collection, and of those seven my four favourites just happen to be among the ones for which I have been able to determine, with a tiny bit of sleuthing, the identity of the cover artist. My favourites are Babel-17, with cover art by Vincent Segrelles (well-known in comics circles for his series, The Mercenary); Nova, with art by Eddie Jones; Dhalgren, with art by Dean Ellis; and Triton, with art by Mitchell Hooks.
And here’s a fun bit of observational trivia. If you look closely at the cover of Triton, you’ll find that the artist, Hooks, has painted his dramatic, futuristic moon base from a model constructed of mundane props from around the house — small oil cans, chess pieces, a feathered dart, a dart tip, ink bottles, a shaving mirror, and so on — cleverly arranged on a tabletop.
Anyway… enough with the preamble! Here are my scans, displayed in order of their original publication; please note, however, that the dates in the file names are not the first-publication dates but the dates of the editions/printings of the books that I own:
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As you can see above, I have two copies of Triton in my collection. What I find interesting here is that the earlier printing, from 1976, has the title printed in a sort of metallic ink, while the later printing, from 1979, does not. Was this an aesthetic choice or a cost-saving measure for a book that was not selling as well as had been expected, given the runaway success of Delany’s previous novel, Dhalgren? I suspect the latter.
Dhalgren, The Einstein Intersection, and The Ballad of Beta-2 also have titles printed in “metallic” ink; The Jewels of Aptor, Babel-17, and Nova do not.
Isn’t it interesting that the art director at Ace put the blurb on The Falling Astronauts cover directly over Meltzer’s signature. No art credit inside the book, either. But Meltzer was probably paid a lot for his work, right? Yeah, right…
Since August 2008, Joe Bloke over at the “Grantbridge Street” blog has posted a dozen stories with art by Howard Chaykin:
UPDATE (28 November 2014):
Earlier today, I noticed that all of the stories with art by Chaykin that were posted at “Grantbridge Steet” have been deleted, but I see now that all but three of the old stories — the first three in my list below — have since been re-posted on Joe Bloke’s BIFF! blog, along with three new ones. Therefore, in order to preserve the utility of this post, I have taken the time this afternoon to update the links below to reflect the new locations of the old stories and have added links to the three new stories.
“The Mark of Kane” (part 1 of 2) by Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin, from Marvel Premiere #33
“The Mark of Kane: Fangs of the Gorilla God” (part 2 of 2) by Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin, from Marvel Premiere #34
“Red Sonja: Day of the Red Judgment” by Roy Thomas, Christy Marx, and Howard Chaykin, from Marvel Comics Super Special #9
“The Fire Bug” by Paul Kupperberg and Howard Chaykin, from Weird War Tales #76
“Rattle of Bones” by Roy Thomas and Howard Chaykin, from Savage Sword of Conan #18
“Seven Moons’ Light Casts Complex Shadows” by Samuel R. Delany and Howard Chaykin, from Epic Illustrated #2 (June 1980):
I remember thinking when I first read “Seven Moons’ Light Casts Complex Shadows” back in 1980, when I was still in high school: “Samuel Delany is my favourite writer, and Howard Chaykin is one of my favourite artists, so why is their work together merely okay, I mean, why is it not great?” Though I didn’t know it at the time, the answer, in the case of Chaykin and Delany’s 1978 “visual novel,” Empire, was, essentially, editorial interference from the project’s “producer” Byron Preiss (see “Appendix” below); with “Seven Moons’ Light,” however, I just don’t know…
Six issues later, in October 1981, a painting by Howard Chaykin was featured on the cover of Epic Illustrated #8. Now that was killer!
“To develop a visual novel, we wanted a design system, a framework in which the entire story could be told. I developed a horizontal/vertical axis spread design which could be consistently varied over every two pages of the book.” — Byron Preiss, from his “Foreword” to Empire: A Visual Novel
Was Preiss’s “design system,” which not only placed arbitrary formal constraints on the layout of the pages but also incorporated an unusual format for the captions and dialogue, really the ideal framework for a long-form comic, or was it a procrustean bed? As much as I admire Chaykin’s work in Empire, I would argue that the storytelling — especially the visual storytelling — was often hamstrung by Preiss’s system, which, among other things, made it more difficult than it needed to be for Chaykin and Delany to control the focus, rhythm, and pace of the action.
“When I did Empire with Howard Chaykin, which was 1980 or 1982, Byron Preiss was the packager, and that was a strangely ill-fated project. After we did it, I was very happy with what we did, and Byron was very unhappy with the ending, and just took it upon himself to completely rewrite it, and cut up the art, so that there’s no way to put it back in its original shape. It just doesn’t exist any more, and he’s dead now of course. So nobody will ever see the way it was originally supposed to end. I’ve written about it in at least one interview. I think it’s [in] my book Silent Interviews.” — Samuel R. Delany, in answer to a question from a fan
I’m a bit late to notice this, but back in November of 2009, MaestroMedia Productions released a two-disk DVD set of The Polymath, or the Life and Opinions of Samuel R. Delany, Gentleman, produced, written, directed, and photographed by Fred Barney Taylor. Available for a mere US$30 plus shipping and handling (request a total if you live outside the United States), the DVD set includes the original 80-minute documentary, along with a second DVD with over two hours of raw footage of Delany in conversation and a digital transfer of Delany’s “lost” 16-mm film from 1971, The Orchid (which, comic readers may be interested to know, includes Bernie Wrightson as an extra).
The iconic and larger-than life Samuel R. Delany, best known as the author of Dhalgren and Babel-17, winner of multiple Hugo and Nebula awards, is considered a grandmaster of the sci-fi community. Born and raised in New York City, Delany began writing in the early 1960s and became famous for his provocative futuristic explorations of race and sexual identity. He was a rebellious pioneer who opened up the white male universe of science fiction to issues of race, gender and sexuality
The grandson of a slave, he has written frankly about his life and sexual adventures as a gay African-American, notably in his brilliantly reflexive memoir, The Motion of Light and [in] Water and in Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, a social and critical complaint about the disappearance of the area’s famous porn theatres.
Back in the day, Chip shared a stage with Bob Dylan, drank with W.H. Auden, wrote an opera, made a film, formed a theatre company, and authored several issues of Wonder Woman. He has had, by his count, over 50,000 sexual partners during the course of his lifetime.
Taylor uses visually-stunning images of water and bridges as abstract compositions; a visual correlative of the author’s multi-layered writing. By juxtaposing Delany’s flow of memories, readings and archival footage with mesmerizing imagery of the city, The Polymath expresses in vivid detail the complexities of an eclectic intellectual.
The original reproduction on many of the following covers by Jeffrey Jones, all from the library of yours truly, was very poor, so my scans are sometimes not the best here. One exception is the last cover, Twilight of the Serpent, which actually showcases Jones’s artwork in more detail and with more lively colour than does the rather dour reproduction on the back cover of publisher Underwood-Miller’s lavish hardcover, The Art of Jeffrey Jones.
My favourites this time around are the covers for The Curse of Rathlaw (1968), an early effort in which Jones’s attractive design for the vignette is nicely reinforced by the typography, and Twilight of the Serpent (1977), a later cover which displays Jones’s hard-won skills as a draftsman (or draughtsman, if you prefer), mastery of lost-and-found edges in oil painting, and increasing willingness in the 1970s and early 1980s to produce images that went against the grain of traditional heroic fantasy.
Keywords:Earthmen and Strangers, Kothar of the Magic Sword, The Book of Ptath, The Jewels of Aptor, Seetee Shock, The Incomplete Enchanter, The Curse of Rathlaw, The Sword of Morning Star, Bedlam Planet, Twilight of the Serpent.
Today on ebay, I purchased the following book from a “Buy It Now” auction: “THE AMERICAN SHORE (Dragon Press, 1978, first trade edition). Author: SAMUEL R. DELANY. Fine copy with reinforced binding and without dust jacket, as issued. SIGNED. According to Lloyd Currey, there were 949 trade copies and 100 numbered copies signed by Delany.”
The book was US$15.00, and the shipping $9.95, for a grand total of US$24.95.
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Truth be told, I already own an unsigned hardcover copy of The American Shore; however, as a long-time collector of the works of Samuel R. Delany, I had to have a signed one — especially since the price was so right!