Tuesday, March 3, 2015

For Psychochronography, Turn to Page 5

Well, I'm writing this at the last minute because of things and stuff.  Not going into details, though I will say I'm writing it with cold hands because our furnace is out for the second time this year.  Fantastic! It's been that sort of week (as in the last 7 days, not as in the week beginning on Monday, because it is Monday, so I would say it's been that sort of day instead).

So, since it's so cold, and I'd like to go and do warmer things than type a blog entry I'll try and keep it short (Ha, like that ever happens!  Well, it did last post, so there).

Oh, this is a Phil Sandifer cover post, if you hadn't already guessed from the title.

That's the latest cover.  You can click on it to make it larger as usual, as you can with many images on this post.  The format of the cover might be reminiscent of a series of books from your childhood. Or, if you're British, the competitor to the far cooler series of books from your childhood (in my opinion).  If you're as old as I am anyway.

The origins of this go way back to the Tom Baker Doctor Who essays Phil wrote.  No, not the ones from the last two books, but the original blog entries those books are based on.  Phil likes to have fun with posts occasionally, such as in his more recent ones where he offset the episodes he was covering depending on whether the character River Song was in them or not. Thus his 'final' post was several months ago, while his actual final post a couple of weeks ago covered her first appearance in the show with Silence in the Library. Actually, it didn't, instead it covered the entire series, and therefore the entire blog, in a 99,000 word extravaganza.  Like I said, he likes to have fun with it.

So back in the Tom Baker days of old he covered the serial Logopolis as though it was a non-linear gamebook, not dissimilar to a Choose Your Own Adventure.

Time passed and there was that Kickstarter for the Second Edition of Volume 1 (if you're hopelessly confused at this point scroll down to the labels and click Philip Sandifer, that will give you all the relevant posts - start at the beginning, it might take a while - look, I just linked his name there too, to make it easier).  One of the extra goals of that Kickstarter was to do the Logopolis entry as its own book.  Phil being Phil, he planned on expanding it,  but ended up rewriting it almost entirely, though it still had the temporary title of Logopolis.

Phil sent me the final text a while back, and I worked through it, and then tried to come up with an image for it.  The nod to the book series was a given (Phil requested it), but the image to go on it was less obvious.  You see the text was so dense in imagery, and so wide ranging in scope, that there really wasn't a central key thing to latch on to, so I flailed around a bit.  Hated all of them, and Phil wasn't terribly impressed either.  I think it amusing that the worse drawn of these (the one in the top left, which my son could do better than) ended up as the source of the little sketch on the back cover.  Phil did make life a bit easier after seeing these though - he suggested something based around the Tree of Life, and said I didn't have to be too slavish to the actual style of the old cover illustrations.  Great.

This is what we ended up with.  Originally I was going to go for something more complex, looking down the platform with the map in perspective, but I went with this instead because it's more easily readable, it's more graphic, and it's simpler to do.  On seeing it Phil immediately emailed me back:

So, amusing fact - Alan Moore’s Promethea... introduces the Tree of Life with a copy of this map: http://www.johncoulthart.com/pantechnicon/kabbalah.html
I have absolutely no problem with this. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a lovely and entirely apropos homage, and the synchronicity of you coming up with a map in the same style as Promethea is fantastic. I love the design.

Which of course is exactly the sort of thing the good Doctor knows off the top of his head.  So we went ahead with it, though in deference to Mr. Coulthart, and his having the idea first, I named a station after him, and gave him due credit on the map - alas this may not actually be visible on the cover, so here's the map I then created so you can actually read it (if you enlarge it at least).

Lots of Doctor Who references in there if you know what to look for.  The crisscrossing branching theme also ties in quite nicely with the book thematically.

Of course with that done I still needed the rest of the cover.  Much of it was fairly simple - the thumbnail layout was all done with vectors, so it just needed scaling up and it all remained crisp and sharp.  The illustration was a little more complicated though, and had to be recreated from scratch.

So the image on the left was created in Photoshop using gradients and shapes and the like.  Next over we have the version with the shadows being cast.  For those I originally did them in Photoshop but I wasn't happy with the result, so I modeled a rough form in a 3D package and then rendered it with a couple of lights casting the shadow onto a white wall.  A little bit of distorting here and there in Photoshop and it all looked of a piece when overlaid on the initial image. I wasn't happy with the top of it though (it looked too 'rendered' to me), so I recreated it in Photoshop; now I had something as a guide that was fairly simple, and can be seen next to the rendered version - it's also had the levels fiddled with. On the right is the final image used on the cover with extra colours and graphics, and the map added.

Next I needed to add the spine and the rear cover along with some wear and tear.  None of this was terribly taxing, though the cover was a different size from the previous books (it's a classic paperback size rather than the usual larger format, to stay in keeping with the type of book it's referencing).  Nothing very exciting to know here that I've not covered in previous entries, except for the illustration and the big logo.  That logo is taken from Volume Two of the Eruditorum book series, it was replaced by the Eruditorum Press logo on all of Phil's subsequent books, so I thought it may as well get one more airing before being retired forever.  Plus I needed something to fill the space that wasn't text (The submission process automatically rejects any text obscured by the barcode 'sticker')

As for the upper illustration; given the quality of the usual illustrations on the back of such books (not terrible, but simple and charming), I didn't want to spend too long on it. I did a fairly quick pen illustration of the man (that hand is terrible, I fought the urge to redo it), and then to save time I created the spiral in Photoshop - something that's actually very simple to do if you know the trick (you draw slightly angled lines across the image, then run the Polar Coordinates filter, and then warp it around a little).  Painting out the bits where the guy was supposed to go took longer than the rest of the background, as of course you could see the background right through his line art.  Finally, the shading on the figure, and gradient to black in the background were done by painting them in grey, and then using the Photoshop Graphic Pen filter.  It's not perfect, but at this size it's hard to tell it was partially faked.

At this point Phil had given me the page count and the new title of the book, along with the blurb for the rear cover.  You may note something about the title if you're paying attention.  It's wrong!  In my opinion the spine also looks better with the large logo, but I'll come back to that in a moment.  So Phil gave me the correct title, but in his blurb he has mistyped it (not my fault for once!), so when I added the blurb I thought I must have misread the title he'd sent me, and used his mistyped version.  He picked up on it of course, and it was easily fixed.

The change in the spine though was a little more irritating.  I'd done it that way so it would look like a graphic choice if the spine wrapped slightly around to the front or back cover; Some nice dashes in the darker blue line, and an interesting look to the spine itself.  I kept this format when I corrected the spelling, but unfortunately the auto-check in the submissions process kicked it.  It doesn't give an option to override such things for those who want to deliberately buck the trend.

I made the  changes, and fixed up a few other minor details to arrive at the final cover.  And if you look at the final title on the spine you may note it looks a little blurred.  It's actually because the title is recursively occluding itself, and fading away with each repetition to the side, but I like that it also looks blurred.  For some reason the Auto-Submit didn't decide to have an issue with that.

Phil's launch post on Recursive Occlusion can be found here, and the book itself is available from this page now.


1 comment:

  1. That cover looks absolutely stunning. Very good work, sir.