What is it about the Sci-fi/Fantasy genre that seems to make perfectly sensible publishers lose their minds and stamp "APPROVED" on cover proofs that would give a sane person nightmares? I'm not talking about every cover in the genre, of course. You know the ones I mean. The ones that look like something you might see in a long night of fever dreams after a Tuborg bender. The ones that look like this one on the right. Gosh, but there's a lot going on in it, isn't there? It isn't just that it violates any precept of sensible design; it's also that it obliterates any rational notion of narrative discipline. What I'm saying is, sure you could infer a story from the cover, and that story might even be Art, but that Art would be, in Shelby Lynne's words, the killin' kind. What you want to do with art like this is gather it up and wall it off where it can't hurt anybody. Which is, in a way, what a British site called Good Show Sir has done. Its motto is brisk and direct -- Only the worst Sci-Fi/Fantasy book covers -- and the criteria for inclusion are blessedly clear:
Some of the things to look for in a cover:This is a valuable public service. Visit the site if you dare. Just don't blame me if you end up sobbing in a corner.
1. So much going on it burns your eyes. We want covers with elves, dragons, space ships and large busty women, all on the same glorious cover!
2. Terrible art. Awful... just awful. Crazed monsters that are congenital disorders with no skeletal support, brush strokes that display a hilariously misinformed understanding of anatomical proportions, unreadable and/or multiple horrible fonts, magical light orbs that lack even the most basic digital imaging techniques. That sort of thing.
3. Epic things happening. Look for people doing crazy things, such as holding a staff to a dragons eye, firing a laser pistol with one hand whilst doing stunts on a a hover bike with the other, or summoning interdimensional beasts whilst surrounded by improbably-clad warrior priestesses who are fighting off invisible fairies on top of a mountain made of crystal and sand.