The Best of the Mage (Page 60 and 61)


Dublin Core


The Best of the Mage (Page 60 and 61)


Science Fiction


These pages describe the continuation section of Auguries: Commentary and Reviews by Gregory Forbes about Science Fiction & Fantasy Cover Art and a poem Dreams in Statis by Tom Rentz


Rizky Suwoto


The Best of the Mage (Number 8, Fall 1987)


Colgate University Student Association


Fall 1987


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The Mage#4, Winter 1985






Science Fiction

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prolific is John Christopher. Although his best known worlc is the White Mountains trilogy, he has written many other stories including The Lotus Caves, The Guardians and the trilogy of The Prince in Waiting. All these books involve young heroes whose free spirits are being repressed by social institutions of some sort, and who run away to join pastoral resistance movements in the wilds. While it may sound as if these are formula plots, the craftsmanship with which the books are written is of such quality that the common elements can be welcomed as multiple helpings of a good thing. Rife with underdogs and other such things with :which the adventuresome-at-heart identify, Christopher's books entrap the reader in their convincing English countryside settings. Begin reading John Christopher with either the White Mountains trilogy (The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead, and the Pool of Fire) or The Guardians. The worlc of Alexander Key is children's science fiction/fantasy that should not be missed by the young at any age. Keys is the author of the book from which Disney film classic Escape to Witch Mountain was adapted, and his books are aimed at a slightly younger audience (ten to forteen years) than are Christopher's. His most enjoyable worlc for adults is The Magic Meadow. In this story the inmates of a ward for crippled orphans develop hypnotic storytelling to the point were they can transfer themselves out of the hospital to an idyllic world of summer and freedom. The book is imaginative and thoroughly enchanting.
C. S. Lewis and Lloyd Alexander are two authors I would like to make brief mention of because they stand out in their ability to write one story that can reach readers at many levels of sophistication. C. S. Lewis' seven Narnia books, although usually sold as children's books, are used regularly by universities across the country as textbooks in religion courses. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is worth particular attention for its brilliant retelling of the Gospel stories. The depth of thought and insight in Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain has been largely overlooked by the reading public. Reading them recently in my sophomore year at college, I was quite stunned at how much I had missed in them when I'd read them as a teenager. The selfexamination which the reader is brought to perform through identification with the characters in these five books is brought about masterfully. Taran Wanderer is the best in a series in which all the books are excellent. One of the most common complaints levelled by critics against science fiction is that it has lost all humanity. Characters are said to be two dimensional tools of the author rather than people with whom one can identify. In an increasingly large number of cases this is a legitimate complaint. One place where the unencumbered feeling and interest still resides is on the children's shelf. If you want to read a good story, feel some strong emotion, and still challenge your intellect, check it out sometime.
Science Fiction & Fantasy Cover Art (from The Mage #4, Winter 1985)
Having been a modest and open-minded columnist for these last two issues, I now feel an uncontrollable urge to climb back aboard my high horse, from which lofty position I am better able to regale you with my opinions on the subject of this issue's column: science fiction and fantasy paperback cover art. Although I am fully aware of the old admonition against judging a book by its cover, I am becoming increasingly concerned by what I perceive as a trend toward unimaginative, unsophisticated, and aesthetically unattractive covers. A particularly well read thirteen year old once told me that there were two kinds of science fiction: tall, thin science fiction and short, fat science fiction. As it turned out, the distinction was based on the cover art. Books with abstract covers, usually featuring attenuated human figures, were tall and thin science fiction, while books with realistic covers showing scenes from the book were short, fat science fiction. More than -mere artistic criticism, there is a strong association between tall, thin covers and intellectually redeeming themes in the stories, and between short, fat covers and sword and sorcery/space opera stories. Consider the covers of the original paperback editions of John Brunner's novels. He made pointed social commentary the
center piece of such books as Stand on Zanzibar, Shockwave Rider, and The Sheep Look Up and the covers of the original editions are of attenuated, abstract humans, computer circuits, etc. At the other extreme is Philip Jose Farmer's "World of Tiers" series. These are proto-typical heroic fantasy stories (not devoid of theme by any measure, but still not too heavy) and they have proto-typical heroic fantasy cover art by Boris Vallejo. Cover art is more than space-filler; it is the closest many critics of science fiction and fantasy ever get to the genre. There is a trend in publishing to put short, fat covers on everything. I feel this cheapens and commercializes science fiction and fantasy just when we are winning the war to have it accepted as intellectually redeemed literature. This trend is spearheaded by Darrell K. Sweet and it is against him that I will vent my anger. When he first started doing covers, Darrell Sweet was a second-rate sword and sorcery illustrator. His best work was the cover of Dinosaur Planet by Anne McCaffrey which shows the softlined, gray-washed look of his early work He has now become the most published cover illustrator in the science fiction/fantasy field. While there are several problems with Sweet's paintings, the biggest is his depiction of human and
humanoid forms. He uses just one generic facial type and nearly all his covers have the same people on them. His covers for Stephen Donaldson's Chronicles of Thomas Covenant are identical to his covers of the new editions of Katherine Kurtz's Deryni books, and just like the covers for Patricia McKillip's Riddle-Master of Hed series. His human figures often appear off-balance or out of proportion, as exemplified in the female on the cover of Heinlein's The Star Beast. The exaggerated animation of the people which appears so strikingly in the covers of Jack Chalker's Dancing Gods series, Lawrence Watt-Evans' The Lords of Dus series, and L. Sprague de Camp's Reluctant King series, reaches such an overwrought level, that the covers remind me of nothing so much as cartoons. This is a terrible reflection of the books. In all fairness, the prevalence of Darrell Sweet's art on paperback covers is no fault of his own. The blame lies with the people who keep buying those books and with the publishers who hold a book's success to be a vote of confidence for the cover artist. The huge success of the Covenant series was Sweet's take-off point (how appropriate for books that were such a blatant take-off ofTolkien.) The presence of lower quality art on lower quality fiction was not of great concern until Sweet's art moved onto re-issues of good books and began invading series begun by other artists. I first became worried when the new edition of the Lord of the Rings came out sporting Sweet's generic people on the cover. The greatest piece of fantastic literature had the same people on it as were on the cover of Paul 0. Williams' singularly bad Pelbar Cycle series. The new edition of the immortal Foundation books by Asimov have "D.K.S." covers. I was outraged when he took over the Shannara series from the Hildebrandts and the Xanth series from Michael Whelan. Why do we have to be subjected to so much Darrell Sweet art when there are so· many other illustrators working in the paperback science fiction field? The covers of The Saga of Pliocene Exile by Julian May were painted by Michael Whelan, and are much more polished than any of Sweet's work. Whelan also illustrated the cover of Niven's The Integral Trees and McCaffrey's Dragonrider series. The next time you are in front of those science fiction shelves, take a look at Michael Whelan's cover for Ogre, Ogre and ask yourself why Whelan's work shouldn't be on more titles. Boris Vallejo can do a heroic fantasy cover that would make Conan proud. Why not more of him? Compare the delicacy and class ofElizabeth Malczynski 's covers for McCaffrey's Harperhall series with the blunt touch which Sweet applies to the front of WattEvans' The Misenchanted Sword. Carl Lundgren will do the covers of my books if and when they are published. His work on Mary Springer's Book of the Sun series and several other covers is marked by well-balanced, animated action. His cover for Foster's The Hour of the Gate is a good example. Compare it with Sweet's Vengence of the Dan
cing Gods. In the end, of course, we have no one to blame but ourselves. For years we took cover art so much for granted that the artist wasn't even credited on the copyright page. Everyone involved with science fiction/fantasy publishing should view the cover · illustration as part of the whole artistic achievement that a book represents. A first step is for publishers tO credit the cover artists consistently. Most do. DelRey, for instance, is very good about it, but others, particularly Bantam, almost never credit the artist. Authors should insist on input into the process of packaging their work. Readers should be more vociferous in their feedback on cover art. Finally, publishers should be responsive to all parties concerned with the production of attractive, tasteful science fiction and fantasy. The covers on the shelves are our ambassadors to the unenlightened world.
Dreams in Stasis
by Tom Rentz
Soft -edged visions betray themselves
To me as dreams; I am aware.
Time, benchmark of wakefulness,
Distorts to suit each vision.
I live through each, sometimes quickly,
While others stretch for aeons;
I ache for waking.
Twisted memories replay themselves
To many different ends,
Though flashes of recollection mar
The effect of the reruns.
I have dreamed for years, or moments,
Knowing I am in stasis, frozen,
Dreaming of a future rebirth,
Yet unable to hasten it.
Where is my promised oblivion?
To sleep through yesterday, awake
In tomorrows world; this was my goal. Trapped within this human glacier,
No one warned me I would dream!

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