I could never resist the beauty and whimsy of this Analog cover by the inimitable John Schoenherr, illustrating a two-part story originally titled, The Demon Breed, by James H. Schmitz.
Two giant otters along with their human friend, Nile, pause high in the tangled limbs of a water world. The strength of the sweeping curve of the main otter draws the eye upward to the adorable animal’s face, placed perfectly next to the magazine’s masthead. Nile is mysterious and sits tantalisingly just off-center for a sense of scale.
The subjects are captured light on thick-jungled dark for drama and instant impact. The warm color jumps from the cool accents of the impression of water through the roots and branches. It sets up interest by giving us just enough to dream about.
I can feel the suppleness of the otters’ coats, smell the salt water and musk of the trees, hear the dripping and lapping of the water against the roots below. I hear insects, birds moving about, distant calls from who-knows-what other bizarre distortions of animal life.
This powerful cover has not stopped stimulating my imagination since long after I’ve read the story. It also shows why covers can be so compelling. The best ones stimulate curiosity for the story, not slavishly depicting a scene.
Schoenherr could give you just the right amount.
Greg Manchess is an artist and writer working in New York and Portland.