What happens when all the expendable ensigns on the exploring starship start comparing notes?
When I asked Tor editor, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, what “Untitled John Scalzi” was, he swore me to secrecy. John had been writing a book outside his Old Man’s War universe and had been teasing his fans for months with this “secret project.” When Patrick told me the title I laughed and he quickly replied, “yeah, but, leave it to John to take a one-liner and turn it into something touching and poignant.”
As a design problem, we needed to make it funny, but from the heart. It needed to respect the space opera it was poking fun at. Luckily our designer, Peter Lutjen, can often express a soft humor in his covers designs. From Peter:
“The first image that popped to mind when I read the title Redshirts was of course a red shirt, but I rejected the idea as quickly as I’d thought of it, being disinclined to go with the most obvious solution. And after reading the (fantastic) manuscript I wanted to reflect the cleverness of the plot without giving anything away. But when the first round of comps didn’t go over well at a sales meeting and several people suggested a red shirt, I figured it was worth revisiting. A very tight crop on the shirt made for a bold, graphic look, and a custom logo for the organization that the main characters work under gave it the visual interest.
Sometimes first instincts are right. Here are some of the alternate covers. They are funny and I like them a lot but we did worry that it may cross the line between “laughing with” and “laughing at.”
Whether or not the cover responds to audiences remains to be seen. Our sales force gave it a round of applause and the response from the author was, “Two words: Nailed It!”
Redshirts will be out next summer. John ran a charity aucton for an early galley that raised $7,000.00 for the Bradford Ohio Library. Which, really, makes it a bestseller before even being published.
For more information about the book, here is the synopsis:
Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory. Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed. Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy belowdecks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.
Irene Gallo is the creative director for Tor.com and art director for Tor Books.