Fri
Oct 28 2011 11:00am

Cover Reveal for John Scalzi’s Redshirts

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.

22 comments
Bearpaw
1. Bearpaw
Oh, this is going to be *so* good. {gleefully rubs hands together}
Andrew Liptak
2. JediTrilobite
Please tell me that there'll be some sort of promotional shirt to go along with it at some point. Seems like it would be a fun thing for conventions and geek outings.
jon meltzer
3. jmeltzer
This book will be about what I was hoping it would be about. Oh, rapture. This is going to be fun.
Steven Halter
4. stevenhalter
You picked the right cover--very nice. And, the story sounds really good--right in Scalzi's powerwell.
Bearpaw
6. Tubamaphone
John will no doubt have created another book worth reading multiple times. This can't come out soon enough!
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
7. tnh
If you need a shirt right away, Ian Leino is selling a Redshirt's red shirt, and a Redshirt pin.
Bearpaw
8. Smart Alex
Is this set in the Star Trek universe or is it kind of like the Star Trek universe but not actually it?
Theresa DeLucci
9. theresa_delucci
@2 JediTrilobite and @7 tnh

This is definitely something Tor is looking into. Especially for San Diego Comic-Con. We all want Scalzi red shirts!

I love working on fun promotions.
Bearpaw
10. Carl V.
It is Scalzi, so of course I'm really looking forward to it.

And yes, please put together some red shirts for sale!
Ian Johnson
12. IanPJohnson
This is a great cover. No, really, it's excellent.

And I am so looking forward to this book.
Matt Wright
13. matty42
I really want to read this book. Huzzah for Scalzi!
Edward Greaves
14. temporus
This shirt needs to be made real, then they have to get Sheldon from Big Bang Theory to wear it.
Bearpaw
15. Jaquandor
Where I live -- Western New York -- there is a local health insurer that has its employees wear red shirts, and it actually uses this slogan in its advertising: "Get the Red Shirt treatment!" You mean, a nameless, horrible death? No thank you!
Bearpaw
16. Ray C
I am so excited for this! I can haz a release date?!
Santiago Casares
17. Santiago
Thanks for sharing this behind the scenes. I love book jackets design and the process behind them.
Liathiana
18. Liathiana
Yes yes yes, sell it as a shirt! And not just to ComicCon goers please :(

I am so preordering this book, it has a fantastic cover, it's written by Scalzi and the premise is hilarious and sure to be entertaining.
Bearpaw
19. Craig Ranapia
I think the distinction between "laughing with" and "laughing at" is a valuable one, but I'd go a little further. In book design, there's another fine line between "saying what the book is" and "saying your target market is really stupid." I suspect the people who read Tor books - and are familiar with John Scalzi's work and bloggage - might just think a novel called Redshirts may just contain traces of nuts without being nudged in the ribs with a "funny" cover.
Bearpaw
20. BeVibe
John read an exerpt from 'Redshirts' at his 'Fuzzy Nation' booksigning back in May. It was in Dayton, the day the book was released, on his Birthday. (there were cupcakes for everyone!) He swore us all to secrecy, as the title was not yet set in stone, & he was afraid the title would give the book away. Everyone present thought it was a great title, and *loved* the exerpt.

I'm looking forward to the release of 'Redshirts'!
Bearpaw
21. Grt
I love Scalzi. He very good....
But this seems oddly like 'the Explorers corps' from James Alan Gardner books. (Which if you haven't read his his League of Peoples series you should. Totally worth it.)
First in the series is called "Expendable."
huh.
Hank Roberts
22. hankroberts
hm, I immediately thought:
Unitarian Universalists?
Joe Vondracek
23. joev
@8 Smart Alex:
Since Star Trek has the United Federation of Planets and the synopsis refers to the Universal Union, it appears that the answer to your question is "B". Which makes sense, since everyone *knows* what Scalzi is referencing and it allows him to stay one step further removed from the League of Unfortunate Lawyers who won't take "parody" for an answer.
Bearpaw
24. SuzzyPC
I am SO looking forward to reading this one.

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