I’m very excited to reveal the cover for Felix Gilman’s The Revolutions. Designer Will Staehle read and enjoyed the book immensely, saying:
“The Revolutions is an epic novel in every sense of the word, and I loved reading every bit of it. It’s a love story in the midst of the Victorian spiritualism movement, but it’s also so much more than that. Without giving too much away, it’s also an expedition into an unknown and fantastical world. I enjoyed this novel so much, that I wanted to make sure that we got the cover just right. Due to the Victorian basis for the novel, I tried a number of covers that contained engravings, vintage maps of London, and a slew of silhouettes, to reference the novel’s general time-period. I also tried one cover that was a bit more art nouveau-themed, as I felt that it played a bit more to the romantic nature of the novel. The final cover that was selected uses a newspaper layout as the main design element, as the London newspaper plays a major role of the novel.”
In fact, once we settled on the final comp, Felix Gilman was kind enough to write the bits and pieces of newspaper text shown. For easier reading:
A MESSAGE FROM THE SPIRIT WORLD
All seekers after Truth are respectfully invited to a lecture tomorrow evening by the celebrated American medium Mrs. Emma Bloom, in London for one week only! Learn what the spirits “have in store for us”! Apprehend the meaning of certain puzzling events! Pierce the mysteries of the heavenly spheres! Serious students only. “Skeptics” welcome. Donations encouraged.
STORM OF THE CENTURY
Dawn unveiled a fearful scene of devastation such as no Londoner alive remembers, save perhaps those who have suffered a tropical monsoon. Men of science say such storms are unheard-of in these latitudes. Yet this morning scarcely a single tree or chimney in all of London stands upright.
FIRE RAVAGES DEPTFORD
There has been a fire on Bullen Street. It could be seen last night up and down the river, bright and dreadful as the red star Wormwood. What was once a street of warehouses lies in ruins. The police profess themselves mystified. It began (so say those unlucky souls who were there that night) shortly after...
Anytime you work with Will you are faced with the excellent problem of having so many options to consider. Here are just a few of the outtakes. (Note the misspelling of Felix’s name was completely my fault. I typo’d when I emailed Will...in my defense, the X is right next to the Z.) It was heartbreaking to have to pick just one design for print, so I’m grateful to have this opportunity to show off the others.
I loved the map on the left. It was my top contender for a long while. I knew the quote and any tag line would be difficult to read but that could have been figured out...Ultimately it was decided that the newspaper was more representative of the book. Still, I was sorry to see this one go.
The woman’s silhouette with Mars was another close contender because Mars! I’d have been just as happy if we went with this one but it seemed the newspaper version more specifically Victorian.
The art nouveau poster was fantastic but I was a little worried that it was hard to read the face when larger and up close. And I hate to underestimate people, but I was also feared some might connect it to nouveau-inspired sixties psychedelic posters rather than the real source.
The black and white version was my favorite for a while but I don’t think anyone in-house agreed with me on that. I loved the trippy patterns...like a modern/Victorian version of the old Twilight Zone spiral. But it didn’t set the stage for the book as much as the others.
The Gustave Dore spirals are also dizzying in a great way...and I love that it becomes a giant eye. But we’ve used that image on a book before.
The starry man silhouetted on the map...Fantastic! I hope we can use a similar idea on another book someday. In fact, it was that hope that also tilted the scale towards the newspaper.
There were others, equally as good. This is just a taste of the great frustration of working with Will Staehle. The Revolutions will be available in April 2014. We hope you enjoy the book as much as we have enjoyed working on it.
The catalog describes the book:
Following in the fine tradition of Felix Gilman’s spectacularly reviewed Half Made World comes a sweeping tale of Victorian science fiction, space exploration, and planetary romance.
In 1893 a storm sweeps through London, while Arthur Shaw—a young astronomer with a side career writing fiction—is at work in British Museum Reading Room. The storm wreaks unprecedented damage throughout London. Its aftermath of the storm Arthur’s prime literary market closes, owing him money, and all his debts come due at once. His fiance Jo takes a job as a stenographer for some of the fashionable spiritualist and occult societies of fin de siècle London society. Meanwhile, Arthur deciphers an encoded newspaper ad seeking able young men. It seems to be a clerking job doing accounting work, but the mysterious head man Mr. Gacewell offers Arthur a starting position at a salary many times what any clerk could expect. The work is long and peculiar, and the men spend all day performing unnerving calculations that make them hallucinate or even go mad...but the salary is compelling.
Things are beginning to look up when the wages of dabbling in the esoteric suddenly come due: a war breaks out between competing magical societies, and Arthur interrupts Jo in the middle of an elaborate occult exploration. This rash move turns out to be dire, as Jo’s consciousness is stranded at the outer limits of the occultists’ psychic day trip. Which, Arthur is chagrinned…