Cover me!

I’m going to tell you something I don’t believe I have told you before. It’s a shocking secret about yours truly. Some of you may think of me as an author, but before I was a writer, before I was even an unpublished wannabe author, I was a failed comic-book artist.

That is to say, I neglected to get into art college when I left high school. It was my sole dream to be a comic-book illustrator. I wasted my tweenage/teenage years honing my craft, only to realise – when I saw the portfolios of everybody else I was up against who also wanted to study art – that in actuality, my comic-book art was a steaming pile of amateur brown stuff by comparison. I did later do a graphic design degree, but that was mostly to annoy my employer at the time – a stuffy investment bank. A story for another day.

These meagre creative credentials, however, allow me to look upon the art and style which graces the covers of fantasy and science fiction books with a certain jaded professionalism and understanding in the whats and whys-fores that might underlie their stylistic choices.

Take the new dystopian SF novel Klara and the Sun by the ever-trendy Kazuo Ishiguro – see for the cover pic – it sports a red background with a small grey box in the middle of the cover, and inside that tiny grey box is a narrow sliver of a yellow Sun. You could knock this up in Adobe Illustrator in three minutes.

However, remember this bloke is a bestseller with breakout novels so good they can’t possibly be science fiction, darling. Hence the lack of airbrushed muscled aliens snogging on the front cover. You know this minimalist piece of design wasn’t installed because Faber & Faber lacked the $300 to bung to a budding illustrator or even the $6000 to pay an established professional.

You are invited to gaze upon this work and see only art. Art in front, and art behind where the squiggly typeset wordage lies.

Cover me!
Cover me!

Now take a peek at my preorder for the sixth installment in my pulpy Sliding Void space opera series, said book entitled Voyage of the Void-Lost – which features a sod-off-sized starship escaping a supernova.

To me, this is art. Not, perhaps, my words – I’m writing this for entertainment and fun, not posterity and a place in the literary canon – but the Chris Foss-like space scene gracing the dust jacket. Lovely. Lovely. Lovely.

But then, what do I know? Opinions on what makes an excellent design are like arseholes. Everybody has one – and I’m just a flipping failed comic book artist.

PS – there’s now an updated copy of Voyage of the Void-Lost as it currently stands for all you Patreon supporters out there to read many months before it hits the bookshelves. Get yourself over to

Voyage of the Void-Lost (Sliding Void #6).
Voyage of the Void-Lost (Sliding Void #6).


I am an author of various fantasy, science fiction, crime and other genre books from Gollancz, Hachette and HarperCollins. Some day I hope to grow up and be an astronaut. Exploring Mars would be nice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.