Your first impression of Asimov’s is usually the cover. Although this image often represents an individual story, it must also convey a sense of the entire reading experience that lies ahead. At the newsstand, the cover art must attract the attention of a new buyer, maintain the interest of a familiar reader, and help convince both to take the magazine home. Lying in a stack of mail at home, this same cover vies for attention with the time you might carve out to play World of Warcraft or to watch the latest episode of Desperate Housewives. We place our trust in an illustrator’s talent when we assign a story to him or pick up one of her pieces for reprint. Luckily, the vivid images that science fiction and fantasy engender attract a great many gifted artists to our field. As part of our thirtieth anniversary celebration, I’d like to mention some of the artists who’ve been a part of our magazine. We’ve worked with many gifted artists, but this column only gives me the space to mention a few of the illustrators you’ve recognized with your annual readers’ awards.
The arrival of a new cover in the office creates a buzz. It is one of the last pieces to fall into place. As I write this editorial, I eagerly await July’s cover proofs. I’ve seen Donato Giancola’s striking painting, online, but it will be a few days more before I’ll know how it looks with cover lines and the magazine’s logo. I’ve always loved Donato’s covers, and the public seems quite taken with his work, too. Donato won the Best Artist 2006 Hugo Award. The art for his September 2005 cover, which featured astronauts working in space, went on to win a major Spectrum Award and his gleaming robot on the August 2004 cover won that year’s Readers’ Award. Donato was delighted to add your award to his collection. For his acceptance speech, he wrote, “This is one of my favorite paintings, as well. My thanks go out to all the people who have encouraged and supported my work over the years. It is recognition through awards like this that remind me, as I work in the studio, that I am on the right path; others are looking over my shoulder, as eager as I am to see what springs forth from the drafting table. May I continue to delight and entertain you for many more issues to come.” Naturally, we hope he does, too.
The highly regarded Michael Whelan is another artist we’ve had the honor of working with. Michael has won sixteen Hugo Awards. In 1990, our July issue, which featured his brooding megaliths on a beach, and the reprint of his intricate Snow Queen in December brought him his first Asimov’s Readers’ Award. His January 2005 image of a woman standing on a precipice brought him another. In November 1992, he graced our special tribute cover with a dignified depiction of Isaac Asimov on a pedestal of books next to a robot holding an eternal flame.
In correspondence about his most recent Readers’ Award, Michael wrote, “Thanks for the email with the great news! It’s particularly enjoyable for me to win for a painting I did for myself, based on a theme of my own. After illustrating books for over thirty years I have [since 1988, when the award winner was painted] been devoting more time to my gallery. Perhaps there will be other more recent pieces that might work as well.” Happily, two of those pieces have appeared on subsequent issues, and a painting Michael created for another venue graces our thirtieth anniversary anthology, as well.
A perennially popular illustrator, six-time Readers’ Award winner, and multiple Hugo-Award recipient is Bob Eggleton. Bob’s most recent Asimov’s cover was April/May 2006’s amusing and evocative portrayal of the ill-fated Gernsbach expedition. When I told him about this editorial, the artist responded “I think what’s great about Asimov’s is that it’s widely read and goes to subscribers, which means that each and every month people see a piece of artwork on the cover that hopefully promises amazing adventures within. It’s always nice to hear that readers chose some of my artwork to award ‘best cover art.’ It means that my work is meaningful to people and gives them enjoyment. That’s really the mission of any artist. Even when it doesn’t win an award, though, I hope readers enjoy my work along with the whole magazine. The fieldthe magazineshave changed and evolved so much over the years. It’s fun to be part of that evolution.”
It’s true that Asimov’s covers have changed over the years. Although I vividly recall the soft blues and purples from the palette of our 1989 Readers’ Award winner Hisaki Yasuda, whose dolphins and whales seemed to leap right off the page, and the surreal floating images of Wojtek Siudmak (winner, 1997), we’ve long since lost touch with both artists. Gary Freeman, who tied with Bob Eggleton in 1992 for the Readers’ Award, is another artist I haven’t heard from in years. I associate Gary’s work with robots because so many of his covers accompanied Isaac Asimov’s stories. The image of Keith Parkinson’s (winner, 1990) dragons remains with me, but, sadly, the artist passed away in 2005.
Fortunately, we remain in touch with many of our more recent award winners. Michael Carroll, who won the award in 2002, has been responsible for intriguing astronomicals, ancient dinosaurs, and fiction. His story, “The Terrible Lizards of Luna,” appeared in our June 2000 issue. Multiple Hugo-Award winner, Jim Burns, is also a two-time winner of our Readers’ Award (2000 and 2004). His wide-ranging talent brilliantly coveys both the deadly chill of frozen Mars in a Kim Stanley Robinson story and the vast reach of space in a Charles Stross tale. News has just reached us that Jim will illustrate our August cover story, “Horminga Canyon,” by Rudy Rucker and Bruce Sterling. Our 2003 winner, Dominic Harman, is another versatile artist who seems equally at home with aliens, space stations, and planetary vistas.
New artists come to our attention and we rediscover old favorites. Alas, there isn’t room here to discuss all the creative people who worked on Asimov’s covers before the award existed, or the lovely work by many artists who haven’t managed to snatch the Readers’ Award. For the past thirty years, the look of Asimov’s has been defined by these imaginative people. We can’t wait to see what surprises will spring from their drafting boards in the years ahead.