Ad Astra, Part Two

Panel the Second: “Judging a Book by its Cover”
This was a really interesting one. I mentioned the lack of officially-appointed moderators in the previous post, right? So, Ed Greenwood appointed me moderator. What? I don’t know what I’m doing … so the audiences I have most experience dealing with are kids … I’ll just assume the same techniques can keep a panel going …. Well, we all survived. My faithful friend who trailed after me throughout the whole con said this one was the most fun from the uninvolved spectator’s point of view.

Ed Greenwood certainly kept things lively.

"Seriously?" The cover art panel -- lots of fun.

“Seriously?” The cover art panel — lots of fun.

This one contained, in addition to myself, Cathy Palmer-Lister, who brought the reader and book-buyer’s perspective to the table, the one and only Ed Greenwood, and Jen Frankel, who writes, illustrates and publishes the “Blood & Magic” series, as well as being involved in screenwriting. The discussion was wide-ranging and covered things such as what first attracts a reader’s attention, how covers can convey the mood of the story and invite further exploration, the history of cover art in sf, bikini mail and loincloths, those beautiful landscape-based British covers of the eighties and nineties, the changing expectations of both readers and publishers, and current trends, some for the better, some … not. (Paper-doll teens in Photoshop-applied clothes; bloke in cloak and chick in leather pants, right? We’ve all seen them. Over and over and over and …)

This was definitely the panel on which the participants laughed the most. We wandered down a few tangentially-related byways, too, into a shared enthusiasm for the original Nancy Drew stories, among other things. Ed Greenwood’s decades-long experience as reader, author, and librarian was definitely a vital element of this discussion.

more to come in part three …

About K.V. Johansen

The author of Blackdog, The Leopard, The Lady, Gods of Nabban, and The Last Road epic fantasies from Pyr, I also write for teens and children, including the "Torrie", "Warlocks of Talverdin", and "Cassandra Virus" series, and the "Pippin and Mabel" picture books, as well as a couple of short story collections and two works of adult literary criticism on the history of children's fantasy literature. I have a Master's degree in Mediaeval Studies, and read a lot of fantasy, science fiction, and history. Blog at
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2 Responses to Ad Astra, Part Two

  1. says:

    Ed Greenwood was definitely the funniest panelist, and not afraid of a little risqué humour – all in good fun and to keep the crowd laughing, of course. But I wanted to hear more cover art horror stories from all the authors. I was promised there were lots!

    • KV Johansen says:

      I definitely wanted to hear about that too, especially from someone with Greenwood’s many years of experience. I’ve certainly collected a few myself in the past fifteen years — the 1930’s orphan waifs I successfully protested against on the Nightwalker cover, for instance. (Though that’s all balanced by the glory and right-on-ness of Swanland’s Pyr covers.) You’ll have to blame my inexperience as a moderator that I didn’t manage to bring that question up. I’ll do better next time, now that I have a better idea of how to moderate a panel.

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