What is Art?
There are many definitions of art.
The Meriam-Webster dictionary defines art as “the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects; also: works so produced”.
The definition I learned in college described art as ‘a representation of reality’. Regardless of the several definitions, we all have an idea of what is art, and what it isn’t.
There are several branches of art: the visual arts (drawing, painting, photography, etc.); the plastic arts (ceramics, sculpture, welding, etc.); architecture; the literary arts (poetry, writing, etc.) and the performing arts (dance, music, theatre, opera, etc.).
This is primarily a literary blog, but I want to talk today about the visual arts in speculative fiction.
Do Judge a Book by its Cover
There is an old English saying, do not judge a book by its cover. Regardless of this advice, there is no doubt the cover is the first thing we see in a bookshelf or display. An eye-catching cover can entice us to read or at least check out a book.
On the other hand, an unattractive or boring cover may get a book a pass. Fair or not, we are visual creatures.
Some really good cover illustrations can hint at the plot or help us visualize what the hero or heroine looks like in our minds.
I will be honest, there are many books I have picked and bought because the cover was attractive. There are many steampunk novels or space opera novels I bought because the cover was irresistible. Same with some anthologies and story collections.
Great art can sell a book. Or at least make us pay attention to it.
Why Fandom Loves Artwork?
We are all fans of speculative fiction. We love to read about science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Likewise, or love for speculative fiction extends itself to the artwork associated with it.
Yes, we come primarily for words, plots, characters, and language. But we also enjoy looking at the pictures and illustrations. Those beautiful covers depicting those alien landscapes, those fantastical realms, those terrifying vistas.
Art is a compliment to the words in a story. A language of its own. It rightfully deserves to be celebrated.
Fandom loves artwork for all of the above reasons. Whenever we go to conventions, there is usually an art exhibit or even an auction. We love to browse, admire and display this artwork. In several ways, it is like a validation of our own hobbies and lifestyle.
Artwork in speculative fiction deserves to be celebrated, admired, recognized and fomented.
There is an association whose actual mission statement is precisely that: The Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists (ASFA for short). They are also in charge of the Chesley Awards, which recognize the best artistic works during a given year.
We are all fans of speculative fiction, and we all love and celebrate artwork in speculative fiction. And although the artwork may seem ancillary and even not necessary for the written word, how poor will our favorite classics be without those wonderful, eye-catching covers?
Reader, do you have a favorite book cover? Have you bought a book because of its cover? Share your experience in the comments section.