Friday, September 24, 2004

Internet vs. internet

The Chicago Manual of Style has a bunch of new rules / suggestions on the proper way to write about the Internet and technology, some of which I was surprised to see.

For example, the suggest using "log in" and "log out" as opposed to the closed up versions that, I would expect, would be more common -- "login" and "logout".

They also cover captilization of URLs (which, contrary to their suggestion, I would never do, although I *do* capitalize when the .com is part of their company's name -- vs.

I was also under the impression that they were suggesting spelling Internet with a lower case i -- internet -- but I can't actually see that on their page during a quick, cursory look, so maybe I'm wrong. Hope I'm wrong, because I still think it's stupid to use a lower case i. But that's just me.

Why am I telling you all this? I don't have the foggiest idea. Maybe just to get it all out of my system so I don't spend 400 words writing a terribly dull column about it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

KING COVERS: The Long Walk (1979)

As far as I'm concerned, the four initial novels that King published under the name Richard Backman -- Rage, The Long Walk, Roadwork and The Running Man (nothing, by the way, like the horrible, horrible movie version) -- are some fantastic books. They might not be the kind of stories that King is known for, but they're quick reads, that push strong emotional buttons, and ask important questions.

Thinner, on the other hand, wasn't very good. And The Regulators was less a Bachman book than it was an interesting marketing idea. But I'll get to those in their time.

Collecting the covers for the Long Walk tonight, I was surprised by how many good ones there were, given that wasn't one of King's best known works having come from the Bachman name. I guess it goes to show you that sometimes good book design can come from just a really good book, and not necessarily a really big name. Besides, you can put more work into the design if you don't have to stretch Stephen King's name over 1/3 of the cover.

The book itself takes place in the not-so-distant future, where an annual, national event called the Long Walk pits contestants against each other to see who can...walk the farthest.

If you drop below the minimum speed, you'll be given a warning. After three warnings, if you drop below that minimum speed again, you'll be taken out of the game. Permanently. With a bullet in the head.

You'd think that a story about a bunch of people doing nothing more than just walking might be less than interesting. You'd be wrong. Because of the simplistic setup, and the lack of huge changes in setting or plot, this is a novel that really shows King's ability to paint vibrant, vivid and varied characters. Through the eyes of the main character -- Ray Garraty -- these people come to life on the page, and, somewhat ironically, the more you grow to care about them, the more they tend to be removed, forceably, from the story.

If memory serves me correctly, the book clocks in around 200 pages, so it's a quick read from start to finish, and if you haven't treated yourself to it yet, I highly recommend it.

Now for the covers.

The original US Signet release does a good enough job capturing the facts about what's going on -- with the walkers senn in the distance between the legs of what I assume to be a military man in the foreground. The cover does lose some points for me, as it seems to be focusing more on the end of the story, with what looks an exhausted walker about to cross the finish line. I hate movie trailers that give away too much of the story, and that seems to be, at least in part, what this cover is doing. Although it's better than later US releases... this one, from Democo Media (though Signet had a release with the same cover -- it's just this was a clearer picture).

A country road, travelling by a fence. And on the fence is...a skull.

So this is a book about...what exactly? Farmers trying to scare kids off their property? Nope, sorry, not working for me.

As I've said before, I'm a sucker for minimalist designs, and this is definitely one of those -- a stark black cover with the fluttering white sheeting carrying Ray Garraty's number, 45, with what seems to be a few splatters of blood. The design of the 45 gives the impression of a race of some kind, while the blood, of course, implies a race that perhaps ends violently. This cover has just successfully given enough information to prompt someone to pick up the book. Surprisingly, though, it's not taking the grand prize today. In fact, it's actually tied for second place, with the other cover plays up Ray Garraty's #45.

Courtesy of the Netherlands, this cover shows a series of sports jersies, each with a unique number, each jersey with a big red X mark through it, indicating the players who have been "retired". Something about the red X marks gives the impression that they have not been retired in a friendly way, though, and once again the cover gives two strong, solid impressions -- this has something to with a sport, and something to do with violence -- capturing the content of the book perfectly without giving too much away.

This Spanish cover doesn't do much for me, with a picture that looks more like a guy going out for a stroll at sunset than a guy who's walking to keep himself alive.

These two covers from Germany have two very different images. The one on the left is wrong for similar reasons that the Spanish cover is wrong -- it doesn't feel like it belongs to this story; it looks more like an image that might promote "The Fugutive". The image on the right is closer, with the bloody footprints, but kind of misses the sporting event element of it, and almost looks like it could be the story of a guy who stepped on a piece of glass.

Sometimes the Japanese covers get it right, like they do on the left, with the two kids walking along the road, one of them glancing back nervously over his shoulder. And sometimes they don't, like on the right, with a picture of what appears to be someone out for a leisurely afternoon stroll. Sorry, there's nothing leisurely about the Long Walk.

This Polish cover gets close, with the simple, two colour design and the gun poking out from the left hand side, the crowd of people in the distance clearly the targets. Unfortunately, the walking element gets lost here, and it almost looks like a book about a crazy mass-murder on an office-building killing spree. Let's not count Poland out of the running yet, though...

...because this cover is fucking BRILLIANT. The road, the white traffic lines, the empty and tipped over shoe, the empty shell casings -- this cover sells me on the book more than any other cover we've looked at today. It looks lonely, it looks desperate, it looks painful. Unfortunately, it does miss some of the sporting even / race imagery that worked so well in earlier covers, and it's worth commenting that this image might have worked just a tiny bit better if it had been a sneaker or a running shoe on the cover instead of a hiking boot, but that's a tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny criticism for a cover that all sorts of different flavours of fucking brilliant.

Buy me!

Today marks the release of the 7th and final book in Stephen King's Dark Tower series -- appropriate titled the Dark Tower.

To coincide with the release, and the rare book signings held earlier today, people are already madly trying to sell their signed copies on ebay for a quick couple of hundred dollars. Fuckers.

On the topic of King, the cover criticisms will return shortly. I'm almost feeling human again, as tomorrow's the start of my weekend, I can all but promise that there'll be a new one posted sometime over the course of the day. In fact, if I'm feeling good enough, I might even post two, to make up for lost time. But I'm not making any guarantees.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Stickage #16

Dunno what happened with this stupid cold -- I was starting to feel better by last Monday and Tuesday, then *bam* I'm feeling crappy again by this weekend. Maybe it was the way that feeling better made me think that I could have a few drinks after the "Play in a Day" this weekend. Which, apparently, wasn't a great idea.

Suffice to say, I'm lacking both energy and motivation. Which might explain, in part, why this week's Stick Figure Drama (which will be posted next week) turned out the way it did.

However, today's Stick Figure Drama -- #16 -- brings the happy little story arc known as "Stick Figure Action" to a close in probably the only way it could., leading the way into next week's first installment of "Stick Figure Existentialism."

Don't ask. Just trust me.

This week's strip is actually one of the ones I'm happiest with so far. I think I've finally hit on a almost consistent look for the Really Bitter and Jaded Man / Me character, which is something that was missing from the first 10 or so strips. Plus, I like the way my hand kind of moves around in the panels. Oh, and I always think it's funny to draw myself with really, really big eyes. Damn, that's a hoot.

That is all. Thank you and goodnight.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Chewed Gum = Sex Toy

Driving into work today, listening to the radio, I heard a DJ talking about people buying Britney Spears' gum off of Ebay -- something I heard about before, actually -- for thousands of dollars.

It occurred to me that while most of the people buying the gum were probably just weird fans with too much money to burn, who planned on sticking the gum in a little glass display case, there was probably also one or two people looking to try to eventually harvest DNA from the saliva left on the gum.

Assuming that's probable. I'm not a rocket scientist. Nor am I a DNA-etician. I have no idea how much saliva you need to get cloneable DNA, nor how long that DNA remains viable for use in cloning. Still, I could imagine more than just a few people who'd love to grow their own, personal Britney Spears that they could keep in their basements, chained up and...well, you get the idea, I'm sure.

No Britney gum is currently available on Ebay, sadly, though there is a can of Coke she reportedly drank from (still has lipstick marks!). Don't know how much saliva she left behind, but it might be harvestable, I guess. Either that or you could just close your eyes, lick the can and pretend you're making out with her, as you mix your creepy-stalking-obsessive-fan-saliva with what some get-rich-quick-auctioneer assures you is hers.

Could you imagine spending 19 years growing your own Britney, only to discover that you had spent thousands of dollars on gum that had been chewed by a lonely loser from Minnesota? Could you even get your money back 19 years later? Unlikely. Of course, you could beat the shit out of the clone, I guess, and almost feel like you're kicking the crap out of the guy who sold it to you. Almost.

Oh, and Britney got married this weekend -- second time this year! -- so she's technically off the market. One more reason to start the DNA harvesting, I suppose.

I can't believe I just wrote an entire post about Britney Spears. I have no more to say. If you, however, wish to know more about Ms. Spears, visit Mr. Stereogum. Kid tested, mother approved.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Smoke yourself to death.

Smoke, smoke, smoke. Smoke, smoke, smoke. Smoke, smoke, smoke. Smoke yourself to death.

This is what the strange, 150-year-old man chanted at me as I tried to buy a package of cigarettes this afternoon. I wondered why.

Smoke, smoke, smoke.

Was it meant to be a sarcastic condemnation of smoking? Was the repitition meant to emphasise the way we, as smokers, smoke cigarette after cigarette, never finding ourselves satisfied?

Smoke, smoke, smoke.

Or was her, worse yet, attempting to place a voodoo curse on me? Was he implying that I wouldn't live to see the end of this package? Or have I, now that I've entertained such an idea, set the wheels of fate in motion myself with the power of positive thinking?

Smoke, smoke, smoke.

Maybe he was just insane.

I don't know. It was weird. I'm not sure what his motivation was -- it wasn't as if I had done anything to annoy him. I hadn't bumped into him or tried to cut him off in line. In fact, he wasn't even behind me in line, he was in front of me -- his shopping was finished, and yet he hung around for awhile, listening to me order the package of cigarettes, just so he could chant at me:

Smoke, smoke, smoke.


I know I'm quitting (I'm refusing to say "Trying to quit," as that seems somehow less dedicated, though I suppose my dedication is already in question by my decision to buy a package of cigarettes) but fuck it for today. Needed one, broke down because, hey, maybe my critics are right and I'm not ready to quit yet.

Fuckers. I hate it when my critics are right.

Smoke yourself to death.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

KING COVERS: The Stand (1978)

So after waiting three days to get to this entry, so that I could review the covers for the book that involved a deadly super-flu while I suffered through my own cold, I'm now feeling actually not quite so bad now that it's come time to write my cover review for the stand.

Ouch, that sentence was too damn long.

This is a great book, a book considered by many to be King's best. And while I'd agree that it's certainly good I have a number of books that I put above this one (I've already named The Shining as my favourite, and IT takes second place). What's disappointing is that, for a great book, my cover options as severely limited.

My gut tells me this has more to do with my source for the cover material than it does with actual cover designs. I'm sure there have been more cover designs than this. Doesn't matter much to me, though, because this is what I've got to work with.

I've also really noticed tonight how small some of these cover designs are, and how, if you've never seen the cover before, you might not be entirely sure what it is you're looking at. And, unfortunately, I haven't seen many of these cover designs before. So there might be a few moments of "your guess is as good as mine."

C'est la vie. Onto the covers.

Do I even need to say it? Do I? Okay, I will. This cover -- the original Doubleday hardcover edition -- is the winner. I shouldn't need to point that out. This is simply a fantastic cover. The image is taken from a Goya painting and while it doesn't exactly depict anything that actually took place in the book, it captures the "Good vs. Evil" so perfectly that the image could have been created for this book specifically.

I remember the first time I saw this cover. My jaw dropped to the floor. My eyes bugged out. I knew that had to read this novel.

And I did. And it was good.

I could go off on this cover -- one of the best covers on a King novel of all time -- but I won't. Instead, I'll move on to covers that are significantly less fantastic. Shall we?

The first paperback edition -- from Signet -- is the first copy I actually read. Years after I read the book I realized that the cover image depicted a shadowy face with a nuclear missle in the background, but at the time that I originally read the book my mind superimposed the missle onto the shadowy face, giving him a bizarre, elongated, beak-nose. This was what turned me away from the book originally -- as great as King might have been, I really wasn't interested in a story about some evil creature that had been cursed with a beak.

Don't judge a book by it's cover, right?

The cover does kind of portray the content in the novel, but in such a vague and hard to understand way that it's almost not worth noting.

These two covers, both from the UK, appear to use the same image, at two different sizes. Unfortunately, I'm not really sure what it's a picture of. A guy with blood running from his eyes? Maybe, but in the book people die from the flu, not ebola. The red streaks also remind me of a Japanese image, but I can't think of what it is right now. And besides, I doubt it has much to do with The Stand.

This is an interesting one, from Spain. The Devil, which is an appropriate image, stands behind...a folk singer? Not so appropriate.

Unless that's supposed to be Larry Underwood, author of the fictional song, "Baby, Can You Dig Your Man?" in which case...okay, a bit more appropriate, I guess.

Again, this one -- from Sweden -- gets close. It appears to show a shadowy, perhaps menacing, character stand in front of a decamated city, which pretty much nails a big part of the book on the head. Still, there's something about the figure -- the hint of a belly, maybe -- that drifts the cover towards comedy where, of course, it loses points. So close...and yet so far.

This cover, from Turkey, will take the honourable mention for tonight, assuming it's showing what I think it's showing. It's too small to tell for sure. If only King's name wasn't so bloody huge...

But to my eye, it looks like the mushroom cloud from a nuclear weapon in the background, while a single omnipotent eye peers out from the centre of the destruction.

If that is what it's a picture of, then it's captured the feel the novel perfectly. Destruction, desolation, and a strange, super-natural force struggling to take advantage of the chaos. Beautiful.

If it's not a picture of what I think it is...well, then it should be.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Stickage #15

It's a few days later than expected, but it's still being posted during its current week, which, I think, is a huge step in the right direction. It is also the second-to-last cartoon in the "Stick Figure Action" story arc (as ridiculous as it is to use the term 'story arc' in this context) which has run for nine weeks now -- ten by the time it ends. That's about five weeks longer than I expected it to. It all just kind of creates itself. Which, based on the quality of the art, shouldn't be that big a surprise.

Anyway, here it is: Stickage #15.

Oh, meaningless trivia tidbit: Yes, that is in fact my hand.

Yay for strange web searches!

And also: Yay for statistic logging!

I discovered today that my blog is the #5 entry that comes up when doing a Yahoo search for "" -- how cool is that? Don't believe me? Ha! Click HERE to see for yourself!

Unfortunately, I'm sure that Mr. SkankySlut proved to be disappointed by the noticeable lack of skanky sluts here at the web site.

In order to better appeal to my potential readers who are looking for skanky sluts, here is a picture of Paris Hilton.

Please enjoy, Mr. SkankySlut. I hope your visit proved to be everything you wanted from both my site, and Skanky Sluts in general. Thank you, and good night.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

KING COVERS: Night Shift (1977)

How do you design the cover for a book that does not contain one story but, rather, a collection of stories? This is a problem that designers would have to deal with on more than one occasion with Stephen King, but 1977's "Night Shift" would mark the first time. And it shows. The covers are boring and uninspired. And pretty much the worst designs of any of the books we've covered so far.

Or maybe I'm just cranky because of this stupid cold I have. Whatever.

This first design -- from the original Doubleday hardcover edition -- shows one direction you can go when trying to design a cover to encompass all the stories in a collection: minimal. No graphics, just a big white background, big title, and a wee little drop of blood to ensure that potential readers know that this isn't going to be a boring collection of stories where nobody dies. A valient effort, but in the end it's just a little too minimal, a little too boring to be effective.

Approach #2: Use a generic graphic that tries to be appropriate to all the stories in the book, such as the images on these two Signet paperback editions. Oooooh, a pentagram. That's evil.

Approach #3: Pick a specific story from the collection, and use an image from it. The downside is that you run the risk of ruining the exciting climax of the story, which is exactly what this cover design did -- and it was one of the cooler climaxes in the book. The original cover -- on the left -- would open up to show the image that appears on the right, but later editions dropped the die-cut front cover and just went with the eyes-on-the-hand image. It's slim pickings for Night Shift covers, so the version on the left takes the blue ribbon for best design, by having what amounts to an appropriately creepy image, but with just enough suspense to make you pick up the book to see what's behind cover #1.

More examples of covers that pull their inspiration from the actual stories inside come to us from abroad. On the left is a British cover, with an image from "Children of the Corn"; in the center a cover from France, with an image from "Graveyard Shift"; and on the right an image from the story "Trucks" courtesy of the Netherlands.

Approach #4: Stick a picture of Conan on the front.

No joke. This is, I have been told, an image actually ripped from the cover of a Conan novel. I actually have a copy of this book, and I always thought it was incredibly bizarre, and probably inredibly rare -- the Conan Cover, the "Danse Macabre" title instead of "Night Shift" (only interesting because King would eventually publish a book titled "Danse Macabre"). As it turns out, not as rare as I thought, but still a bizarre cover design.

Coming up next is the book I've been waiting to do ever since I got my stupid cold: THE STAND.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Dear Turlough

First off, a few clarifications:

I'm from Canada, not the States, and we do, in fact, have rollies here. We're even supposed to measure in kilograms, centimeters, that kind of thing, but for some reason I've converted to an imperial measurement type in my adulthood. Must bee the newspaper industry -- measuring everything in inches, picas, points, agate lines. Feh.

Secondly, for what it's worth, schizophrenia is spelled...well, schizophrenia.

Lastly, thanks for sharing the dark secret. I won't go so far as to say that I'm honoured that you chose to share that with me, but I am, at least, not noticeably creeped out by it.

Anyway, on to the smoking issue.

Believe it or, I'd rather hear that you're a smoker yourself (or a reformed smoker, as I was suspecting you -- or Doctor Pat -- were; there was that hint of 'holier-than-thou' that reformed smokers can get sometimes ;) because it means the advice is coming from someone who's been there. I'd much rather have that for encouragement then someone who's never smoked a day in his life saying, "Gee, that must be really tough for you."

I'm very aware of the overcompensating with the eating, and I have been watching it, even though I've been guilty of it now and then too. I'm glad you suggested filling my time with activities -- well, glad that *someone* mentioned it -- as an alternative to sitting around and thinking about how badly I want a cigarette. I'll be making an effort towards that...

...just as soon as kick this freaking cold that descended on me yesterday afternoon.

It's kind of a blessing in disguise, actually, as my appetite is toast, so even if I wanted to compensate for the smoking with food, there's no craving. On top of that, there's really not much of a craving for the cigarettes right now either. Perhaps if all goes well I'll be over the first smoking hurdle by the time I'm healthy again? One can only hope.

Thanks for touching bases with a complete stranger to offer advice and encouragement in what is, without a doubt, a difficult thing to overcome. And I wish you the best of luck in your struggles with the vile drug that is nicotine.

Friday, September 10, 2004

KING COVERS: Rage (1977)

1977 was a good year for Stephen King novels, even when he wasn't Stephen King. First, you have what what I consider the best novel of his career -- The Shining -- and then the first release from his Richard Bachman pseudonym, under whose name he would later publish another five novels -- Rage.

Rage is the story of a disturbed high-school student, Charlie Decker, who shoots his algebra teacher and seizes control of the classroom, forcing the students to play a weird, adolescent hybrid of show-and-tell and truth-or-dare. At first, following the brutal murder of the teacher, the students are terrified, but as the day rolls on and they discover the joys of airing their dirtiest secrets, admitting their darkest truths and outing their inner demons.

Rage was actually written before Carrie and rejected when he first submitted it to publishers at the time, but it's a surprisingly good novel from such a young writer and, much like the Shining, works hard to transcend what could have been just an ordinary story of high-school violence.

Unfortunately, it's the high-school violence tag that stuck to the book and King, being the responsible type, has removed the book from publication. If you'd like to give the story a read, you're going to have to find it in a second hand book store. Which, by the way, I highly recommend you do.

Now, as for the's slim pickings. Because this was a Richard Backman novel and not a Stephen King novel, it didn't have the honour of being released every year or two with a brand new cover (at least until years later, when it would become part of the "Bachman Books" collection). In fact, it only ever had one US cover -- and that's the one you see above, courtesy of Signet.

Still, for having one cover to choose could certainly do worse. It makes it's point and gives you just enough to tell what the stories about. The mildly unblanaced teen sitting atop his teacher's desk; the legs, presumably from a dead teacher, jutting out from the right side of the book; the rest of the teacher's body just out of view, leaving her ultimate fate a mystery, though we can be pretty sure that it wasn't very nice.

Yeah, all in all, a pretty good cover.

The British edition kind of plays up a similar "high-school-student-gone-wrong" feel, but it doesn't quite work as well for me. The image of the student leaning back in his chair feels more like a depiction of the typical classroom smart-ass which, we'll later learn, Charlie is far from being. And I don't like the colour yellow. On anything.

Cool use of typography, though.

The Swedish version of Rage does a nice job of giving you the vital information from the story with a minimal design -- a gun and a couple of bullets on top of a school book. Could it get any simpler than that? Well, yes, it could actually, as you'll see in a few moments.

This entry, as clean and minimal and lovely as it is, does lose points by coming from the "Let's print Stephen King's name so big that it fills a third of the cover" era of publishing.

This German edition hits the "school" theme on the head, but seems to miss the hint of terror. Unless those are kids running away in terror. Hard to tell. I'm actually going to assume they are, and presto, it's already a better cover.

And, hey, gotta like that translation: AMOK. That's almost a better title that RAGE.

Now for tonight's winner, thanks to a beautifully simple design. This cover, from the Spanish edition, tells you everything you need to know with a picture of a blood-spattered school-crossing sign. Simple. Chilling. Effective. In spite of the fact that Stephen King's name takes up more than HALF of the freaking cover. Easily the best Rage cover design, and one of the best design's of a King book yet covered in this space.

I'm only bothering to include this cover from Italy because, not only does the image have nothing to do with the story, but I'm also 99% sure this is a picture from a completely unrelated horror movie. I can't think of what it is for the life of me, though. I know there's a similar image in the original "Nightmare on Elm Street" but I don't think that's the source of this pic. Anyone recognize this image? Help me!

All covers are stolen without permission from the Stephen King Cover Gallery. Here's hoping that if I'm nice and give him a link, he won't ask me to take these down.

New linkage

One of the greatest thing about blogs -- about writing in general, I think -- is having the opportunity to see the world through a completely different set of eyes. And I've got to admit, I can't imagine seeing the world as a twenty-something New York Escort.

I'm sure most of you are in the same boat as me.

But, if you're ever curious about what the world looks like through those eyes, take a trip over to the blog at A New York Escort's Confessions.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

KING COVERS: The Shining (1977)

As already mentioned in my previous post, I consider The Shining to be King's greatest literary achievement. More than any other story (except, perhaps, The Dead Zone) this book struggles to be something more than just a spooky yarn. It struggles -- and struggles effectively -- with such timeless and relevant issues as abusive parents, marital disharmony and alcoholism. While it's true that these are issues that King would deal with in later books, it is perhaps the setting of The Shining -- in an abandoned hotel, blocked by winter from the rest of the world, where the three family members have nothing to distract them from their own emotional and psychological crises -- that allows it to be as effective as it is.

Having said that, most of the covers for the Shining are horrible.

The original Doubleday hardcover edition, reminiscent, just slightly, of the Doubleday hardcover for Salem's Lot, makes one point that is lost on every other cover of the Shining: That this is a story about a family. Most other covers focus on one of two other elements of the book, either A) A young boy with psychic powers; or B) A homicidal father (usually using Jack Nicholson's crazed look from the film to drive this point home).

As boring as it is, though, it's one of the few covers to get the book, and of the ones that get it, this one gets it most completely. So, as sad as I am to say it, this is my pick for best cover.''

The original Signet paperback goes with a nice, understated cover design, but they choose to play up a rather insignificant part of the story -- that Danny Torrence, the young boy of the story, was born with a "caul" over his face (from A part of the amnion, one of the membranes enveloping the fetus, which sometimes is round the head of a child at its birth) which, according to the story, is often an indicator of psychic ability in old legend. Which, yeah, i skind of fortuitous as Danny does end up with psychic powers. But c'mon, it's a midly creepy image to see a head without a face on a book cover, but what does it really have to do with the book? Not a hell of a lot.

Oh, and first printings of this paperback had a shiny (I'm tempted to say mylar) cover that would actually rub off as it was handled. Not great for reading, if you wanted to keep your book looking pretty.

NOTE: And yes, in fact, I do have a copy of the shiny paperback version, about a quarter rubbed, so still in relatively good condition.

These two books, both courtesy of Pocketbooks, are so similar it's almost not worth pointing out both of them -- and, in fact, I only include the second for its strange similarity to the bizarre, campy version of Salem's Lot. Both covers also, clearly, play up the "little boy" aspect of the story, though with a boy so creepily-faced that I'd almost expect to find out that he was the brutal, homicidal killer of the story. Guess you can't win 'em all.

Moving away from the US covers (because they're either movie tie-ins, or more pictures of children) we come to this edition from England -- another child cover, this time with what appears to be either ghosts or zombies behind him. Enough with the children, for pete's sake! It's not all about the kid!

NOTE: I only show this book because, in fact, I have a copy of this british edition. Dunno why I do, or where I got it, but I do.

This later UK cover gets higher points, for dropping the focus on little boys and placing the focus on the hotel. There even seems to be -- shock of shocks! -- a family in the foreground, looking at or walking towards the hotel. The hotel seems nicely menacing as well. Nice touch.

The Japenese version -- in fact, two books to make one - also plays up the hotel element with an, as always, strangely Japenese kind of design. I'll confess a fondness for this cover, even if it doesn't quite get the whole "menacing" angle that, unfortunately, I think the cover requires. For all we know at first glance, this could be "Fawlty Towers: The Novelization."

And, to close, here are three books from around the world (left to right: netherlands, denmark, and spain) that focus on the insane daddy element of the book, using Jack Nicholson's famous face from the film to really drive the point home. Blech.

Could it be that the book is actually a bit too complex to get a nice, simple cover design? Or am I just madly groping for excuses? Will I ever have an answer? Will I stop caring as soon as I publish this post?

In that order: Unlikely. Probably. No. Yes.

All covers are stolen without permission from the Stephen King Cover Gallery. Here's hoping that if I'm nice and give him a link, he won't ask me to take these down. live...

Having some trouble with writing lately, as I move from the level one patches to the level two patches, and watch as my nicotine cravings rise accordingly. Writing and smoking have always gone hand in hand, which makes it tougher for me to write while trying to quit this filthy habit, particularly when the cravings are nipping at heels.

Broke down and phoned my therapist this afternoon. Convinced her to come by and have a cigarette with me. She left with me when she returned home, which I've almost finished. Will spark it up for the third time and finish it off before slapping on the patch that will, if all goes well, get me through tonight and into tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, if all goes well, there should be a new Stick Figure Drama, posted on time for a change. And, if I don't get around to it tonight, the next part of the King book cover dissection should be up by tomorrow too -- the Shining. This one's been slim pickings, I must admit. I don't care for many of the covers at all. I'm not sure if that's because of or in spite of the fact that I consider it to be his best novel.

Here's the thing with smoking and writing: Just now, when I finished that previous paragraph, I wanted to sit back and think for a moment. Think about what I had written, what I was going to write next, if I needed to write anything else or if I could have just ended it there. I needed to reflect on what I had written, and what I was about to write. And that's when my hand wants to reach for the ashtray. Just for a drag. Just to help me reflect.

God, if I didn't enjoy it so much, I'd hate being a smoker. I hate that I have to be a reformed smoker. I hate that I have to quit. But I also hate the idea of lung cancer and emphysema. Guess there's no winning in a battle like this.

Okay. I've written a bit, and the words are kinda flowing, and even though I've got to take the laundry out of the dryer in 15 minutes or, I think I'll tackle the next King Cover installment. And then go read a book or something.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Passionate or passionless?

Just finished watching The Passion of the Christ. Took me two nights, as remembered mid-way through last night's viewing that I still hadn't done this week's cartoon (and the deadline was this morning).

Considering a review of the film, but I'll probably watch it again before commiting any actual opinions to paper, virtual or not. Though if I had to sum my feelings up right now: Beautiful, but pointless.

Next King Cover update to follow in a short wee bit.

Monday, September 06, 2004

KING COVERS: Salem's Lot (1975)

King followed Carrie a year later with his take on the Vampire myth -- Salem's Lot -- by dropping his Dracula replacement into the midst of a sleepy, New England town.

What's interesting about early promotion for this novel -- early book covers included -- is that the vampire angle was downplayed significantly, designed to be a surprise to the reader. Oh, for the days when vital parts of a story's plot could be kept quiet in order to actually affect the reader in some way. That's right, 21st century marketing, I'm talking to you.

Anyway, on to the covers.

As I said, early promotions were all about keeping the whole "vampire" thing as top secret as possible, so the Doubleday hardcover has pretty much nothing to illustrate the book except...a picture of a sleepy, New England town. Yay for not giving too much away!

Here we see the basic evolution of the early Signet paperback editions, which were clearly also going for a more subtle, understated approach, though with at least a slight hint as to the book's subject matter. If the black-on-black image is hard to make out, it's a picture of a little girl, with just a tiny drop of blood at the corner of her mouth -- an image that's just creepy enough to make someone pick up the book and reader the back cover, which is exactly what any book cover should do.

The edition on the left, missing both title and author name like the first paperback of Carrie (see yesterday's entry) may or may not be a misprint -- to be honest, I can't remember for sure anymore. I'd personally vote against a misprint being the cause of this mistake -- it'd be embarassing to have printing problems on two books in a row (which would, in fact, become three books in a row -- tune in tomorrow to find out more!)

The cover in the centre adds the now required title and author name, while the edition on the right plays up on the popularity of King's name a few years down the road with a massive author name, and shrinks the creepy image to make room it. Points lost for diminishing the impact of a creepy image. Bad, bad publisher.

Misprint or not, I'm picking the first Signet paperback edition -- the one on the left, there -- as my personal top pic for Salem's Lot covers. The first paperback of Carrie, which left the publisher's without the author's name or title, didn't work for me because the image on the cover didn't work for me. In the case of Salem's Lot, it's the picture -- and just the picture -- that sells the book to me, at least to the point I pick it up off the shelf. And that's half the battle.

I've got one or two copies of the early versions of this one, though I can't recall right now if it's the one on the left or the one in the centre. May even be both. Can't be bothered to check right now.

This later signet release sticks with the suble, mildly vampire-related imagery, but with a slightly different image. And a bit more blood, just in case anyone was wondering, "Hey, is there going to be any blood in this?" Yes, in fact. Quite a lot.

And then there's this Pocketbook edition, looking like it hails from around the same era as yesterday's red-cover version of Carrie. By this time, of course, no on really cares about keeping the whole "vampire" thing under wraps, so, hey, let's just a couple of big neck gashes on the cover just to make sure there's no doubt. For some reason, this cover works better for me than yesterday's red-cover Carrie -- the title seems easier to read. I doubt it's any larger. It must just stand out against the background better. Either way, nice cover.

I had a copy of this cover too, once upon a time. May still have. May not. If memory serves me correctly, this was actually the version that I finally read. Knowing, of course, that you all care about these sorts of little details...

And then there's this edition from Pocketbooks, which snags my honourable mention award. There's something wonderfully, bizarrely, wrongly campy about this cover. The flat, solid colours. The white vampiric chick, sexy in a two-colour way. The thought balloon, which contains a bat, which isn't coming from her head, but rather her mouth, as if imply that she's got some nasty vampire breath. There are so many things wrong with this cover that, somehow, the combination of all that wrongness makes something that's wonderfully right. I love this cover. Unfortunately, it was just a little make my number one pick. But it comes in a close second.

All covers are stolen without permission from the Stephen King Cover Gallery. Here's hoping that if I'm nice and give him a link, he won't ask me to take these down.