Pictures: Power and Perception

“Hey mister, did you draw the pictures?”

That question may be the only constant from one book signing to the next.

As an author, I always put on a smile and reply, “Nope – not the pictures, but I’m glad you like the art.”

Occasionally, I’ve thought about saying ‘yes.’ Just as a joke you understand! Then accept the subsequent adulation.

But it would be a lie. Besides the book covers quite clearly state that Kirk Manly is the artist.

I’m A Doctor Writer, Not an Artist!

I’m a writer – not an artist. As a writer, I’m always looking to improve my stories, my characters, my technique and, g-d help me, my grammar. But my primary focus is to create stories that draw the reader in emotionally and lose them in the narrative.

But, drawing? I can’t draw to save my life. Now, perhaps professional coaching would improve my attempts – in fact, I’m sure it would. But, I’ll never have the natural talent of my old high school friend James,  who drew for Marvel Comics. Nor will I ever hold an illustration candle to my friend and John Fastramp illustrator – Kirk Manley.

I don’t begrudge the love for and interest in the John Fastramp artwork. Kirk Manley is a fantastic artist with incredible talent, and it’s no surprise that there is always interest in his pictures – it’s beautiful stuff: the cover and internal art for the John Fastramp books are absolutely outstanding (You can see Kirk’s art here). In fact, Kirk’s talent is often the reason that a child even considers picking up the book for a look.

Although Kirk does corporate artwork, he really loves the comic genre. One of his significant recent efforts is as the official art designer for the Walking Dead Conventions. As I said – beautiful work!

Pulp Magazine Pictures of Yesteryear

Kirk is but a recent example of an artist who can use pictures to open the door for a good story. In science fiction, it can be argued that Hugo Gernsback helped mainstream science fiction through the fantastic images that graced – and I do mean – graced the covers of AMAZING STORIES starting in 1926.

When you research the history of AMAZING STORIES, you can make up your own mind on the pros (injecting science fiction into the artery of American interest) versus the cons (non-literary).

But we can review that in another post. Here I just want to pay tribute to the beautiful pulp covers. These covers are decorated with the most amazing pictures. Art that, in my opinion, set the reader’s expectations high before they opened the issue.










We have beautiful science fiction art and great artists today (think Michael Whelan). I take nothing from their greatness when I tell you I miss the AMAZING art of yesteryear.

You can see much of the fantastic covers here.

If I were a Rich Man…

If I had the $$, I’d paper my house (okay, just my office) with these pictures. They speak to me of a different age of excitement. A period when anything was possible. A time when we knew we were on the verge of significant discoveries. The irony is that much (of course not all) of what these stories imagined has come true in some fashion.

So, I’m waiting for the next time someone asks me if I did the pictures, I’ll proudly smile and say:

“Nope, I just wrote the stories, but I’m glad you like the art; would you like to buy a book?”