HG Wells bookcovers exercise

Research Notes > looking for style notes, key images from the novels, novels that fit together, novels that deal with timeless issues, what will visually make them jump out of Amazon and bookshops (think flat table displays and spines on the shelves), how long are the novels (slimmer volumes > brighter spines etc).
Primary research?
• Read the books > not going to happen
• current fashion in contemporary fiction bookjackets (needs to be different),
• also current fashion in classics bookjackets (as that’s where bookshops will place them)
• book jackets for published HG Wells titles > Bookshops, Amazon
Gaps in knowledge?
• HG Wells and his novels > Wikipedia, Amazon, friends bookshelves?
Secondary search resources?
• book reviews, prefaces, descriptions > Wikipedia
• collectors, designers,student project work around this topic > blogosphere
Keywords > stunning, contemporary, work as a set, timeless fiction, social, relevent.
HG Wells Invisible Man - Dell

So what’s out there?
My favourite is this old mass market edition of ‘The Invisible Man’ – it’s fantastic, great imagery, in your face, bright colours, comic book style, make a fantastic bag or t-shirt, can’t better this, don’t try.  Penguin classics (courtesy of Amazon here), are nice simple abstract collage-type images, standard design, very Penguin.  I particularly like the images for ‘The Sleeper Awakes’ and ‘The First Men in the Moon’, stronger images with shape and contrast that pulls you into the centre of the image.  Note the eye in the Moreau collage, this is a theme.

HGWells Penguin Classics Following were eyecatching student projects – guess which one is ‘The War of the Worlds’.  I like ‘The Time Machine’ and ‘Doctor Moreau’ particularly, there’s a lot of information on them, and like the style, but pastelly is not what I’m looking for, and too chunky for slim paperbacks. But apart from the gothic green tripods, the overall style is not what I want > too hardback and ‘tasteful’ and expensive looking.

Student projects
Which books to choose?
A lot of his social fiction is too specific to time and place, and vaguely polemic in a fabian socialist sense (also specific to time and place) – looking for ones that deal more vaguely with timeless issue, and are good stories, and have good images that would be fun to do.  Topics are utopia/distopia, worldstate/globalisation, nature/nurture, time travel… Possibles are ‘Island of Doctor Moreau’, ‘The Sleeper Awakes’, ‘The Time Machine’, ‘War of the Worlds’, ‘ The Invisible Man’ (that bookjacket again). Other criteria: the best known ones? Made into films? Good stories? Familiarity would be good here, they’re more likely to be bought than the obscure ones.   As a set, (thinking spines) need titles that work together.

On the basis of Wikipedia descriptions, chose these:

  • The War of the Worlds (alien invasion, film, best known, imperialism, obvious images) “H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds was an allegory about the injustice of European imperial rule of Africa, China and India.” Images commonly used for book covers: virtually all of the good ones use versions of the same looming tripod image, varies from gothic to mechanical to insectlike or cute.
  • The Island of Doctor Moreau (mucking about with biology, cloning, genetic engineering etc, spooky) “Mr. Wells wrote this story as something of a lesson about scientists playing God, and creating monstrosities (not unlike Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein). This book is an exciting adventure story, with a fascinating lesson.” Images: eyes, misty islands, tropical foliage, sinister animal shapes, acid green.
  • The Shape of Things to Come (well known through the films, classic utopia/dystopia scifi, prediction, always relevent, Fritz Lang type imagery)  “”The Shape of Things to Come” is profoundly anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, and anti-corporate feudalist. It effortlessly exposes and deconstructs the cynical manipulations which drive world politics; in the age of the oil wars and the artificial enemy, it’s more relevant than ever.” Images: virtually all of these are from the films and nothing from the books, vintage film posters, busy, vintage black and white futurist imagery (tall buildings, small people, travelators).

(Comments from Wikipedia / Amazon reviews)


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