The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘genre’

Flying Saucers Over the Art Department!

September 13, 2016 | by

How the book designers of the fifties and sixties tackled alien invasions. 

A still from Forbidden Planet, 1956.

It’s impossible to know what sort of cover design will make a book fly off the shelves. Through timidity, this often leads to a certain monotony in covers, especially when they’re genre specific—“If it worked before, it’ll have to work again, eventually.” At times the uniformity is comical: it’s hard for book people of a certain age not to remember, say, the gothic romance subgenre without bringing to mind the same cover that was on every one by the end of the sixties—a woman, at night, dashing (often in a white nightgown) from a darkened mansion in sinister woods. Familiarity bred contentment; every reader knew what to expect when they saw the lady running.

Flying saucers as a phrase entered the modern English vocabulary at the end of June 1947, immediately after the initial sightings by Kenneth Arnold in Washington State—which, as it happened, turned out to be the first of thousands of such sightings. The subject was becoming more popular by the week, and publishing houses such as Henry Holt, Fawcett, and Citadel were quick to recognize the need for books on it. But what kind of a cover should go on a book about flying saucers? At the outset, there was no consensus as to what the saucers even actually looked like: they were described as blinking lights, purple blobs, flying wings, boomerangs, shiny metal balls, floating kerosene lamps, pie plates, hubcaps from an old Terraplane; in photos, during the first ten years, the most popular model resembled either the top of a chicken incubator, or part of the casing of a 1937 Electrolux vacuum cleaner. Read More »

Finally, a Phone Book on CDs, and Other News

June 8, 2016 | by

Photo: Museum of Intellectual Property

  • As the Soviet Union fades into the rearview mirror, it’s becoming harder to find reliable, intimate accounts of life in the USSR. A new graphic novel is trying to change that: “The Italian graphic novelist Igort went to Ukraine in 2008 and stayed for nearly two years. He met people at marketplaces and on country roads, and drew their lives. ‘Word by word I listen to the account of an existence that has become an undigested mass,’ he writes, at the beginning of one section. ‘It pushes its way out from the gut. The following is a faithful transcription of that story’ … These phrases sum up everything that is good and everything that is not so good about The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks: Life and Death Under Soviet Rule … The translation, sadly, is often tone-deaf and downright sloppy—the peculiarly unappetizing language in this passage is just one example. But the stories he has collected are indeed an undigested mass, often a mess, and this is a good thing.”

Bring on the Batemans, and Other News

March 25, 2016 | by

Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman in a still from American Psycho.

Happy Birthday, Ursula Le Guin

October 21, 2013 | by


“I don’t think ‘science fiction’ is a very good name for it, but it’s the name that we’ve got. It is different from other kinds of writing, I suppose, so it deserves a name of its own. But where I can get prickly and combative is, if I’m just called a sci-fi writer. I’m not. I’m a novelist and poet. Don’t shove me into your damn pigeonhole, where I don’t fit, because I’m all over. My tentacles are coming out of the pigeonhole in all directions.” —Ursula K. Le Guin, the Art of Fiction No. 221



Steampunks and K-pop and Swag: A Day at New York Comic Con

November 6, 2012 | by

Much has been said and written about New York Comic Con. It’s weird, it’s magical, it’s overwhelming, it’s hell on earth, it’s the best event in the world. If you’ve ever attended, it’s easy to see how all of these things could subjectively be true. Only one thing seems objectively true, however: Comic Con is utterly unique (unless you count San Diego Comic-Con, which seems to be the only comparable event in the United States, and which I’ve never attended).

Here is a list of things you can buy at Comic Con: the video game Just Dance 4, anime DVDs from Japan, K-pop posters, books titled How to Be Death and Victorian Sexual Positions, your zombie portrait drawn for $19.99, your superhero portrait photographed for $10, a steampunk corset, potions, comics-related earrings, sriracha-themed boxer briefs, “premium” (the seller’s word, not mine) hugs for $2, a photorealist painting of superheroes for $2,495, Nancy Drew manga, the Bible as manga, an autograph (free), and a picture of a girl dressed as hipster Hitler (also free).

One thing they don’t sell yet: strollers. But it’s only a matter of time. As a man I overheard on Sunday afternoon astutely observed, “Yo, they should sell strollers here! They’d make a killing.”

At Comic Con—and for many blocks north, south, and east of the Javits Center, which hugs the West Side Highway—you can see adults and children alike dressed up as Batman, Robin, Batgirl, Superman, Captain Marvel, Mario, Luigi, Transformers, and at least a hundred other characters I couldn’t identify. People attend discussion panels while painted blue or stroll the aisles in their underwear.Read More »