Having settled on a broad theme for the cover illustration, it was now a matter of honing down specifics. I had come to terms with the fact that there was no such thing as a “perfect” cover. But there was a “right” cover, and I was on the track to find it.
To reiterate the points of previous posts, there were a few basic goals for this envisioned illustration (an illustration that would eventually come to represent the entire novel):
1 ) To create a “money shot” image that stood out among others, (especially in thumbnail). Given the choice, I would have preferred it to be too loud than too understated. The goal is to catch attention, nothing more.
2 ) To have that image convey a sense of the novel’s overall tone. The book description talks about a world called Anthem being destroyed by machines. There’s also mention of an entrenched young scientist named Kristen working on a strange new technology. These are well-established premises in the genre. Nothing new. It would therefore have to rest solely on the cover illustration to elevate the tone of those messages and leave the implication that there is something more to Anthem’s Fall. In other words, Anthem’s Fall isn’t merely a story about an advanced empire’s collapse or a scientist in New York working with a dangerous technology. The real story is the collision between those two plots. And the goal of the cover was to capture this collision front and center.
The hope was to create an image that was recognizable yet unfamiliar—just like the novel itself.
Here are some of the drafts that were involved in taking the idea and translating it into an image. The final illustration (on the right) was the brilliant work of Tim O'Brien.