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The ORIGINAL Cover Sketch for The Coldest War

July 20, 2012 at 6:32 pm

Now that The Coldest War is officially out in myriad forms (okay, 3), I thought it would be fun to share the original cover-art concept for the book.  I've never posted this before.

Below the cut: a glimpse of publishing history as it might have been.

But let me start at the beginning, by recapping things I've mentioned before about the cover art for The Coldest War.

Many people know by now that the very first Milkweed cover was painted by none other than John Jude Palencar, who created this for Bitter Seeds:

The original Palencar cover for Bitter Seeds.

And as I've said many, many times, I absolutely love this.  There's a version of it hanging in my house.  (I have to really love something to overlook a swastika, for crying out loud.)

But, lovely as this is, there was some concern among booksellers that this cover was miscuing readers and potential buyers.  So, as I've discussed many times before, the decision was made—with very good reasons—to change the cover style for the subsequent Milkweed books (and the mass-market paperback of Bitter Seeds).  But as I mentioned back at the end of February, JJP had actually begun work on a painting for The Coldest War before the decision to change styles was finalized. And, in fact, he finished the would-be cover art and shipped it to the Tor offices.

Which in turn gave rise to The Palencar Project: an anthology of stories all inspired by this otherwise unused painting:

The original Palencar cover for The Coldest War.

Jeepers!  Gosh, that's lovely.  But it doesn't quite say ZOMG BATTERY POWERED SUPERMEN AND EXPLOSIONS, which, frankly, is a more direct and unflinching description of the book.  So the final cover for The Coldest War is, of course, this extremely arresting image by Chris McGrath:

Chris McGrath cover for The Coldest War

Now this, this gets the point across beautifully.  I have a print of this hanging in my house, too, alongside a print of the companion cover for the mmpb edition of Bitter Seeds.  (That's right.  Artwork in the old Tregillis household is all about freakin' swastikas and body horror.  It's like EVERY DAY IS HALLOWEEN.)  And, I gotta tell you, they look effing swell together.

So that's all the publicly available artwork for The Coldest War

But what most people don't know, aside from my intrepid beta readers, is that I actually provided my own cover-concept sketch when submitting the manuscript for TCW to my editor.  I had high hopes for this; I still think it could've worked with a few tweaks.  In the end, though, it wasn't the right direction for the books, and so it wasn't resurrected when the time came to carry out a major re-think of the marketing angle.

Probably one reason it didn't fly is that it's very spoilery.  So, if you're planning to read The Coldest War and don't want it spoiled for you, I suggest waiting until you've finished the book.  (Or hurled it across the room in disgust.  Or whatever.)

Anyway, this very spoilery image is the sketch I included with the manuscript when I sent it to Tor.

Other feedback I received stated that the image was "too subtle."  That may be.  Either way, though, I think you'll agree that my drawing skill is on part with my writing skill.


Mark July 21, 2012 at 9:19 am
A fine piece of artwork!
Devin July 22, 2012 at 11:38 am
Ian just wanted to say, I read Coldest War in a day, loved it, and have managed to get my wife started on Bitter Seeds. So far she has found it supremely saitsfying. We will both be looking forward to the last Milkweed book. Thank you.
Ian July 22, 2012 at 11:53 am
Thanks, Mark! I admit I'm proud of it. It's probably some of my best creative work in ANY form! And thank you, Devin! I'm so glad that Coldest War was still enjoyable after the long wait for it. And thanks, too, for spreading the word. I hope your wife enjoys the books, too, and that you both enjoy Necessary Evil.
Steve Halter July 22, 2012 at 10:31 pm
lol. I wonder if Irene at Tor will do another image based story project for the concept-cover sketch. Hmm, actually it also works well for Stross' various Laundry books. :-)
adin July 23, 2012 at 3:26 am
Read it cover to cover in less than a day...I must say, its a beautiful work. and the book wasn't bad either! echoes of Dune and the fun of a Turtledove alt history or Baxter's Manifold series....I can't wait to read the third book....where we're lobbin' nukes back to tear time/space...or maybe we can alter some Higgs and give 'me indigestion! I'm sooo mad I didn't make it to bubonicon this year, hopefully I'll be able to talk you into coffee at the flying star sometime. Any possibilities of Tor allowing prints of JJP's artwork? It'd make a killer print!
Ian July 23, 2012 at 9:28 am
You're right, Steve -- it is apropos of the Laundry novels, too. I hadn't considered that! Oddly enough, I just started the newest Laundry novel on the bus this morning. Thank you for the kind words, Adin! I'm happy you enjoyed it. I'd be the first in line for a print, if they ever become available! Fingers crossed...
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