Famed Dario Tonani and acclaimed John Coulthart discuss their contributions to Bruce Sterling’s ROBOT ARTISTS AND BLACK SWANS: THE ITALIAN FANTASCIENZA STORIES
On his eponymous site, John Coulthart reveals his thoughts behind the cover for Bruce Sterling’s forthcoming ROBOT ARTISTS AND BLACK SWANS: THE ITALIAN FANTASCIENZA STORIES (not due until March 2021, but available for pre-order from your favorite bookseller or direct from Tachyon).
For the cover of the new volume I considered trying something similar with another Italian artist/designer, Franco Grignani (1980–1999). In addition to having studied in Turin, Grignani was commissioned by David Pelham to create cover art for a handful of Penguin science fiction titles in the late 1960s. Much of Grignani’s artwork is heavily indebted to the Op Art style popularised by Bridget Riley and Victor Vasarely, especially the early Riley formula of dazzling arrangements of parallel lines, a formula he made his own after Riley’s work evolved in other directions. Despite these favourable qualities, Grignani’s art proved too abstract for my purposes, and for Tachyon’s who wanted something more illustrative, so I ended up co-opting a very different Italian artist/designer, Leonardo da Vinci. The figure of Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man has been parodied and pastiched many times so this isn’t remotely original (I’ve also used the original drawing on a pastiche book cover I designed for the Lambshead Disease Guide), but making the figure a robot was a convenient way of combining the title with Italian history. One of the stories in the collection, Pilgrims of the Round World, concerns the inhabitants of Turin during the Renaissance years, and mentions Leonardo (or “the Vinci boy”) several times, so the figure does have some actual relevance beyond being recognisably Italian. The background is, of course, the city of Turin given a slightly futuristic tweak, although it’s more Turinesque than a match for the place itself.
Popular Italian science fiction author Dario Tonani on his eponymous site writes that this was the first time he’d written an afterword or introduction for a foreign author.
But never to a foreign author, an authentic milestone of the genre, undisputed father (with William Gibson) of the cyberpunk movement, coming from overseas, a land towards which we Italians – readers and authors of science fiction – have always nourished a sort of inferiority complex, how justified is not for me to say.Translation from Italian courtesy of Google
The fact is, this time it happened: the book in question is “Robots Artists & Black Swans: the Italian Sci-Fi Stories” by the great Bruce Sterling , out in March 2021 for the Tachyon Publications label , an important American publishing house founded in 1995 and winner with her titles of the main prizes dedicated to science fiction, fantasy and new weird: from Hugo to Nebula, from World Fantasy Award to Sturgeon, from Locus to Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire, from Sidewise to Philip K Dick.
The book, embellished with an introduction by Neal Stephenson and the preface signed by the author , hosts the Italian stories – short stories and novels – of his friend Bruce, those of his Italic alter ego, Bruno Argento , many of which (but not all) collected with justified pride on Urania in September 2015 under the title of “Utopia pirata” (with the scream “Unpublished anthology in world premiere”).
As a “home author”, I was asked to write a long afterword which I titled “Bruce Sterling, Erudite Dreamer and Pirate” . An immense honor and satisfaction, which I want to consider much more than a personal goal, but as a conquest of international visibility for all Italian science fiction, obviously starting with Sterling / Argento. And not only…