As Nightlands, Philly’s Dave Hartley makes what have been called “lunar hymns,” full of space, size and more importantly, a keen attention to detail, precision, nuance and a sense of mystery. It’s fitting then that not only should the Nightlands album art be a nod to the classic science fiction covers of the 70s and 80s (though it’s actually a proposal for the Lower Manhattan Expressway by the late Paul Rudolph), but that Hartley himself is obsessed with the art form – both sci-fi writing and the cover art that accompanies it. We’ve asked Hartley to share with us some of his knowledge and theories on the genre. And well, he nailed it. (Editors note: First, check the logo at the top right of this Arthur C. Clarke joint. Strikingly similar to the logo of a certain Bloomington, Indian-based record label. Just sayin’).
Now, ladies and gentlemen, I give you, David Hartley:
Here are two examples of what I’m going to call the “Future Monument” sci-fi cover art paradigm: Star of the Unborn by Franz Werfel (illustration by Gene Szafran) and The City and the Stars by Athur C. Clarke (illustrator for this is unknown). This form basically consists of a giant gleaming perfect peak or city or superstructure — it’s not apparent whether it’s naturally occurring or created by man, or by divine will (often a combination thereof) — and a human or two to indicate scale and give the monument perspective.
I haven’t read Star of the Unborn, or finished it anyway. I found the writing style just way too annoying to deal with (too much British-style wit or something), but I picked it up because it was described to me as being Tolkien-esque in ambition and had a really sweet Pink Diamond Super Mountain on the cover. Also, the synopsis on the inside was just hysterically over-the-top: “ASTRO-MENTAL CIVILIZATION — IN THE ELEVENTH COSMIC CAPITAL YEAR OF VIRGO — Where men have already experience Judgement Day — Where places routinely travel to people who want to visit them — Where old age is unknown, and dying has been replaced by the opposite — Where a universal language makes it impossible to utter threats or insults — Where one giant Worker cheerfully provides all of humanity’s wants and needs — Where the crystalline mountain Djebel lights up a man’s knowledge into himself and into the farthest reaches of space.”