Feminist Science Fiction Set
Book Cover Design
This project brought together a collection of related books and created a cohesive identity with appeal to a new audience. The Female Man, The Handmaid's Tale, and The Left-Hand of Darkness are influential classic novels of the feminist speculative fiction and science fiction genres. The themes of the books vary but they are tied together by their feminist views and central theme of challenging social norms. The book covers from the 70s and 80s worked well to target their original audiences. These redesigns will attract a younger audience that read and enjoy classic dystopian or science fiction novels, such as 1984 or Brave New World, but might not pick up these more obscure books.
The design of each book includes a traditional cover underneath an exterior vellum cover. The vellum cover features a design representing an aspect or theme of the book When the vellum cover is turned, the interior cover becomes more visible showing how the conditions changed over the course of the novel.
The Female Man
In The Female Man, four women who live in parallel worlds meet and explore each other’s worlds. They each experience what it means to be a woman living in a set of circumstances very different from what they are used to. The four characters are essentially four versions of the same woman, born in parallel universes and influenced by the societies they are living in. At the end of the book, the women return to their own worlds, filled with new ideas and perspectives about the society they live in and their personal experience as women.
The vellum cover for The Female Man has, four separate but identical circles representing the individual women who live in their own parallel worlds but are different versions of the same woman. The overlapping circles on the inner cover illustrates a venn diagram indicating the overlap in experiences that occurs for the women during the novel. While each of the four women have been shaped by their respective worlds, the exploration and understanding of the situations where their experiences are similar, or in some cases all the same, led them to uncover new ideas about themselves and their social norms and cultural societies.
The Handmaid's Tale
The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel set in a near-future New England. A theocratic dictatorship controls society, suppressing personal choice and individuality. Under the religious totalitarian government, women are perceived as being protected through a strict set of rules, however, these rules take away their individual identities and their freedom. The Handmaid’s Tale uses flashbacks to explore the world was before the totalitarian theocracy established a dictatorship, and to follow the path that led to the current loss of individuality in the patriarchal society that has been established.
There are a variety of strong themes in The Handmaid’s Tale that could be used as inspiration for a cover illustration. This design highlights the aspects of the novel exploring the theme of individual versus the greater society, a subject that is especially relatable for the target young adult audience. On the vellum cover the large circle encases the individual smaller circles, confining and organizing them to fit. The set of circles inside a larger also hints at a birth control pill case indicating the lack of child bearing choice women faced in the book. On the inner cover, the organization of the circles no longer feels forced, but as though they are coming together and asserting some control over their situation.
The Left Hand of Darkness
The Left-Hand of Darkness explores the potential successes and failures of trying to create a galactic community connecting many diverse and uniquely different societies. Because of the difference in their societies there is a barrier of understanding between the main characters for much of the novel. By the end of the novel however, the two characters from different worlds reach a deep level of understanding and appreciation for each other and the two societies begin to work together.
On the vellum cover for The Left-Hand of Darkness, the focus is on the seemingly insurmountable disconnect between the two cultures, each with their own values and worldviews, shown through the two partial circles. Through the course of the book the two main characters explore the differences in each other’s cultures and find their own unique way to communicate and work together. They create something new, represented by the larger circle on the inner cover.
The goal in redesigning these books covers is twofold. First the ideas and discussions that stem from these books complement each other with the exploration of feminist themes and challenging social norms. A unified set of book cover illustrations and design will help readers of one book find the other related books. Second, a new style of cover aimed at an audience that is just now coming of age will encourage new readers to discover these beloved classics.