I’ve mentioned before that portrait-oriented work is largely missing from my oeuvre thanks to the fact that, well, screens are horizontal. Books, posters, and smartphones, however, are not, so it’s something I’ve been meaning to address. Today’s image is an alternate cover design for a Star Trek novel, Ex Machina.
The novel is a direct sequel to both Star Trek: The Motion Picture and the episode “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky.” To refresh, in the episode, the Enterprise encounters an asteroid which turns out to be a giant ark ship, called Yonada, which is carrying the population of a doomed planet (the Fabrini) to a new home. In the generations since the ship left, the inhabitants have begun worshipping the ship’s central computer as their all-knowing god, the ship has drifted off-course and is going to collide with the planet next to the one it’s heading for, and Dr. McCoy has, coincidentally, been diagnosed with a terminal, incurable disease. The Enterprise crew solves all three problems, leaving Yonada’s precious cargo to arrive safe and sound at their new home off-screen about a year later.
In The Motion Picture, a space probe from Earth now calling itself V’Ger returns from a merry adventure throughout the universe, having been equipped with a giant ship and more computing power than it knows what to do with early in its travels, hoping that its makers will be able to give it new purpose and direction now that it finished its original mission. Captain Kirk’s understudy teaches it that self-actualization must come from within, and V’Ger transcends to a higher plane of existence once it realizes it doesn’t need to be limited by its builders’ ambitions.
So, in the novel, some cultists who weren’t convinced of the mundanity of Yonada’s computer take the events of the film as a religious sign that Captain Kirk, reputed deposer of machine-gods across the galaxy, has finally met his match and that it’s time for their version of the Second Coming, and step one is firing Yonada back up and returning the computer to supreme executive power over their religion and government. Hijinks ensue.
The cover design is a little more figurative than I usually go, and doesn’t literally depict any scene from the novel. Yonada is backlit by a blue glow and haloed by the same kind of energy field that enveloped V’Ger during its transformation, evoking both the inciting incident of the novel and the ultimate goal of the story’s antagonists. The triangular composition is loosely based on some stuff I remember about renaissance-era religious iconography from school.
The HD-revamp of the original Star Trek created a fairly distinctive model for the asteroid-ship Yonada. However, there weren’t a lot of angles in it in the episode, and I still don’t care for modeling, so in this image, Yonada is played by Mars’s moon, Phobos. The new Fabrini homeworld is, likewise, another photo from astronaut Tim Peake. I should probably look to see if other ISS crewmembers have Flickr accounts with full-resolution orbital snapshots for download. While I considered recreating the moiré patterns that formed the V’Ger energy effect, I didn’t have the time to experiment and figure out the arrangement of circles and arcs it’s composed of, so I just stole the effect from a screengrab of the movie. The nebula is another photo of clouds from my personal stock, chosen to evoke the regular, banded patterns of the V’Ger cloud.
I also mocked up a smaller version using the title-text from the novel’s real cover, so you can get a sense of what it might look like on a bookshelf.