My publisher, Sagging Meniscus Press, lost Royce M. Becker, their supremely talented in-house artist last week after a long illness. Royce’s flamboyant, eccentric, and meticulously crafted book designs were lovingly paired with the prose and poetry of many talented writers—among them Stephen Moles, Kurt Luchs, Lee Klein, Seth Rogoff, Marvin Cohen, Doug Nufer, Guillermo Stitch, and sundry other legends—to create the sort of books that instantly inflame your eyeballs in bookstores. In an age when cover art in large publishing houses can suffer from a uniformity of style to attract the middlebrow reader, or lazily rely on name recognition to shift units, Royce’s covers were wilfully kaleidoscopic, lively, and artistically independent—everything you’d crave from an indie press.
For my own books, Royce created covers revelling in the comic spirit of the novels, matching the playfulness of the prose with a playfulness in her artwork. For The House of Writers, the title and author name are stacked imposingly in Atari-type fontage with staircases unfurling between the block letters, nailing the tone of impish dystopia the novel is striving for. For The 1002nd Book, a series of splayed novels envelop the bottom half of the cover, smothering the protagonist in a temple of texts, while behind piles and piles of unreads loom with equal invitation and menace. For my two favourites, The Quiddity of Delusion and Scotland Before the Bomb, Royce uses a motif of a mind in a tumultuous fug, whether consumed by a tornado of letters, or popped in a puff of blue smoke ringed by quote marks.
The Sagging Shorts series has a splendiferous style, framing the central image and title in one block, with the author’s name below, bordered by barmy, outré colour schemes. The inverted spire-cum-coffee cup in Errata, the Surrealist hall of pillars with wonky clock suspended above in Please State the Nature of Your Emergency, the beehive head assaulted by a swarm in Agitprop for Bedtime, are among the funkiest images in this series. The best way to appreciate these is to see them, so check them out here.
In all of Royce’s covers, striking typography is paired with skilfully blended colours, hilarious and compelling images and tableaux. Her covers work in complete creative synchronicity with the texts—her reading and appreciation for each author is immediately apparent and deeply appreciated by everyone lucky enough to receive her cover treatment. The reverence and consideration invested in each of these covers is what made Royce’s work for Sagging Meniscus Press an integral part of the project. The visual aesthetic of a small publisher is more important than most authors appreciate, and Royce’s sterling work helped the press to become the coolest and hippest indie in the stratosphere.
There’s no finer satisfaction for an author than the cover art popping into your inbox and smacking you senseless. I always had nothing except sputtering superlatives whenever Royce’s covers appeared. They enhance, elevate, and enchant my texts.
Stay weird, stay sensational, Royce.
Browse the full SM catalogue of covers.
Last weektime, I attended launch events for the novel to which I contributed some nouns and miscellaneous burbles. In fact, it is not braggadociolicious to say that I wrote most of the nouns and miscellaneous burbles in this novel using my own unmanly digits and that small part of my cerebrum where mildly vicious comic prose is located. This novel I mainly wrote, The 1002nd Book to Read Before You Die, concerns a man who wants to read a millenary-plus-one of novels on the Orkney Isles, a man who swiftly fails, then has relations with an eccentric librarian for something else to do. The first launch event was in Waterstones in Glasgow, where I sat on a chair opposite Kevin MacNeil, Scottish poet and novel-man (author of the excellent novels The Stornoway Way, A Method Actor’s Guide to Jekyll & Hyde, and The Brilliant & Forever), and made sounds through my facehole.
One large day later, I attended a book shop in Edinburgh called Blackwell’s, a spiffing establishment where I used to hoover up texts as an undergraduate in between reviewing Pixies albums in the library and loathing myself with a ferocity unseen since last week. I sat beside excellent book blogger Alistair Braidwood (from Scots Whay Hae), who asked me things about the words I had written, to which I replied with various vocal gymnoplasties, most of these edging soberly towards the edge of incoherence, some lightfantastically tripping along a line of intended meaning. Later, we had hops.
The novel is published by Sagging Meniscus Press. Available here:
The tap of literature must keep running. The tap of literature must run in a violent frothing spurt and flood the universe, or we must blow out our brains. We are the wordpeople. We are sitting in our rooms with six hundred novels and a portrait of Charles Dickens and a stuffed panda with burst bowels and a radiator allergic to heat molecules. We have no names we wish to impart. We are the wordpeople and we are sitting in a room and we are hammering out sentences and more sentences and more sentences and we have no intention of stopping. We are seated on wicker chairs with light cushion support and we are writing these words that run along the page like a set of shapely olympian legs, sprinting right to left and right to left and right to left and right to left across the page before leaping a line below and sprinting again right to left and right to left and so on. We have nothing to say to you, we have everything to say to you. We not concerned with concision, we are concerned with excess. We are concerned with committing words to the page. We are committed to keeping the tap of literature running. We are writing writing. We are writers writing writing. We are writing against, we are writing for. We are writing for the future of writing. We are writing against the plague of illiterature reducing our minds to shrivelled sultanas. We are writing against the assholic automatons reducing our language to a bowl of lukewarm unsalted porridge. We are sitting on these wicker chairs with light cushion support to preserve the dignity of every writer who has ever enriched and shaped our lives with the wondrous weft of their words. We are writing from RESPECT. We are frothing at the pen with fume at the ruthless financiers scheming to spifflicate the Great Novelists from the public consciousness. We will not stop. We will write on and on and on and on. We have nothing to offer except this unending stream of words. We repeat ourselves whenever we wish. We repeat ourselves excessively, we repeat ourselves ecstatically. We repeat ourselves. We write whatever we want with little consideration for consistency, character, or concision. The tap must run, for the sake of our friends, families, enemies, and indifferent onlookers. The tap of literature must keep running. The tap of literature must run in a violent frothing spurt and flood the universe, or we must blow out our brains.