[Robert J. Sawyer] Science Fiction Writer
ROBERT J. SAWYER
Hugo and Nebula Winner


SFWRITER.COM > Novels > The Oppenheimer Alternative > Why Two Different Covers?

THE OPPENHEIMER ALTERNATIVE
Why Two Different Covers?
[The Oppenheimer Alternative US Cover][The Oppenheimer Canadian Alternative Cover]
Click images above for larger versions

The U.S. publisher, CAEZIK SF&F Books, which also does work by Robert A. Heinlein, Harry Turtledove, and Robert Silverberg, is positioning The Oppenheimer Alternative in the science-fiction and alternate-history genres, and so wanted a classic-looking SF cover. Their cover (the blue one) was created by artist Scott Grimando, who has also done the covers for the most-recent issues of Heinlein books.

The object to the right Oppenheimer is an Orion rocket, a real-life design that appears in the novel, hence this lovely blurb for the book:

"A novel as expansive as the physics (and physicists) under whose watch the original Project Orion was launched." —George Dyson, author of Project Orion: The Atomic Spaceships 1957-1965

But the novel's Canadian publisher, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, which has a sterling literary reputation (their titles have repeatedly won the Governor General's Award, Canada's highest literary honor), is aiming to build on Rob's mainstream national bestsellerdom there with this book. Their cover is by Bibliofic Designs in Alberta and reflects the current style used in packaging high-quality mainstream fiction.

The graphic next to Oppie is a clock face suggestive of the famous Doomsday Clock featured on the cover of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which figures in the novel, superimposed on an atom. The radial background represents both sunlight, which also figure in the plot, and the sides of a pit leading down to atomic hellfire.

Both editions have the same interior typesetting (except for the full-title and copyright pages), and, for authenticity and to capture the times, both editions use the spelling and punctuation conventions Oppenheimer himself would have employed during the 1940s through 1960s, which is when this book is set. For a detailed discussion of this, see the section on "Period Flavor" in Rob's Notes for the Copyeditor.

Rob did have one request for the art directors, as noted at the beginning of manuscript for The Oppenheimer Alternative:

If you choose to depict J. Robert Oppenheimer on the book's cover, may I please ask you not to depict him smoking? Yes, Oppie was a chain smoker, but I lost my younger brother Alan Sawyer to lung cancer and find such imagery disturbing (it was hard enough for me to write all the smoking Oppie does in this novel). Many thanks!
[Alan Sawyer commemorative plaque]

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