Building a Cover (with a Goat): Saad Z. Hossain’s The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday

Hosting cover reveals is always a treat—but especially when we’re talking about books from Tor.com Publishing. As a primarily digital-first imprint, they are a nimble, fast-moving young buck among the slow and stately elk of the publishing world. That is to say, they aren’t afraid to try new things with their covers, and we are here for it.

Today, we’re thrilled to give you a peek into the cover development process for one of their most eagerly awaited 2019 releases, Saad Z. Hossain’s The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday. This novella-length work from the author of the acclaimed novel Djinn City is part futuristic sci-fi, part mythological adventure, and part buddy comedy, and it sounds entirely awesome.

The book’s editor, Jonathan Strahan, certainly makes us eager to read it: “Unlimited sex, booze, and world-altering power! You’d think life would be great, but when the great djinn Melek Ahmar wakes after an uninterrupted nap of a few thousand years he finds things are far more difficult than he’d expected. A not-too-far future story of a climate-changed world set in a city where everyone seems to get exactly what they deserve, but told as a rollicking buddy adventure with an increasingly worried djinn and a flint-eyed and possibly crazy Gurkha? I was floored by it and I think you will be too. It’s funny, engaging, and filled with action and adventure. Above all though, it’s a team up for the ages.”

Assembling a cover that would encompass all this madness would prove to be a challenge. Tor.com Publishing’s Associate Art Director (and hands-on designer) Christine Foltzer knew just who to turn to: artist Eric Nyquist, who created the iconic covers and endpapers for Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy.

When I was reading the manuscript for The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday I knew we needed to hire someone who could capture not only this incredible, unique world of this futuristic, hi-tech Kathmandu, but also the fun and playful tone of the story and its characters,” Foltzer said. 

Nyquist brought his talent for intricate line drawings to his proposed cover sketches for The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday, which offered a range of less and more complex and detailed designs—though as sketches, they only hint at what you’ll see in the final cover…

The team concluded that the second layout—the one with a goat in the bottom right corner—was the winner. With the basics of the layout locked down, Nyquist created the final version, filling in the details hinted at in the text annotations above, and handed them off to Christine Foltzer. We think you’ll agree that together, they created something truly special:

Dang. Right?

“Eric’s art, with its bright colors, intricate line drawing, and the way it interacts with the typography is perfect,” Foltzer said. “I feel like every time I look at it I find another detail I didn’t see before. He gave us so many sketches and options, we could only share a few of them here, and it was so hard to choose between them all.

The author was pleased, to say the least. “The cover is just brilliant,” Hossain said. “I pictured Kathmandu as a magical gem in the future, and that’s exactly what we got—a wonderland of towers and pagodas and gardens hanging in spheres, a portrait of endless detail. And of course, there’s the goat.”

“Ultimately we wanted a cover that is as fun to look at as the book is to read,” said Irene Gallo, publisher and art director of the imprint. “Eric and Christine nailed it. Saad’s story takes the ancient tradition of djinn stories and slams it head-on into a science fiction world, [and the cover reflects that]. Also, who doesn’t love a cover with a goat on it!? ”

Here’s a bit more about the book, in the form of the official summary:

When the djinn king Melek Ahmar wakes up after millennia of imprisoned slumber, he finds a world vastly different from what he remembers. Arrogant and bombastic, he comes down the mountain expecting an easy conquest: the wealthy, spectacular city state of Kathmandu, ruled by the all-knowing, all-seeing tyrant AI Karma. To his surprise, he finds that Kathmandu is a cut-price paradise, where citizens want for nothing and even the dregs of society are distinctly unwilling to revolt.

Everyone seems happy, except for the old Gurkha soldier Bhan Gurung. Knife saint, recidivist, and mass murderer, he is an exile from Kathmandu, pursuing a forty-year-old vendetta that leads to the very heart of Karma. Pushed and prodded by Gurung, Melek Ahmer finds himself in ever deeper conflicts, until they finally face off against Karma and her forces. In the upheaval that follows, old crimes will come to light and the city itself will be forced to change.

Preorder The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday, available August 13, 2019.

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