Mar 30

I can't put all my hands up! The joints just don't work that way!

Alessandra’s Art Direction: Like early Dungeons and Dragons manual covers, but cruder, with an astronaut threatening Godzilla with a giant pencil tied to a notepad on his back. Oh, and a chick on an altar wearing a skintight rosy pink bodysuit, because this is spiritual writing, darnit!
Published 1996

Actually, that cover IS a classical work of art!I would touch it without protective gloves.I've seen worse. Far, far, worse.Interesting, but I would still read it in public.Middlng: Neither awful nor awfully goodWould not like to be seen reading that!Awful... just awful...That belongs in a gold-lame picture frame!Gah... my eyes are burning! Feels so good!Good Show Sir! (Average: 8.92 out of 10)

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56 Responses to “In the Den of the Dragon”

  1. THX 1138 Says:

    Isn’t this one of those Choose Your Own Adventure books? Or was it originally used as the cover to a ZX Spectrum text adventure? Because nothing about it says 1996, and that exasperated woman knows it.

  2. vampy-ra Says:

    I sing the body draconic. Immaculate. Thank you. Thank you.

  3. A.R.Yngve Says:

    Jaw, meet floor.


  4. A.R.Yngve Says:

    Seriously: 1996?? You’ve gotta be kidding us!

  5. hep c Says:

    I thought I would never sense that feeling again… You know, that body electric feeling. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  6. mrhairyman Says:

    This wasn’t a proper book though, was it? You know, sold in shops and that sort of thing? Surely it was just printed up on a Dot Matrix Printer and this front cover was done by Steve Stanton’s older brother with learning difficulties, right? right?

  7. Alessandra Kelley Says:

    @mrhairyman: Photo taken at my local Powell’s Used Books. I t was professionally bound and had an ISBN and web presence (one example at ) and I thought, I have to share this.

    The author’s work is also in an anthology edited by Nalo Hopkinson. He’s for real.

  8. THX 1138 Says:

    OK, it’s a real book, but that doesn’t mean I don’t expect to see Kevin Toms’ face looming out of the screen when Football Manager is Monday’s cover.

  9. Smith Says:

    @Alessandra Kelley – I hear what you say, and I don’t doubt it, but I’m having such a hard time believing that this isn’t a self published book by Steve Stanton aged 9 3/4.

  10. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    @Alessandra: I can just imagine…

    “…eh, you buy books…”

    “What? You’ll have to speak up, sir.”

    “I, ah, sorry. Sorry. Ahem. You do buy books here?”

    “Well, of course, sir. We’re a used book shop. What have you to sell?”

    “Ah, before we get to that…do you ever…I don’t suppose you would…just…take a book, like?”

    “What sort of book? Fiction? Cook-book?”

    *hands it over*

    “I’ll have to check with my manager, sir. Can you hold on to this for one moment?”

  11. Jon Says:

    I concur with @Smith. This looks like something that was done for a class project.

    A 3rd grade class project.

    If there were tanks or fighter jets, it would be complete.

  12. L.B. Says:

    Maybe it was an award-winning artsy-fartsy mural at one time in some city or town we’ve never heard of. Yeah, it looks more like 1966 pulp than 1996… gulp!

  13. Tom Noir Says:

    Alessandra gets 50 cool points for referencing the original D&D manual covers. Which were AWESOME.

  14. Yoss Says:

    I can’t even rip on this one in good conscience. I just get the feeling that it was drawn by an enthusiastic kid. Who am I to crush their young dreams?

    Keep up the good work, Timmy!

  15. Jaouad Says:

    According to his Wikipedia page, Mr Stanton founded ‘Skysong Press’ himself. I suspect that back in 1988 this was a much bigger deal than it is today, but it makes this book basically self-published.

    And I mean, that title font… it hurts my eyeses!

  16. fred Says:

    If this wasn’t a part of a series it should have been. Den, Attic, Foyer, Linen Closet, Game Room, Garage. He could have been the print equivalent of Lord British and retired a millionaire.

  17. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    @fred: think of all of the alliterative possibilities!


  18. Yoss Says:

    Oh fun!

    In the Garage of the Griffin
    In the Bathroom of the Basilisk aka Commode of the Cockatrice

  19. Dave Van Domelen Says:

    I love how the Christian Fandom page is a placeholder…from 2005. Guess no one was inspired by the interview to add a review.

  20. Jerk of all Trades Says:

    I thought child labor was illegal.

  21. Smith Says:

    I’ll join in.

    In the Ante-room of the Antelope
    In the Conservatory of the Cockatiel
    In the Library of the Llama.

  22. Infoqueen Says:

    In the Vestibule of the Viper
    In the Bonus Room of the Boa Constrictor
    In the Cellar of the Centipede

  23. Frank Says:

    Looks like he got enough of these out there for there to be at least two online listings (seen via today, no fooling on my part).

  24. NGpm Says:

    I just don’t know what to say. This just has so much of that Gygax magic to it … it reminds me of the original Dungeon Master’s Guide artwork. A scone for Alessandra! Good show!

  25. David Cowie Says:


  26. David Cowie Says:

    I SING THE BODY ELECTRIC may be artistically questionable, but it is at least technically competent. This is just horrid. 10/10.

  27. FearofMusic Says:

    I have been pondering this cover for some time now (for reasons inexplicable) and have come to the conclusion that it is beyond horrid. Unless the ‘artist’ is a microencephalitic two year old child with congenital blindness, it’s unforgivably bad. The truly strange and disturbing thing is the author’s apparent ownership, and control, of the publisher. Does self-published have to be…well, like THIS?
    No pressure as far as art direction goes. That means the author thinks that cover is GOOD. Thinks…,

    “Sweet baby Jesus, you’ve done it! That is IT! A veritable vision from Heaven itsel,it sums up perfectly my story and..wait, were there astronauts in the bible? There were? Oh yes, this, this will without doubt cause readers to be drawn into purchasing my fabulous tale! Praise the Lord!”

    Somewhere in the bowels of Hell Satan is holding a copy of this book and tittering in a sinister manner,”Oh christian fiction, your covers delight me so! Please print more atrociously unsellable tomes like this! I can feel my power growing with every book you print…”

  28. Bibliomancer Says:

    The author is the publisher and is the cover artist. Kind of like the lawyer who represents himself has a fool for client.

    From the cover description: “mankind has advanced beyond the boundaries of Earth. Corporations from Luna City Free State have funded extensive mining operations in the asteroid belt and beyond. …space Navy freighters ply the cold oceans of emptiness…on the largest asteroid in the belt, Ceres, a dragon-worshipping cult plots to overthrow the corporate masters and seize control of the planet! “

  29. RachelJ Says:

    I like how the blurb spends all that time establishing that the scenario is exactly the same as in every other space adventure yarn, to the point where it might as well have just read, “so yeah, space stuff happens, whatever”… then, just as one’s attention begins to wander, it suddenly throws in the dragon-worshippers on Ceres. Cute.

  30. B. Chiclitz Says:

    I thought the—Cult—was named “Ceres,” a shadowy organization thought to be allied with Google, fanatically bent on total Galactic domination. And the “Dragon” much more closely resembles a large bug than any reptile to be found in this quadrant.

  31. Bibliomancer Says:

    I’m surprised the Dragons won the World Ceres. I was rooting for the Phillies.

  32. Tom Noir Says:

    One doesn’t usually see six-armed dragons in fiction, so, points for that I guess.

    My money is on the flautist in the spacesuit, though.

  33. anon Says:

    “What giant pencil? …oh… In my defense, it was very dark in the room when I picked up what I thought was my bazooka.”

  34. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    In the future, everything will be flat and/or have cracks running through it.

  35. JuanPaul Says:

    Mr. Stanton Borrowed money from the mob to start his publishing company. One of the conditions of the deal was that the mob boss’ nephew who “is a good kid, just ain’t got much upstairs” does all the cover art.

  36. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    @JP: this is a family-friendly, positive blog, sir, and I do wish you wouldn’t insult the mob and/or those of us who ain’t got much upstairs. 😉

  37. fred Says:

    Silly Stuff With No Lower Teeth. How does the poor thing eat? There must be an industrial sized blender just out of sight.

  38. B. Chiclitz Says:

    So I now realize it’s an allegory, see? “In the Den of the Dragon” stands for “The kid’s room at Mar-a-Lago.” The figure on the altar is Everywoman, helpless before the many arms of a groping Presidential candidate. The guy with the pencil represents the army of brave-hearted journalists and other media types out reveal the Truth and protect Everywoman’s honor and integrity, which are really important to them. The flame is the torch of Liberty that will one day soon blaze forth anew o’er the land of the free.

  39. Anna T. Says:

    @Jon: I think your hypothetical art project by a grade three student would be better executed than this cover.

  40. DaveM Says:

    In the observatory of the Owlbear
    In the den of the dromedary
    In the attic of the anteater

  41. Tom Noir Says:

    Dromedaries?? Eeeek!

  42. Tat Wood Says:

    (I can’t believe nobody’s done this)

    Let me tell you where I am. I’m out!

  43. HappyBookworm Says:

    @fred – You don’t need lower teeth when you’re a six-armed dragon. It’s a vampire dragon, of course, so it only needs fangs!

    @Yoss – I agree that it’s almost hard to rip on this cover, especially since this is about the level of my own drawing skills. That is why I read SF/Fantasy and don’t pretend to illustrate it.

  44. JuanPaul Says:

    In all fairness, despite the lack of skill and terrible font, the composition is decent.

  45. GSS noob Says:

    The pen may be mightier than the sword, but the six-armed dragon is probably mightier than the pencil.

    And pretty much anything is mightier than this cover. Makes one long for some clip art, Poser, or bad Photoshop.

  46. August Says:

    Oh God, I had to google him, but this guy. This guy! For whatever reason he keeps getting published here in Canada, but he’s completely unreadable. ECW, a press I generally respect, decided to get into the SF game a few years back, and a trilogy by this guy is what they decided to start with. They sent me a review copy of the first one, and it was literally the worst book I’ve ever read.

  47. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    @August: welcome to the site…and have you submitted the cover yet? 😉

  48. GSS ex-noob Says:

    @August: Is the cover of the book you got as bad as this, or have you gotten rid of the book and blocked it from your memory? I’m guessing that a real publisher at least would have sprung for some non-Steve art.

    Indeed, they did. It’s dull but not hideous.

    Also, possible mullet alert:

    The book pictured here has (not so) mysteriously disappeared from his CV.

  49. August Says:

    The cover was far and away the best thing about it. I did not bother with the other two books (and it was so, so strange that “Reconciliation” was the first in the series).

    If anyone’s interested, I wrote about what was between the covers:

    @DSWBT: I’ll see if I can find something. I probably have some old Gor books around somewhere…

  50. Dead Stuff With Big Teeth Says:

    @August: thanks for the link. The V-Space of the Virus, eh?

  51. GSS ex-noob Says:

    @August: So if the books published by an actual publisher were that bad, we can all shudder in horror at how much worse this self-published (and now apparently disavowed) tome must have been.

    And indeed, who calls the first book in a series “Reconciliation”? Isn’t that logically the last part?

  52. August Says:

    @GSS I know some BTS stuff about Reconciliation that makes the story even worse, but unfortunately I can’t share it. I shudder to think about In the Den of the Dragon.

  53. GSS ex-noob Says:

    Your review was horrific enough — it’s a favor to spare us the details.

  54. Tor Mented Says:

    I’d like to note that the astronaut is not aiming his pencil at the dragon but somewhere far off to the dragon’s left. Also, the Peeps confectioners are making candy that is shaped like women.

  55. RachelJ Says:

    @Tor Mented. You assume that the normal rules of perspective and such apply to this artwork. Look again.

  56. GSS ex-noob Says:

    @Tor: The flame looks like it could be a Peeps confection too.

    Those Peeps diorama contests that newspapers run every year (Wash. Post and one of the Chicago papers) are much higher in artistic merit, though. Better composition and details. Also great fun.

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