I'm finishing off an afterword for this excellent-looking new Gollancz edition of the complete Lyonesse trilogy; so my head is full of Vance right now. That's a wonderful thing to have filling your head, by the way. What an incomparable and superb writer he is! And of all his books, Lyonesse really is one of his best. There's so much to say about it (there are, for instance, so many elements from it that have worked their way into my own novels, sometimes unconsciously) ... but for now I'll confine myself to a quick browse through the cover art of various editions. First editions first; that's the rule:
And very nice too, although Suldrun (there) is a little too sweet and pretty for the character as she appears in the book; and the enormity of the bugs alarms me a little. Plus the cover blurb ('Vintage Vance ... and you can't say better than that. It never lets you down' Frank Herbert), by suggesting that, maybe, you suspect perhaps you might be let down, tends to undersell what is, after all, a masterpiece. This one:
... has a kind of Tuner's Dido Building Carthage vibe to it, and is also very pretty. Although I'm not sure a picture of a blonde woman washing her heel quite gets to the heart of Vance's vision: which for all its intricately stylish range has almost nothing to do with heel-washing.
This is the edition I first read the story in, and it accordingly has a close place in my heart. And I like the landscape and especially the Jenga-ish, on-the-point-of-toppling castle. But the stiffly sat whitebearded gnomes in the bottom right are a false step, visually; and as with the other images there's nothing in this that captures the beautifully estranged, uniquely laminated and fine-grained splendour of Vance's prose. Still it's closer to the mood than this oddly Wagnerian Czech edition of the novel (apologies for the keystoning, and blurriness):
Those are some forearms she's got there. Here's the book in Gollancz Fantasy Masterworks livery:
Which is perhaps the loveliest of the lot, although a little, I don't know, mournful and subdued. Where, we might wonder, are Vance's pavane-like liveliness, and wit, his grotesque rapidity? And then, whilst google-image-search cycled through Lyonesse covers, my eye fell excitedly upon this one:
'Yes!' I thought: 'a weird smoking fishmouth sloth-armed monster flying past two sword-carrying, surfing hobbits! That's more like it!' For although there's nothing in the novels to suggest such a scene, this at least gets a little closer to the mood of Vance. But of course this is not Vance; this is by the, I have no doubt, excellent Sam Llewellyn and is a completely different novel. A shame, really. And now that I come to look at it, the title appears to be the much less pronouncable Lyqnesse; so I'm starting to go off it a little.