This 4th preview of David Sidebotham’s cover for the Tides of Impossibility fantasy anthology features the last of the four principle figures of the composition. She still has some features in common with the first inhuman figure and the faceless woman, but the tone of this figure is a clear departure. She is much more similar in appearance to the character in the last preview, darker and less orderly. Unlike that figure, though, her face is turned away. However, this also means that is the only figure who is not looking directly to the left or right, parallel to the composition. Uniquely, she is looking back on the composition itself.
Next I’ll post the completed cover, all four figures and their surroundings. The full scene is spectacular.
This third preview of David Sidebotham's cover art for "Tides of Impossibility" shows a very different figure than the last two. Like the first, it is inhuman, and you can see some similar imagery in the design. But it is closer to human, showing a very human design, and shares minor visual queues with the human figure featured last time. This figure will also be the only one of the four whose face is visible.
This second preview image of David Sidebotham's cover art for "Tides of Impossibility" shows off his skill with human character design. Here we have a very different image from the inhuman figure I featured last time, yet there are some very clear parallel themes.
For "Tides of Impossibility", the upcoming fantasy anthology edited by myself and C. Stuart Hardwick , I again sought the visionary expertise of David Sidebotham, the artist behind Unfinished Creation. The cover art he delievered is in my opinion the best stand-alone illustration I've ever seen him produce. It features four primary figures composed in violent contrast with gentle, smooth colors.
Over the next few days I'll be showing off close-ups of the mythical characters that David created for the anthology's cover. I want everyone to see how complicated each figure is before I reveal this incredible cover in its entirety.
Very soon, we'll be announcing the complete table of contents! Those who have already earned their ebook by participating in the Kickstarter campaign can look forward to some great fantasy reading not long after.
The water of Tsion sang soft in the warm silence.
Miriam stood with her eyes closed, listening, stance wide and solid
with her hands joined behind her. Uniform white as marble, hair a
golden filigrees decorating her shoulders and back, Miriam was a
slender monument on the concrete bank of the lake. The fountain's
mist caught in her eyelashes and shone.
Miriam's glowing eyelashes shivered. Veiled blue irises turned
towards the man who had addressed her, a head shorter than she, a few
shades darker. "Hm?" Her voice boiled lazily from her
stomach, as though she'd been dozing on her feet.
That man's own white-and-gold uniform looked somehow gray on him. "It
was sighted passing around the Mezeket Cluster, on its way to the
Miriam's slender form straightened, muscles
hardening. The hair on the back of her neck stood electrified. Her
glowing eyelashes parted and she glowered at the domed ceiling of
Tsion. The name: the Taranish.
It brought to her mind other such ugly words: Sarnath, Brimstone,
Guinangap. The war-carrier Taranish did
not belong in space controlled by the Blessed Confederation. The
Guinangap had been exiled far from the Mezeket Cluster, farther still
from the holy worlds of the Vhallas System. Light shone deep inside
of those worlds, like fire inside of pearls. They should not be
there, the Guinangap, those people of darkness, those outcast sinners
who huddled in shadowy cities, brains riddled with sacrilegious
cybernetics, thoughts ever on money and power and perversions.
Like a birch tree, Miriam swayed before the lake,
gaze full of its waters and the flickering light on is surface.
Terrestrial seas mirrored the heavens as they had once been, it was
said. Miriam swung her long arms up in front of her, fingers white as
shafts of sugar, fingernails of caramel, eying over them the vague
shape of a sieve that circled the fountain at the center of the lake.
Her fingers curled between her eyes and that roiling near-starlight.
That's Eva's ship."
"Who?" The gray-uniformed man blinked. His eyes did not
catch the light. It was not that he was dull or distant. That
wouldn't matter. It was simply how the light fell.
Eva was not a woman widely known by her first name.
Miriam joined her fingers and pressed the doubled fist to her breast.
"The spawn of the geist-Emperor of the Guinangap."
Now the man's eyes rose in recognition. "Her again? So her
loathsome hobby continues."
"It is just so, yes." Miriam's high head
inclined. Eva and the Taranish had
slipped past the borders of the Confederation's space a half dozen
times in the past. Four of those times, it had been Miriam's fleet
that had chased Eva away. But never had Eva sought to reach a place
so deep, so holy, and so vulnerable as the Vhallas system.
"A war-carrier, Commodore. Eva will be carrying a thousand
fighters, weapons platforms, heavy munitions, sentient machines
heretically bound to human mounds."
"Yes, all of that. Perhaps more than we know."
"Into holy space!"
Miriam watch the sky panels that covered Tsion's ceiling, shedding
light that alternated between white and yellow in the manner of a
great, rippling golden sheet. A mist drifted up towards it from the
surface of the lake. "Audacity. It suits her."
Miriam chuckled. "Am I the only one not
surprised by her intrusion?" Eva was a tiny woman, slight and
sickly, garbed in purple scales, dark sashes, and the flirtatious
sneer of a devil. Bold impetuousness had always hung about her: she
the short-on-life girl who thought she could obtain immortality if
only she managed to slam the doors of Heaven with enough force.
Miriam's shoulders rose in a sigh. "I could have predicted it.
Every time I chased her away, she only returned more voracious,
better-armed, and more eager for conflict. Will she start a fight
this time, or will I be able to defuse her again? Regardless,
something must be done. Something different."
"The provincial council agrees. The Taranish
will be within range of the Mezeket
Cluster's accelerator cannons for another hour. They want you to use
Miriam's hands unfurled from one another, and she
looked down at her upturned fingernails. "The accelerator
cannons? Destroy the Taranish before
it even reaches the Vhallas System? Kill Eva and everyone with her?"
"The Taranish is
in clear violation of the Guinangap exile, armed and ready for
conflict. They've been antagonistic in the past. You yourself have
given them more than enough warnings." The gray-garbed man
gestured broadly, his voice gaining volume. It was, Miriam was sure,
only an echo of the strength of the language the provincial council
had argued with before sending him to her. "The Vhallas System
has no defense against them. The Taranish
could destroy everyone there before any
Confederation fleet can get to the system."
Keeping her expression stubbornly neutral, Miriam
dropped her hands to her sides and turned towards the gray man. "Eva
has never hurt anyone in the past. She has come very close. Very
close. But she has never hurt anyone."
"She has always been under threat in the past. If she escapes
range of the accelerator cannons, there will be no way to stop her.
Commodore, all of these things have been considered."
"I suppose they have." Miriam turned a sideways glare on
the waters, Tsion's sea of stars.
"The Mezeket Cluster's defenses are yours to control. We implore
you to use them."
Eva was a cruel woman, boisterous and mocking. It
could not be an accident that the Taranish
had passed through the Mezeket Cluster,
considering the thousands of wiser routes it could have taken to the
Vhallas System. Eva was calling out to Miriam. Daring her. The small,
loud woman, shouting for attention again. Miriam questioned the lake,
"Is she really, though?"
"Is she really what?"
"A moment, please."
"Commodore, the Taranish
is moving out of range. A moment may be
all we have."
"Then I will take it. Eva is doing this for a
reason. Let me think." Miriam curled her fingers around one
another, squeezing the joints until they ached. If Eva really just
wanted to launch an attack, to start a war, then she wouldn't have
passed the Mezeket Cluster. It was too much risk. And why the Vhallas
system? There was no military presence there. It was a cultural and
religious hub of the Confederacy, with only negligible industrial
impact. It was undefended because there was no reason for it to be
attacked. On the other hand, Eva was the daughter of the
ghost-Emperor. Destroying the Taranish
would start a war. There would be no way
around that. Eva had always boasted such in their confrontations.
Eva was like a child who had been told she was not allowed to be
somewhere. Now she was running into that place, calling out to let
everyone know she was misbehaving. But even that was too simple an
evaluation. Eva was a devil, clever and calculating. There was a
reason she wanted Miriam's attention. There was a reason she wanted
Miriam's intervention, far from Guinangap space. Miriam's. No one
Miriam blinked at the waters, inhaling deeply the
mist of the fountain, so that her chest swelled and her white face
turned a measure pink. "Dona Nobis Pacem."
The gray man's brow lowered, and he shook his head. "Commodore?"
"Grant us peace. Sir, I will not use the cannons
on the Taranish. I
will take my fleet to the Vhallas System and confront Eva directly."
"Commodore!" The man snapped a half step forward, hands
curling into fists. "She could kill everyone before you get
"Or she could hurt no one." Miriam looked
down on the man. "It's Eva. I'm sure she's going to do something
to force my hand. I have no delusions that she's just going to float
in space taking in the sights while she waits for me. However, I
cannot defuse this situation by detonating it early. She deserves the
chance to not start a war."
"She has done nothing to earn that! You don't know what she will
do. You're supposed to protect those people."
Miriam turned directly towards the man and crossed her arms. "I
am protecting the Confederation by preserving peace as long as I can.
Sometimes war is the coward's way. Sometimes peace is risky,
difficult, dangerous. I think Eva wants to talk. I'm willing to bet
on it. I will not be the one to start a war today, sir."
The man released a tattered sigh that was half a growl, but he
retreated a measure. He was the kind of soldier, the kind of man who
did not like the flavor of this kind of peace. But as Miriam watched,
the man swallowed it. "I will inform the provincial council of
She smirked and took a sideways step, and turned away from the water.
The broad, low concrete buildings of Tsion awaited her, and past
them, great domed structures where she could board a shuttle to the
waiting flagship of her fleet high above. "Sometimes peace is
just saying 'no' to conflict. Not that I expect Eva to make that easy
on me." Her feet fell hard as she walked, limbs barely
containing a simmering fury directed at Eva for daring to create this
scenario. "Not that I think I'll make it easy on myself."
She concentrated on keeping her hands open, though they wanted to
pull into fists. "But I will do what I am capable of. And
hopefully, Eva will reciprocate.”