A package arrived last week carrying copies of the new printing of Earth Abides, with its splendid “Introduction” by Kim Stanley Robinson. Even if you have a copy of EA, this very affordable printing is worth buying for Robinson’s Introduction to the novel. (Buy from the non-profit Bookshop.org and a percentage of the sales will go to support independent bookstores.)
I consider the cover of this printing one of the three best EA covers. (And there have been many covers)
The original cover, by H. Lawrence Hoffman, is a fine piece of art depicting a ruined city after the fall – a city which looks to be San Francisco.
But as wonderful as Hoffman’s cover is, images of ruined cities speak of loss. My other favorites, which include the one on this new printing’s cover, focus on the Hammer of Ish — a powerful symbol of rebuilding, and thus hope. One of them is the cover of this new printing, with the Hammer centered over what appears to be a view of Earth from above the clouds. That overview encourages readers to keep a Whole Earth in mind as they read the gripping, encouraging story set during a pandemic not unlike the one Stewart describes.
My third favorite is by Alan Ligda, a hero of Earth Abides.
When Random House decided to stop publishing the book, Ligda acquired the rights from Stewart. His edition is a beautiful work printed by Hermes Press, his family’s small fine quality press.
Ligda centered the Hammer of Ish on the cover, juxtaposed over an open book. The cover makes an important point: LIke the Hammer, books are tools — for such as Stewart, Ligda, and all writers and readers.
(Sadly, as heroes often do, Alan Ligda died young.)
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My order of the new Earth Abides was shipped on the publication date. October 13. On October 14th, by coincidence (or Jungian synchronicity?) I shared lunch and conversation about things Stewartian with Ed, George and Ted (Theodosia) Stewart’s grandson and the current keeper of the family rights. We hadn’t seen each other since his grandmother’s memorial service, about 30 years ago, so we spent some time catching up.Then we turned to matters of the GRS Legacy that he manages. No need to go into great detail, but thanks to his request for advice about book contracts and followup suggestions from my agent, Sally van Haitsma, it looks as if Ed and the Legacy are about to get an excellent agent. (The agent’s in Berkeley where most of Earth Abides takes place. He once managed a legendary bookstore, Cody’s. And he’s looking for clients.) The agent is also familiar with film options and contracts. Since there’s now interest in filming another of GRS’s other books should be a marriage made in heaven (as they say)..
All-in-all, the middle of October 2020 has been a milestone time for the Legacy of George R. Stewart, and Earth Abides.
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It’s been 6 decades since a kind, wise librarian walked into the stacks, pulled out a book, and said “Here. I think you’ll like this book.” The trail from there has been like that of Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow: winding, up and down and back and forth, often through the dense fogs of life. But the winding path has always been lit by the lessons George R. Stewart teaches in Earth Abides. Learning that Kim Stanley Robinson generously mentioned the GRS biography in his Introduction to the new printing of EA, brings this life arc almost full circle – from reading the book as a 12-year old to finding myself in the book. It is a pleasant summiting. Lunch with Ed while we chewed over things Stewartian were gifts of the summiting, after that decades-long wandering saunter.
Seeing Ish’s Hammer beautifully displayed on the book’s cover makes my spirit sing. During those many years, the Hammer of Ish has been an encouraging (if symbolic) companion. Like a lantern or a grail, it has been a life-gift. As has Earth Abides.
….By gifted artist, schoolmate of Lennon and McCartney, and playing an important role in the story of George R. Stewart and Earth Abides, Steve Williams (AKA The Pilgrim).
Want to buy a print of the painting? Here’s Steve’s website; contact information is near the bottom: