• Sci-Fi
  • Fantasy
  • Non-Fiction
  • Library
  • Links
  • Art
  • About S&FF
  • Contact


Science & Fantasy Fiction Story Inspiration


judges selections sample

Judges Comments

Overall we were pleased with the quality of the submissions. There are many wonderful images and the final decision was difficult.

We had already added our favorites to the Finalist's Gallery and started out by reviewing all of the images and narrowing the field to about 20 images.

From there, we found 5 images that all four judges favored. We judged each image on story, how well it worked for a cover, and the technical expertise of each image. It came down to a very difficult decision as all the judges agreed that any of these images would have inspired an interesting story and made a great cover.

Once we got down to the top two images, we had a long back-and-forth discussion to decide on the first place winner.  (Visit our Finalists Gallery to see each piece of art mentioned below.)

We finally decided on 156A-apocalypse-book as the winner. It has a interesting composition, nice lighting, considerable detail, and we all decided we wanted to know more about what was going on in the story. The detail of the red umbrella really made the image work.

102A-spell-of-flight is a fantastic image with an original story idea - a strong contender as a finalist. We like the composition and lighting. The detail on the hand, fairy and candle are wonderful.

The other three images in contention were: 001-beach, 131A-spaceport, and 117A-finished. We wanted to provide a few comments on these and a few other favorites:

001-beach. The colors are fantastic. Though a looser style than some of the other images, the technique is wonderful. It's a strong image and we want to know what's going on - what's happened or about to happen. We all felt it's stronger because since we don't see the main character's face, there's a sense of mystery about it. One weakness is that it's a horizontal image - not the ideal shape for a book cover. However, we felt it could be effectively cropped.

131A-spaceport.  Beautiful image with a wonderful sense of scale. While we liked many details and the technical expertise, the story elements weren't as strong as the other contenders. We liked the symbol and painting on the ship that seemed reminiscent of a WWII bomber image. A weakness in this image was the horizontal composition. While it could be cropped for a book cover, we'd end up cutting off the two characters on the left. Had the main character looking toward us been brighter, she might have drawn us in more.

117A-finished. This artist had submitted several nice images. We liked this one because of the colors and emotion in the image. The style seemed to work well with the passion of the image. Ultimately, we eliminated it because it didn't inspire a story as strongly science fiction or fantasy as the other finalists.

Other Favorites, in numerical order:

009-diwata. This image is beautifully rendered with incredible detail. It's very graphic and would make a fine-looking book cover, but ultimately, didn't inspire a story as much as other entries.

035A-basement-slumber-party. We were intrigued by the fantastical story possibilities of this image, but it needs stronger lines or colors to emphasize the central characters and too draw your eye around the image.

050A-huntsman. The huntsman is skillfully rendered with incredible detail. While there is a background, it didn't inspire a story as much as some of the others.

051A-socks. While an older fellow putting on purple socks, may inspire an interesting story, it's not as strong in science fiction or fantasy as we might like. Still, the loose style and muted colors create an emotional impact.

064A-lion-dragon-mandala. This image is well rendered with a nice composition (thought not particularly good for a book cover). It's got good energy and colors.

065A-rhino.  Definitely inspiring a story, this made us want to know what brought these two characters to this precipice. It's nicely rendered with a contrast of a warm sky and cool colors on the rhino. The woman's outfit is interesting, as is the earring and war paint on the rhino.

068A-selkie-twins. Nice colors and expression on both the baby and selkie make this a successful image. We would have liked to see more detail or story elements in the background.

097A-the-lizards-fault.  A nice graphic image. While we liked the composition, the colors are all over the place. Using more related colors might have helped bring the elements together a bit more. It may also have been more intriguing to have the foreground in more shadow with highlights to show the woman in the front.

098A-alien-8. Very graphic and original. It seems to inspire a story about media and how things aren't as they appear with the Cheshire cat grinning alien on the screen with darker shapes in the background. Very well done.

106A-black. Powerful energy and striking colors rendered in a unique style. The horses are particularly well done.

132A-red-mining. Beautifully drawn image, though a little too dark to really see the details. This looks like a SF story about planetary exploration travel. The composition, however, doesn't lend itself well to a cover.

136A-siberian-knight. This is a bit more than a character sketch, but not as detailed as some of the other entries. There's obviously a battle, not quite enough to tell us a story. This has great energy with the swirling snow and angled composition.

138A-oceans. Beautifully inked and painted image. It's dynamic and does inspire a story. The drawbacks were that it is too horizontal for a book cover and it's not obviously science fiction of fantasy.

149A-magic pen. This image has a clean, graphic style and simplicity that is appealing. The waves in the shadow and the ink running from the shadow bring a bit of interest as well. This would make a nice book cover.

150A-dragon-house.  An interesting style, a good use of colors and the overall energy of this made it a favorite.

161A-broken-pack. We see this as a nice cover for a graphic novel, with some interesting story elements. The colors are good too.

169A-angels blood. This is a strong, detailed, graphic image. We liked the unique angle of the battle, but ultimately, too much is going on. Perhaps stronger lines and shapes for the central character or some color could have helped draw you in more.

We had many wonderful submissions that showed interesting "character sketches." Some are actually sketches and some are beautifully rendered. Generally, these were eliminated because, though they suggested wonderful characters, they didn't have strong story elements like of some of the finalists.

Some our favorite characters of note are:

  • 008A-day-dreaming-girl
  • 0025A-Medieval princes (beautifully painted!)
  • 027A-Dreamworld
  • 087a-fire-and-ice
  • 114-oops-I-forgot
  • 137A-water
  • 158A-artificialafrikan
  • 155A-drunken-driver
  • 162A-slecna
  • 177A-I-see

Meet our Judges

Cheryl Ceol

Cheryl CeolCheryl is a native Pennsylvanian artist who passionately loves to express nature through art. An Art Institute of Pittsburgh graduate, Cheryl acquired experience in the printing and sign industry, with freelance work in portraiture, graphic design, and illustration.

We requested Cheryl as a judge because of her artistic philosophy and eye for story in art.  As Cheryl says:

"I want the casual viewer to get a sense of emotion from my work, even if only for a moment. The avid viewer can stay a while, let the images and colors sink in to transport and transform them. When they close their eyes and reopen to gaze at the art, I want a reaction. It can be instant fuel to spark their imaginations."

You can learn more about Cheryl and view her online galleries at www.ceolcreations.com

Felicia Richards and Lois Yeager

Lois Yeager and Felicia RichardsFelicia and Lois are co-owners of Creative Beyond Control photography and possess exceptional awareness of light, color, and composition.

Creative Beyond Control Photography began with the chance meeting of two photography enthusiasts.   Both Lois Yeager and Felicia Richards had photographic accomplishments of their own prior to discovering their mutual interest.   

The decision five years ago to start a business was an easy one as these two friends were enjoying many photo shoots “just for fun.”   Lois and Felicia take photos for various websites. Most recently they were hired to photograph food for a local restaurant’s site.  Other photo shoots projects range from machine parts and specialty pumps to time spent on the manufacturing floor for large equipment and residential new construction.  

Customers comment both Lois and Felicia capture nature as well as architecture in a unique perspective to let you see the beauty, interesting patterns, textures and angles of everyday sites through their style of photography.    They, along with fellow judge Jane Noel. are on a 365 Photo Journey this year, taking a Photo of the Day, each and every day for the entire year.  They are posting their photos so you can follow as they go along. 

Click here to see: http://sjnoel.smugmug.com/  

You can reach Lois and Felicia at: photos@creativebeyondcontrol.com

Jane Noel

Jane NoelJane is the co-owner of CME Websites {Code Media Essentials} and has either designed or contributed design advice and direction to every one of the hundreds of websites produced by CME. Her skills include graphic and interface design, logo design, and a deep understanding of how average users interact with websites.

Jane honed her skills with graphic design as an employee of Paragon Software and later as an Art Director and Project Manager for DreamForge Intertainment.

Jane has credits on twenty different computer game titles. During her 10 years at DreamForge, she gained a wide variety of technical, training, and communication skills while working to grow the company and to develop entertainment software in cooperation with such well-known publishing houses as Disney Interactive.

In addition to web development, Jane has taught computer related courses at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and at the Community College of Allegheny County for the Lifelong Learning, Professional Development, and Workforce Training Departments.

Fun Facts: Jane was Project Manager on the first 101 Dalmatians computer game for Disney Interactive. Author David Craddock interviewed Jane in 2014 for a book he is writing about early computer game development.


Judging Criteria


The primary goal of the contest is to celebrate amateur art that can inspire a story of science or fantasy fiction.  Each submitted art piece will be judged according to the following criteria, in priority order:

  • Ability to inspire a story of Science Fiction or Fantasy Fiction.
  • Creativity in delivering a unique or idiosyncratic vision.
  • An image composed in a way that lends itself for use as the cover of an e-book.
  • Demonstrated artistic and technical skills.
  • Ability to meet the technical requirements of submission.

Return to: