Here’s my final cover art for the 60th anniversary edition of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Earlier this year, Simon & Schuster / Touchstone’s senior art director Cherlynne Li approached me to cover-illustrate this classic Jack Finney novel, originally titled The Body Snatchers. First serialized in Collier’s Magazine in 1954, the book was collected by Dell into a single volume in 1955. Since then, it’s been re-packaged countless times. Hollywood has morphed it into four major screen adaptations, where the title was changed to Invasion of the Body Snatchers (which apparently caused publishers to retitle the book itself).
When I began brainstorming cover art concepts, I realized that even though I had never read the original novel or seen one of the films, I felt like I ‘knew’ the story. Sleepy American town is creepily assimilated by alien beings who take over people’s minds, one by one. The narrative is virtually an archetype at this point, but of course, it wasn’t enough to ‘feel’ like I knew the story. I read Finney’s text in its entirety and realized another thing. While very much a story of the 1950’s, Finney never intended the narrative to be a metaphor for the American paranoia toward Communism. I suppose that hysteria was what the early film adaptations played upon, but reportedly, that wasn’t Finney’s original intent.
Instead, the story seemed to be about a different kind of fear — the fear of loss and change — of losing the one you love the most, of losing your identity, and even completely losing yourself in a changing world. These aren’t just 1950’s themes. These are themes that resonate thunderously right now.
That was the eureka moment that inspired my cover art.
We live in a time of sweeping and sometimes terrifying change. Many of us are fighting against centuries of aggressive assimilation. We all seem to willingly allow ourselves to be assimilated daily by technologies of our making, and yet we’re all trying to hold on — to our loved ones, to our values, and to ourselves — to be something meaningful before our precious time is snatched away.
If there’s a reason to read a familiar story, it’s to be reminded how to summon the will to overcome our own challenges. It’s no wonder this book is still resonant as ever after sixty years.
For more on the book vs. film connections, check out Sandy Ferber’s review via FantasyLiterature.com.