Most of this article can be found as an addendum in the Hilaritas Press book, Lion of Light: Robert Anton Wilson on Aleister Crowley.
When considering a cover for Lion of Light, I had the thought to begin the design with the help of Artificial Intelligence. I tried producing a graphic that reflected Crowley and a “lion of light.” I used six different AI graphic rendering programs, and was not too thrilled with the result. (Click on any of the thumbnails below to see the full images.)
I came to realize that with these programs, while “borrowing” from millions of graphics available for bots to peruse, a successful rendering was largely dependent on the human interface – with what vocabulary did the human use to create a spectacular result when prompting the bot? I saw that many of the renderings I liked used thick paragraphs of descriptors which the AI could consume, and that complexity and, dare I say, human ingenuity, produced the best results. I figured that maybe someone else might be better at communicating with an AI.
So I went to the RAW community online and offered a Call for Art. We received about 50 pieces of AI art from about a dozen people. Some of them were spectacular, turning Crowley into a Marvel superhero, or making Crowley into a kind of lion-human hybrid. I decided to make my favorites into sample book covers, each with a text design for the title and author’s name that reflected, graphically, some aspect of the AI’s rendering. While all of the submissions that I liked were lush with color and interesting details, one graphic we received just made me laugh. It was a graphic Chris Mazur found of a child-like black and white cartoon figure* that I was sure was just a joke on Chris’ part.
* We tried to track down the creator of the image, but without success. A woman who we think may have created it seems to have disappeared from the net in 2021!
I decided to lighten the mood here at Hilaritas Press, and I gave Chris’ drawing a goofy frame and text in an appropriate font, and included the design in a group of fifteen “finalists” that I presented to the four editors working on this publication, and also to the some 23 people who we call the RAW Trust Advisors (friends of Bob, and/or experts on RAW’s work). I made Chris’ design #15 in the list of fifteen, and I was sure it would provide a laugh.
Several of these designs I tweaked in various ways in Photoshop while making them into book covers. Early reviews from a couple editors favored Kevin Whitesides‘ submission, so I made four versions of that. I made two versions of one of my attempts at AI interaction. All of the images were tweaked a bit in Photoshop except for the entires from Niza Noxx (1 & 13) and Jimmy Templedweller (3 & 14). We also really liked another piece by Jimmy Templedweller of a young Crowley, but ended up putting it on the book’s back cover. In numbers 5, 6 and 10, I replaced the AI’s Crowley face with a Photoshopped version of Crowley’s face from an actual photo of Crowley.
When I started to get responses from the editors and advisors, I was a bit shocked to find that #15 got the second highest number of thumbs up! The reasoning was intriguing. Oz Fritz offered some compelling thoughts.
”After reviewing these cover ideas again, #15 remains, by far, my favorite. My second choice is #1 but would like to see the font straight on, not angled. #6 seems a good, more conservative option. The second two alternatives were chosen in consideration of marketing purposes.
“Apart from what I said regarding #15 before, its simplicity and lack of pretension, it seems like a great tabla rasa, free from bias and overt, superficial association with occult or New Age publications. Below the surface of this tabla rasa, symbolically, Horus = the Crowned and Conquering Child.”
Oz later reconsidered and wrote:
“After careful consideration, trying to look at the bigger picture beyond my personal preference, I’ve decided to withdraw my vote for #15. Though I do like the metaphor that this presents a book for “children” (like myself) to higher consciousness – newborn babes in Spirit , if you will – I think that likely that will get lost upon anyone new to Crowley as will the symbolism of the Crowned and Conquering Child. It may get seen as childish rather than child-like and turn some people off.”
Bobby Campbell (author of RAW Art and other great comic explorations) suggested we choose a more appropriate cover, but make a special limited run using #15 – a special collector’s edition. In the end, we went with the number one choice, and it is likely that making a special limited edition may not come together. I decided instead to give readers a little insight into the process by writing this addendum, and giving Chris’ design a little bit of the serious recognition I’m still not entirely sure it deserves. What do you think? Would it have been a good cover?
– Richard Rasa, Curious Publisher