The 2017 Fiction Issue

The Story Behind the Cover of VICE Magazine's 11th Annual Fiction Issue

This year's cover pays homage to classic paperback fiction genres, from romance and sci-fi to horror and political thriller.

by Matt Schoen and Elizabeth Renstrom
Dec 5 2017, 2:45pm

This story appears in the online version of VICE magazine's 11th annual Fiction Issue. Click HERE to subscribe.

Matt Schoen, VICE’s executive design director, began working at the company when it was only a magazine a decade ago. For these past ten years, he has overseen the overall look and feel of VICE as it’s grown. He most recently design-directed the launch of VICE’s TV network, VICELAND—and is now focused on TV and film. (Though he will always love the magazine.)

Design director Matt Schoen's initial quick design sketches of our mock fiction covers

VICE: Tell us the story behind our cover.
Matt Schoen: Who doesn’t love iconic book-cover designs? We’ve repeatedly referenced the Fiction Issue I designed a while back that was a riff on the seminal—and mostly blank—J.D. Salinger book covers.

My editorial team and I are big fans of mass-market genre novels and their fast and cheap covers. Screw sophistication. We wanted to have fun in a variety of genres: horror, romance, sci-fi, and political thriller.

So we commissioned Corey Brickley to illustrate each genre. Kitron Neuschatz, the art director, and I designed each cover.

Liz Renstrom, our photo editor, had the brilliant idea to shoot the covers in an actual bookstore. Shout out to our local bookstore, Spoonbill & Sugartown, for letting us use its store and racks.

Corey Brickley's first draft for our fake horror genre cover paying tribute to Stephen King novels
Corey Brickley's first draft for our fake sci-fi genre cover, paying tribute to Philip K. Dick novels
Corey Brickley's first draft for our fake romance genre cover, paying tribute to Danielle Steele novels
Corey Brickley's first draft for our fake espionage genre cover, paying tribute to Tom Clancy novels

What was your inspiration for the genres?
We thought it would be more interesting to have our cover represented in a series of genres — inspired by Danielle Steele romances, Tom Clancy political thrillers, Stephen King horror stories, and Philip K. Dick–style sci-fi novels.

Where do you get your day-to-day inspiration?
From God. Just kidding. I think most inspiration comes when you notice things that cut past the bullshit and hit you emotionally. It’s less about looking for it and more being open to everything around you.

What projects are you working on now?
My talented team and I are creating titles and graphics for a number of TV shows and have just launched a studio for TV and film.

If you could design any non-mock book, what would it be?
The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump.

Final renditions of Corey Brickley's genre illustrations

Kitron Z. Neuschatz, the designer for our final horror and sci-fi covers, setting up our mock books for photo editor Elizabeth Renstrom to shoot at Spoonbill & Sugartown Booksellers in Williamsburg
Another outtake from behind the scenes of our Spoonbill & Sugartown Booksellers cover shoot