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Covers Gone Crazy

So apparently this is the week for cover art kerfuffles.  We start with my own publisher DAW, who put out the anthology The Dragon and the Stars.  This is an anthology of “18 original stories melding the rich cultural heritage of China with the imaginative realms of science fiction and fantasy.”

In DAW’s defense, I believe the budget for their monthly anthologies is significantly smaller than for original novels, which I suspect is why they tend to go with stock art for the former.  And artistically, I like the look of this one.  I just wish they’d gone with stock art that showed a Chinese dragon instead of a western one.

Cover number two comes from Bloomsbury, who you might remember as the publisher that whitewashed the cover for Justine Larbalestier’s book Liar.  After much outcry from author and fans, Larbalestier’s cover was changed.  Now Bloomsbury brings us Magic Under Glass.  To quote the Book Smugglers review:

“Nimira is supposed to be dark-skinned! The book trailer captures that and is true to the book (check it out here) but the girl in the US covers is definitely white.”

It’s deja vu all over again.

Last but most certainly not least, oldcharliebrown points out the Baen covers from the Flandry books by Poul Anderson.  Young Flandry came out last month.  The cover for the forthcoming Captain Flandry is similar, aiming for that same demographic of young boys who for whatever reason can’t get real porn online.

I know many publishers have multiple imprints, but when did Baen launch their “Orgies in Space” line?  I’m all for not judging a book by its cover, but even as a teenaged boy I don’t think I could have brought this one into the house.  As a grownup wanting to introduce my daughter to SF/F, I’m embarrassed for my genre.

Click on any of the thumbnails for larger versions.

Please keep in mind that authors have little to no control over their cover art.  Larbalestier was able to push for new artwork for her book, but she’s a fairly high-clout author and was able to rally reader/fan support.  Generally, the author has little input into the cover.

So, what do you think?

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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( 96 comments — Leave a comment )
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asakiyume
Jan. 20th, 2010 02:37 pm (UTC)
Chinese dragons are so beautiful, and so **different** from Western dragons, and there's plenty of stock art available, so yes, that's a sad miss.

The Magic Under Glass cover is infuriating, especially in the light of their already having had one mess-up with Liar Liar and apparently not having learned.

Since authors don't have much, if any, control over the covers, I think it's up to the reading public to complain. I'm all for doing what shweta_narayan has done and writing letters. Most people don't remark on covers; publishers certainly don't want to alienate the five or six people left in the world still buying books; I think /hope they'll learn.

The Young Flandry cover is just ridiculous.
jimhines
Jan. 20th, 2010 02:44 pm (UTC)
I suspect readers contacting the publishers is probably the way to go.

I don't get how Bloomsbury could repeat the exact same thing after the mess they got from Liar, Liar. (Unless that outcry actually gave the book a publicity boost ... or is that too cynical of me?)

I really wonder what folks were thinking on the Flandry covers.
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janni
Jan. 20th, 2010 02:49 pm (UTC)
Actually, as I recall Justine Larbalestier did not get her publisher to changer her cover -- she protested, and was overruled, and only after the kerfuffle online did the publisher change the cover. The notion that it was changed because she had clout is all over the place online, but that's not how I recall it happening.

If she was the one who'd pressured her publisher into changing the cover, the whitewashed version never would have made it as far as it did -- that was the version in the catalog, in the teasers in her book before that, and so on.
jimhines
Jan. 20th, 2010 02:51 pm (UTC)
I'd still describe that as a kind of clout, but I see what you mean. Perhaps better to say that Larbalestier has the kind of online following that put her in a position to encourage the reader/fan response?
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suricattus
Jan. 20th, 2010 02:52 pm (UTC)
once again, I am thankful for my covers, even when they're inaccurate...
I've already done my rant on the Flandry cover, which mainly consisted of me spluttering wildly, and then deciding I'd rather not have it on my shelves than buy it with that (vote with your $$!).

DAW screwed up. I love them, but they screwed up. So damn easy to find stock art of Asian dragons, equally glorious and recognizable.

Bloomsbury... clearly, they have an Agenda. Or a terminal case of the Stupids.
jimhines
Jan. 20th, 2010 02:53 pm (UTC)
Re: once again, I am thankful for my covers, even when they're inaccurate...
"once again, I am thankful for my covers, even when they're inaccurate"

Seconded!

I missed your Flandry rant. Was that on your LJ or elsewhere?
snapes_angel
Jan. 20th, 2010 02:54 pm (UTC)
What, DAW dragon their tales about getting appropriate stock images? Well, at least you have the good, to go along with the bad, ugly, and indifferent ones.
(Deleted comment)
jimhines
Jan. 20th, 2010 03:12 pm (UTC)
I would like nothing better than to tell you the Flandry covers (note that there are two of them so far -- I only had the heart to post a thumbnail of the first) are a joke. And I absolutely love your note for inside the book!

Re: DAW, they're my publisher and I love them, so I'm not objective. They do a short fiction anthology every month, more than any other publisher out there. These get smaller budgets, and I wonder if they sometimes get pushed out with less attentive care. Not excusing it, but I appreciate their efforts to support short fiction, and I can understand how this sort of thing would slip past.

Bloomsbury? Yeah. Not cool.
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(no subject) - dulcinbradbury - Jan. 20th, 2010 03:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
mtlawson
Jan. 20th, 2010 03:10 pm (UTC)
Without going into the content of the cover art, at east the quality of the Baen cover is decent. I usually cringe at the bad art quality on Baen covers, but this isn't so bad.

But the content.... Skip the teenagers, looks like they're shooting for the mid-life crisis crowd.
arielstarshadow
Jan. 20th, 2010 03:19 pm (UTC)
#1 - Chinese dragon would have been better, but it's still pretty artwork.

#2 - as I said yesterday... OMGWTF is this, I don't even

#3 - you know, I suspect that there will ALWAYS be those kinds of covers in SF/F. They've been around forever.
mtlawson
Jan. 20th, 2010 03:29 pm (UTC)
About #3, I have to admit that there is a similar amount of kitsch in John Zakour's Zachary Nixon Johnson books, but those covers are completely pulp inspired and look pretty cool.

This cover is a bit different, like Bond does R/NC-17.
sixteenbynine
Jan. 20th, 2010 03:22 pm (UTC)
I still don't think any of them are remotely as appalling of the book-club edition of PKD's "Electric Sheep":

http://www.genjipress.com/2010/01/cringeworthy-dept.html

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dulcinbradbury
Jan. 20th, 2010 03:29 pm (UTC)
1. Is just sadly disappointing. It's a failure on the part of the publishers in a number of ways. I might or might not pick up that book based on that cover -- it's pretty but nothing strikes me. I'd have assumed European dragon fantasy for the most part. But... if it had been clearly Chinese dragons? Well that would be DIFFERENT and interesting enough to take a second look.

2. That one is too NICE to have not been more deliberate than the others, which takes it beyond disappointing and into insulting.

3. ... I never thought I'd be looking to James Bond as a step UP in appropriate images.
jimhines
Jan. 20th, 2010 04:12 pm (UTC)
"I never thought I'd be looking to James Bond as a step UP in appropriate images."

If nothing else, this cover has led to all sorts of entertaining snark :-)
tithenai
Jan. 20th, 2010 03:33 pm (UTC)
Psst -- Larbalestier's book is called Liar, not Liar, Liar. :) The latter is a film featuring Jim Carrey.
asakiyume
Jan. 20th, 2010 03:36 pm (UTC)
Oops---I made that mistake too! Sorry!
(no subject) - jimhines - Jan. 20th, 2010 03:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
shanrina
Jan. 20th, 2010 03:42 pm (UTC)
I definitely don't think "China" when I see the first one, although I do think that it's pretty. There are about a million reasons why I wouldn't buy the anthology (don't like shorts much, really sick of dragons, etc.) but I know I would at least have taken a look at the back of the book if I'd seen a Chinese dragon instead of a Western dragon. I seem to be in the minority when it comes to dragon fatigue, though, because they keep selling. And yeah, it sounds like not all the stories are dragon stories, but by this point it's pretty much an involuntary reaction. "What? Dragons? Run away, run away!"

I read the summary of the second one and it actually sounds like a lot of fun. So now I'm torn on whether to buy it (I still have a gift card left over from a Holiday Present--yay!) or to wait and see if they change the cover. I don't want to punish the author, especially because according to Amazon this is her first book (and I do know that authors, especially first-time authors, have very little control over their cover art), but...argh.

I think the Anderson covers would bother me more if scantily-clad women weren't already so common on sff covers. The Young Flandry one is a little more extreme than most of them, but at this point it feels like all I can do is try to think of stories that would require men in whatever the fantasy equivalent of a Speedo is on the cover.
barbarienne
Jan. 20th, 2010 05:13 pm (UTC)
If you want to do right by the author, buy the book, and then send a letter to the publisher on the theme of, "I was disappointed to find that this fantastic story about a brown-skinned girl was packaged in a whitewashed cover. Please have more respect for your reading audience in future."
zornhau
Jan. 20th, 2010 03:49 pm (UTC)
Baen's "Orgies in Space" line...
Sounds great. Where do I find the writers guidelines...

Seriously, though, it always used to bug me when books did NOT live up to their covers: all those Frazetta Flesh and Thew Fests wrapped around drab little tales of angsty ploughboys.
jimhines
Jan. 20th, 2010 07:27 pm (UTC)
Re: Baen's "Orgies in Space" line...
A number of SF/F writers have supplemented their fiction income by writing porn. (Actually, I know at least a handful who continue to do so.) Baen is just going interstitial, blurring the boundaries and all that good stuff.
Re: Baen's "Orgies in Space" line... - jonquil - Jan. 20th, 2010 08:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Baen's "Orgies in Space" line... - (Anonymous) - Jan. 20th, 2010 09:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Baen's "Orgies in Space" line... - jonquil - Jan. 20th, 2010 09:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
redfishie
Jan. 20th, 2010 04:02 pm (UTC)
huh...with the second one (Magic Under Glass)..I might be willing to believe the character on the cover was initially a bit darker and lightened up due to color balance on the cover. This would be a poor choice, but i could see it happening.

I could also see that it was a poor attempt at a rather lighter skinned dark skinned person rather than a Caucasian (wow did that not parse well). Still it did not come out as the author envisioned.
corinneduyvis
Jan. 20th, 2010 04:07 pm (UTC)
When I first glanced at this entry, I thought the last one was a joke cover.

I just... *boggle*
jimhines
Jan. 20th, 2010 04:10 pm (UTC)
Same here. After I saw it, I went to Amazon to confirm, thinking this couldn't possibly be a real cover...
(no subject) - b_writes - Jan. 24th, 2010 03:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
ethereal_lad
Jan. 20th, 2010 04:30 pm (UTC)
What's the problem with the MAGIC UNDER GLASS cover? Everyone knows that black people don't read at all, let alone fantasy.
(That was sarcasm).
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