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July 15, 2003

Strippers With Swords

All right, I'm officially a science fiction writer (I've got the SFWA membership to prove it) so let me just say this: Please God, never let me have a book cover whose images would be equally at home airbrushed onto a van. This fervent prayer came to me while I was looking at this, a cover for the Science Fiction Book Club catalogue I got in the mail (not the regular catalogue but the one they send to get you to join).

In it, as you can see, strippers from the Kitty Kat bar unsheathe their weapons and do battle with orcs. We know these women are brilliant fighters because while the orcs are all compactly and heavily armored, our gals feel confident wearing flowing, flimsy robes which conveniently ventilate in the ass and breast regions. They are so good, in fact, that they don't even bother looking at the enemy which they are slaughtering in its vile dozens; instead, their gaze is affixed upon you, as if to say, yes, it's vitally important that we skewer these vile creatures in order to acquire the Orb of Thangulzon, thereby allowing the anointed King of The Many Globes to return to Gingdor Castle and once again rule all breeds justly and fairly. But what we really want to do is service each other while you watch and then jump your scrawny, pale 14-year-old bones. After all, that is the dream of all strippers-turned-fantasy heroines. They're just pneumatic with desire.

This is not be read as a slam on Luis Royo, the artist who provided this bit of nonsense to the SFBC. Royo is a fine artist, if you go for this sort of thing; in the genre of "improbably clad people with weaponry," he's on the tier just below Boris Vallejo. The fact SFBC, in its infinite wisdom, determined that this graphic would be just the thing to suck in new members indicates that someone somewhere thinks this sort of thing is popular, which means that it probably is. I know enough to know that when I was 14, I would have sensed this picture's ridiculousness, yet at the same time I'd still want to have sex with the brunette one, so there you have it.

Be that as it may, I wouldn't want this, or something thematically like it to grace the cover of one of my books. Neither I nor writers other than the most very successful have control of these sorts of things. We can make suggestions but the publishers sign off on the artwork, and you have to trust them, because it's their job to know how to sell these books. But in my dream world, my cover artwork is clean, visually arresting, contextually appropriate, and devoid of random boobies and ass shots. SF/Fantasy is full of fanservice shots; let the geeks go elsewhere for that. Give me something I'm not going to be embarrassed to show to my mother-in-law.

That still leaves a lot of latitude -- my mother-in-law is not a prude or anything. But it does leave out strippers with swords. I'm good with that.

Posted by john at July 15, 2003 07:54 AM

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Jim Valvis | July 15, 2003 08:26 AM

I have yet to meet an author yet who liked his cover art, but it's the blurbs where things get really comical. Know a writer whose publisher used a quote from a review that said: He's decidedly not the Raymond Chandler of Seattle. Blurb said: He's... the Raymond Chandler of Seattle.

Also, it seems if you're a writer in the Pacific Northwest, you just have to accept the fact that at least one (if not all) of your covers will feature a big smelly salmon. I think it might even be a Washington State law.

Tripp | July 15, 2003 10:42 AM

Reminds me of when I used to buy a lot of SF. My wife commented that "All SF books had pictures of babes on the cover" and I replied "Not all. Just the ones I buy!"

Still, the "Strippers with Swords" thing is a little over the top, even for me. It goes beyond the 'Slaves of Gor' series my dad used to buy, and wanders into 'truck mudflap' territory.

Alina | July 15, 2003 10:51 AM

Ooh, ooh, writers and their covers, one of my favorite topics.... My third romance novel, "Annie's Wild Ride" was about two Air Force officers. So, naturally, on the cover was... a hot, pink duckie. My fourth romance looked like soft-core porn and prompted one reader to write, "Why does the hero have more eye-liner on than the heroine?" And, for my upcoming first mystery novel, "Murder on Ice," the cover features a skater with... no head. "Does someone get beheaded in your book?" I have been asked several times. "Uhm... no." "Then why does she have no head?" "Uhm... I dunno." Good luck, John!

Naomi | July 15, 2003 11:35 AM

Well, I love my cover art, and my friend Lyda loves her cover art. I think cover art, on the whole, has gotten a lot better in the last 10 years or so. On the other hand, I've also been published in issues of Realms of Fantasy with covers so racy I was embarrassed to show them to my grandmother. RoF does full-cover illustrations for each and every story, too, and my first illustration amused the hell out of me. Thank goodness my book covers have been both well-executed and genuinely appropriate. Here's hoping you get lucky, too...

Dane | July 15, 2003 10:42 PM

When I read the title to this Whatever- I assumed it was a title idea for your next book. When can I expect it?

Dave | July 15, 2003 11:31 PM

Reminds me of one of the Greatest Magazines of all Time - Heavy Metal, which always seemed to have a woman in some ort of war bikini on the cover.

Roger | July 16, 2003 10:50 AM

Still, at various times and in various cultures,
warriors went into battle mostly or completely
naked. Most of them probably didn't look like
Hooters waitresses, but certainly not everyone
was strapped into lorica hamata, either.

Steve Teeter | July 16, 2003 04:16 PM

Oh, there can be covers worse than this. There was a rather bad political thriller I read some years ago. Our Hero, a CIA agent or something, is globetrotting and investigating a series of thefts from military stockpiles. He figures out that someone's stealing the parts to put together an ICBM. But what are they going to do with it? the reader wonders. Where will they strike?

Or thats what you *would* have been wondering, what the author wanted you to be wondering, if the cover art hadn't shown a missile streaking towards the US Capitol during a Presidential inauguration ceremony.

I hope the jury looked at that paperback cover, and agreed to the defense's argument of extenuating circumstances.

Tripp | July 17, 2003 02:36 PM

Geez, that is awful. I suppose they needed something to grab the buyer's attention, but to give away the ending (or at least part of it) is bad.