manifesta: (Mischief Managed)

Old news, but I thought that if I hadn't come across these until recently, then others might not have either.

N.K Jemisin on book covers and race. For context, the two covers of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms--the preliminary one that features a POC and the final version that does not--can be seen together here (scroll down).

"Because I’d seen that preliminary cover, I knew the publisher had been willing to put a brown woman on my book. My fears were allayed at that point — such that when my editor said she was removing the character for aesthetic reasons, I believed her. But given the pervasiveness of whitewashing in the industry, I do wonder what readers are going to think when they see my book, read that the character is brown, maybe see my author photo and realize I’m brown, and then see there’s no character on the front. Will that feed into the notion that PoC on book covers don’t sell? And I can’t help wondering what might’ve happened if they’d kept my protag on the cover, aesthetic considerations aside. Even if the publisher had been willing to run with it, would the buyers at the chain stores accept it? Would retailers take one look and shove it in the African American Interest section? Would SF reviewers pay any attention to it? Like I said, this is a pervasive thing."
Jemisin also posted a three-part series on writing characters of color: part 1, part 2, & part 3.

From part 2:
"Personally, I prefer Rowling’s method of dealing with it. She didn’t label the white characters white, or the black characters black, or the Asian characters Asian, etc. She drops broad hints about all of them, from culturally-distinct surnames like Patil and Chang and Granger, to culturally-associated styles and foods (braids, sari, Harry’s love of the quintessentially-British treacle tarts), to more subtle cues like Dean’s football preferences. But she does this equally for the white characters and the characters of color. No group is treated as “normal,” or by exclusion/emphasis “abnormal”."
manifesta: (Black Widow's Walk)

The Invasion of Inked Heroines in Paranormal Romance from B&N:
 

"Why are these covers featuring tattooed heroines so phenomenally popular that publishers are actually featuring tattooed women even though they’re not integral to the story within? Is it because female readers want to temporarily escape reality and live life vicariously through these edgy heroines and male readers want to enjoy their literary escapism by being these sexy protagonists’ love interests? And what’s so significant about the tattoos? Do they symbolize on some level a fusion of danger, unbridled sexuality and arcane mysticism?"
I think the reason goes back to how female characters are portrayed in paranormal romance (as well as modern urban fantasy). Tattoos are another short-cut that are supposed to give the illusion of strength. Although the social acceptance of tattoos has increased over the past few decades, and I'd argue their use in covers is a definite ploy to bridge the generational gap, tattoos are still considered taboo in white, middle to upper class culture. They represent a certain amount of "edginess," an attempt to portray the character as more fringe or "Other" than they really are.

I don't think their use (in cover art or characterization) are as negative as other elements that are frequently included in how women are portrayed in PR and UF, and I can even see how an increase of women with tattoos is empowering. But I do believe it's important to question why and how the use of tattoos represent danger, sexuality, and the paranormal, as well as who they impact. If a  female character's otherwise insignificant tattoo is being played up to draw attention to a cover, then to me that says the other traits of the female character and the story itself aren't nearly as important as this one little aspect that's being used, in the span of a glance, to summarize a woman.

Black Widow's Walk

55,075/ 90,000

manifesta: (Dangerous)
It seems Bloomsbury publishing has fucked up yet again. They have whitewashed another cover.

Some of the comments make me wince--that this is shocking because they're "colorblind," that people simply don't notice covers, etc.--but the overall response, now that one has been galvanized, seems to be outrage. Even Jezebel has picked up on it.

There've been calls to boycott Bloomsbury, but boycotting buying the books doesn't just harm the publisher, it harms people who likely do not have much or any voice in the cover design process: the author, the agent, etc. One commenter summed it up well:

"See... this isn't so much a problem with Bloomsbury as it is most of the publishing world. What happens is that a cover artist will often get a little piece of the book, maybe a particular scene, and be asked to draw from that. It's often the same thing with someone writing the blurb for the back cover... they're given so little of the full product to work with that they'll get glaring obvious details wrong. Certainly Bloomsbury should have done a better job of getting the information to the right people, but they are by no means the only company to have this sort of problem."
This kind of racism--yes, you heard me--is not limited to a single publisher. It's a flaw of the industry because the industry perpetuates this short-cut bullshit, and our society 1. doesn't realize it and 2. effectively condones it through passive or active silence. One blogger made the statement that bloggers don't typically review books before they're published, but the author hosted a major web-based viral contest plus other contests where she gave away ARCs. This isn't an instance of "oops, teehee!" but a failure of the publisher to ensure that their covers accurately reflect the race of the character(s) in the book(s) and a failure of the people who have had a chance to read the book to call them out on it. I don't say this to point fingers, but to illustrate how white privilege operates. When publishers don't take the extra time to confirm and/or blatantly disregard the fact that the character being portrayed is NOT White, that's privilege. Being able to take a short-cut and assume the character is White, that's privilege. When reviewers either don't notice or don't make the connection between the character's race and the cover's inaccurate representation of that character's race, that's privilege.*

The author's response to the controversy is pending.

ETA: Here it is. Hmm.

*Which isn't to say that I haven't done the very same thing.**
**Which isn't to say that my having done so makes it any more justifiable or better.  
manifesta: (Default)
Jacqueline Carey revealed her cover for Namaah's Curse! I'm not sure what to think about it...



I would hazard that this cover stems from the Ch'in, or the pseudo-Asian culture in Carey's new Kushiel trilogy. Much criticism has been leveled at her stereotypical portrayal of Asian cultures, and I wonder if this cover is just another extension of such ignorance.
manifesta: (Dangerous)
This is old news, but several months ago Annette Curtis Klause posted the new cover art for The Silver Kiss (released in July). You tell me: does it ring any bells?

New and Old versions, respectively:

 

The Silver Kiss is one of the original romantic vampire YA out there, written well before the sexy-vampire boom. Twilight's plot is highly reminiscent of it, something I hadn't realized before now (I've been blinded by my undying love for Blood & Chocolate--the book, not the movie). I will say that I'm not a huge fan of the original cover, but it's better than this black background-red object combo I keep seeing everywhere. (The last is technically purple but still counts.) And the tree branches? Cool at first, but now its old.

Does the abuse of Klause's works ever stop? First the decimation of Blood & Chocolate in movie form, and now this. Klause was writing paranormal YA when most current paranormal YA authors were still aspiring writers. I'm just waiting for the TwiHards to start crying that she ripped off Twilight. (If anyone sees evidence of this, please do send me the link.)

On the bright side, in the new edition there are two new short stories about Simon and Zoë.
manifesta: (Default)
1) Nathan Bransford is hosting is Third-Sort-of-Annual Stupendously Ultimate First Paragraph Challenge!

Go, submit your first paragraphs. Particularly if yours is fantasy, because mine is feeling a little lonely up there.

2) Amanda Downum has unveiled her new cover for The Bone Palace.

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