Marie Brennan takes on “kickass” cover art over at SF Novelists: Competence is Hot.
What puzzles me is the fact that these urban fantasy covers are almost always on books written by female authors, for a largely female readership. Romance, which is comparable in terms of authorship and readership, doesn’t look like that; they do have a percentage of scantily-clad women, badly-posed on the covers, but they also have all the beefcake you could want and more. I understand the message of those covers: imagine you look like this, and a guy who looks like that wants you more than anything in the world. But the urban fantasy? Imagine yourself contorted in this uncomfortable position, holding a sword like you don’t know what to do with it. That isn’t a message that draws me in.
Bonus clickies: Jim C Hines (YA fantasy author with a wonderful sense of humor) poses like the women in his and other fantasy covers.
More Quotey Goodness:
My sense is that most of these covers are supposed to convey strong, sexy heroines, but these are not poses that suggest strength. You can’t fight from these stances. I could barely even walk.
It’s probably pretty clear since I’m sharing the link; I prefer my heroes competent and I, too, think that sexiness exudes from characters who know their strengths (whatever those happen to be) rather than from acting like a badass.
I guess it should be no surprise. One of the first books that changed my adult life was Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon. When I think “strong” I think Vivian even though she never received martial training or learned how to fight. She made mistakes, she showed moments of great vulnerability and weakness. And yet I think of her as a very strong character.
And come to think of it, that cover makes a pretty good argument for beauty from competence. Other than the strange way she’s holding the sword (even if she’s trying to give it away, I doubt anyone would grip it on the blade like that), and even though she’s entirely clothed, doesn’t she just exude “I know what I’m doing; I know who I am”?
That’s a different kind of hot than the one we’re sold all the time.