My thanks to everyone who’s been contributing to the fantasy cover discussion, both here and elsewhere.
One of the things that came up in comment discussion was that in addition to talking about covers which are problematic, it’s just as important if not more so to look at covers that work. Many of the following links and images come out of yesterday’s comments. Thanks again to everyone who suggested them.
ETA: The fact that I picked these covers does not mean they’re Good And Right, or that everyone must approve. My taste is my own, and I have blind spots like anyone else, so please feel free to disagree.
oldcharliebrown pointed to a gallery of old Realms covers. While a lot of the old covers are frankly painful, there are some good ones as well. I really like the first cover below, though it doesn’t necessarily feel like fantasy. But I think it’s a great image on many levels, and very evocative. As for the second, well, you can’t go wrong with Xena, right? Realms has always had a bit of a media focus, but given some of the more feminist stories within the magazine, I think Xena was a very good choice.
Another commenter brought up Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword & Sorceress books, which have done a great job of … well, actually clothing our heroines for more than 25 years. To me, a lot of these covers portray women who are strong and beautiful without the need for the helpless half-naked damsel trope.
The Chicks in Chainmail series from Esther Friesner is an interesting one. Instead of trying to avoid the bikini warrior women, these books take the whole concept and completely invert the power and dynamics. Of the five books in the series, these two are my favorite covers.
dirigibletrance pointed to this cover from Psychology Today, which earned a number of “I’d buy that magazine!” comments.
I debated posting one of my own covers, then decided the heck with it. Personally, I really like the way Scott Fischer captured the characters. I could have done without Talia’s cleavage, but overall, I like the aura of competence and confidence he put into this.
I liked the cover of Jade Dragon, by Jenn Reese. No clothes at all, but it doesn’t feel exploitative to me. It’s not that nudity per se is necessarily bad or sexist or anything like that. This feels appropriate for the book (fantasy/romance), and I thought it was a good cover.
As a reader, which of these would make you pick up the magazine/book? What works, what would you like to see more of, and what other examples are out there that I’ve missed? (This was only a sampling. I know there are a lot of other good covers.)