Codex Born Cover Reveal and Thoughts
CODEX BORN has a cover! This is 99% final, but I’ve been given permission to share. Click on the pic for a larger view, if you like.
There are many things I like about this image. I’m happy that the artist, Gene Mollica, found an Indian model for Lena Greenwood. I love seeing her teamed up with Smudge.[1. Cover Trivia: Smudge has now appeared on more of my U.S. book covers than any other character.] And I think this fits well with the look of the first book.
I’m particularly pleased that when I tried Lena’s pose, I was able to do it without pain. I love the expression on her face, and the fact that she’s actually got some muscle on her. And while the outfit she’s wearing is rather revealing, it’s also completely in character. Lena might be dressed sexy, but she’s not posing as a sexual object. There’s no unnecessary thrusting of hips or chest. She’s dressed the way she likes, and she’s stepping out of her oak to kick someone’s ass.
Now, those of you who’ve read Libriomancer [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] have probably noticed where this version of Lena doesn’t match the text. When we first meet Lena in chapter one, she’s described thusly:
Lena Greenwood was the least imposing heroine you’d ever see. She was several inches shorter than me, heavyset but graceful as a dancer. I didn’t know her actual age, but she appeared to be in her early twenties, and was about as intimidating as a stuffed bear. A damned sexy bear, but not someone you’d expect to go toe-to-toe with your average monster.
Which raises the question: Why has Lena been “thinwashed,” for lack of a better word?
When my editor was talking to the artist, she asked me to provide description for Lena, which I did. Like I said, Gene Mollica does photo shoots with a model in his studio, then manipulates the best pictures into the cover art. He looked for models who matched my description of Lena.
This was the largest Indian model he could find.[2. While I’m certain there are larger models out there, I’m not sure what other constraints Gene was working with in terms of location, budget, and time. I do know there was a rush to get this cover done for the catalog.]
I have the portfolio shots of the rest, and this truly was the best option for Lena.
This is just one piece of the problem. If we had found a heavier model, I wonder if marketing would have nixed it because they didn’t think people would buy a book with a fat woman on the cover. It’s a moot point, since Gene couldn’t even find a fat model … is that because the modelling profession in particular is hostile to anyone larger than a size six? Or is it because we’ve mocked and shamed people for being fat until they wouldn’t even consider trying to model as a career?
What it comes down to is that our disdain and disgust for anyone overweight, particularly women, permeates our whole culture, and it pisses me off. You don’t want to know how young my daughter was the first time she came to us worrying about her weight. I do think we’re finally starting to figure out that maybe it’s not okay to mock people for their race or gender or sexual orientation, but fat people are still fair game, both in real life and on every movie and sitcom you see.
WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH US???
The Lena Greenwood on the CODEX BORN cover is a sexy, attractive woman. [3. As much or more because of her confidence and humor and strength than because of her body or the amount of skin she’s showing.] But you know what? The Lena Greenwood in my book is damned sexy and attractive too. And while I’m happy with this cover, and I think Gene did a nice job, I’m also disappointed that we don’t get to see that Lena Greenwood.
Because she’s awesome.
September 28, 2012 @ 10:01 am
In fairness, she *is* heavier than most heroines on the covers of fantasy novels.</cold comfort>
Jim C. Hines
September 28, 2012 @ 10:02 am
That’s true. And also a little disturbing.
September 28, 2012 @ 10:10 am
As a somewhat overweight woman, I thank you for fighting for us. Based on the cover image, I’d guess the girl is a size 8; I say that because I’m a 10 (which, let’s face it, is ridiculous to consider overweight, but medically speaking, I’m a good 25 pounds over the healthy weight for someone my age, gender, and height) and I look to be similarly sized except in my bust/waist measurements (bigger boobs and a pot belly)
I also want to share that it was not until I started gaining weight in my 20s that I started feeling comfortable with my body. There’s a lot of skinny-shaming in the world too, and I was a target of it from 8th grade through high school. It’s not okay to shame anyone based on their weight, whether they look too fat or too thin to you. Once my metabolism slowed down, I felt more comfortable with myself but my parents felt less comfortable (and they were right to be concerned, because it was not *healthy* weight gain.) Since then I’ve maintained myself at “overweight” but a lot more of it is muscle than fat, and my doctor is happy with where I am. So am I. That’s what’s important, and that’s what we need to teach our kids.
Jim C. Hines
September 28, 2012 @ 10:38 am
I believe Gene said she was a size six.
And yeah … according to the BMI, I’m overweight too, which I just find ridiculous.
I wish we could worry more about being healthy and comfortable and less about being *skinny*.
September 28, 2012 @ 10:54 am
“There’s a lot of skinny-shaming in the world too..”
Very true. As a woman who has always been a large gal, (even back as a teenager when my body fat percentage was less than 20, I still never wore smaller than a size 14 in pants. Therefore, I was still “fat” to just about everyone) I still get angry when I hear people make “get that girl a sandwich!” jokes regarding extremely thin women. Body-shaming is bad. Period.
Autumn Rachel Dryden
September 28, 2012 @ 11:10 am
As for the modeling industry – it’s simple, and it’s insidious. Designers design for size 2-4 girls who are 5’11” and over. It’s easier for them to all design the same size, and just hire girls who all fit into that size. I’ve watched a lot of seasons of America’s Next Top Model, and everyone talks pretty frankly and openly about the size thing. There have even been a few girls who went on the show as ‘plus size models’ (wearing at most a size 12) and you should have seen how painful it was for them in a standard designer’s closet. They would have to drape scarves creatively and find awkward items that didn’t flatter them, simply because nothing else fit. The designers would say ‘oh we support all sizes of models, we just can’t design for them because the entire industry is this way’. It’s a vicious circle.
September 28, 2012 @ 11:15 am
And with the positioning of her arms, an actual honest to god sword stance, there’s no obvious nipple-idge going on.
Also, I think that would be a size 4 or less as clothing manufacturers have been adjusting the sizes so the consumer can feel better about themselves, but now (at least in women’s sizes) there’s no real standard of what sizes match to what actual body size. Finally, as someone who follows fashion photography, it’s sad that the trend towards more life like models has reversed and we’re heading back into drug-addled thinness realms (at least the violence against women poses have tamped down a little, and we’re not seeing the full “meth-addict in the final stages” pallor and muscle tone… yet).
All in all, a great cover (once again), Jim.
September 28, 2012 @ 11:16 am
Forgot to mention… and the cut-offs aren’t Daisy-Duke short. They actually cover her greater trochanter.
September 28, 2012 @ 11:47 am
Maybe this is Lena in younger days. The “baby” oak tree in my back yard is now over 20′ tall but still very thin, trunk-wise.
September 28, 2012 @ 12:36 pm
Thank you for this post. I agree with everything you’ve said here. I’ve refrained from commenting on the picture on Facebook because I didn’t want to seem like I was ‘damning with faint praise’. It is a gorgeous picture of a lovely woman, but this picture is very little like how I imagined Lena when reading the description. Thank you for recognizing the issues, thank you for even having the conversation, and thank you for doing what you could. It might be interesting to see a fanart contest or something for fans of the book to try their hand at creating art of the characters (Lena as well as others). Just a thought.
September 28, 2012 @ 12:53 pm
Thanks for sticking up for those who have been shamed, Jim. You make some great points in this post.
I appreciate this cover for another reason: it’s one I won’t be afraid to show my wife. There’s a lot of writers out there I’ve never read simply because their covers are smutty. If I can’t read the book while I’m sitting next to my wife, or my toddler, then I don’t crack the cover. It’s as simple as that.
September 28, 2012 @ 1:47 pm
BMI based on height-weight charts is a very crude guess on the best of days, and doesn’t do a good job on accounting for variations in breadth of shoulders and other things. When I was at my most fit, 6′ and 175 pounds, I was extremely cut. At 35 I was capable of meeting the physical training standards for an 18 year old soldier (mind you, I never served, but the standards are published). Based on BMI charts, I was at the upper end of the acceptable weight range. Based on looking in the mirror, there was no weight to lose without being unhealthy (and I’ve been in those weight ranges-it involves minor but constant physical pain).
So the height-weight charts are neat, but only casually useful. They’re trying to cover the tall willowy build as well as those of us who have trouble buying large enough collars on our dress shirts. Sure thing they’re gonna miss.
September 28, 2012 @ 3:48 pm
I really like that cover.
I long ago gave up on book covers having realistic models. These days I am pretty much happy if the woman on the cover 1) looks competent and b) doesn’t look like a woman of negotiable virtue.
Though, the advent of eBooks makes that less of a problem–at least if I want to read in public. 🙂
Anya @ On Starships and Dragonwings
September 28, 2012 @ 4:58 pm
I’m now even more excited to read this series because that cover rocks and because normal sized female characters rock. Another series I read recently that made sure to emphasize that the female protagonist’s best friend was both beautiful and chubby was Timber Wolves by Tammy Blackwell. They are YA urban fantasy, but I really enjoyed them, and you might too for both the amazing story and the happier portrayal of female characters :).
Anya @ On Starships and Dragonwings
September 28, 2012 @ 4:59 pm
Also I want to be able to read a book in a public place without blushing!
September 28, 2012 @ 6:31 pm
WAIT! I have the solution! You can pose and put the model’s head on your body! You’re not fat, but you’d make a nice, erm, stocky woman! Come on! We’ve seen that you have modeling talent from all the *cover art* that you did. Now is the time to make your official debut. You, uhm, might want to shave your legs…
Jim C. Hines
September 28, 2012 @ 6:39 pm
That is the second most disturbing thing I’ve read today.
September 28, 2012 @ 6:59 pm
Ha-ha! Come on, that one pose you did is almost perfect for it! I can just imagine it now… *LOL*
September 28, 2012 @ 8:12 pm
“least imposing heroine you’d ever see. She was several inches shorter than me, heavyset but graceful as a dancer. I didn’t know her actual age, but she appeared to be in her early twenties, and was about as intimidating as a stuffed bear”
‘Stocky’ was the impression I got from your words – and I would have expected stocky or sturdy or much more muscular than the model.
More of a warrior type.
She needs more of a neck (goes with ‘heavyset’) with possibly a hint of a double-chin (but no dewlap because of her age group), and in impression of strength and mass (bear image). Not quite squat (shorter than me), but going toward that.
Very fit. There are plenty of real women like that – check out Olympic javelin throwers, but not shotputters or discus-throwers: your heroine needs to move.
In fact, one of them – athletes who need the bulk or pick their sport because they already have that body type – would be a suitable model. Some of them are quite attractive, some beautiful.
IOW, functional body type and shape.
Good luck getting it, though. I wish you luck.
September 28, 2012 @ 10:27 pm
I like it a smidge less than Libromancer’s, just because the first one was so awesome, but I love her coming out of the tree and the look fits perfectly with the first book. Model-wise, she looks like a 6-8 size with muscles, and she has a great face. There are of course “plus” size models who range from 12-16 in size, but finding an Amerindian one on short notice might have been problematic. And so unless the guy had friends who could do it, you’re left with the bizarro world of fashion modeling. I think he did do a good job of making her not seem a skinny, adolescent, spine-cracking subject, and her face is wonderful — intelligent and wiley. I think it will do well.
September 29, 2012 @ 12:52 am
Having just read the first book, I’d like to say that I loved Lena as a character and I particularly loved the resolution with her at the end. I think this cover’s gorgeous and does capture the spirit of the character without throwing her into a ridiculous pose…
… though yeah, it would have been nice if the body types had matched up a bit more.
Still, I’ll totally be reading this when it comes out. 🙂
September 29, 2012 @ 12:58 am
So, posing with one foot in a tree is not so hard?
I just finished Libriomancer.
When I was younger, I hung around with the Macedonian kids. They always worried about my lack of weight. One of them explained that thinness back home was often associated with TB. They’d probably approve of what I look like now.
About covers in public: I was reading Michelle Sagara’s Cast in Courtlight (I think it was) and one person complained about the book having a cover with a girl taking her dress off. I had to explain that the girl was actually getting into her first formal dress and having trouble doing up the back seam.
September 29, 2012 @ 10:43 am
Honestly – I love this cover. The posing and expression are just AMAZING, and while Lena (like Talia on the Princess covers) is rather paler than I imagine her, I was afraid she’d be slimmed up far more than she actually was. Marketing may well have nixed a heavier Lena (that was actually my assumption as to why she was not on the Libriomancer cover) but I think your artist did the very best he could with the department watching the proceedings and it looks FANTASTIC.
September 29, 2012 @ 10:58 am
I agree–it’s a gorgeous cover and I’m not one to spend a lot of time wondering if she’s heavy or stocky enough. She looks good and the cover looks intriguing. It does its job well.
September 29, 2012 @ 3:45 pm
That too! Good point.
October 4, 2012 @ 5:18 pm
Keep in mind, too, that the BMI has been revised downward so many, many people who didn’t used to be overweight now are.
And that the healthiest long-term outcomes seem to be for people in that “overweight” category.
That said — I knew there was something else I wanted to mention in the Libriomancer post — I got so excited I might have squeed myself a little when I read that description of Lena. Because yes.
Linkspam, 10/5/12 Edition — Radish Reviews
October 5, 2012 @ 6:34 am
October 15, 2012 @ 9:49 am
I like how the cover centers around Lena’s smile. That’s the first thing that catches your eye and then your eye spirals out to the rest of the image.
As for how the cover best represents descriptions of a character, I’ve cataloged a bunch of books meant for a plus-sized female audience and some of those covers are downright ridiculous. Fat ladies doing funny things. Fat ladies insisting that their plus-sizeness doesn’t get in the way of their sleuthing or chick-litting or what have you. I’d like to think that being something other than a size zero is one of the minor points of Lena’s character. I appreciate that the cover shows off what Lena does more than what she is. Not enough sci-fi/fantasy book covers do that.
(Speaking of cataloging, I’m currently cataloging Libriomancer for my library. It’s what sent me scrambling for your blog this morning. I understand from reading the blurb that Isaac’s library job isn’t as important as his talent for cataloging magical items, but if I had to input a new record by zapping the UPC, I might as well take down my shingle. ^_^;; I do look forward to reading this though. Seems very Robert Aspirin-y.)
Jim C. Hines
October 18, 2012 @ 7:18 pm
I’ve gotten a few other comments about the cataloging scene in the first chapter, and I’m planning to tweak that a bit before the paperback comes out. Yeah, I messed that up a bit, and I apologize to the catalogers of the world.
October 22, 2012 @ 9:50 am
Eh, it’s a minor thing in an otherwise good book. ‘Bout halfway done with it and the second one’s on preorder. ^_^