Women in Cover Art
It’s been several years since I did the cover art pose thing, and seeing a friend’s next cover on Twitter got me thinking that there have been some pretty awesome covers coming out lately, covers that don’t contort women into a sexual object at the cost of her strength and agency. (And in many cases, her spine.)
Let’s start with the cover art Diana Rowland recently revealed for her next book, Vengeance of the Demon. The art is by Dan dos Santos.
I love this. Partly because I’m a sucker for babies. Partly because of the contrast between the cute baby and the utterly bad-ass protagonist. Partly because she looks both dangerous and competent. I have no doubt she could shift the kid to one arm, draw her weapon, and start blowing bad guys away. I could do without the shoulder strap falling loose, but overall, I really like this one.
Or check out the cover for Karen Memory, by Elizabeth Bear. The artist is Cynthia Sheppard.
We have a bit more sexualization here, but it’s appropriate for the story. The protagonist works in a brothel. This is how she would likely dress, and equally importantly, her sexuality doesn’t detract from her strength. It’s an accurate advertisement for the story, in which Karen stands tall and does whatever it takes to protect the folks she cares about.
Here are some others that jumped out at me (in a good way) for the way they portray women.
There are still plenty of covers that do the ridiculous contortions + impractical wardrobe + out-of-character oversexualization and so on. As I was browsing through new and recent releases, I came across a number of covers that made me cringe, covers in which women seemed to exist first and foremost as objects and decoration, added specifically to appeal to the straight male gaze.
Personally, I prefer to see women as characters. As people, not things. And while there’s a long way to go, I’d like to believe we’re starting to see a shift in that direction. I hope publishers, authors, writers, booksellers, and readers will continue to encourage that shift.
What other covers have you seen lately that you’d say are Doing It Right?
February 3, 2015 @ 2:10 pm
I also love that many of these women are not smiling. Fuck yeah.
Marshall Ryan Maresca
February 3, 2015 @ 2:11 pm
I’ve seen one recently, but it’s not been revealed yet.
February 3, 2015 @ 2:31 pm
Is that actually a **gasp** WOC on the cover of ShadowShaper? Holy Hallelujah Batman! **goes off to Amazon to purchase**
February 3, 2015 @ 2:47 pm
I am in love with the Karen Memory cover. Elizabeth Bear’s covers of late have been AMAZING!
Max Gladstone’s covers for Three Parts Dead and Full Fathom Five are some of my favorites for their depiction of women. Full Fathom Five is especially cool to me as it’s hard to find fantasy art/covers with women of color or more than one woman in the same piece and this book has both! 🙂 All the covers in his series are done by Chris McGrath who I believe does Seanan McGuire’s covers as well.
February 3, 2015 @ 2:51 pm
Forgot one! Seal of the Worm by Adrian Tchaikovsky is really nice one too. 🙂
February 3, 2015 @ 4:39 pm
let it be duly noted hat particular author is also Hispanic and almost always writes such characters. I think I’m a little bit in love with him.
February 3, 2015 @ 4:42 pm
I have to give a shout out to Kameron Hurley. All of her book covers are AWESOME! I don’t know the illustrator though.
February 3, 2015 @ 5:23 pm
Yes, Chris McGrath does a great job of depicting the strength and beauty of Toby Day without sexualizing her.
Seanan’s Incryptid books are illustrated by Aly Fell.
February 3, 2015 @ 5:52 pm
Seconding the Three Parts Dead. I first picked it up in the bookstore 100% because “holy shit is that a woman of colour looking badass and fully dressed on a fantasy cover?” (Then it turns out the book is AWESOME so win for the team.)
February 3, 2015 @ 6:21 pm
Currently reading Maplecroft. Well dressed, strong lady with an axe.
In the to be read pile – Warrior and Witch (or Witch – this series got really confusingly renamed) by Marie Brennan.
February 3, 2015 @ 11:32 pm
Deryn, the teenage girl on the covers of Scott Westerfield’s Leviathan books – https://helenaaaaaargh.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/leviathan-trilogy.jpg – is done right
February 4, 2015 @ 2:35 am
A little extra sex has been added to the “Mercy Thompson” series by Patricia Briggs, but the action/pose tends to be physically possible, and (barring when she was on her honeymoon) not overly sexual as poses. The same author’s spin off series “Alpha and Omega” also has lower sexualization, and sustainable poses.
~Note that these are also by Don DosSantos.
February 4, 2015 @ 9:11 pm
Do you read Fables / Fairest? I LOVED Fairest Vol. 3: The Return of the Maharaja.
They anglicized the main character for the cover a bit (which was unfortunate) but she’s still being AWESOME on the cover, and throughout the book she’s marvelously drawn.
(I swooned about it in my review and found lots of samples of the art.
I also like Faith Hunter’s covers for her Jane Yellowrock series. Jane always looks competent and strong (even if she’s showing way more skin than she should be.)
I think Jaye Wells also gets good covers for her Prospero’s War series.
Alana Joli Abbott
February 5, 2015 @ 12:00 am
Oh, good, I’m always glad to see Max’s books get mentioned. McGrath has done a fantastic job on his books!
Alana Joli Abbott
February 5, 2015 @ 12:02 am
While it’s got both male and female MCs on the cover, I thought Steles of the Sky was quite nicely done, too. (I also enjoyed it very much.)
Alana Joli Abbott
February 5, 2015 @ 12:17 am
I like a lot of Gene Mollica’s work, and I think his work on Best Served Cold came out very nicely. The covers on Devon Monk’s House Immortal books are good, too.
February 5, 2015 @ 11:50 pm
The publishers were so worried that you would copy the cover poses in your next attempt, Jim, that they’ve started making sensible covers. 🙂 And yet they still sell! Who’d have thunk it?
*I just finished Three Parts Dead by Gladstone. It is awesome.
News & Notes – 2/07/15 | The Bookwyrm's Hoard
February 7, 2015 @ 12:05 am
[…] Women in Cover Art. Author Jim C. Hines has been drawing attention to the sexualization and objectification of women in cover art for some time, notably through his recreations of cover poses. But in this blog post, he highlights some covers that portray their female progagonists as strong, capable women. Maybe we’re making progress? […]
February 10, 2015 @ 1:22 am
Jennie has already mentioned it up there, but I LOVE the cover art for Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone.
Also, I actually like the bit with the shoulder strap falling off in the Vengeance of the Demon cover art. I think it looks realistic because she looks like she’s just done some serious butt-kicking, she’s ready to do more of it, and she doesn’t give two shits about the state of her outfit. It doesn’t look sexual in any way. Gotta go read the Kara Gillian series now!