The Great Urban Fantasy Debate Part 3

08 Jan

Finally, on to part 3. The publishers. Now, I’m not going to beat the publishers to death on this one, because they are doing the best they can to sell their products. They are businesses, they do their jobs for the same reason we all do, to get enough money to make a decent living or more if they want to put in the time and effort to get more. I’m not one to beat on ‘evil corporations’.

However, I find the drive to earn money, to cash in on the next big thing rewards, or at least doesn’t curtail confusion and ignorance on the part of the consumer. It happens with words all the time. We lose the rightful meaning to words more because of gross ignorance than to a true shift in language. I feel the same way about this issue. I think a lot of people just don’t understand what defines a genre and the publishers cater to that lack of understanding by lumping things into ill fitting categories for fear of losing money, instead of labeling books correctly and thus educating people on what truly goes where.

I know, educating people isn’t the job of the publishers. But, in the long run, it is of more benefit than continuing to allow the degradation of the category system. Especially in this age of internet search engines, when knowing what to search for is paramount if you want to find what you are looking for. If genres aren’t kept well defined, we risk making it harder for the consumer to find what they are looking for, which will result in people buying fewer books.

Now we add to that, the frightening proliferation of the ‘butt cover‘ and/or tramp stamp. These are becoming rampant and they do two things. They sexualize the female heroine, which I do not understand, since most of the readers are women, and they make the genre look frankly trashy. If you compare these covers with other fantasy book covers, you’ll find that, though there are a few fantasy covers with buxom ladies in impractical gear, there aren’t too many. However, compare the UF covers to that of the PR covers. In fact, here’s a video that shows both UF and PR covers in a parade of butt covers. And I’m not even close to the first one to notice this. It seems like the only way to show that a chick is tough is to make her overtly sexual to the point of nearly slutty and cover her in tattoos, even if she doesn’t have any. Let’s look at these covers of the Mercedes Thompson books by Patricia Briggs. They aren’t all butt covers, but look at how she’s dressed in every one. Mercy doesn’t dress like this and and she has a tattoo of a coyote paw below her navel and two celtic knots on her upper arms. She doesn’t have sleeves, she has an athletic build, not breast implants. So what’s the point of making her look slutty? Does it sell better? Why? Because if they are trying to make it look like Mercy is a girl who gets lots of fun on in the sac, then they are disappointing readers who want that.

Now lets look at The Dresden Files. Now here we have Urban Fantasy with a male hero and these look just like Harry Dresden, with the exception that he doesn’t wear a hat. Other than that, he carries a staff, wears boots and a long black duster and a pentacle amulet. So why isn’t one of the many lovely ladies of the Dresden Files draping the front in sex appeal? Wouldn’t that sell to the male audience who reads these books? Why not have him shirtless and manly looking to get the female readers interested?

This is the other thing I blame the publishers for. The covers they give female written books that are about female characters are a joke nine times out of ten. And we wonder why UF is lumped in with PR and why it’s starting to get a trashy rep. I’d really like to know if we the readers buy these books because of the covers or despite of them. I know I buy them despite the covers, usually while rolling my eyes at the silliness. This is the one thing I agree with Saintcrow about. Most female written and female hero-ed fiction seems to be poo-pooed. I don’t really care that it isn’t seen at real ‘literature’ since none of the Sci-fi and Fantasy is seen as real ‘literature’ and we are all glad of it. But I would like some of what we women like to read and like to write given some level of respect.

Part 4

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Posted by on January 8, 2011 in All About Writing


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