First, let me say this. Obviously, I am a fan of (most) urban fantasy.
I am not a fan of (most) urban fantasy covers (something over which most authors have no control or even input) . In case you’re not familiar with the genre, let me describe it to you. Gorgeous woman (who may or may not look anything like the author’s description of the protagonist) stands with her back to the camera, wearing tight leather black pants and a halter top that shows off her tramp stamp. In one hand she is clutching some sort of weapon – a large gun, a crossbow, a machete, whatever. She is looking back over her shoulder at you, her eyes dark and smoldering. It’s night, the sky is overcast with moody clouds, and moonlight filters through them to illuminate our heroine. Optional wolf baying in the background.
You get the idea. First of all, who wears a halter top to kick some demon/vampire/other-creature-of-the-night ass? And since the market for these books is overwhelmingly female, why the need to over-sexualize the covers? Is it because publishers think this is what we aspire to look like? Maybe this is what their market research has told them, and I guess it works for magazines like Cosmo
, but I know that I for one would be a lot more likely to buy an urban fantasy novel if the cover didn’t feature a ludicrously scantily-clad woman clutching a crossbow.
I love how fantasy author Jim C. Hines
tackled the issue: by attempting to replicate the poses by women on several fantasy covers. You can see the awesome result in the image up top.
On his blog Jim wrote:
What are your thoughts on the portrayal of women in urban fantasy, particularly in the cover art?
I spent the rest of last night with pain running through most of my back. Even the pose inThe Shape of Desire
, which first struck me as rather low-key, is difficult to imitate and feels really forced. Trying to launch my chest and buttocks in two different directions a la Vicious Grace
? Just ow.
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with being sexual. I can totally see Snow from the princess books flaunting her stuff, for example. But posing like these characters drives home exactly what’s being emphasized and what’s not.
EDIT: In the comments below, Nell pointed me to Escher Girls
, an awesome tumblr featuring “female characters in impossible or ridiculous poses or with disturbing anatomy because the artists needed to show teh sexy.” Check it out for some ouch
Jodi McIsaac is the author of
Through the Door, the first book in a new urban fantasy series inspired by Celtic mythology. Buy it now on Amazon.