Between Earth and Arcturus by James Prescott
“Between Earth and Arcturus is a 28th century adventure following Commander José Aguire of the Exploration Corps, and Lynda Stokes, an heiress who has a bad temper and superhuman strength, as their Captain’s mind slowly becomes unhinged.
The Earth government has been taken over by a ruthless, evil power, and the Captain conspires to start a rebellion. The one thing nobody counted on was running into an alien civilization, which becomes a game-changer, and further pushes the captain’s sanity towards the brink.
The alien king needs contact with Earth, but the political opposition in the alien government will stop at nothing to ruin his plans and take control. Commander Aguire and Lynda Stokes are the last hope for both the aliens and the suffering people of Earth.” (from the page at Amazon.com)
Taking a cue from the design for The Grey Moon, Mr. Prescott requested a cover with the same sort of feel. This one harkens to Science Fiction imagery in the same vein as Star Trek books and others in the space adventure genre.
It took a while to round up the right models for this one, as it’s always a challenge to meet the client’s vision of their characters with stock images. It would be wonderful to have a selection of models at my disposal and a photographer to capture them, but, alas, I work within limited confines so I do the best I can.
There was some discussion with this client regarding the author name, and I think it merits further conversation. The concern was that, in using a male pen name (instead of an ambiguous first initial with the last name), it might cause female readers to steer clear of the book simply because it was obviously written by a man.
Now, allow me to get up on my soap box for a moment. I’ll try not to be too preachy with this.
For centuries, women have been reading male authors, mostly because that is what was available. Even female writers use male pen names in order to avoid the stigma that comes with the territory, that being the assumption that their stories will somehow be tainted by… uh, estrogen? I’m not sure. There seems to be a fear that the science will be less science-y, or it will somehow devolve into nothing more than a bunch of feels thinly veiled by a flimsy plot, I guess. It’s a very real and very prevalent reaction in the genre fiction world overall, not just in Sci-Fi.
But that a male author was questioning his decision to write AS a male left me a little baffled. Women have been reading male writers for as long as men have been writing and as long as women have been reading. I think the fear was that, because now there are many more female writers writing “hard” science fiction (albeit still in the minority), women would choose not to read a male author because there were other choices available.
Honestly, I don’t think I know any women that disregard a book simply because it was written by a man. Unfortunately, I can’t say the reverse of that, but I think (hope) that is gradually changing.
When I design my covers, I always have Maureen Johnson’s inspired cover-flip challenge on my mind. There is a definite trend to make female authors’ books more “feminine” looking, and that surely needs to change. However, I also have to keep my clients’ needs in consideration: the biggest one being that the cover has to sell the book. Due to trends in traditional publishing, I often find my hands tied by what’s been established as reader expectations for certain types of books as far as cover imagery goes. Also, clients may request certain things from me, and, as they’re kind of my boss in this capacity, if they don’t approve my creation, I don’t get paid.
But Mr. Prescott’s concern did leave me thinking. Do women steer clear of a book if it’s written by a man? Personally, I don’t harbor that prejudice, but I wonder if others do.
What are your thoughts?
Nobilis Reed (@Nobilis) says
I doubt it happens much in science fiction.
I have strong suspicions that it happens in certain (ahem) other genres.
Dave Robison says
In an ideal world, the cover sell’s the story, not the author. That’s assuming, of course, the author isn’t a household name In THAT case, their work is widely known and appreciated so their style of story will be known and the cover BETTER align with that. Of course, the influence those authors have on the decisions of book covers makes it a moot point.
For the lesser known author hustling for readership and paying someone to create what they want, the notion of pandering to gender bias to sell a couple more books makes no sense to me at all. I perused some of those “flipped covers” and there were a few that, if I HAD bought them, I’d have been PISSED about the story inside.
The story doesn’t begin on page one. It begins with the readers first experience of the book, whether its word of mouth, a review, or whatever. The cover is often one of the foundational parts of that process, setting up the expectation for the literary experience to come.
I feel the same way about authors initialing their names (D. H. Robison, for example) to avoid gender identification (and, I assume, persecution or prejudice). The “gender wars” are raging and the more people avoid it or pander to it the higher the flames will rise. Honor the story. Honor yourself. Leave the rest for the pundits and trolls. [drops microphone]