Once upon a time a writer named Michael Flynn penned the first several verses of a poem that paid homage to (or whined about, depending on how you look at it) the covers with which writers are blessed (must endure, are tortured) by their publishers. A series of events led to me adding significantly to Michael’s poem and set it (as he suggested) to the tune of She’ll Be Comin’ Around the Mountain.
The first verse goes like this:
There’s a bimbo on the cover of the book.?There’s a bimbo on the cover of the book.
She is blonde and she is sexy;
She is nowhere in the text.
She is a bimbo on the cover of the book.
I got an object lesson in covers when I was a newbie writer at my first Nebula Award weekend. I had gone up to the SFWA suite (that’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and bumped into Lois McMaster Bujold there. In the course of our conversation, I asked “Do you get any control over your book covers? I was wondering because I saw one of your Miles Vorkosigan books in the store and there was a … er … rather scantily clad woman and a huge piece of beef cake on the cover that I don’t recall having existed in the text of the story.” (Which had been serialized in Analog magazine).
Lois sighed and shared the story with me. “That was a Keith Laumer cover originally,” she told me. “But he didn’t want it. So they painted Miles into the command chair and put some clothes on the woman.”
I blanched. “They PUT clothes on her? She’s wearing practically nothing … translucent nothing … with pasties and a g-string.”
“All she was wearing before,” said Lois, “was a suggestive grin.”
“On the bridge of a space ship?”
She shrugged. “Apparently. And I have to talk to my publisher about this as well.” This turned out to be a cover flat for the next Miles book in which—yes, another Bimbo was in flagrant view. This time, as I recall, hanging around Miles’ neck.
When I sold my first novel shortly after this to the same publisher, I was terrified of what the cover might look like. Would I inherit another writer’s bimbos?
I lucked out. The publisher read my novel carefully and picked his favorite scene, which is what he asked the illustrator—Darrell Sweet—to paint. As it happened, it was also one of my favorite scenes in the book. Now the misty figure in the background is a bit too human-looking, but everyone on the cover is fully clothed and looks approximately as I pictured them.
Some of my confreres here at the Café have not been so lucky.
Case in point, Kathi Kimbriel’s, Kindred Rites. “The floating brunette in plains Indian costume,” Kathi told me, “has nothing whatsoever to do with my alternative world circa 1810 Michigan territory dark fantasy about a tall blond Norwegian/Irish 13 year old.”
Kathi, I found your tall blond Norwegian/Irish girl! She’s on the cover of my fourth novel, The Spirit Gate. See? Note the Regency style dress, which is at least in the right time period, if not appropriate to the wilds Michigan. This means that someone else has my diminutive, white-haired Mongolian witch, Kassia, on the cover of their book.
If you find her, please sing out.
Next time: Verse 2 of “There’s a Bimbo On the Cover” — Wardrobe MalfunctionsNext time: Verse 2 of “There’s a Bimbo On the Cover”
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