There’s a Bimbo on the Cover Verse 4: Rocket Power

This is the fourth verse of the song “There’s a Bimbo on the Cover of the Book”. If you’re collecting the lyric and singing along, it’s sung to the tune of (TTTO) “She’ll Be Comin’ Around the Mountain When She Comes.”

There’s a rocket on the cover of the book.

There’s a rocket on the cover of the book.

It’s a phallic and a stout one, but my novel was without one.

There’s a rocket on the cover of my book.

In this case, the lyric really doesn’t do justice to the … er … attributes of the rocket in question, which is from the cover of BVC author Deborah Ross’ print novel Jaydium (under her Deborah Wheeler nom de plume).

As it happens, I’ve read Jaydium and, while there is a rocket involved briefly in the story (my recollection is that it is part of a flashback), the scene shown on the cover does not actually appear as such in the novel.

In this case the … ah … phallic qualities of the rocket are notable. Why is there a rocket on a book in which a rocket plays no bigger role than a taxi cab in a story set in Manhattan?

I think it’s got to do with setting the reader’s expectations. A rocket screams “Science Fiction!” And that’s what the publisher wants the cover to do—tell the prospective buyer “This is the sort of story this book contains.”

If rockets say “SF”, there are other things that say “fantasy” so loudly that the reader cannot possibly miss it.

When Marc Zicree was finishing up the first of the Magic Time novels (with Barbara Hambly), the series was orphaned when the publisher changed hands. The new editor proposed a cover she was sure marked the book as a fantasy. It was a generic dragon hovering over a modern cityscape. It was rendered in shades of yellow and brown that … well, let’s just say they weren’t terribly appetizing.

Marc got his friend Iain McCaig to design a cover that faithfully depicted the human-dragon hybrid, Stern. You may have seen Iain’s work in Star Wars: Phantom Menace for which he designed a certain Sith warrior, or in that piddly Kiwi film to which our Phyllis lost a cover artist.

The publisher’s reaction?

“We can’t afford Iain McCaig.”

“That’s okay,” Marc told them. “He’ll do it for a fraction of his usual commission because he’s a friend.”

Major coup, right? Not quite. The publisher didn’t like the cover.

“It doesn’t scream fantasy.”

After a moment of speechlessness, Marc said: “Well, but the title does.”

Now you may wonder why I didn’t put this story in the dragon category. The reason is twofold:

1) The dragon blog was already quite long enough and

2) not only was there not supposed to be an actual dragon on the cover of Marc’s book, but ultimately there wasn’t one. The publisher decided not to look a gift artist in the mouth and took Ian’s stunning covers for all three novels in the series.

I have to say, the cover of Magic Time: Angelfire is my one of my favorite covers I’ve gotten. Right up there with Christian McGrath’s cover for Mr. Twilight and Gene Mollica’s cover art for The Last Jedi (based on an idea of my own, believe it or not). The title is something else again. The original title of the book was Magic Time: Blues. The publisher changed it because … you guessed it—it didn’t scream “Fantasy!”

Next time: Changes of scenery—there’s a castle on the cover of the book.



There’s a Bimbo on the Cover Verse 4: Rocket Power — 6 Comments

  1. Covers are a semiotic signal. They’re a sign, waved to the reader, that This Is A Fantasy (dragon, sword, unicorn), or This Is A Regency Romance (high waisted gown, tall dark hero in boots). You can even sort them more finely. Dystopian teen SF (dark gray cover, sans serif type title in white, white text on the back so that it’s unreadable by anyone over the age of 55), milSF (either exterior or interior of space ships, white male officers and one female), first contact with whimsical aliens (always an animal on the cover). It is instructive to go to a big con and look at the current offerings on Larry Smith’s table — you can see the imagery evolving.

  2. Maybe I should have commented this one on the last verse – dragons, but one of the craziest covers I’ve seen yet was for an old Andre Norton book – The Beast Master. The edition I have has a cover with a tyrannosaurus-type dinosaur on the cover. Now, it’s been a while since I read the book, but I don’t recall seeing anything about a giant reptile or a dinosaur in the story.

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