Stargate Monuments


Martha Wells

My Flying Lizard Circus

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Stargate Monuments

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I've been feeling very down lately, and not much like posting or reading much online, so I'm very behind on everything. (Sometimes I win, sometimes the depression wins; this week depression won. But I'm better now.)

But I got a little crap for posting this, so I thought I would post it again:

SF Reviews: Midnight... Racist? A Post on Del Rey's Changes to the Cover of Midnight Riot, with cover examples.

Ben Aaronovitch's debut urban fantasy Rivers of London, retitled Midnight Riot by Del Rey for its US release, has a mixed-race protagonist, with a white father and African mother. In recent years, there have been a number of embarrassing examples of major publishers in the US overtly placing white characters on the covers of books with non-white heroes, a relic of an attitude, perhaps, that black people don't care to read. It's asinine, and in some high profile cases, publishers have been duly shamed into correcting or rejacketing covers following a public outcry.

And the link to the post about it on Neth Space

I'll be happy to post about it again, too. Perhaps I could create a large signature file and include it on every post.


I read Midnight Riot (aka Rivers of London) and am halfway through Moon Over Soho and really enjoyed them. They're fast-paced fantasy-mysteries, about Peter Grant, a young constable in London who is saved from being assigned to the group that does nothing but paperwork because he can see ghosts. He ends up apprenticed to a DCI who is the last official wizard in England. If you like fantasy, and especially if you watch all the series on Masterpiece Mystery with "Inspector" in the title, you should check it out.

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You know, I think it's more than the belief that "black people don't care to read". I think it's more a fear that "white people won't read about people of color", and so they place white people on the cover in hopes that white readers won't know that the characters are not 100% white.

Oh yeah, I think that's much closer to what's behind the marketing decision.

Having been behind the scenes to witness some of that decision-making I can tell you hands down that is definitely what is behind the marketing decision.

I worked somewhere where, one year, newsstand sales were markedly the lowest for the issue which featured a black person on the cover. (I'm not in marketing, but they told us things at staff meetings.) I never saw another black person on the cover for the entire approximately 4 years I worked there. The general consensus was that readers feel a black person on the cover equals a publication for black people (never mind the hundreds of issues with whites on the cover beforehand, or name brand recognition, or what have you). Needless to say as a person of color screw that, as a person of personhood, I was disgusted. I should hope the world has progressed a bit since then; that was 10+ years ago. (Let me not even get started on the sundry rationales behind having no East Asians on covers. South Asians never even came up on covers, but when there was a South Asian inside an issue they tended to sacrifice a black or Hispanic model. For "balance"?)

(Derailment: If it cheers you up at all, I just finished and loved "The Cloud Roads." First book in a very long time I have immediately wanted to restart as soon as I hit the last page.)

I keep trying to formulate a reply, but I keep just re-stating what you said, so...what you said.

(Thank you! That does cheer me up quite a bit, actually. :) )

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Yeah, I think the only exception to the rule is romance novels with a handsome Indian brave on the cover. Of course, that guy just looks like a white guy with a deep tan, so...

I got a little crap for posting this, so I thought I would post it again


So sorry you've had the depression. :(

I enjoyed Midnight Riot a lot, and want to read Moon Over Soho, but haven't acquired it yet.

Thanks. :) It's not as bad a lot of people's depression, but it sneaks up unexpectedly sometimes.

I wouldn't be real surprised if these books ended up as a series on the BBC. It's would be a great draw for both the Buffy and the Masterpiece Mystery audience.

Book publishers: We're not racists--we just cater to our racist customers!

Anyway, I've got the sample chapter of Midnight Riot on my Kindle now. I look forward to reading!

Sorry you've been feeling bad. ::HUGS::

I keep hoping there's a large enough percentage of white people buying the books with POC protaganists that the publishers will get over this fear. But, to be honest, I don't know if I there are, which is very sad. They're missing so much great reading that way.

Ooh, these books hadn't come up on my radar yet. They look great, I need to get my hands on them.

It's pretty certain that publishers don't put POC on covers because they feel that they loose too many purchases because of it. The next question is, do the figures still reflect that? Do CURRENT figures reflect that, not figures they collected 20 years ago when they decided Uhura needed to be lighter? As Sexybee said, it may be a situation where they feel they need to cater to their sexist target market.

The next thing to be considered, if the current numbers truly support the sales problem, should they continue to cater to a racist target market, or should they take it upon themselves to start educating and acclimating their market to accept a more diverse cover art? Is it fair to the author to risk their income and career to make this stand? One could, of course, ask the author what they think about a more diverse look to their cover art, but egad, that would mean actually consulting an author and possibly letting them have some input on marketing, which would result in the destruction of civilization (really, there's hard numbers to support that from a study done in 1732 I think *grin*).

Personally, I think if more publishers did more diverse cover art, it would be accepted. The unaware racist would have to begin buying more books with POF on the cover, while the intentional, committed racist probably isn't reading those books anyway.

I totally, absolutely love this series, in part because the hero is mixed-race, and it affects how he sees the world and deals with people. And I love the little details when he goes to deal with his family.

Me too. It made the world feel very real and vital, and it made the magic bits feel real too.

You know, you could go visit Jay Lake. He's in Austin right now (actually Round Rock earlier this AM.)

I saw on his FB that he was in Austin -- I don't actually know Jay that well -- I think we only met in person a couple of times when he was still down here.

Well it was only a thought. I thought it might brighten your spirits a bit, seeing you're feeling a little down today. For me, my sweetheart has to go in for a sleep study (her second) so I'm left all alone with the pups. Maybe I should hunt down The Greyfriar. Perhaps I should finish Bloodshot first. Damn it - my new dietary schedule is playing hell with my book reading. This will not be tolerated !!!

Edited at 2011-04-08 08:48 pm (UTC)


hee. Every time I see that icon I grin. :D

Hey! Glad to hear you're feeling better!
This weird flipflopping weather probably isn't helping. *hugs*
Midnight Riot sounds interesting. Something else for the ever growing Wish List at Amazon. lol

Does that mean I don't read about ghosts, magic users, dragons, shape-changers, werewolves, vampires, men, or women who are too stupid to wear proper armour into battle (assuming the abnormal extra bulk on their chest wouldn't make it difficult to swing a sword).


I keep meaning to tell you, I read The Cloud Roads a few weeks ago, and loved it. Actually, I may have stayed up all or most of the night reading, ahem. It gave me the feeling I had when I read fantasy as a teenager -- that pure joy of exploring a new world and of following a character who I really want to be happy. That's a rare thing for me anymore, after decades of reading sf/f and getting burned out on certain tropes and whatnot, so, thank you for writing something that made me feel that glow again. ♥

Also, I looooove the Peter Grant series! The setting is so rich and textured, and Peter is, again, a character I really root for (I particularly enjoy his evolving relationship with his mentor). Aaronovitch does an elegant job of fusing the fantasy and police procedural genres, IMHO. The US covers didn't entice me that much -- they seemed more action-thriller than urban fantasy, and it took a recommendation from a friend for me to get the first book. But I hadn't thought about the implications of the silhouetted character until recently. :/ I wish they hadn't done that.

(and ooh, you're right, it would make an awesome TV series! And not that challenging/expensive SFX-wise, either, I would think...the magic is generally not that flashy, even when it's impressive.)

It gave me the feeling I had when I read fantasy as a teenager

Thank you very much! That's very much the effect I was going for. :) I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

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I've always thought the really important thing with genre covers is that you be able to tell instantly that the book is SF or fantasy. Like the covers in the first link of the book Farlander, and the two books by Maurice Broaddus, which are all very clearly fantasy novels.

I find spring very depressing, although it's mostly to do with the climate up here. I hope things get better for you soon.

And thanks for the pointer to the Peter Grant series. They sound great.

p.s. I bought myself a copy of Cloud Roads for my birthday & enjoyed it muchly. I especially admire the ending - you struck the perfect balance between finding a satisfying stopping point and leaving room for sequels. Thank you!

Thanks very much, glad you enjoyed it! :) I wanted to make it compelte in itself, just in case I wasn't able to get the second book published.

Why on Earth would you get crap over that? It's nothing but pure truth. I imagine that did wonders for your depression too.

The thing is, we have to somehow convince the marketing people that there is money to be made, but, ironically, they can be very slow to change a set stance.

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