Green Russians (updated)

In the comment thread for my 4th of July post, there’s been much talk about how well the cover gods have treated me. Yes, my covers have generally been excellent (through no efforts or skill of my own). And the really amazing thing is, although I have several publishers, my books mostly look like they belong together. Especially all those eyes. (Even the Midnighters 1 cover has an eye-thing going on, if you sort of squint.)

But to think such thoughts aloud is dangerous. Pride cometh before a fall.

Just yesterday in the mail, the cover gods sent me their comeuppance, the Russian cover for the Killing of Worlds:

Many questions arise: Who is that green woman with skunk hair? Why are they wearing Soviet spacesuits from 1971? Is that a giant camera floating in space behind the overweight Thunderbird 4?

Just so you know, there are no green characters in Killing of Worlds. And no giant space cameras. (Sure, there’s a mad psychic senator, a world-spanning intelligence, one cyborg commando, and a few space battles. But nothing weird, like, for example, skunk hair.)

The mysteries of Russian cover art are many. It seems the publishers there buy it from some giant source of fantastic art in the sky, and then mix and match willy-nilly. Leland Modesitt, who was kind enough to forward this copy to me, reports that he once had a Russian translation that included 30 pages of slick fantasy art, all of it unrelated to his novel.

Oh, well. At least the green lady has big eyes.


Oft-translated fabulist Nalo Hopkinson sent me this cover of the Italian edition of Midnighter Robber, featuring a blue protagonist. But at least if she has skunk hair, her bullfighting sombrero hides it.

23 thoughts on “Green Russians (updated)

  1. You got off easy. So easy. Where I work we receive a number of Russian novels of the fantastic. Most of the covers involve a lot of obvious photoshop and stock elements, or elves. Possibly both. One particularly memorable cover had some flying contraptions, and the still recognizable visages of Jim Carrey and Jackie Chan. The books are also almost always incredibly frail looking. From the covers of the Russian popular fiction that I see, I expect your publisher thinks they are being tremendously restrained, and had to fight back urge to add some sort of demi-humans playing in the hair of your characters, as loosely interpreted as they are.

    My memory was jogged to go and check Karl Schroeder’s site for the cover of the Russian edition of Ventus (URL ref) which comes off as similarly top-decile for the market, though decidely influenced by the wish to make it Tolkeinesque fantasy. Same imprint it looks like as well.

  2. Maybe there’s a secret code in the picture that our minds can’t figure out. Or maybe not…

  3. Maybe the vegetable lady is Hobbes after she smashed her knee, not feeling so good and all.

    And maybe the guy is Zai, feeling really good…about…..stuff.


    I think you got off lightly; I’ve seen worse. There, at least, people and ships in your book. Even if they do look like cameras.

    (Your name is very funky looking. In a good way.)

  4. Those eyes ARE rather frightening. And The male should have thought twice before dying his hair. The blue clashes with his skin tone. On another note, if I were to have a spacecraft, I would DEFINATLY get one that looks like a T-bird *drool* Now all I need is to find a can of cherry red paint, and a few stick on flames….

  5. Thec man’s face almost looks like my grandmother’s on a bad day when she hasn’t had her prunes yet.

  6. But other then that, I’d say that you got off pretty lucky considoring some of the other Russian beauties. You should have seen what they did to the Harry Potter book.

  7. It’s possible it’s simply recycled art. I recall that the cover to one of your other Russian books had art I recognized as being from another book entirely.

    Actually, the woman looks like she could be from *my* book.

  8. Are you sure that isn’t Harriet Potter? I’ll have to ask my Russian colleague if that’s the kind of art that sells books over there, ’cause I sure wouldn’t buy one looking like that…

  9. As for the green woman, she does look like she would fit into Old Man’s War, although she kind of looks like The Bride of Frankenstein.

  10. Blue lady looks like some cross between Xena and Zorro gone wrong. And I’m sure it’s hard to be discreet with that red beached whale on her head-or did someone say that it was a hat?

  11. I’m thankfull that I still have power right now(I live in Florida). We are about to get hit by the eye of Dennis in a few hours.

  12. “I’m pretty sure it’s recycled, John. But . . . from what?”

    Maybe it’s the old cover of a “What Happens When You Stay in a Tanning Bed too Long…in a hat…” book.

  13. Wow…. that Harry Potter cover is – something.

    As for the green girl, I think they mistaked your book for “When the Wicked Witch of the West meets Bride of Frankenstein.”

  14. Ouch, that’s a weird cover. Somewhat funny translation, too, if I remember my long-forgotten school Russian correctly:

    Skott Westerfeld
    – Foreign Fantasies –
    A Ship to Destroy Worlds

  15. (Nalo’s cover)
    I remember the original cover of Octavia Butler’s “Dawn”, where they had a white woman on the cover. What is the publisher’s thinking–that racist readers will go ahead and read the book now that they’ve bought it?

  16. It’s definitely something stupid like that. Or maybe they think racist readers won’t notice the characters are black if they stick someone white(ish) on the cover. Who knows?

    Stories like that made me nervous that the cover of my book, Magic or Madness, would wind up with a white girl on the cover, despite the aboriginality of the protag. That didn’t happen. Not that you can really tell what the race of the figure on the cover is . . . But at least I know the stock photo used is not of a white girl.

  17. I’m not sure that the thinking behind putting white people on Octavia Butler’s cover (or blue people on Nalo’s) is about “racist readers.” Except maybe in the sense that members of a majority mostly tend to have the following reaction: we see representations of the majority as being “unmarked” (white guy with a sword = book about sword fighting) and representations of minorities as “marked” (Mexican guy with a sword = book about Mexicans, possibly with some sword fighting).

    And of course, my terms “majority” and “minority” are contextual, not about the world’s or even the US population as a whole, just those slices of it that some of us see every day and therefore find comfortable.

    Also, of course, there really are racists out there. (And does it ever help their condition to read a book and halfway through go, “Yikes, this protagonist I’ve been bonding with is . . . argh!”? Hmm.)

  18. I mostly agree with you, Scott. The universal protagonist theory… I DON’T want to be known as a black writer or a gay writer. Just a writer–even though my characters will of course reflect some of my experiences.

    So, what do you have against green skunkhaired women?

  19. Umm…Well, you might not have been asking me, but about what we have against green skunkhaired women…..well…’s my list..

    1. Green
    2. Skunkhaired
    3. The word “skunk” in the previous entry

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