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Sunday, January 03, 2010

Cover Sins: Young Flandry and the Thoughts Inspired

Aidan Moher over at A Dribble of Ink recently posted the cover art for Young Flandry by Poul Anderson; it is by far one of the worst covers I have ever seen (just look below).

Now, to be fair to Baen, they haven't exactly been at the forefront of excellent cover art (in fact, they're fairly well known for regularly producing questionable covers), but this one really takes the cake:
I left the following comment at A Dribble of Ink:
Well, Mr. Anderson just rolled over in his grave and vomited a fine mixture of dirt and liquid flesh…this is why I’ve never purchased as Baen book. There might be a good story under the cover, but I refuse to cover my bookshelf with stuff that looks like that. I have a reputation to uphold…
I mean that too. The only Baen books I own were given to me as used copies; I keep their covers hidden from anyone who might actually come to my apartment and look at my collection. As a result, I have yet to buy a Baen book because when it comes to really bad cover art, I do judge a book by its cover. There's bad cover art, and then there's atrocious cover art (the kind of stuff that other people see on your shelf and judge you by); Baen frequently produces the latter.

I fail to see any reason for Baen to have such crappy covers. Do they not have $20 to pay some DeviantArt kid to produce something of at least reasonable quality? It's not that hard to find these people (I recently did just that and ended up with ten fairly good pieces of art for a very reasonable price). There are thousands of decent starting artists on DeviantArt, and I know Baen sells books (they're in most bookstores, after all) and, thus, has a moderate enough cash flow to commission good-enough-art (which would be acceptable). So, what's the hold up?

The only thing I can assume about Baen is that they do this on purpose either to create the effect of the pulps or to be distinct. The problem is that a lot of their novels aren't actually pulp novels (David Weber, for example), so poor cover quality seems more detrimental to the value of the work than anything else. And if they are trying to be distinct, they've succeeded, but only in making their books look like garbage. I feel sorry for the authors. I know Baen has done a lot of wonderful stuff for the SF/F community, but they could put the same amount of effort into the books they produce for consumers (and their authors) as they do into making the SF/F world better for all of us.

Get with the program, Baen. Your crummy CG renders, your pulpy porno nonsense, and your other cover problems are not helping you sell books to this reader. Not at all.

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  1. Anonymous7:43 PM

    I dig the quaintness of the pulp covers with the stereotyped ladies having their clothes ripped by monsters w/ roided men fighting bare knuckled with them, but this is just gratuitous and in bad taste. I agree with not wanting to put bad covers on a bookshelf. Ughh

  2. Yeah. I'm tempted to rip the covers of the books I have from Baen, but I fear the Book Gods, who will punish me for blasphemy, more than I do my reputation.

  3. I'm surprised that no one has asked the obvious question yet: who's the artist?

    Personally, whether this cover is bad or not depends on the novel itself. Something in this style would be perfectly appropriate for a science fictional parody of James Bond style spy thrillers. Which is mostly how I take this cover--possibly why I don't have the same negative reaction to it the rest of you have.

  4. Adam Lowe: That's one way of putting it...

    David: I'm also a huge fan of Poul Anderson, so this is akin to blasphemy to me...

  5. In other words, I read it as very much tongue-in-cheek. Laughing at itself. And, as such, I think it works just fine.


  6. David: I'm also a huge fan of Poul Anderson, so this is akin to blasphemy to me...

    SMD, I haven't read this book, but on perusing the description in wikipedia and a couple of reviews, it sounds to me like the over the top, tongue in cheek illustration referencing James Bond type stories is quite suitable.

    Or is the novel not as comical and parodying in intent as what I've read about it indicates?

  7. David: I have nothing against tongue-in-cheek takes of fiction represented in the cover, but this is going way over the top, and as a humorous cover I think it fails entirely. If it were toned down, without the horrible colors, the Microsoft Word Art, and the absurdity that is everything in the middle, it might work. As it is, it's just downright terrible.