Realms of Covers

A couple of weekends ago at ReaderCon I got the chance to see the newest issue of Realms of Fantasy, the magazine that, earlier this year, was canceled by the company that owned it. Publisher Warren Lapine bought the magazine because he saw that there was a groundswell of online activism around saving it. RoF is now reborn.

Here’s the cover, in case you haven’t seen it:

Realms of Fantasy cover

Someone also sent me a link to an image that’s going to appear in a forthcoming issue as art for a specific story.

For many years now — certainly since I started reading Realms, something I talk about here — the magazine has had a tendency to put some rather strange things on their covers. A lot of chicks in chainmail-type images when its not movie or television promo shots. I hear tell that these increase newsstand sales and I don’t doubt it. It can be really tiresome to look at year after year. But hey, people gotta eat.

So when I saw the new cover I wasn’t exactly surprised. I hear the nipples had to be taken out in order to make it newsstand-worthy; also not surprising. Realms has always had this tendency to put women in provocative clothing/poses/etc. on the front even though that kind of thing appeals more to men. I just don’t get it.

Warren Lapine was at ReaderCon handing out free copies of the magazine. We were both at the same party on Saturday night, so I took the opportunity to ask him a question that had been burning in my mind. What follows is an actual conversation I had with Lapine, transcribed from my memory, so there’s lots of paraphrasing and such.

Me: So, Warren, I was wondering: now that Realms is under new management and all, when are we going to see some male asses on the cover?

Warren: (raucous laughter)

Me: Because it seems like you’ve got the whole naked women thing down and the boob thing down, so how about some equal time?

Warren: That’s a good question. We should ask our new Art Director. Doug, c’mere for a second!

Doug [Cohen]: Yeah?

Me: (giving my full attention to Doug) I was just wondering when we’d see some male asses on the cover of Realms. Or even some penises?

Warren: (still highly amused) We’re not allowed to put penises on the cover, though.

Me: Makes sense. But inside, then. Because you’ve got plenty of boobs. Fish-girl boobs and nipple-less boobs and snake-woman boobs and boobs and more boobs.

Doug: (looking like he wants to shove a knife in my eye)

Me: I think it would do the magazine good to have some nice male asses around, don’t you? Or even: a shot from behind of a well-toned guy with him looking over his shoulder and a Fabio face or something.

Warren: (more laughter) I was just about to say! (turning to Doug) Our readership is, what, 4-1 female…

Me: Right! (to Doug) Don’t you think this is a good idea?

Doug: It sounds like a Tempest idea.

Me: Right, because it’s awesome! Another thing, maybe you don’t need so many boobs out there. Women in nice outfits works. You do know that women wear clothing most of the time, don’t you, Doug?

Doug: I know it now.

[I will pause here to note that I was unsure whether Cohen was trying to imply that I’d enlightened him on this fact because he’s been living in some dark cave most of his life or that he so very often sees women undressed that this was news to him. I’ll leave it to you to decide.]

Warren: Well, I was in a hair band in the 80s, and back then it sure didn’t seem like they did.

(so much laughter! OH HOHO! Also, I am given credit for ‘having a sense of humor’ because I laughed. …)

The conversation went on in this vein for a little longer, all the while certain parties not appreciating my suggestions. I think I especially riled someone when I asked if Realms had a monthly boob quota sheet in the office somewhere. But honestly, I wonder.

I overheard Warren and Doug talking about the issue together a little while later and got the impression that Warren felt I had a valid point and Doug felt that I initiated the conversation just to annoy him. Nevermind that I didn’t initiate the conversation with him; I went to the person with the power to decide stuff.

Anyway, time will tell if we get to see some male cheesecake on the cover. If we want it more inside the magazine obviously someone is going to have to step up and write some stories that call for it. Thus is my challenge to you, fantasy writers. Go to it!

85 thoughts on “Realms of Covers

  1. The one aspect of cover-image selection that seems to be overlooked (and I’m surprised that neither Douglas Cohen nor Warren Lapine have mentioned it, is that identifiable female faces–and to a lesser extent, bodies–sell books and magazines. Even a poet with a recent book told me that his publishers said he had to have a cover with a female face instead of the appropriate and attractive one he wanted–because it would sell better.

    What makes a face female, you ask? I’m not sure–but boobs beneath it are the (ostensible, anyway) clincher. I’m hetero-female, and I’d rather look at women than men. So would my daughters. When I asked why, the youngest one said, “Because they’re prettier.” Can’t argue with that.

    And, speaking of pretty, the cover is incredibly so. I didn’t see it as excessively sexualized; the woman is facing away, rather than exhibiting any come-hither-iness. What I admired and envied, speaking as an occasional artist, was the unusual palette and richness of color and the masterful effect of iridescence on the scales. And I’ll bet dollars to donuts that the artist’s pride is in that gorgeous cluster of spangled feathers on the figure’s head, to which the eye is drawn more than anywhere else.

    What we ought to be screaming our heads off about instead, as writers, is the horrible writing/copyediting/proofreading in Tanith Lee’s story, not the fact that they used a cover that might actually sell a magazine that could someday publish us–if it stays in business.

  2. Just encountered this post and want to thank Tempest for speaking up for equal opportunity ogling.

    Also, here’s a link to a blog by women erotica writers who are campaigning to get images of men on their books.

    Apparently erotica publishers don’t think images of men on covers sell books, even though the majority of erotica readers are women. Hmm. Sounds familiar!

  3. I must confess, as a woman and very occasional reader of ROF (mostly because the covers bore me, so I typically only pick up a newsstand copy if it has a story by someone I follow in it), I would be 100% more likely to subscribe if the covers were neither cheesecake nor beefcake (and in the past, I have generally not felt that the ROF covers were very representative of the stories). I don’t read speculative fiction for the sex; if I want sex, there are romance novels and porn. I also like to be able to read magazines on the bus without feeling the need to mangle the cover to hide it.

    But I suppose if the covers have to be “sexy,” I’d be more likely to pick it up if they were equal-opportunity sexy.

  4. Hi everybody. This is Brianna Wu – I’m the girl in the painting Tempest is critiquing for being too exploitive of women. I think it was called “boobtastic.”

    When my husband Frank Wu asked me to pose for this, as a level 800 liberal and feminist, I had quite a few questions. One of the things that made me comfortable with this project was Frank explaining to me ROF’s remarkably high number of female writers and contributors.

    I completely reject the notion that portraying the female body in the nude is exploitive, and must be balanced. I think that nudes, especially in the classical art sense, are a celebration of the beauty of the female body.

    It’s a beauty that I feel the male body lacks, in my opinion. Let’s be honest. Every time I’ve ever been around girlfriends, naked manflesh has been giggled and pointed at. That’s always my gut reaction, at least.

    1. Brianna, please point to me where I said that the picture Frank drew is “exploitative”. Because I’m pretty certain I never, ever said that. I don’t think I called it boobtastic, either, though I know some people did.

      You seem to be missing the entire point of the conversation around this issue. It isn’t that any one image is exploitative or sexist or wrong. It’s that fantasy images, taken in conversation with each other, reveal a fairly annoying conversation going on. The general gist being that, when thought is applied to the images, the way they’re used, and the number of times they’re used, it creates a better overall conversation.

      I happen to like the image Frank made. Hell, I like the image on the August cover (by itself). I’ve said as such upthread in response to Warren. However, when taken in conversation with other fantasy images, with the fantasy genre as a whole, there are issues.

      You may not feel that pictures depicting nude women in this way need to be balanced, but you don’t exactly have a neutral view on this, do you? You’re coming from a very specific place as regards women or, specifically you, being portrayed in this manner. While that doesn’t mean your opinion is moot, it does mean that you’re coming at things from a different place than other people and it might behoove you to actually listen to their view and the conversation before barging in and accusing people of crying “exploitation!”

      I really, REALLY wish people would actually read what I say instead of reading what other people said I said before coming here to whine at me.

      1. First of all, like Douglas Cohen, I had my fill of flame wars long ago. So, I’m certainly not going to get in one right now.

        Secondly, I did read this whole thread – and I feel like you’re certainly implying exploitation – even if you’re not using that specific word. Frequently, discussions of sexism are loaded with that assumption. Perhaps, as a writer, you could make your feelings more clear.

        I don’t think I have a balanced view, but not because I am the subject of this piece. My own art is focused 100 percent on women, often in highly suggestive poses. You can see it at I can guarantee you, there will never be any naked manflesh in a piece I do.

        People that are hellbent on being offended will be offended. There is no satisfying them. As an artist, I have no interest in making work to please the critics.

        1. Actually, my thoughts on this have all been clear. You seem to be the one making assumptions, stating that discussions of sexism imply it. But you don’t seem to have read anything people have actually said. No one who isn’t whining about me, anyway. The only thing I have implied with this post and my part of the discussion is that I wish RoF would take a new direction with the art they put on their covers. You can assume all you want, but have you actually engaged with the folks having this wider discussion? You certainly haven’t engaged me in a useful manner. Why not try engaging Jim Hines or artist Janet Chui, both of whom have spoken very eloquently on the subject.

          Also, I didn’t mean you don’t have a balanced view because you’re the subject of the piece, I meant it’s not balanced because of who you are.

          Also, you’ve just scored at least two on the discussions of sexism Bingo card. I hope you’ll pause now before you score any more. The whole “people looking to be offended will be” argument is tired, wrong, and not worthy of someone with intelligence and class, which I have to assume you are since Frank married you, and I know he has an abundance of both.

        2. Brianna, I certainly don’t want to argue with the fact that you don’t find the male body aesthetically pleasing, but can I politely disagree that male nudes are by themselves obviously less gratifying than female ones?

          I admit that I have a low bar, being an easily pleased person. I like naked men, naked women, naked apes, naked snakes, and three-day old babies in plated armor. So I am not a reliable indicator.

          But I will put to you that for a long time in art the male body was actually considered much more aesthetically pleasing than the female one, hence the abundance of strapping young men in classical sculpture, and Michelangelo’s art. Obviously the idea of what was beautiful and pleasing and worthy of be represented have changed with time, and culture. In classical culture the male body was represented because it embodied all the civic virtues of strength, valor, and so on. But then art was a political thing, in that it represented the polis.

          For us, art is something different, that has a lot to do with consumerism, and I don’t say this judgmentally. I am not speaking about the cover, which like Tempest I actually liked very much, but there is a certain shift away from representing the handsome-virtuous and towards the attractive-consumable. Of course this is good for a magazine, who wants to attract customers and make them consume, in buying the magazine.

          But in this context, the idea that only, or mainly, the female form is consumable, starts to make one a bit uncomfortable. Or maybe it’s just that I am Italian, and therefore a bit sensitized to this idea that women are valued for their beauty and, er, comsumability. :-(

          Actually I find the mock-cover rather disturbing, as I think it is supposed to be. But all the same, I am realizing now, casting my mind back at the images of male beauty I remember from my having perused Mapplethorne’s, Salgado’s, and, er, far too many porn comics, how much I have missed images of male bodies. Don’t they deserve to be celebrated as well? Although, I hasted to add, I don’t want this to be taken as meaning that you should paint male bodies. One’s artistic inspiration goes where it wants, and it’s fine if it stays there.

          1. I certainly find male bodies more attractive and interesting than female ones. And I don’t think my heterosexuality is the only reason.

            I think the fact that female bodies are constantly played for beauty-and-consumability, that it’s impossible to go anywhere I might see advertising without visuals of expanses of female skin, all these things – I think mostly they’ve burned me out, such that even well-done art with a female subject is something I find … boring. It takes something really exceptional to break through the ennui.

          2. I think it is possible to create images of female bodies that celebrate and respect instead of objectify. See Mapplethorpe, again. See Helmut Newton for how NOT to do it.

    2. I think Greek sculptors, among others, would disagree with you that the male body isn’t inherently beautiful. Frankly, I feel somewhat sorry for straight men sometimes, since so many women seem to not appreciate male bodies aesthetically.

      And I’m pretty sure there’s some societal influence at work when so many people say the female body is inherently beautiful and the male body is not. This is, after all, what the advertising industry and the media have conditioned us to respond to.

  5. I totally agree with the need of more male asses. Or nice backs. Or, hell, stomachs! *loves male stomachs, especially ripped ones*

    I might not see the whole point here, really… It’s a nice picture, I’ve seen racier ones, and I too do like to look at a beautiful female body, though I think chainmail bikinis a bit cheesy.

    I think more than the cover art – which is distinctly fantasy and thus fits to the topic imho – the stories should speak to the readers. And what I heard, they do (sorry, I’m from Europe, they sadly don’t sell that magazine here in the shops :( ).

    So yeah, being female too, I don’t think it’s either insulting or cheap or anything else. Though I agree with Tempest, more males! ^.^

  6. Ah, the familiarity. Every year, Interzone asks why they get so few submissions from women, and every year we point out how repellent the art work is…

    We definitely need a campaign for male ass.

  7. Tempest,
    Thanks for articulating your concern here. It’s a conversation I’m quite willing to have. Obviously as a white male I realize that I’m not going to be as sensitive to this issue as you are. Still, this is a subject that matters to me. I realize that we’re being judged here, in part, on Sovereign Media’s track record. Right up front, I’ll admit that I didn’t give the magazine’s cover history much consideration when we put this issue together as I wasn’t part of that history. It’s clear to me know that I should have; as a lot of people will not be aware that there’s a new company here it matters more than I had thought it would. Context is everything, though, had Sovereign used this cover it would have to be taken in a completely different light. But I’m not Sovereign. I have my own track record. Between DNA Publications and Wilder Publications I’m responsible for more than 1,000 book and magazine covers. I’ve chosen the art and done the layout on more than 750 of those myself. I’ve never had this accusation leveled at me even once in more than fifteen years of producing covers. I’d point out that this is probably the third cover that I think might be considered racy by anyone that I’ve ever published. The first two I had no input on, but after seeing the sales I told the editor of the magazine to stop it. Sex may sell, but it does not sell to this market. So there is no agenda to put covers on the magazine that appeal to a certain segment of the population. Had I realized that you and Doug had a history I would not have called him into the conversation.

    Doug actually bears very little responsibility for this cover. When I purchased the magazine it was very apparent that we didn’t have any art work on hand that would work as a cover. I called both Bob Eggleton and Dominic Harman, who are both friends of mine and my favorite artists, to see if they had something unpublished that we could use. Both did and Doug and Shawna looked at the work to see if any of it was right for Realms. They both liked two painting by Dominic. Doug preferred one and Shawna the other, but both thought that either one would work. After consulting with my wife who is both an ardent feminist and a damn fine art director in her own right, I broke the tie and voted with Shawna. I then asked Dominic to change the image, both for the newsstand and to avoid having just this conversation. So of the three people in a position of power, Doug actually has the least culpability. But I’m the publisher so you rightly came to me to discuss it and I’ll take full responsibility myself.

    All that said, I have to go back to the context. The painting is of a Mermaid. Even my daughter’s favorite cartoon Little Bear doesn’t dress up it’s mermaid. And again, I personally do not have a history of using the female form to boost sales so I didn’t even occur to me that anyone would have a problem with the image. Since both my wife and Shawna thought it made a good cover I went with it.

    As for the shot at the fonts, I used those fonts because those are the fonts that the previous publisher used on at least the last few issues. When you’re taking over a magazine that is beloved by it’s readership you have to be careful how much you change out of the gate. I have no intention of alienating my audience by making tons of changes right away. While I’ve never used these fonts on a cover before I think they turned out exactly the way that I intended them to. Now I’ve been nominated for a Chesley award as best art director, so I’m going to have to disagree with the statement about not using fonts horribly. This cover absolutely dominates the newsstand. Most covers tend to blend in with all the rest, this one does not. I’ve seen it in a store and I asked a couple of random people which cover on the shelf was best. After looking at me like I was crazy each person chose Realms. As for the art director being responsible for the layout and font choices. That doesn’t happen very often, usually, despite what Wiki says, they just choose the art work. But the bottom line is I made the choice to stay with these fonts and I’m standing behind it. It’s a very effective cover which is what I was aiming for and I’ll put my instincts up against anyone’s in this department.

    But getting back to the real issue, Tempest, I’m glad you brought this up to me, I can assure you that I’ll be keeping it in mind as we put together future issues.

    1. Oh and I wanted to thank you for turning me onto Syble’s Garage It was cool. I’ve offered them, Clarke’s World and Electric Velocipede free advertising in the next issue of Realms. I’m hoping to be able to promote the community with Realms in a way that it has never done before.

    2. Warren, thanks for dropping in.

      I think you may be missing the point a little bit. The raciness of the cover isn’t the problem per se. It’s not just nakedness or boobs that are the totality of the problem. I could lay out for you what the issues are, but really it would be easier for me to point to Jim Hines journal, which has a lot of great conversations, and to Mary and Shweta’s posts on Doug’s journal, which articulate things really well. (also see Rachel’s comment on his journal and her post on Alas.)

      RoF is not only going to be judged based on what it looked like before you took over, but also in the context of Fantasy art as a whole. What you, as the publisher, choose to allow on the cover and interior of your magazine is a statement on what you feel is acceptable in fantasy art. You’re not the Art Director, but you’re his boss. What do you want your art to say about the magazine, TO the readership? Whatever that is (and it doesn’t need to be just one thing, it can be many things) needs to be clearly articulated to your Art Director who then articulates it to artists.

      Taken by itself, that art is not OMG HORRIBLE. I will confess that I like the image itself quite a lot. I would prefer to see her from the collarbone up as a cover for a magazine. Or even her entire body — because if she’s a mermaid with a head like that, what must her scales be like? If it was a whole body image it would actually take away from the boobtasticness of it all.

      Also, I would like to point out that, for my part, this post was never about Doug, specifically. Though he’s the Art Director, I was addressing both my comments in person at ReaderCon and this post to the entity of RoF rather than any one person there. Because RoF, as an entity, is changing. What I would love to see as part of that change is a different attitude about art, both on the cover and in the interior, and I think that your leadership in this area is the first and most important thing to tackle, because from you it flows down to everyone else, I assume.

      Also, I would like to point out that the “but my wife who is a feminist says it’s okay!” argument is on the bingo card and, really, you do not want to be on a bingo card. Again, the image in isolation is not that bad. Seen in context, it’s problematic, but not horribly so.

      Regarding the fonts: it’s not as much the font itself (though the font isn’t great), but how the font is utilized. Almost any font can look great when sized/styled well and every font can look like a load of crap when not styled/sized well. The only thing I will say on this front is: I think it would be a very good investment for you to find someone with experience in professional cover design and ask for a quote on doing covers for you. I don’t know if he’s available, but the first person that springs to mind is Stephen Segal. Also, Elizabeth Glover, who is a friend of Doug, does professional book design for Harper Collins (or did, at one point), and I know has done freelance cover design in the past. I don’t remember if she’s any good, but it’s an avenue for you.

      Anyway, I am glad that you’ll keep these issues in mind going forward. Really, that was my main goal. I am very willing to take a wait and see attitude toward RoF art in the future as you and the other people on staff find your way to what the magazine will become under new management.

      1. Tempest, By mentioning Shawna and my wife all I was trying to point out is that we didn’t see the cover as objectifying women and that women we trust didn’t see it that way either. I’m not saying that makes anything okay. I’m only saying that our motives were not to use sex to sell the magazine or to objectify women. I’m willing to accept that other people see the image in that light. I hope that they can see that we did not see it that way. I’m not worried about this long term, because I believe over time people will see that we’re not Sovereign Media. I have a deep and abiding respect for women and when it comes to race and sex I’ve always felt that the person in power has a very real obligation to listen to those who feel offended. I will never dismiss other people’s opinion just because it’s not mine, that just wouldn’t jibe with my world view.

        1. Warren I still think you’re not quite grokking my position, but that’s actually okay. Ultimately, I think our goals are the same and I’m actually looking forward to having more conversations with you in the future about this stuff, especially as we see what comes down the line in the magazine later in the year. But I definitely encourage you to also listen to the advice of someone like Mary Kowal, who is not only generally intelligent and cool, but also has a grasp on the art angle of this that goes far beyond mine.

          Anyway, hope to see you at world Fantasy (I shall not be attending worldcon this year, alas!)

    3. When I saw the cover, first, I laughed. Second, I assumed that the stories inside would be as tired and hackneyed as the boobtastic art. I wouldn’t buy this ::yawn:: magazine.

    4. Drifting off-topic here: I agree with the font criticisms, but I will also say that the use of color on this cover works quite well. That’s probably why your spur-of-the-moment poll got such positive results.

    5. “But the bottom line is I made the choice to stay with these fonts and I’m standing behind it”

      You mean choosing the first typeface named at the top of the list? That choice?

      You could have done worse picking Comic Sans, but that’s about it.

      1. If you aren’t going to bother looking at past issues and see that I used the same font the last company used, why should I listen to anything you have to say?

        1. You already said they were on the previous covers. But you also said:

          While I’ve never used these fonts on a cover before I think they turned out exactly the way that I intended them to. […] I’m going to have to disagree with the statement about not using fonts horribly. […] But the bottom line is I made the choice to stay with these fonts and I’m standing behind it. It’s a very effective cover which is what I was aiming for and I’ll put my instincts up against anyone’s in this department.

          so clearly the idea that you and you alone are responsible for the font choices–not, against all reason, the art director, and certainly not the Ghosts of Management Past–is not completely beyond you. As long as you are taking credit for, and standing by, the choice to use these fonts (whether you used them because they were previously used, or because they were on the box of breakfast cereal you ate that morning, or because the Voice of God told you to in a dream, or whatever), criticism of that choice is going to be directed at you.

          If you want to disavow that decision, if you want to say “well, we kept the font because we didn’t want to change too much, but I agree that it looks ugly” people will criticize you for not changing it, not for picking an ugly font; i.e., they’ll say you have too much respect for the status quo rather than just plain bad taste. But you can’t use that excuse and defend the font as a beautiful font and striking design choice and obviously as winner of design awards you must be so much of a better judge of fonts than anyone else, &c., and expect people to not attack you on the basis of taste.

          (This applies to the cover art argument as well. “We’re just going through the old catalogue of art no one liked enough to use” will draw an entirely different kind of criticism from “we think that expecting gender parity or less objectification of the female form is censorship or Restriction of Art and so we’re not going to give into your demands”, but if you get a response to the second you can’t hide behind the first. And by “you” I mean “Doug”.)

          Incidentally, I disagree with the previous commentor; I think that it would have been far worse to go with Papyrus than Comic Sans. ;-)

          1. Gwen,
            I was responding to the “You mean choosing the first typeface named at the top of the list?” comment. Frankly, I don’t really care what anyone thinks of the fonts. I didn’t design the cover to win design awards. I designed it to not be a radical break with the past of the magazine and to sell on the newsstand. It works on both those levels. I wasn’t disavowing my responsibility for them I was explaining my choice. People who have other agendas can say what every they want about the fonts. If ROF was aimed at art directors and design geeks some of the criticism of the fonts might be valid. But it’s designed for readers, most of whom pay little or no attention to the fonts. When you start worrying about how other design people will feel about your work you’re doomed. My magazines have always sold better that the magazines people point me to saying this is how you do it. My response is usually, not if you want to make money.

    6. “As for the art director being responsible for the layout and font choices. That doesn’t happen very often, usually, despite what Wiki says, they just choose the art work.”

      No, that’s not at all true.

    7. Personally, I actually kind of like the cover, although I would like it more if she had nipples and you could actually SEE her tail (the mermaid thing is not very obvious).

      However, I probably would not buy a magazine to READ based on that cover, because it doesn’t tell me much about the contents, and what it does suggest is that the stories inside would likely not interest me. Also, it’s not the kind of cover I want on material I’ll see in public.

      I would like ROF to use covers that are relevant to the stories within, and for the art not to be chosen based on which story is “sexiest.” I’d like to see covers where the image tells a story itself, or part of a story, rather than “sexy woman” (clothed or not) being the entire point of the image. The mermaid isn’t DOING anything other than being decorative. If she were doing something, if she appeared to have a story, I might have a different reaction to the cover.

      Interspersing half-naked men would be more egalitarian, I guess, but I’m not entirely convinced that anyone–women particularly–read specfic for the sex.

  8. It’s interesting, because I’ve been RIGHT in this position (an art director with actually no power to decide the direction of the art — that was just a title, and the real job was much more “paginator/graphic designer”) …. and if someone had assumed that I was lying about the amount of power I either had or was allowed to try to assume, I would have been like, WTF? Why would I lie about that?
    But I guess in this situation maybe there is a reason for him to try to hide that he’s upholding the status quo and he actually DOES have power to change everything from fonts to boobs. However, I don’t see it. But if he is on the up-and-up, quoting Wikipedia definitions of a job description that he doesn’t actually have is going to be a bit bitter-making.

    1. Oh, I don’t think he’s lying about the amount of power he has. I just thought that slamming Adam Lipkin for not checking the facts seemed inappropriate when Doug’s art director position is outside the norm like that.

    2. ” that was just a title, and the real job was much more “paginator/graphic designer””

      You had an inflated title. It happens. I was called Creative Director at one job where I was really more like a Senior Art Director. Oh well, looks nice on my resume.

  9. You are awesome. *loves you*

    So I’m wondering what their ratio is of buying art from women illustrators–I only saw a couple of men’s names tossed around there.

    1. It’s a great question, but I guarantee you that just you -asking- is going to get Doug all bunched up and defensive.

  10. Doug Cohen doesn’t get it, does he?

    I’m particularly bothered by the assumption of “nakedness” as the issue, when clearly it’s about “gender” – if that’s intentional, it’s a obvious derail. If it isn’t intentional, then he’s clueless and even an international long-distance clue-phone call doesn’t seem to connect.

  11. Heh.

    Me, I’m all for the bare chests and tight pants. Or–hey, how about some male ballet dancers? With dance belts and Really Tight Tights?

    Hmm. Must….contemplate…fantasy story idea with male ballet dancers.

    Or big hair heavy metal bands. One of the two.

  12. Hello, Tempest. I’ve rather had my fill of flame wars in the past, so believe it or not I am looking to avoid one now.

    However, there are some things in your post I’d like to address. I’d like to keep it civil. Hopefully you do as well.

    First of all, @ Adam Lipkin: I don’t handle design or layout for the magazine and there are no plans for me to do such at any point in the future. This means I don’t handle the fonts. Get your facts right before you poke fun at people.

    As to the rest:

    Tempest, your paraphrasing of the things I said is WAAAAYYY off. That’s for starters. Was I overly receptive to your suggestions? Can’t say that I was. But it wasn’t so much the suggestions you made, but how they were delivered. Had you come to me and said you wanted to have a serious conversation, the result might have been different. But you said these things to me almost mockingly, and being as there is bad blood between us already, what did you expect to happen? That I’d compliment you for bringing these things to my attention? Not if I felt like I was being mocked, that’s for sure.

    I don’t recall Warren saying our readership is 4-1 in favor of females, though it’s possible he did. I know it favors females readers, but last time I checked it wasn’t skewed this much in their favor. 4-1 would represent quite a shift.

    As to Realms covers …

    There is no denying there have been a ton of chicks in chainmail covers in the past. Barring the latest issue, I had absolutely nothing to do with any of the covers. As to the latest cover, yes, I had a hand in it, but only a hand. It represents a joint decision between me, Shawna, and Warren. Before I even set about choosing the cover, the first thing I did was email Shawna and tell her that I knew she had had some problems with past covers (your problems, as a matter of fact) and I didn’t want us putting anything on the first cover back (especially this first cover) that she wasn’t comfortable with. In the end Warren got roped into the decision as well, and so this cover represents a consensus. To me, the fact that Shawna doesn’t have a problem with this cover speaks volumes. If you have an issue with, so be it. But we at RoF are comfortable with this cover.

    As to your request for male asses on the covers, we’re currently burning through art inventory we still have from Sovereign Media. Once we get through that, most of the time covers will be chosen from among the interiors that are used each issue. In other words, one interior will also appear on the cover, and that artist will receive a $200 cover bonus. All interiors–including those with male asses and yes, female boobs–will be considered.

    As to the interior you’ve provided the link for, there’s no denying the woman’s breasts are on full display. I did not give the artist directions to make the illustration boobtastic (which there is no denying it is) and I confess to being a bit surprised when I saw it. But I stand behind it, because I do believe this illustration has captured the essence of the story. FWIW, I pointed this illustration out to Aliette de Bodard (the author) and she also seemed to approve, enough that she linked to it on her LJ.

    Now given the overall point you’re making, I can imagine how it looks when the first piece of artwork I link to with me as art director is this. Same old tactics, right? The truth is, right now this is the only artist to hand something in who has also posted his work online for all to see. I’ve been very diligent on my blog in posting updates about RoF’s resurrection, and offering a sneak peak to the artwork for curious parties is very much in keeping with what I’ve been posting.

    At this point, we’ve had four interior illustrations handed in with me as art director. One you’ve already seen,. Michael Hague’s illustration doesn’t feature any nakedness. Nor does John Kaiine’s. Alan Clark’s does have a beast chained up in the background whose breasts can be seen, but as far as nakedness goes it’s rather unassuming and it’s certainly not the main thrust of the illustration. As the beast is a prisoner and I’ve read this story, I can certainly believe that it is naked, so I wasn’t about to ask the artist to make a change.

    Four more interior illustrations are due on August 6th. I sincerely doubt characters will be naked in any of these illustrations (and know for a fact they’re not in one). But if there is nakedness, I’m not going to automatically flinch away from it. Nakedness takes place in art, and has for thousands of years, just as sex sometimes happens in the written word. Each piece will be judged on its own merits, which is how it should be.

    What else? I never said you initiated the conversation to annoy me. How could I? Until now, I had no idea who started your conversation with Warren. And you if wanted to talk to someone with the power to decide stuff about the art, you could’ve come to me as easily as you went to Warren. Warren trusts me enough that he lets me handle things as I see fit, as both art director and nonfiction editor (and Shawna does the same with me as assistant editor). I go to both of them when I have questions, and given their years of experience in the industry, I’d be foolish not to do so.

    The bottom line is that there is no agenda in place under the new publisher (or by me) to have artwork featuring hot naked babes to move copies. How about you wait a few issues? You’ll see for yourself soon enough.

    1. Hello Doug. Welcome to my blog.

      “your paraphrasing of the things I said is WAAAAYYY off.”

      Where? Within the conversation I posted, the two things you said were exact quotes. I remember them because they were about the only things you said. The rest of the time you just looked all red-faced. Warren said a lot more.

      If you mean the part where I overheard you later, I only caught the gist of that, but the gist I got was pretty clear: you felt I was trying to annoy or get a rise out of you or maybe you were saying that I was mocking you, as you say here.

      Also, where in my post did I ever say anything like, “Gee, I wonder why Doug was so unreceptive to my suggestions? This is a mystery to me.” I know full well why you weren’t. (and it had little to do with my mode of delivery or “tone”) I didn’t actually expect you to be. I hadn’t ever intended to talk to you about the subject at all.

      Your suggestion that I could have come to you and had a nice, sit-down conversation about my concerns is utterly laughable. You haven’t been able to look me in the eye since I called you out on your foolishness surrounding the gender bias debate over a year ago. And you haven’t spoken my name without saying something nasty about me at least since then. Why would I ever, ever approach you with a serious matter considering all of that?

      As I said, I initiated the conversation with Warren and had only intended to talk to him about it. That he brought you in didn’t make that much of a difference. He was the one I was hoping to make my point to.

      As to the overall issue of covers, I know that Shawna had no control over them before and didn’t like them much. Either she told me that once or Carina did, I can’t remember. And I get that you have some inventory and that change isn’t going to come right away.

      What does concern me is that you still aren’t getting the point. All that stuff about nakedness in art? Beside the point. And this: “Alan Clark’s does have a beast chained up in the background whose breasts can be seen, but as far as nakedness goes it’s rather unassuming and it’s certainly not the main thrust of the illustration,” strikes me as being EXTREMELY problematic, though I am willing to wait until I see it instead of relying on your description. Ye gods. See, it’s not nakedness that bothers me. I enjoy some nakedness. I also enjoy breasts. But if the only nakedness one ever sees in a magazine’s art is naked women, that’s a problem.

      I could go on and on about how this plays into patriarchal notions of the availability of women’s bodies and other high-flying topics, but in the end I don’t think you’ll listen, so I won’t waste my time. What I will say is: as the art director, isn’t it your job to take the reins in the direction of the art? Like, to be a guiding force and all that? To say to artists, “create something true to your vision, but keep these principles in mind…” If I were responsible for such things and I wanted to transform and transcend, that would be an avenue I’d explore.

      No one is saying: censor that art or tell the artist to change it.

      Lastly, I don’t think there’s an agenda by you or warren to put naked babes on the cover and inside to sell more. Never said that. I was actually hoping that, since the magazine is under new management and all, pointing out that boobs aren’t necessarily the way to go would make Warren at least think about the issue. And maybe he has. I wanted to do this before “a few issues” went out, just in case. By posting about it, I was hoping to make other people aware that this is an issue that concerns me, and perhaps it concerns them too. (Judging from the response, I’d say yes.) Therefore, my hope is that some critical thought will be applied to future choices in this regard. I know it’s a lot to hope for, considering; but I clapped my hands for Tinkerbell and she even came back to life, once.

      1. You are the best.

        Also, I am totally available for naked man-ass illustration. You know, in case they can’t do it because there just aren’t any artists interested in drawing hot naked men or anything. I know telophase has also got a talent in that direction. ;)

    2. Wait. Did you…

      “I don’t handle design or layout for the magazine and there are no plans for me to do such at any point in the future. ”

      Aren’t you the art director? Assuming you have control of the fonts is perfectly natural since that is, in normal circumstances, the art director’s job.

      Gods, I’m forced to use wikipedia.
      “The art director is mostly responsible for the visual look and feel of the publication, and the editor has ultimate responsibility for the publications verbal and textual content.”

      If an artist turns in a piece that “surprises” you, then either you haven’t communicated your needs well or the artist has made an error. Either way, the acceptance of that piece is no different from an editor accepting a text piece. The responsibility is yours.

      I’ll tell you, quite honestly, I was appalled when I learned that Warren had hired someone with no art background at all. At the time, I didn’t say anything because I was hoping that my reasons for being upset by that were wrong. However, to enumerate it now comes down to this: Hiring someone, no matter how smart and well-meaning, who doesn’t understand what the job entails shows a disregard for the product.

      If you have a backlog of art that no one likes, why in the world are you planning on using it?

      1. Yes, exactly.

        The person who is responsible for the design and layout vision, and for approving the font choices, at probably EVERY OTHER PRINT MAGAZINE IN THE WORLD is the Art Director.

        Someone definitely needs to get their “facts straight” but it’s not Adam Lipkin.

    3. If you have chosen not to hear Tempest, will you listen to the other women who want to speak? In that case, I agree with everything Tempest has said.

      As a magazine buyer, I resent having the bulk of covers targeted to the male gaze.

    4. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve got bingo.

      But it wasn’t so much the suggestions you made, but how they were delivered.

      Someday people will figure out that the proper response to controversial suggestions made in an angry or snarky tone is to address the suggestions and either don’t address the tone, give it much less text, or address it in a different post. The tone argument wouldn’t be so annoying if its makers would stick to having one post for “your tone is wrong! catch more flies with honey! MLK is more well known than Malcolm X!” &c. and another post for actually addressing the substance of the argument. But when people address the one and not the other? It looks like a derailing tactic (which, you know, it is).

      There is no denying there have been a ton of chicks in chainmail covers in the past. Barring the latest issue, I had absolutely nothing to do with any of the covers.

      Hey look! It’s “decisions take place in a societal vacuum!” again. Look: people see patterns. People make predictions based on patterns. In the past, people who have chosen cover art focused on, and typically objectifying, an idealized form of female beauty (or in the short form, “T & A”) have continued to do so long beyond any possible “but it was just this once!” defense. The fact remains that this cover choice is part of a pattern of cover choices–not that this is part of a pattern of Doug Cohen cover choices (I know you think this post is an attack on you. Maybe it is, although I personally don’t read it that way. But frankly? You’re not getting such a huge response because we all have it in for you personally. It’s NOT about you, it’s about the covers)–and people are concerned that the pattern is going to go on under new management.

      White cop assumes a black guy is reaching for a gun in a tense situation, shoots him; turns out he wasn’t. Maybe the tension really was that high; maybe the dude had a reputation as, I don’t know, a mob boss; maybe it was totally justifiable in that particular instance and racism had nothing to do with it. It’s still part of a pattern of white cops shooting black guys after assuming criminal behavior where there is none. And if that police department has a history of shady shootings like this one, doesn’t matter how rookie the white cop is, you bet there’s going to be media scrutiny of the department’s shootings (and, likely, arrests, and investigations, and…). By that point, it’s not about the white cop.

      To me, the fact that Shawna doesn’t have a problem with this cover speaks volumes.

      “My feminist friend said it was O.K.!” Really? Really? You can’t just pick one person and have them be the One True Representative of whatever. Sure, fine, as a vetting process pre-print, not bad; but as a defense afterward? Look, I asked my feminist friend Tempest (…not really, but someone here is actually friends with her, she doesn’t know me from Eve) and she didn’t like it. Oh shit! We no longer have consensus! Now we actually have to consider the issues instead of asking our Token Friends for privilege passes.

      As to your request for male asses on the covers, we’re currently burning through art inventory we still have from Sovereign Media. Once we get through that, most of the time covers will be chosen from among the interiors that are used each issue. In other words, one interior will also appear on the cover, and that artist will receive a $200 cover bonus. All interiors–including those with male asses and yes, female boobs–will be considered.

      And there is, of course, equal representation of cheesecake and beefcake among your submissions. Because it’s not like the magazine is particularly known for printing one or the other, so artists wouldn’t try to fit known tastes, and obviously your art director has set up policies to make sure there is some sort of gender parity (or, well, don’t we hear all the time that fantasy is a GIRL genre, so maybe more beefcake is the answer) among art submissions–oh wait, he doesn’t? Hmm. That could be a problem.

      This would be like a new con opening which really wants to have proportional gender and race balances among their attendees, so they decide to have as a policy to pick panelists from the people who have been to the highest number of cons the conrunners have been to (all Western SF/F cons) in the last, say, five years. It sounds good on paper, doesn’t it. But then you realize the pool they’re drawing from isn’t exactly gender- and race-proportional.

      I did not give the artist directions to make the illustration boobtastic (which there is no denying it is) and I confess to being a bit surprised when I saw it.

      But did you give the artist directions to not make the illustration boobtastic? If there’s one thing looking at history has taught me, it’s that you can’t just assume that, in the absence of effort, things will all turn out all right. We don’t have a culture of beefcake. We don’t even have a culture of women on magazine covers in a non-objectifying manner. What we do have is a culture of women in cover art and particularly SF/F illustrations (see also: superhero comics, women’s portrayal in) with big gravity-defying tits prominently on display, spine contorted so as to get as much A with your T as possible, legs splayed out impossibly (yet still supporting the body!), and various other crimes against anatomy, plus nudity and strategically-placed strips of fabric (perhaps after a shirt has been carefully shredded?) and chainmail bikinis and what-have-you to cover them. That culture will not produce parity without some kind of direction. Direction. Of the art. You know, like an art director might do.

      You have the power to turn this thing around. If you change things–and maybe you really were planning on changing things all along, even if Tempest hadn’t said anything everything would’ve gotten better from your efforts anyway, and that would be great–we won’t just shut up, we’ll applaud you. Maybe we’ll say “wow, for not getting how to talk the talk in July of 2009, he sure as hell as shown he knows how to walk the walk by now in February 2012” (if you do it right, or make a good-faith effort), but rest assured we won’t be saying “god, that Doug Cohen, he may be being all feminist and awesome with the covers of RoF but I hate him because Tempest does.”

      Now given the overall point you’re making, I can imagine how it looks when the first piece of artwork I link to with me as art director is this. Same old tactics, right? The truth is, right now this is the only artist to hand something in who has also posted his work online for all to see. I’ve been very diligent on my blog in posting updates about RoF’s resurrection, and offering a sneak peak to the artwork for curious parties is very much in keeping with what I’ve been posting.

      Cool. You know, there are a lot of artists out there on, say, LJ who would love to see a, what, artist casting call explicitly addressing the cheesecake issue, and I’d bet they’d put their work online if they don’t have it already. It would probably get linked from Unfunnybusiness and other widely-read comms and journals, as this has. Just sayin’.

      Nakedness takes place in art, and has for thousands of years, just as sex sometimes happens in the written word.

      Lots of things have taken place for thousands of years. Murder. Rape. Nakedness isn’t a bad thing–no one is saying nakedness is a bad thing–but the systematic objectification of the female body (particularly without similar objectification of the male body) is a very, very bad thing. Existing for thousands of years isn’t enough to get a free pass, and neither is “it happens in real life”. Well, yeah, but so do lynchings; when was the last time a sexy lynching was sexily featured on the cover of RoF?

      Each piece will be judged on its own merits, which is how it should be.

      That is emphatically not how it should be. Unless every piece was created in a cultural vacuum, it matters when it contributes to a harmful cultural pattern.

      There was a show I was watching recently in which a man kills his children (somewhat morally justified in context), his wife (completely randomly), and himself (couldn’t live with what he’d done any longer). We were supposed to feel sorry for him, even though he’d made decisions prior to this that made him somewhat unsympathetic. His killing of his entire family was supposed to be justified in context (and if he hadn’t killed his wife, it could’ve been). Can that be judged on its own merits? Sure. Can it also be judged as contributing to a cultural narrative in which men who kill their families to save them is morally justified, and judged in context of statistics in which men kill their families to save them and believe themselves morally justified? Yes, and it should be.

      Art isn’t made in a vacuum. Art has effects–isn’t that why we love it? Good art stays with us. What do you want to stay with your readers? What image do you want people to see when they consider buying RoF? These questions shouldn’t be new to you; these questions are an integral part of your job. All we’re doing is trying to provide you some more perspective so you can answer the questions better.

      The bottom line is that there is no agenda in place under the new publisher (or by me) to have artwork featuring hot naked babes to move copies. How about you wait a few issues? You’ll see for yourself soon enough.

      See, this right here is why I think it is always a bad idea for a writer, editor, illustrator, whatever to defend themselves against critiques of their work. Either the work will stand up for itself, or it won’t. Correcting erroneous information is one thing, but a full defense never works for anyone. (See also: Anne Rice syndrome.) All it does is get the critic and the people who agree with her upset, get the critiqued person and the people who agree with her upset, and at worst show the person to be an ignorant or even malicious bastard who Refuses to Get It. (To clarify, I’m thinking of previous incarnations of the Authorial Defense, not you in particular.) In other words: it starts a flame war, or at least adds fuel to the fire. Whereas people who keep mum get criticized for a while and it all fizzles out. Responding takes away attention from your work and focuses it on your words, and if you really stand by your work (or future work, in this case) you should believe it can stand on its own.

    5. “First of all, @ Adam Lipkin: I don’t handle design or layout for the magazine and there are no plans for me to do such at any point in the future.”

      Oh, well then, let me inform you, as somebody who’s actually done that job and bigger ones, you’re not an Art Director. You can call yourself whatever you want, but no for-real Art Director got anywhere near that cover, ever.

      And Art Directors do design work. They are directly responsible for every aspect of the projects on their plate, so they have to do design and even production work, at times. You’d know this if you were an Art Director.

      If you wanted to not do any design work, you should have pretended to be a Creative Director. See, they actually don’t do any design. They also are supposed to have a good ten-fifteen years of design work and preferably agency-style project management and whatnot, but it’s not like that matters to you.

    1. I applaud you and your marvelousness.

      And of course, the story illustrated is called “SINtaur”.

    2. Charlotte, that is awesome. I especially love the titles of what is offered in the magazine.

  13. Well, there is this thing – although I am not sure if the science is still holding up – that men are aroused by the specific act they are geared up to enjoy: women for straight men, men for gay men. Women on the other hand are aroused pretty much by anything and everything, so by using nekkid ladies you maximise your attractivness quota.

    Me, there is a simple way to make me buy a magazine. Cats.

    1. Yea, cats! I think cat covers sell more magazines than women covers do! You can put it on your coffee table without being embarrassed when your family comes over.

    2. I’m more used to being told that the reason we get lots of images of women and not of men is that women aren’t turned on by any sort of visuals.

      Any excuse to keep showing what the people making the decisions like to look at, I suppose.

      (What I like to look at is real women, and sometimes real men: not the sort of airbrushed stuff that is sold to straight men to fuel their fantasies about “lesbians” who are just waiting for a man to walk into the bedroom. And pictures of planetary nebulas and chocolate and cats and volcanoes and things. Planetary nebulas would be entirely suitable for an SF magazine.)

      1. The “women aren’t turned on by looking” thing is one of those things that drives me nuts. In a culture where women’s sexuality is frequently defined by being looked at, where the rhetoric is that female bodies are more attractive than male bodies, hands down, regardless of the orientation of the observer, and where it’s rare that women’s desire is considered less mythological than naked fishwomen …

        … who’s gonna notice us ogle?

        1. I, um, have had way more sex than most straight guys do. I didn’t know this until my thirties and compared notes with some friends, but…yeah. Also, I’m not so straight. Which sounds dickhead no matter how you say it, but I say it only to set this up:

          In the end, I’ve never noticed a shred of difference between men and women. Ever. We all want the same things, a certain number of us like to get spanked or watch porno or whatever, but…it’s all the same.

          Getting around what society programs as differences between men and women, that’s a different matter. Jesus. But…I think it’s all programming, that stuff.

          1. Hah. I’ve had a lot less sex than a lot of folks, being fairly conservative on that front as I am (I know monogamous people with more lovers than I’ve had) –

            … and I’ve never seen evidence that the core impulses were different. I’ve seen people who wanted to make up templates to paste onto the sex-which-they-were-not to explain the alien behaviours thereof, but I’ve generally found that treating people like people more or less works out to good effect. Certainly better than the template-makers’ efforts did.

            And when I hear people argue about how unvisual people are, I think about the curve of a good collarbone into a broad shoulder and …

  14. Words can’t express how awesome you are to have done this and posted about it. When I get time to paint male ass, Tempest, I’m dedicating it to you.

  15. “Warren: Well, I was in a hair band in the 80s, and back then it sure didn’t seem like they did.”

    And yet, one would hope that someone in a hair band would understand the obvious power of bare chests and tight pants, from the front and the back.

  16. We have bare naked ass in the premier issue of Icarus. I’ll send you a copy if you want.

    And I agree. Actually, I’m working on a story about a duchess who watches gay ass for Fantasy right now. Honest.

  17. Thank you from the bottom of my tits. (Now approaching navel level, and clearly not Strange Horizons-worthy. Although it would be pretty damn hilarious if they had a naked woman over 50.)

  18. So, wait. RoF’s readership is, according to its owner, 4-1 female, and it made sense to anyone to have a preponderance of naked(ish) women on their covers? Really? Not really.


    1. Same folks who do the cover photos for Cosmo?

      Well, that’s an aspirational strategy. You mean you don’t daydream about being a nippleless mermaid thingie codenamed fish-tits?

      1. Stop reading my secret thoughts!

        Yeah, actually, I had the Cosmo thought, and then the same following thought–that’s aspirational. I can think of a few reasons for having the same sort of covers on RoF–but after commenting, and pondering, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s meant to mark RoF as “girly” and the Cosmo-type covers are influencing ideas about what the cover of a magazine that appeals to women looks like. But is it too much to ask for a different sort of “appeals to women” signifier? Or at least some beefcake every now and then?

        No, don’t answer that question. Cause I already pretty much know.

  19. Oh ho! And I just met a FABULOUS up and coming cover artist at RWA who specializes in alien/ shifter/magic/ man hotness! In fact, I think I will tell her about this right now!

  20. Lol, I almost feel bad for Warren and Doug at this point. It seems the weekend was just FULL of people having difficult conversations with them, if this and the conversation I witnessed about why they don’t take e-submissions were representative of their con!

    But man, I’m glad the conversations are happening.

  21. That conversation is made of awesome.

    (And it’s actually good to hear that Warren seems to seriously get that this is an issue. It’s great to snark, but it’d be even greater to see things get better.)

    I don’t suppose anyone talked to Doug about fonts and how not to use them horribly?

  22. If the readership is 4-1 female, nearly named hot gay men making out is what’s called for.

  23. I believe this is a clear case of you winning the internets today, my dear.

    BY THE WAY. I only recently learned just WHAT you said to Mike Allen to distract him for Jess n’me to pounce! “I don’t get this poetry thing”?! Please allow me to glee all over you s’more.

Comments are closed.