Thursday, May 17, 2012

Cover Snark: Same Book, Two Covers and so Many Problems

This week on Cover Snark we’re going to look at the same book and how it is changed to different markets – alas. Yes, alas because it’s one of those choices that bemuse me.

We begin with Rivers of London. A very evocative title and very appropriate since Mama Thames and Old Father Thames – and their offspring (all tributaries of the River Thames) play such a major role in the plot line. It’s relevant to the story

And the cover? The cover is beautiful – it’s a map of London made up of the places of London , notes of those places and other indicators of the real London – with the blood red Punch, appropriately displayed on top of it. All relevant to the story, the place – and it’s a unique and interesting cover.

Now we move the US and the book is called Midnight Riot. Oh. Well, there is a riot in the book – it’s one minor event in the grand scheme of this awesome story, but I suppose there is one. It’s hardly with the title though. And the cover? Well it’s pretty – and it does show the race and the magic of the protagonist. It’s a little generic but dramatic enough to catch the eye. But a gun? Really, a gun? London policeman Peter with a gun? Oh no no, dear no, definitely a sell to the US market there.

But the actual cover that went out is this one. Yes, Peter is a silhouette now. I can’t think why this was considered necessary, but cynical (i.e. aware) viewers might realise that it does suddenly obfuscate Peter’s race (but not, alas, that damn gun). I’d like to give that the benefit of the doubt – but it’s not the first time as we saw with the well known case of Justine Larbalestier’s Liar Liar

We have to stress, again, that non e of our cover snarks are the fault of the authors. We’ve seen that, time and again, the author has zero choice about what ends up being out on the cover of their work. In fact, we’ve seen many authors be positively enraged by the ridiculous, offensive and downright ludicrous covers on their work. I certainly don’t think Ben Aaronovitch would be part of it, simply because his portrayals in Rivers of London are truly excellent – especially when it comes to racial minorities. But publishers, alas, have done it before and will likely do it again

Needless to say, it's another form of erasure - and highly damaging that even books that do take the time and the effort to include well balanced, excellently portrayed chaarcters of colour then have that hidden on the covers by an industry that is still so very determined to show the marginalised as out of sight as possible. It's even more depressing to see the publisher do this to such a truly excellent book that is oen of the most inclusive I've read - the author has put in so much effort and has produced such a wonderful portrayal. It deserved better than this.