Saturday, March 3, 2018

Terry Goodkind, Cover Art, Criticism and Purpose. And Being a Dick

Popular (for some reason) don’t-you-call-me-a-fantasy-author fantasy author Terry Goodkind has caused something a kafuffle for deciding to be rather an unprofessional arse and openly mock the art of the cover of his latest book. Which, as the artist of said cover has expressed, is kind of not cool and a bit of a dick move.

I am kind of bemused at the criticism of the cover in any event - as far as a Fantasy cover goes it looks pretty good. Certainly better than most - the only reason I could think to criticise this cover is because, maybe, the characters don’t look like this? The cover isn’t an accurate portrayal of the characters

One conversational thread I did see came from the author team Ilona Andrews (who I have fanpoodled many many many times before) about the nature of covers and what their purpose is which I honestly hadn’t even considered (as a reader of ebooks, I rarely, if ever, even look at covers any more):

Covers artists work for the publisher, not the author. Their job is to produce a cover that markets a book, not, necessarily accurately depicts the characters as the author envisages them.

And though I hadn’t considered this before, I think this is exactly right, especially in relation to genre markers.

Woman, weapon, supernatural elements, brooding colours, inexplicable squatting? A definite Urban Fantasy. This cover is better than a blurb for telling me what this book is about

Cogs, iron, dirigible, fashion - we have a steampunk!

MANTITTEH! It’s a romance.

These are excellent genre signifiers, even when your book is super unique or different, reflecting theme, genre and tone is probably far far far more important to advertise the book than whether the clothing is accurate, whether the hero is too tall, etc. I certainly think they’re more important at pulling in new readers - especially since people who KNOW what your character looks like are already invested and the cover doesn’t need to pull them in

Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying covers are above criticism. We’ve done it many many many times ourselves obviously and we also firmly stand on the idea that EVERYTHING is open to criticism. A book cover can definitely fail to accurately portray the nature of the book, can push prejudiced tropes or erase minorities or can be just plain artistically awful. These are definitely issues and fair game for criticism (hence why we HAVE).

But failing to direct the criticism properly (the artist creates a cover as directed - it’s not their fault) and by failing to actually explain his criticism in a reasonable manner (including a detailed discussion of how, for example, the cover failed to represent the characters and why he disapproved of it. Also, of course, doing this to your own cover artist is an ultra dick move. Even if you are going to criticise your own cover there are much better ways to do it - as Justine Larbalestier did in objecting to the whitewashing of Liar both clearly criticising the publisher and expressing why it was a problem.

Seeing the backlash, Goodkind decide to backtrack and claim that he objected to the cover because it was Sexist.

Um… really?

I mean, for the Fantasy Genre? THIS cover is sexist?

We don’t have gratuitous exposed skin. She’s not in a provocative pose. She’s not wearing boobplate. Sure the heels are a bit silly but compared to many it’s pretty mild.

As for sexist - well, ulterior motive: I once had the very great misfortune of reading the Sword of Truth Series back in 2010 before we started Fangs for the Fantasy and wrote about my… opinions… on that book which I am going to take the opportunity to repost now. Because 1) if I had to suffer my way through this series I’m going to get maximum traction from it and 2) I think it’s vitally important to look at the work of Terry Goodkind when he decides to clutch his pearls about the “sexism” of this cover.

Y’know one of the main reasons I hate this series? I hate it because it could have been more. It has some characters that are extremely engaging and interesting, (though most of them became highly annoying) there is actually a storyline there that is kinda/sorta worth following and draws you in to keep reading… but that is then smeared in so much stinking mess that it makes reading them an endurance battle. Aaaaand some of the worst habits are:

Characters are made to look wise or insightful by making everyone else around them complete fools

Zedd: Ah, but see, I know the ancient wisdom of the Wizard’s Rules! Also known, in ancient times, as Basic Common Sense.

Cast: We are in awe of your arcane knowledge of Common Sense.

Richard: I am the Seeker! I have even MORE of this special power, Common Sense. Further, I have the power of Actually Thinking Occasionally!

Cast: Wow, the way you point out the Bleeding Obvious leaves us even more in awe! And we have never known of this Thinking thing before, please tell us more.
 Kahlan: Oh how I wish I had Richard’s Common Sense when making any decision at all. After all, I’ve only run the entire Midlands, a coalition of dozens of diverse nations many of which hate each other, for several years, I’d never had to do this Actually Thinking Occasionally.
 Zedd: I am a brilliant wizard, for I have chosen a Seeker who can Think, see the Bleeding Obvious and have Basic Common Sense.

Reader: Doesn’t that apply to most people?

Cast: Huh?

Reader: Ah, carry on.

Bad Guy characterisation

Zedd: Remember, the most terrifying thing about our enemies is they think they’re good. They are convinced of the righteousness of their cause!

Villains: *murder* *rape* *massacre* *torture* *enslave* What was that? Oh yeah, GO GOOD! Now where are those kiddies? We need more child torture!

Reader: And this guys think they’re good? Why… oh because of

If the Good Guys do it must be Good!

Zedd: Wizards must use people! And kill people. And use nuclear weapons – TWICE! BOOOOOOM!

Kahlan: Well I’m going to kill unarmed soldiers who won’t work with me, make a man eat his own genitals oh and torture an enemy soldier to death all night so we can hear him scream.

Verna: Yay, sweet torture screams. And I make a habit of kidnapping and torturing young boys!

Sisters of Light: Yeah, we’re really good at it, been doing it for thousands of years!

Richard: These unarmed old men don’t agree with me! *choppy choppy* No! There are some chanting, unarmed pacifists! *choppy choppy* MORE DEATH MOOOOOORE!

Reader: That’s ok, it’s not evil.. See, you have a GAZILLION pages of mental ramblings to justify each one

Rape all the damn time

Reader: How do we tell the good guys from the bad guys?

Villains: RAPE!

Yeah, it’s very very tired and overdone in the book. I shudder to think how triggery this series could be to some people. I have literally lost count of the number of times Kahlan has faced the threat of rape. And yes, while I’m sure rape was and is extremely common in war, the Imperial Order has taken it beyond standard operating procedures to an almost religion. And the author dwells on it faaaar too much.

Imperial Order: We’re raping things again

Reader: Yeah, we get it… do you really have to rape everything?

Imperial Order: Sure, it’s shorthand so you know we’re the bad guys.

Reader: Do you really need to be that heavy handed to prove you’re evil?

Imperial Order: *looks at the good guy’s actions*

Reader: Ah…

Richard’s Mind Control Charisma.

It is said that when Hitler spoke, even people who hated everything he stood for cheered and shouted. It’s said that even people who didn’t understand what he said cheered, because his charisma and oratory had that much power. Well he was an amateur compared to Richard

D’Harans: We have spent generations of being evil dominators!

Mord-Sith: We are brainwashed and warped as children to become avatars of torture, pain, cruelty, sadism and masochism!


D’Harans & Mord-Sith: We love you!!! Centuries of tradition, culture and brainwashing have been washed away. You are the best Rahl ever!

Kahlan: The Midlands have been held together by the Confessors for 3,000 years and now you want us to surrender?


Kahlan: Oh that’s ok. Midlanders surrender!

Midlanders: Sure! Surrendering to the enemy we just fought a brutal war against right now!

Old Worlders: We don’t like the Order, but our idea of Resistance involves petitions and being tortured


Old Worlders: ooooooh All hail Richard, down with the Order, let’s kill soldiers with our bare hands!

Bandakaran: We follow the Way of the Leaf Oops, I mean we’re pacifists and won’t even fight to defend ourselves!


Bandakaran: RAWR we will kill unarmed peace protestors with axes! *CHOPPY CHOPPY*

Kahlan’s constant peril (and not even good, Monty Python Peril)

Kahlan: I was trained with the sword by Wyborn Wynn, my skill honed by Richard, the Bringer of Death. I have the power to destroy and enslave people with a touch of my hand. I have rode naked into battle and left a trail of death and destruction in my wake!

Bad guy: Kidnapped you/beaten/nearly killed you, AGAIN! HAAH HAAA!

Kahlan: Saaaave me!!!! AGAIN!

Richard: Let me get my Rescue Club Card. Hey, 2 more rescues and I’ve hit 20 – do I get a prize?

Kahlan is a constant damsel in distress, despite being the Queen of Badassary. Whole books deviate from whatever plotline they had running to have yet another “Kahlan needs rescuing AGAIN” plot. She was rescued from the Quads, from the Slide, used by Nicci to control Richard, she was thrown into a (rape) cell in Aydindril, captured by the Blood of the Fold. Even Nadine has saved Kahlan’s life! This woman needs rescuing more than all the Disney Princesses put together. She has even needed rescuing from a chicken. A damn chicken. It CACKLED at her and she lost her shit.


Richard: That’s curious

Kahlan: why, yes it is. Let me spend the next entire chapter explaining this to you

Zedd: Then I shall spend the entire chapter explaining something else

Annalina: Is it my turn yet? I’ve got my notes ready.

Richard: First I need to spend at least 20 pages explaining why you’re wrong!

Nathan: I’m going to need a chair, my explanation is kind of long.

Richard: then we can all sit round the fire and discuss the info-dumping

Cast: Yay! Info-dumping symposium where Richard explains everything to us!

Reader: *flicks pages* I had university lectures that contained less blatant info-dumping. Put it in a damn appendix or something.

Politics and propaganda. Oh dear gods the Ayn Rand agenda!

Richard: All hail the mighty power of Objectivism and praise it’s supreme mistress Ayn Rand. All Hail!

Straw-Socialists: Look, we have created a society based on complete and utter blithering stupidity. It is meant to be communism, but if Soviet Russia ever looked like this the cold war would have been much much much shorter. We are now going to let food rot and iron rust rather than use it, for that is socialism.

Richard: I will now give a speech on the evils of socialism and why objectivism is good and Ayn Rand is your Queen…

Reader: Oh gods no… *skip skip skip pages*

Richard: And enlightened self interest is the greatest good, and…


Richard: To help others is to make you a slave…

Reader: Ye gods *SKIP YET MORE PAGES*

Richard: And socialism can only be maintained through BRUTALITY!

Straw-Socialists: Oh we have seen the light! We will now follow your light, that emanates from Ayn Rand’s Arse. All HAIL! And behold we lived happily ever after and smile now that we never did before and there is no hunger and all is wonderful!

Reader: *headdesk*

Straw-Pacifists: No, we must be peaceful at all cost and we will BLAME OURSELVES for being attacked and tortured and raped and we will punish those of us who say it’s WRONG to rape us. Oh and we’re so in woowoo land we believe that nothing is real (because peaceniks obviously can’t face reality, duh) and their ruler and arbiter is a freaking 8 year old child (because peaceniks are so naive and silly)

Reader: Wow, that’s reallllly subtle there.

Kaja-Ran: I, an ancient and powerful wizard found these pacifists so evil and dangerous I had to lock them away for 3000 years and KILL any of them who escaped – such is the danger of pacifism!

Richard: Thank you Kaja-Ran for imprisoning these terrible and dangerous pacifists! Who knows what damage the scourge of pacifism could have caused!

Straw-Pacifist: but we are peaceful and must poison you to kill people for us. Because that’s all peaceful and stuff

Richard: This calls for another SPEEEEEEEEEECH!

Reader: *cries* oh please please, no,

Richard: By refusing to kill people you make murder MORAL!

Reader: yeah, even in Ayn Randworld, that didn‘t make any sense *skip skip skip*

Richard: Pacifism is slavery…


Richard: You do not see evil! Freedom can only be maintained through BRUTALITY!

Straw-Pacifist: Of course! We have seen the light that emanates from the sacred butt cheeks of Ayn Rand! We will now kill unarmed peace protestors in your name!

Honestly, I literally threw Faith of the Fallen and Naked Empire at the wall several times because they were so blatantly repellent. I’m pretty certain the statue of Spirit in Liberty Square is a giant statue of Ayn Rand

Bloody long windedness

Kahlan: Oh no, I am under attack! I must use my confessor’s power!

In an instant, I released my power, in an instant, he was mine, i reached deep within blah blah blah, heart and soul, blah blah blah

Enemy: Excuse me, is this going to take long?

Kahlan: blah blah power from deep within, confessors power from the beginning of timre blah blah blah, between the heart beats, he has no time to blah blah

Enemy: Can I sit down at least? Y’know, my legs are getting tired.

Kahlan: blah power blah time, blah heart blah blah

Enemy: Look, I’m going to poke Richard instead, he can kill me.

Richard: Swords rage, blah blah, power from anger, blah, rage building, blah

Enemy: *sigh* Can someone please kill me?

Richard: Anger, blah,. already visualised him dead, blah blah blah avalanching need, blah blah seeker’s tool.

Reader: *skipping pages in a frenzy*

Cara: For Rahl’s sake! *kills man*

Reader: Oh, no that was just wishful thinking

Richard: Blah blah SPEECH!

Reader: NOOOOOOOO! *cries*

Nicci: You have kidnapped me Jagang and dragged me back to your bed, but I have learned well from Richard

Jagang: And what have you learned, darlin’

Nicci: I have learned the art of long winded objectivist speeches! Now all stand still while I lecture my captors for pages!

Reader: *sob* *twitch*

This is one of those books that makes me reconsider trying to be a published author, because even though I lack the time energy and dedication to make any of my drabbles remotely printable – if steaming drek like this info-dumping, politically larded drivel can be published and become famous… well there’s hope for anyone.

Logic Boggles

I’m all behind the suspension of disbelief, but there are limits even in fantasy.

I can’t get past the damn SIZE of the Imperial Order’s Army. I keep trying to shrink it, but the Imperial Order forces in the New World alone were over 1,000,000 (after Kahlan estimated she’d killed 100,000 and they had 10 times that left). And as she continues to kill hundreds of thousands of troops, they are reinforced still further – in reinforcement columns of 250,000 men, even after Zedd’s nuke they still get reinforced to the million mark over and over. Onwards through Chainfire they’re talking of the army is continually growing. And that’s not including the soldiers left in the Old World.

It looks like Jagang’s total army is about 3 million men and likely more.

(Per Wikipedia but I imagine it’s accurate since they’re public documents) The US in 2009 had 1,421,668 people are on active duty. The Fiscal Year 2011 Department of Defense budget request plan calls for an active military end strength of 1,406,000.

The People’s Liberation Army of China is said to have a total manpower of 2.3 million people

Are we getting this? Jagang’s Imperial Order has more men under arms on ACTIVE DUTY campaigning in foreign territory than modern USA. It is larger than the army of modern China. And despite this it has been on active duty for, what, 5 years? Ok, neither China nor the US puts a particular vast proportion of their population into the army – but this is a medieval setting. Magical people are not so common (or so liked, trusted and used) in the Old World to significantly change that.

So we have a medieval society maintaining an army that is unbelievably huge. A medieval society that is even worse because it’s run by the Strawsocialists who couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery. How the hell are they maintaining an army of 3 million+ people?

Not only that – but it’s a medieval society that has this huge, poorly sanitised (Kahlan describes overflowing latrines, smelling latrines and cooking fires at the same time, stepping over dung), poorly dieted (as travel rations of the time inevitably were) camp of over 1,000,000 fighting men ALONE (not including support staff and camp followers) disease and general blargle should be scything through them. Even in World War 1illness was a greater threat than enemy guns

Then to add to the fun, there’s logistics. We’re continually told that the Old World is HUGE, many times huger than the New World (and it would have to be to have the population to produce this army). and the New World takes several months to travel from where Richard was born in the Westlands to Aydindril (by Kahlan’s expectation of how long it would take Nadine to travel) and that’s half way at best.

So to get supplies from the Old World to the New World is a journey of many many many MANY months. On carts and wagons. Oh and by people who have NEVER SEEN SNOW in a climate that has HUGE GREAT DRIFTS of them.

The entire army should have reached Aydindril and then said “oh shit…” and fallen apart

Yet this miraculous feet of logistics is managed by the Straw-socialists?

And this is aside from the fact that until Richard Actually Though Occasionally, none of the D’Haran generals, Midlander generals or Kahlan thought to attack the damn supply lines. Logistics people! It’s the key in war!

As you may have imagined, I was Not Impressed

And I’m also tagging this post “Friday discussion” because this is where our discussions are filed under tags even though this is not going up on a Friday. I’m just a rebel like that