by sylar's eyebrows

Nitpickery - Into Darkness

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StarTrekIntoDarkness_FinalUSPoster

So last week I finally got to seeStar Trek: Into Darkness.  Now it should be known that I look at the 2009 reboot as inspiration. I think that film was beautifully crafted in every way and it is a goal of mine to make something like that. So, I went into the sequel with high expectations. If you don't want spoilers or your own perception of the movie rocked by my strong opinions on the matter, please, click away now. Otherwise, join me below and we can hash out the pros and Khans of the latest in this iconic franchise. This movie is Shroedinger's Cat on celluloid. It is amazeballs. It is shit. At the same time. This movie simultaneously inhabits both spheres of a Venn Diagram describing epic movies and derivative drivel. It blurs the line between Sci-Fi/Fantasy and Unbelievable Bullshit.

I loved it. I screamed and cursed J.J. Abrams' name for being such a predictable bastard who couldn't write to his own potential.

So Star Trek has never exactly been a stickler for science fact, especially the original series. (If you want a show that prides itself on scientific accuracy, watch Babylon 5.) The reboot decided to follow in the original series' well-loved footsteps and ignore a few of the more obvious scientifically based holes in the story. Really, just go read this review. It's entertaining and pretty much sums up my problems as far as factual inconsistency.

Aside from my inability to understand why Dr. Carol Marcus is forced to strip on screen FOR NO REASON, most of my problems with the film are in the third act. J.J. Abrams is usually a very cunning storyteller that smacks me from behind when I least expect it. Into Darkness may as well be subtitled "Chekov's Arsenal" for all the smoking guns he left for us in the first act. So much of the climax was telegraphed! Seriously, cats wiggling their asses before pouncing on a catnip mouse are stealthier than J.J.'s climax!

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For starters... now, I'd rather walk on my own lips than say a word against the musical genius that is Michael Giacchino. His scores are phenomenal and I adore his whole body of work. That being said...was it necessary to have the sinister BUMBUMBUMMMMM the first time we see Benedict Cumberbatch on screen? Yes, I know the trailers have set it up that he is the villain and all that shit, but come on. We see him and we have no idea in the context of the story why we should hate this man. He's saving the life of a dying girl. Is he a doctor? Is he The Doctor in some strange fanfic? Why should I hate someone who is saving a child? Allow the moral ambiguity to be there and fuck with the audience, dammit. (Soon, though, we see that Cumberbund Bandersnatch's still nameless character is a domestic terrorist. If we didn't hate him before, we do now because he's just killed Captain Badass Pike. We're sent off to avenge him in such a way that Heath Ledger's Joker would giggle at our adorability.)

Then we have a problem with the Warp Core. Oh, I've seen this one before. It ends with the sacrifice play because the "needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" WHICH MAY AS WELL BE SPOCK'S FIRST LINE! Come on!

As I said before, the real issues, though, come when we get to the third act. The Enterprise is on the ropes, "John Harrison" is Kahn, and Admiral Robocop is psychotic and flying the most badass looking dreadnaught of all fucking time. Through impossible physics and convenient timing, Kirk and Khan end up on the "Killerprise". Khan kills Peter Weller with his bare hands, turns on Kirk and sends the end of the movie careening inexorably toward Zachary Quinto screaming, "KHAAAAAAAN!"

So many people I spoke with said the end was unfulfilling and I think I have an answer as to why. To explain, you'll need to understand a bit about the Hollywood Formula of writing. (Listen to that podcast, authors, it is golden.)

So crash course. In any story you have 3 main characters:

  1. The Protagonist - this is the good guy. S/he wants something very specific and we are, generally, rooting for him/her to get it. 
  2. The Antagonist - the bad guy. S/he is at odds with the Protagonist and is the one who keeps throwing roadblocks in the way of our Protagonist.
  3. The Relationship Character - This character takes many forms and is often played by Morgan Freeman. The RC typically has wisdom the Protagonist needs and serves to make the Protagonist's journey both more difficult and easier. Hell, if we just listen to the RC at the beginning, most of the time we don't need the rest of the movie!

A fulfilling resolution comes when the Protagonist and the Relationship Character have a deep/meaningful scene that adjusts the perspective of the journey, the Protagonist and the Antagonist have it out and the emotional wrap-up quickly follows.

Based on this, Into Darkness does not have a fulfilling ending.

Let's first identify our characters.

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chris-pine-star-trek-into-darkness-teaser-trailer-watch-now

The Protagonist, I think we can all agree, is Kirk. He wants to be Captain of the Enterprise and he wants revenge on the man who killed his father figure, Captain Christopher Pike.

Now, who is our Antagonist? It is not who the trailer would have you booing. Admiral Marcus is the one who keeps Kirk from his chair. Admiral Marcus is the one who sabotages the Enterprise's warp core. Admiral Marcus is the one who keeps throwing problems at Kirk and his crew. The Admiral is our true antagonist.

That leaves the Relationship Character. This is Khan. Is he manipulative? Is he despicable? YES. But at no time does Khan lie to or attempt to hinder Kirk. In fact, he gives him the exact coordinates of the super secret bunker where the Dreadnaught of Badassery +1 is being kept. Khan is the one who delivers the antidotes.

As it is, this works. The characters are sound and fulfilling all of their roles, doing what they need to do to make the story work. The problem comes when Kirk and Khan board the dreadnaught. From there on, the movie is on a collision course for story disaster.

Like I said up there, satisfaction comes when our Hero defeats the Bad Guy. In this movie? He doesn't. KHAN kills Admiral Marcus while Kirk just stares in horror or picks himself up off the floor. Khan steps out of his role and takes up a new one. This is jarring to the audience in a way that they might not even notice, but it's there. So, Khan--in a way--steps into the role of Antagonist way late in the film. Okay, but then he gets everything he wants. He's killed a bunch of people at Star Fleet and exposed the program that ruined him. He's reunited with his tribe of popsicles and reinserted into the Matrix where he can have happy dreams of genocide.

Khan wins. So, Khan gets all the glory of the Protagonist, the wrath of the Antagonist and the heavy wisdom of the Relationship Character.

What does Kirk get? A blood transfusion. A 5-year mission. No personal sense of having avenged Pike. He gets to stay Captain Kirk (which he was at the beginning of the film).

So, while it is a fun film with pretty effects (lens flare!), a kick ass ship or two and some great one liners, Star Trek: Into Darkness fails at delivering an emotionally satisfying story. The promise is made in the trailer and in the first two acts that we have a clear Antagonist (and we do, it's just not the one we thought it would be) and that he will be dealt with by Kirk. That promise is broken. It's story-telling bait and switch.

So yeah. I loved it. I hated it. If I could tell J.J. Abrams one thing, it would be this:

Listen to Captain Pike from the first film. "I dare you to do better."

Quit Hitting Yourself!

Okay, I know that the title is super hypocritical of me considering that I am a Queen Bitch Master level initiate in the ways of self-deprecation.  It's on my business card. Seriously. 1010131511

So when I--the queen of kicking herself in the head to make you laugh--says you need to quit with the self-bashing, you might be inclined to make a pot/kettle reference. Believe me, I get it. As I write this I'm wondering when I'll make a joke at my own expense.

But seriously, something I've learned recently is too important for me not to share. Now, as I make my case I'll be addressing authors, but really this applies to everyone. Artists, singers, dancers, mothers, fathers, children of all ages...everyone.

I don't know how much you know about what happens between Book Contract and Publication Date. For the sake of brevity, I'm just going to say editing. Lots and lots of editing. And it might be different with other publishers, but my limited experience has seen me doing 5 rounds of editing since July 22, 2013.

Developmental edits (deep plot, structure, story changes) took a few weeks of work and multiple reads through the manuscript. Line edits (word choice, sentence flow etc) were another week or two and two more passes through the book-to-be. QA edits (quality assurance from the publisher), copy edits (proof-reading and continuity type stuff) and galley proofs (the final big proofread that also examines formatting) were all separate ventures of one (or two) passes within 2 or 3 days.

What that means is that I've read this book--at minimum--8 times since July 22.  And keep in mind that the draft I submitted to my AGENT in 2011 was draft #9. The one we sent to publishers was #11. This puts me at approximately Draft #20 (I may have lost count somewhere or blacked out during an editing binge)...about half of the revisions taking place in a very condensed period of time.

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Don't get me wrong. I love this book.  It's fun, it's fabulous. I love the characters and cannot wait for that glorious November day when you can all read it. But right now, in October of 2013 when the book is 2 years old and on draft #20... I'm sick of hearing myself tell this story. I'm sick of my own voice. I'm so tired of listening to myself I would rather listen to Barry Manilow and William Shatner sing Les Miserables. (My husband says this isn't self-deprecation, it's self-flagellation. To-may-toe, to-mah-toe.)

While doing my galley proofs I was convinced that my publisher had been smoking something rockin' and that I would be shredded once they came to their senses. My feelings of inadequacy only deepened when I picked up the CARNIEPUNK anthology (finally!) and sunk my circus-loving eyeballs into it. Now...I won't go into any specifics, but I will say that there may or may not be multiple authors in this anthology who have graciously offered to blurb my book. Reading their work and knowing that they will be reading mine in return? My stomach is aquiver with a thousand carnivorous butterflies. Because they are truly talented--and because I'm annoyed with my own voice--their stories gleam and glisten like the sequins on a tightrope walker's belt.

go-home-weeping-angelAnd this--this, dear reader--is where I come to my point. Don't you dare kick yourself and compare yourself to other authors when you are in a vulnerable state. Don't compare your rough drafts to someone's highlight reel. Don't smack yourself around when you're weary of your stories simply because it's all you've read in months. Go home, author, you're drunk. You're drunk on self-loathing at this point. You've just spent months--perhaps years!--ripping apart your own work to make it the best it could be. You've been immersing yourself in the acidic brine of criticism and editing. You're on draft #20. OF COURSE YOU ONLY SEE FLAWS! OF COURSE EVERYONE ELSE LOOKS BETTER THAN YOU! (And they might be, but this isn't actually about them. It's about you and your perceptions.) You're wearing the world's worst set of beer goggles.

At times like this, do yourself a favor and stuff a ballgag in the mouth of your inner critic. Go read other books and do your damndest to enjoy them. Watch movies. Immerse yourself in other people's stories to cleanse your palate. Slough off the self-loathing and be content that you've finished a good story. A great story. A story people will love.

But, Jamie, you say, this is when other people are reading it and what if they hate it and omg *head asplodes*! 

As I said, the book has started going out to other authors and soon review copies will hit the world. People I don't know will be reading this. And I'm scared and excited and terrified and bouncy and and and. Thing is, even those emotions can't be trusted. Because I'm coming from a place of annoyance, I'm somewhat convinced that my blurbers--gracious, beautiful, talented people they are--will hate me and my book. I've snowed my beta readers, my agent, several editors...but now surely they, these other professionals, will see me for the talentless hack I am. 

Shut up, whiny head voice. You're full of shit.

tumblr_lxzb7ldRYf1qkssn2o1_500It's true that Author McShinypants may not like my book. That's valid. You can't please everyone. But here's the thing. I know this story inside and out. I know all the twists, the turns and surprises like the back of my hand. I know the backstory. I know the future of the story.  That affects my thinking. And it will yours, too. See, you know your story so intimately (or at least you should) that you forget what it's like to read it afresh, with virgin eyes. These authors, these editors...they get to see the show for the first time. Your book is a performer all dressed up in make-up and costume. The set pieces are finished and in place. The blocking is done and the orchestra has rehearsed. It's time for previews, baby. And your blurberators are in the front row. It all gets to play out for them for the first time. This is where you get to shine.

Basically what all this rambling comes down to is this: When you're down on yourself, step back. You're too close. Get out of the echo chamber that is your own head and regain your wonder. 

And enjoy your work. Other people will not love your story if you don't first. It starts with you.

Edited to Add: As if to prove my point... as I was writing this blog post, my publicist emailed me her thoughts on some of the excerpts I sent her. She loves them. With exclamation points.

 

Things That Make You Go, "WTF?!"

Good morning, folks. I hope your weekend was better than mine. I've got some caffeine and a bit of a rant brewing.

It is, of course, an election year and therefore everyone and their mother is sticking some appendage into their mouth or talking out of their ass.

By now you've probably heard about Republican candidate Todd Akin's outrageous and egregious claim about "legitimate rape" not leading to pregnancy. If you didn't, allow me to inform you. The Missouri nominee for a senate seat said,

"From what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy as a result of rape is] really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume maybe that didn't work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist."

Oh, sweethearts and dear ones, I don't know where to start with this one. Okay, that's a bit of a fib, I know exactly where I want to start, but I understand that some of you may not want to get into politics. That's fine. Those of you who do...let's get together after the jump and dive into the cesspool that is Horribly Stupid Soundbytes from Political Figures!

*Possible trigger warning. We will be talking about rape/sexual assault. 

Okay...for one moment let's forget that this is even about abortion. Okay? We're not going to talk about pro-choice/pro-life, ultrasounds, birth control or women's rights. We're going to focus solely on this gem of ignorance brought to us from Mr. Akin.

"Legitimate Rape"  What in the bloody blue blazes of Satan's scrotum constitutes "legitimate rape"? Here's how I understand it: Person A makes an unwanted sexual advance on Person B. Person B makes it known through physical cues or a simple "no" that these advances are unwanted. When Person A presses the issue and forces sexual activity to happen... this equals rape.

I know that our society likes to muddy the waters by taking pages from the Blame the Victim playbook. Rather than educate our youth that rape is wrong, we're telling our girls not to leave the house dressed like sluts. We're conditioning more women who will internalize assault as their fault and therefore be less likely to come forward. It does not help when judges let known rapists go because they feel the women were asking for it. It's true. Click the link and be prepared to calm your gag reflex.

So, is Mr. Akin saying that "legitimate rape" is one where a woman is ushered off the street into a back alley and violated by a stranger? According to Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), nearly 60% of all reported rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. Does Mr. Akin feel that "date rape" is a sketchy area because clearly the woman wanted to be with this man, therefore, she can't possibly have been "legitimately raped"? I'd like to know what the would-be senator feels on this matter, but he hasn't clarified this statement. (Sure, he's walked it back and tried to weasel out of it, but he stayed away from explaining this particular phrase.)

Rape is rape. If Person A is told NO, but continues anyway? Done.

"A Really Rare Thing" Mr. Akin seems to be focusing on the idea that getting pregnant as a result of sexual assault is akin to finding a four-leaf clover. (We'll get to his reasoning why shortly, believe me.) But, there is some factual basis to this part. The US Department of Justice estimates that 5% of one-time unprotected sexual encounters will end in pregnancy. That's rather low, to be sure. There are many factors that may contribute to or skew this figure--particularly when trying to apply it to incidences of rape or incest--however, RAINN estimates that in one year, 3,204 assaults (out of the nationally reported 64,080) will end in pregnancy.

The frightening thing about RAINN's statistics, however, is that a woman is more likely to get pregnant from an assault than her attacker is to spend a single day in jail.

"...ways to shut that down..."

This is where Mr. Akin's statement takes a turn for the wacky and truly terrifying. While yes, we women are graced with a body that does amazing things in the nether regions, I think Mr. Akin gives a little too much credit to the feminine mystique. According to his statement, I've got a vagina rigged with trip wire, laser sensors and high explosives that James Bond couldn't get into with all the help from Q. And if he did manage to Mission: Impossible his way in there with his secret agent sperm, I'd have my uterus on lockdown faster than you could say Pussy Galore.

Look, it doesn't work that way. You see, a woman has no natural failsafe. Any college co-ed will tell you that we cannot will ourselves to Please God Don't Let Me Be Pregnant any more than a man can make one big boob by smooshing both of them together. We are not so in touch with our strange and mystical ovaries that we can make them stop the presses.

Funny thing: we all learned this in school. Biology class is nifty. Granted that Mr. Akin comes from the generation of "put an aspirin between your knees" birth control, but I'm pretty sure he went to school before No Child Left Behind started to dumb down the masses.

Akin says that he got this information from doctors. Unless those doctors are the same high school girls who think that you won't get pregnant if you have sex in a pool, spin around 3 times and bark like a dog after he comes... I'm dubious of Mr. Akin's sources. I'm betting they look like that guy up there.

At least he finishes off with a bang, that cooky Mr. Akin. He says that if our wily vaginas don't manage to purge the invader semen, the rapist should be punished. That's fantastic. I'm glad he's on our side. (See above reporting statistics and the average that 97% of rapists walk free.)

There Should Be Some Punishment Here's the thing: Would-Be-Lawmaker Todd Akin is right. There should be some punishment. Rapists should be held accountable, women should feel they can report these attacks without the blame-the-victim bullshit that inevitably ensues and we should live in a world where a football stadium full of people are not assaulted every year. However, there are these roadblocks standing in the way of that utopia. They're called "politicians". Redefining rape, trying to package rape and abortion, using them as wedge issues and ammunition in an onslaught against women's rights... Yeah, to put it bluntly, they suck. And there should be a punishment for that level of stupidity. It's fine to be that ignorant in the privacy of your own home, but when it affects my uterus, you're done.

It reminds me of John Waters (filmmaker of such cult classics as Hairspray, Cry-Baby and Pecker). He once said that if you go home with someone and you can't see any books, don't fuck them. I think we need to impose a similar rule in politics.

So, here's what I want you to do.

If you think that Akin and other such people seeking office on a platform that spews ignorance and outright lies.... Don't vote for them. Period. Don't let this shit into a position of power. If he doesn't have a grasp of 4th grade biology, he doesn't get to play with your rights or money. Savvy?

If you aren't sure, you're still on the fence and want to see what's what? Pick up a book. Educate yourself. Scour Google for hours and use reputable sources, not just Wikipedia. Feed your head with knowledge, then, once you've done that... Don't vote for this shit.

If you agree with Mr. Akin and think he speaks gold-plated gospel... DON'T VOTE. Period. It's your civil right to vote, sure, but if you're completely off reality and scientific fact in the process, you've ceased to live in our country and now inhabit the same plane as unicorns, snozwankers and vermicious knids. Feel free to blow bubbles into your chocolate milk and fuck some electric sheep, but please, don't screw up my reality because you've abandoned it.

Nerdmaste, my friends.

EDIT 8pm, 8/20 - Two things have been brought to my attention since I posted this this morning and I wanted to give them a place here. 1) A dear friend of mine made the comment, "No doesn't mean no. No is implied until removed." This is an excellent point. She went on to explain that the burden of consent should not be on the victim, yet that is where we place it. She finishes off her statement saying that if there is already a blanket consent--for example, in a pre-existing relationship--it is up to the "victim" to communicate when sex is off limits. I think she's got an amazing point when it comes to where we place the burden of consent. It's something to think on.  And 2) Someone shared this open letter to Todd Akin by renowned feminist and writer Eve Ensler. Read it. Have kleenex handy. --jw

Violence in Stories

Something like 10 years ago I wrote a paper for a college exam that compared and contrasted Jesus Christ with Superman. It wasn't tongue-in-cheek or trying to be subversive. Well, to be fair, I might have been giggling to myself because I'd had a similar argument with the guy sitting next to me in that class and it got under his skin, BUT, the point is that I did this as a serious topic. It was actually one of the better essays I wrote at that time. The teacher gave me an A+ and left smileys in the margins. Like many things from that time in my life, the original essay was lost in a flood.

I bring this up because I was thinking about storytelling as a psycho-social vehicle, and a few lines from that essay floated up in memory.

The day of the Aurora shooting, I got into a civil discussion with someone who thought that perhaps the incident should be blamed on the glorification of violence in movies, television and video games. My personal feeling can best be summed up as, "No. Rational, sane people know the difference between fiction and the real world, they know acceptable social limits and will not run out to shoot someone because they play a first-person-shooter video game."

There is a lot of violence portrayed in the media. Sometimes I agree that said media is oversaturated with death, gore, shootings and other things that remove us from the realities of such things. However, most of us do not go out and repeat what we see on television because we are able to discern the crucial differences between right, wrong, art/bullshit and life.

She asked, then, if someone has influence and a mouthpiece to reach such a broad audience, why fill it with violence? Why fill one's head with that kind of "drivel"? My answer wasn't about social structure or broadcast standards, but about storytelling.

What is Best in life?

Storytelling, at its roots, is a place for a society to keep and hone its identity. All the way back to cave paintings, stories talk about our lives, what we experience every day, what we exalt and what we fear. For every protagonist there is an antagonist. For every deity there is a divine opposite. Without bringing morality into anything, there is always a dark to go along with a light. Stories define a particular culture's version of what is good and what is evil. Stories are the hope chests of their tellers. Our epic heroes--Jesus, Gilgamesh, Odysseus and Superman--represent what we believe is the best of us.

Yes, I just went there. Superman is an epic hero. Comics are the epic poetry of the 21st century. The spandex and super powers aside, these characters shine lights on what we--as a culture--value. Superman doesn't lie. He has empathy for a race as flawed as ours and fights for goodness. He defends us when we can't defend ourselves.

Bruce Wayne is rich, brilliant and uses his resources to fight the bad guys with his clever wit and gadgets.

Peter Parker's exploits remind us that with Great Power comes Great Responsibility.

We've enhanced them and given them a large scale for their problems. It's how we can distance ourselves and remain entertained but still get some message. (It's a whole new argument about why we've decided that Superman, the best of us, has to come from another planet and hide his true self.)

The Other

With all superheroes, there are super villains. Conflict in stories is necessary. Without conflict you have no story. Superman woke up one day, brushed his teeth, had a fabulous day and went to bed, that's it. Not entertaining. Not a story. Unless Superman is fighting against something, he is nothing more than a man. He's normal. There is now nothing noteworthy about this person, and thus, we don't need to waste ink or breath talking about him.

But, when we give him a Lex Luthor, a Brainiac--hell, give the man a kryptonite hangnail!--we give him a purpose. We give him a chance to define himself and be more than he might be. Bruce Wayne is just an eccentric, lunatic billionaire with grief issues if we don't give him a Joker or Riddler to match wits with. Our Avengers need Loki.

So, can we agree that a story needs a conflict? Awesome.

That conflict can come in many different ways. The classics are Man vs. Nature (The Perfect Storm), Man vs. God (The Odyssey) and Man vs. Man/Himself (The Dark Knight). Now, not all of these require violence. You can have a legal thriller or a mind-bending psycho-drama that never spills a drop of blood. You can have comedies where people are falling over themselves and messing up their own lives through situational gaffes.

So, if a society as a whole shuns the idea of casual, gratuitous violence and mass murder, why portray it in stories?

Because that's the other side of storytelling. We, as tellers of tales, don't just dip into the golden pool of what is best in life, we have to swim in the muck of what is worst about our reality. Stories aren't just about what we are, but what we may be. They are hopes and warnings.

Now, there's a whole slew of rants I could go on about splatter-horror flicks and fiction that insists every woman needs to be raped to be a "strong female character", but this is not where I will make those observations. Violence in fiction (television, movie, video game and literature alike), is there for a purpose. It is in our lives. It's a part of our collective self that we do not understand. Why do people do things like this? Why does mass genocide happen? Why do people go on shooting sprees or eat their neighbors? We don't understand. We can't wrap our heads around those kinds of atrocities because they are (thankfully) abnormal.

Brain Candy Stories are there to help us cope. They serve as a knot we can untangle safely, a way to come to grips with things we don't understand. If it can work out and end well in a comic book where aliens have landed and destroyed most of New York City, then maybe it will end well for us after some deranged soul opens fire on a theater full of geeks. If this character can find love and live again after tragic loss, maybe I can, too.

Stories are where we plant what is, contemplate what might be, and try to understand what is. Part of "what is" right now, sadly, is violence. Mass killings, war, random acts of chaos. You can have the chicken and egg argument--are we this way because of the media's glorification/desensitizing to violence, or is that in the media because we are violent--but in the end, it's part of our story.

I think it was Ari Marmell who said it, but what happened in Aurora, CO would be a hero origin story in any comic. It's from these tragedies that our heroes are born. Good people are forged and galvanized from such horrors.

And that is why our stories are important.

For all that they are, flaws and gore and truth, our stories tell us who we were, question and define who we are and determine who we will be.

Backwards and In Heels

"Sure [Fred Astaire] was great, but don't forget Ginger Rogers did everything he did backwards...and in high heels!" -- Bob Thaves  So this might get ranty at times, but I'd like to throw my two cents into the ginormous piggy bank of this discussion. Women on book covers/movie posters...particularly in the urban fantasy genres. This comes about because Tor.com posted an article about that pose. I posted it on my Facebook page and someone asked me what a "good pose" would be and advised me to show my work. Well, here we go. It's not a new observation. There's the video that compares urban fantasy book covers. In January Jim C Hines did the iconic blog post where he tried to mimic the covers of popular books just to show how ridiculous women are portrayed. We also learned that insulin ports are sexier than tribal tattoos. Then a blogger named Anna took it a step further, imitating the same poses and those of men on similar covers. Please go check out the latter two links if nothing else. While highlighting a problem, they are wickedly funny.All joking aside, though, there is a trend in they way women are posed on book covers that pisses me off. Now, romance covers have their own tropes. Bodices splitting, shoulders bare...whatever. Those books are somewhat exempt from what I'm about to tear into and here's why: Urban Fantasy prides itself on having Strong Female Protagonists. There are whole message boards and websites devoted to amping up women's roles in books, bringing them to the fore as role models. We don't want female characters that are shoved into men's situations. We don't want wilting flowers or smoldering vixens. We want women. Real. Strong. Capable. Women. I say this as a reader, a writer and a woman. We need stories with women being themselves unabashedly, stories where her femininity isn't highlighted. You wouldn't praise Harry Dresden for accomplishing so much while also being a man, would you? Then don't do the same thing to Dante Valentine. Women need stories where our gender kicks ass, takes names and maintains herself throughout the arc. We need for that woman to be taken seriously.

These covers completely undermine that last part. I'm sorry, I can't take a woman seriously if she's supposed to be fighting demons on rooftops if she's wearing skin-tight plastic and stiletto boots. I want strength, not a firm ass. By objectifying the heroine on the cover, you've already changed the narrative in a very subliminal way. It tells me that above all things, I should value her sexuality, not her dedication, her ferocious nature or her skills.

For example, DELIVERANCE by Dakota Banks features an Elektra knock-off in an impossible pose and clothing that is straight from the goth club on a Friday night. At least her hair is braided. Because when you're fighting off evil, there's nothing worse than having to blow your bangs out of your face or stop to tie up your hair.

FORGED IN FIRE by J.A. Pitts is another one that bothers me, but in a different way. On this cover, our heroine looks like a badass! Platinum blonde hair. Shaved sides. Reasonably realistic clothing choice for a warrior against the damned. WHY ARE WE FEATURING HER ASS?!?! She's got a fucking sword and a hammer on her hip. The look on her face tells me that she could rip out my throat with her teeth. Let her be fierce, dammit! Do not ruin the effect by sexualizing her!

GRR!!!

So, gentle reader, you may be wondering what I see as a good choice for a cover in the genre. Well, it took some looking, but I found some urban fantasy covers that I think maintain feminine integrity without objectifying the heroine.

SHAEDES OF GRAY by Amanda Bonilla. While we still have a variant on The Pose, this one doesn't make her ass the focus. She looks strong and ready to slice anything that twitches. She doesn't look like she is waiting for the first incubus she can find to shag six ways from Sunday.

Natasha Hoar's THE STUBBORN DEAD. On this cover, our heroine wears leather for a practical reason: she is riding a motorcycle. Dangerous, attractive, smart, capable. Based solely on the cover, this is a woman who has her shit together. I'd read it.

Armed. Dangerous. Lovely. Katniss Everdeen in another life, perhaps?
Caroyln Crane's MIND GAMES. Our heroine is dressed sensibly without being frumpy. She's got a wicked knife and the pose is one that is realistic. Solid cover.

 Michael R. Underwood's book GEEKOMANCY just released its cover last week and it is the hotness. We've got an attractive woman (albeit in one of the other stock poses) looking like she could be equally at home playing D&D or as an extra for The Craft. No nonsense, sexy librarian look? Yes. Witchy undertones? Yes. And in the center we've got a D20. I will read this.

It is possible to put a woman on the cover of a book without turning her into a prostitute. So why don't people do it? Why do we keep using the same dumbass tropes on our covers? And while I know it's probably asking for a lot, could we please have a plus-sized cover model? Just once? I'd love to be able to cosplay someone without saying, "Oh, I'm the fat version of ___." (Which is one more reason I love Alexia Tarabotti from Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series.)

And men, I realize that you guys have your share of ridiculous cover art as well. But, the above mentioned Jim Hines posted a spectacular blog on the topic this very morning. Feast your eyes and don't drink anything while doing so. Wouldn't want you to kill a monitor from snarking your chai.

So what about you? What do you think about book cover poses? Share some of your favorites in the comments or point me toward the ones that just make your eyeballs curdle with shame and despair.

Until then,

Nerdmaste.