Jeff Carlson is the international bestselling author of Plague Year, Interrupt, and The Frozen Sky. To date, his work has been translated into sixteen languages worldwide. His new novel is Frozen Sky 2: Betrayed, available on Amazon, Nook, Kobo and Smashwords. Readers can find free excerpts, videos, contests, and more on his website at www.jverse.com
by Jeff Carlson
Dammit, Jim, I’m a writer, not an artist. I have a loud imagination. That’s how I write my stories. I follow the voices and pictures in my head. But I can’t draw to save my life, and artistic composition is beyond me.
When I first released my sequel to The Frozen Sky, I hurt my brain trying to wrap myself around the angry or sarcastic comments posted about the cover. Granted, the heroine is pretty, and people do judge a book by its cover. Understood. We’re a visual, quick-thinking species, but I groaned in frustration at every outraged declaration that I was a sexist ape. The heroine is practically a poster child for The Empowered Female.
She’s based on my wife – a smart, brave, educated, resilient and resourceful woman with a moral compass. Yep. She’s attractive, too. Maybe she’s not the stunning blonde on the original cover, but she’s also not the astronaut heroine of a sci fi thriller.
I told the artist what I wanted: A movie poster shot of a strong young woman fending off an eight-armed sunfish. He delivered. I should have given him more leeway in design and presentation instead of asking him to embellish my goofy stick-figure sketch. Is the artwork sensationalist? Of course. Offensive? Not the intent at all.
We were gabberflasted when an online community worked themselves into a minor frenzy by declaring the heroine was obviously about to copulate with the monster.
Uh, what the heck are you talking about? Looking at the original cover, I wouldn’t have thought she was gonna do the alien. Holy cow poop on a cracker, dude! Really? Monster sex? I guess I need to get out more. For a sci fi guy, I was woefully unaware that people-on-aliens is a well-established subgenre. Have fun with that.
Regardless, this was a good lesson for any hybrid writer. Accept responsibility for the artwork. I’m an extremely minor celebrity but I do have a following, and, as a novelist, I have a responsibility not to perpetuate old stereotypes like women are sexual objects. That wasn’t the goal. I wanted a determined heroine resisting nigh-impossible odds.
Enter Jasper Schreurs. He pointed out that some of the confusion stemmed from the positioning of the heroine and her adversary. Yes, she’s gritting her teeth. Yes, the alien seems like it’s peeling off her skin. There’s blood everywhere. But at a glance, we don’t know enough about the scene and some people just have sex sex sex on the brain. No question her shirt is ripped and she’s hot. That’s a mixed message.
In re-imagining the same confrontation, Jasper was careful to have her fully clothed, armed, and in a defensive position while the alien aggressively charges in. The boobs are de-emphasized. She’s still growling defiantly but in a more fearful manner.
Jasper’s new series artwork is less raw, more focused, and I love it. It gets out of the way of the story, which is important.
What do you think?