Jun 8, 2009

My apologies to Daniel Abraham

Like a lot of readers out there, I enjoy Urban Fantasy. Jim Butcher's Dresden Files and Mike Carey's Felix Castor Novels are two series that I place in the illustrious DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) category. I also enjoy Charlie Huston's Joe Pitt Novels and Simon R. Green's Nightside series. I've also heard good things about Charlaine Harris's Southern Vampire Mysteries although I haven't had the chance to try them out. There is a veritable plethora of Urban Fantasy out there, just waiting to be read.

Enter M.L.N Hanover, author of Unclean Spirits and Darker Angels, the first two books of the Black Sun’s Daughter series. If you aren’t aware, M.L.N. Hanover is a pen name for Daniel Abraham, whose Long Price Quartet is extremely well written and equally well covered. I enjoy Daniel Abraham’s books and eagerly anticipate the release of The Price of Spring (The Long Price Quartet) this summer.

I will not read M.L.N. Hanover.

First off, I am ignoring the fact that Daniel Abraham is publishing under a pen name. Different type of book, different pen name. Authors have done it before and will do it again. This one is particularly troubling because the “M.L.N Hanover” moniker is specifically targeted to confuse the targeted reader (i.e. women) into thinking that the book is written by a woman (at least hiding the fact that it was written by a man). Who cares what the author’s gender is as long as it’s engaging and well written? Regardless, that’s not why I will skip this series.

I’m not reading because the cover is beyond terrible.

It's a textbook generic Urban Fantasy cover. If you don’t know what I mean, watch this video:


I made a vow to myself years ago when Urban Fantasy flooded the market. I swore to never buy a book with a cover like that. I refuse to give a single dollar of my money (and I buy enough books to keep several publishers in business) to a publisher who puts out a cover that bad. It’s a disservice to the readers AND the authors. It's saying this book is no different than any of the dozens of others out there and expecting us to develop some Pavlovian response mechanism. Since publishers apparently only understand money, we’ve got to speak to them in a language they can understand: sales. This is a trend that needs to stop.

On Unclean Spirits, I count at least 4 Urban Fantasy Cover Sins.

1. Female character facing away from reader
2. Lower back tattoo (more commonly referred to as a tramp stamp)
3. Leather Pants
4. Weapon at the ready

Throw a moon in there and swap the tank top for a corset and you have a cover so stereotypical it’s sickening.

Now go back and look at the covers for the 5 series I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Each of them has a clear style that repeats from book to book. You could take every bit of text off a Dresden Files novel or a Southern Vampire Mystery and I would know exactly who wrote it and what kind of a book to expect. You do that for Unclean Spirits or any of the covers featured in that video and you get a very uniform result. When I see a cover like that, I expect generic trash. It doesn’t help that any well-earned name recognition is out the window due to the pen name.

My sympathies to Daniel Abraham, I’m sure this cover wasn’t your decision, and I’m guessing the name change wasn’t either. If theses books are as well written as your other work, I’m sure they are some quality fiction. Quality Fiction I won’t be reading. I made a promise to myself a long time ago. A promise I intend to keep.

1 comment:

  1. Apology accepted. No hard feelings.

    The new 'nym actually was my pick as way to differentiate these books from the Long Price stuff. They're very different projects. And oddly, I've had at least two people who, discoverin' I was a boy only after the fact, said they wouldn't have picked it up had they known beforehand. So there may be something to the gender obfuscation, or it might just be sampling error. I don't see it a big issue either way.

    Your objection to the cover is well-taken. It is very much an urban fantasy cover, and it ain't breaking any new ground. And if it turned you off the series, I certainly respect that. I've seen the cover for the second book, and lemme tell you, it's totally going to fail for you too.

    As far as your promise to never put your money into that kind of cover art . . . well, should you ever choose to shoplift a book, please keep me in mind. And also I'd recommend stealing Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville books. They've got the covers you don't groove on, but she's doing some very interesting and quietly subversive work.

    And thanks for talking about the book, even just to say why you were passing.


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