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Old 02-20-2014, 01:01 PM   #1
Katsunami
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Fantasy book covers: darker, more serious than before?

Is it just me, or are the covers of fantasy books become much darker, more serious, and sometimes, more business-like than before? I've noticed this while replacing paper books with e-book versions...

Sword of Shannara: Old, new, newer
Ship of Magic: Old, new
Memories of ice: Old, new

Is it coincidence that I'm just noticing this with my particular books, or is there some sort of effort to try and rid the fantasy genre of its stigma?

(The stigma, which is: I've often encountered people that were of the opinion that Fantasy is something only read by children, and that adults "don't read that", mainly because it's "not literature", and "cheesy". If you do, you're some sort of a nerd who got stuck in his mid-teens or something.)

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Old 02-20-2014, 02:01 PM   #2
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The new fantasy covers do look less nerdy. The same trend is occurring in Romance - newer covers depict some shadowy object instead of Fabio embracing Pamela Anderson in the throes of passion.
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Old 02-20-2014, 02:43 PM   #3
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Is it intentional? Or is it just a new generation of book cover designers. Maybe a little of both. I imagine that the hand drawn covers of yore cost more, and that's a factor too.
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Old 02-20-2014, 02:51 PM   #4
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I hadn't really noticed it before, possibly because I buy ebooks now rather than browse in a book store, but you have a point. One thing to consider is that book covers are designed to capture the eye of the expected audience. The original cover of the Sword of Shannara was done by the Brothers Hildebrandt who also did artwork for some of the Tolkien calendars and original Star Wars film poster. Campbell famously said that the golden age of SF was 14 (i.e. his target audience was teenaged boys). I'm not so sure that is the case anymore.
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Old 02-20-2014, 04:58 PM   #5
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Wow, that original Ship of Magic cover is terrible. I might never have bought it if we'd had that one here in the UK.

(OK, I probably would, but I wouldn't have been happy. A bad cover has never stopped me buying a book, but a good cover is always a bonus.)

I suspect it's merely fashion, but there might also be considerations of making covers that look good as thumbnails, these days.
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Old 02-20-2014, 05:08 PM   #6
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What's a book cover?
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Old 02-20-2014, 05:16 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pwalker8 View Post
I hadn't really noticed it before, possibly because I buy ebooks now rather than browse in a book store, but you have a point. One thing to consider is that book covers are designed to capture the eye of the expected audience. The original cover of the Sword of Shannara was done by the Brothers Hildebrandt who also did artwork for some of the Tolkien calendars and original Star Wars film poster. Campbell famously said that the golden age of SF was 14 (i.e. his target audience was teenaged boys). I'm not so sure that is the case anymore.
That's certainly true; covers are designed to appeal to the target audience. In the last several years however, Fantasy has become a lot more gritty. For example, a game such as Dragon Age is a brutal gore-fest, and it contains (very) foul language, heavy drinking, and romance dialogue that eventually leads can lead to sex (including gay couples). The Dragon Age books are not much different. Not something you'd give to a 14-year old.

Maybe the more nerdy Fantasy from back in the day tries to piggyback on the gritty Fantasy that seems to sell well.

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What's a book cover?
It's a somewhat thick piece of paper, or maybe cardboard, onto which the title of the book is printed. It serves the purpose of letting you know what you're reading
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Old 02-20-2014, 05:31 PM   #8
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It's a somewhat thick piece of paper, or maybe cardboard, onto which the title of the book is printed. It serves the purpose of letting you know what you're reading
Oh, I always tore those off. They just got in the way.
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Old 02-20-2014, 05:33 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by DiapDealer View Post
Oh, I always tore those off. They just got in the way.
Hm... modus operandi infestus.

Very disturbing. I could understand it with Vampire Romance novels, but Fantasy... nah.
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Old 02-20-2014, 06:19 PM   #10
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No, I didn't really tear covers off. But I have been known to throw away a dust-cover or three.

I've seriously never overly-connected artwork with books/stories (even fantasy). I can look at--and appreciate--artistic talent, but I never really "got" the intimate relationship readers seemed to develop with that artwork as it pertained to the book/story. Always thought it was all a bit silly, actually. The meat and potatoes were in the words (and my mind). The covers are usually just pretty "lies" anyway.
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Old 02-20-2014, 06:24 PM   #11
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I never liked the book covers that showed the faces of the characters because its never how i pictured the character in my mind
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Old 02-20-2014, 07:22 PM   #12
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I don't totally judge a book by its cover, but it is a factor especially when considering a book by an author that I haven't read before. Styles certainly have changed over the years.

This site has a lot of good info on the art work for new and upcoming fantasy novels.
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Old 02-20-2014, 07:28 PM   #13
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I think it's somewhat more noteworthy that the last cover for Sword declares Terry Brooks The Master of Modern Fantasy.

Don't get me wrong; I've read a lot of the Shannara books and enjoyed most of them. But if I could only take one fantasy author's works into my fallout shelter, it wouldn't be his.
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Old 02-20-2014, 07:42 PM   #14
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Pretty sure Terry's title of "Master" is honorary. There's lots of authors I think are better too, but he, Donaldson, and Lester Del Rey, do deserve a little credit for the birth of "modern" commercial fantasy (meaning displayed on actual shelves in actual book stores where customers could see them) in the late '70s.
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Old 02-20-2014, 08:04 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mewmartigan View Post
I never liked the book covers that showed the faces of the characters because its never how i pictured the character in my mind
And that works for character descriptions within the book. One of the Mages in Gardens of the Moon I envisioned as young and slim. Then she was described as 200+ years old and overweight. Sigh. There goes my dreams.
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