From the Pen of Laura Resnick

One Steve Wasserman, whose name shall live in infamy for his fifteen minutes of fame, in The Nation holds forth as follows:

In certain genres (romance, science fiction and fantasy) formerly relegated to the moribund mass-market paperback, readers care not a whit about cover design or even good writing, and have no attachment at all to the book as object. Like addicts, they just want their fix at the lowest possible price, and Amazon is happy to be their online dealer.”
To which the excellent and imperishable Laura Resnick on her website replies with fine fettle:
OMG! This is such a relief! I’ve been so misled.

I can finally stop editing and taking pains to package my romance backlist well! NO ONE CARES! They’re just addicts!

I can finally stop editing and taking pains to package my fantasy backlist well! My readers don’t care about quality!

I can tell my dad, a science fiction writer, to relax and stop sweating over Hugo-quality material! No one cares! Science fiction readers are just junkies!

I can tell my publisher to stop spending all that money on my award-winning cover artist! An LA Times book reviewer has declared that it’s pointless! My readers are indifferent to brilliant cover art! We could probably just package the worthless sh*t that I write in a brown paper wrapper!

Whoa! So GLAD Mr. Wasserman enlightened me. The pressure to write well, the pressure on my editors to acquire and edit well, and the pressure on my cover artists and designers… Gone! It never mattered! Our readers our brain-dead junkies! Yay! What a RELIEF not to have to behave like REAL writers, editors, artists, and publishers, after all!

Hat tip to superversive. And a salute if not a toast to Laura Resnick. Well said, ma’am. Very well said.


  1. Comment by Nate Winchester:

    I can finally stop editing and taking pains to package my fantasy backlist well! My readers don’t care about quality!

    Why not? Some of the recent bestsellers seem to prove this.

    lol seriously though, total slow clap for Laura here. A woman after mine own heart.

  2. Comment by joetexx:

    If Wasserman is rembered at all, ’twill be due to Resnick and Simon’s terse dismissal.

    To think I had a paid sub to the Nation fr 12 years!

    I weep to think how many margaritas that would buy.

  3. Comment by Sean Michael:

    Dear Mr. Wright:

    Very amusing, the quotes from Laura Resnick. And, I agree, very much to the point. But, alas, Wasserman does have a point, at least occasionally as regards cover illustrations. I’ve seen too many books whose cover illustrations bears hardly any relation to the stories they supposedly illustrate.

    I’ll cite the awful covers Baen Books chose for three volumes of their reprint of Poul Anderson’s Technic Civilization stories as my examples. The covers chosen for YOUNG FLANDRY, CAPTAIN FLANDRY, and SIR DOMINIC FLANDRY are simply hideous, esp. the last one I listed. These covers are lurid and pornographic. They make Flandry look like a goon chased by hordes of naked bimbos. While Flandry certainly enjoyed the company of beautiful women, he was not a thuggish sybarite.

    Baen Books really fell down on the job as regards the covers I’m commenting on. Who would want to be seen in public with books having such ghastly covers? And Poul Anderson’s excellent and classical SF deserves better than what it got in these three cover illustrations. As an especially zealous fan of Anderson’s work, this makes me angry!

    Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      The young whippersnappers don’t remember when all SF covers where Peter Mac style cubist renderings of visual gibberish, having even less relation than none whatever to the inside of the book. My edition of Lord of the Rings, for example, has pink flamingos in Hobbiton. Or something. My edition of Slan does not have a boy with tendrils growing from his head, but shows instead a flotilla of flying saucers floating into a pink cloud. Or something.

      • Comment by joetexx:


        So that’s what the hell they were!

      • Comment by Sean Michael:

        Dear Mr. Wright:

        Ha! I still have old Ballantine Books copies of THE HOBBIT and THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING showing those flamingos and trees with wierd bulbous fruit. Irrelevant illustrations which really angered Tolkien. So, I agree, the problem of bad cover illustrations is not new.

        And I still brood darkly over those ghastly Baen Books covers for the Flandry books I listed above!

        Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

        • Comment by Nostreculsus:

          Barbara Remington’s studies for the Ballantine LOTR covers recently sold for US$35,850.00. Note(from left to right), Hobbiton, the White Tree of Gondor, the spider Shelob, the riders of Rohan, and the final battle at Mount Doom.

          The whole story in one unforgettable image.

          • Comment by Sean Michael:

            Hi, Nostreculsus!

            The purist in me still agrees with Tolkien in disliking the Barbara Remington covers for the first Ballantine Books editions of THE HOBBIT and THE LORD OF THE RINGS. The flamingos, lions, and bulbous fruit all aroused Tolkien’s indignation. Albeit, the Remington cover for THE RETURN OF THE KING is not too hopelessly awful. And I am aware Remington had no time to read the books, that she had to whip up those covers fast.

            Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

    • Comment by JJ Brannon:

      Sean, I have all four of the collections and three were on hand under our hosts nose when I was rooting through my bag and piling books on the table to find Count to a Trillion for him to sign.

      Guess what? One, near naked women depicted attract males; two, unshaven Ryan Gosling/Colin Firth/Ben Affleck clones may repel old fuddy-duddy purists such as ourselves but attract women. I took a poll specifically because I bridled at a scruffy Flandry.

      Baen’s job is to sell books. Those covers — sexy competent male, sexy female, and weapons all competently illustrated — succeed for the target demographic.

      [Blondy Blue-eyes, my son, resembles Gosling and, while playing catch up on the sidewalk to a cafe, I’ve witnessed a pair of young women do the stereotypical male on-the-street pass and backwards-ogle stumble. His buddies have complained to me how embarrassing it is for them when the guys are at a restaurant when waitresses flagrantly hand their phone numbers to him with the bill. Son of Mr. Uber-uncool, this is a kid as a tweener who modeled himself on Steve McQueen. Marketing!]

      Somebody’s admiring the craftsmanship of those covers. The purpose of a cover is not to depict the interior text of a book but for a passerby to stop for an instant and **pick up** the book to look closer. If the art portrays something of the story, all the better, yet that’s a lagniappe.

      As for Amelia Windrose transcendentally buoyant in her aviatrix’s cap and school uniform, that is simply one of the most evocative paintings period. It nearly meets the quality of the story the writer wrought.


      • Comment by Sean Michael:

        Dear Mr. Brannon:

        (Grumbles, gripes, moans, sobs!) OK, got that out of the way! (Smiles)

        Looks like purists like you, Mr. Wright, and myself will have to resign ourselves to seeing what I still can’t help considering are awful book covers on some of our favorite SF.

        I do realize book covers are supposed to attract attention to them. And scruffy Ryan Gosling clones and near naked young ladies is one way of doing that. Still, I can day dream of seeing decent covers bearing some relation to the stories inside them AND still being sexy without also being pornographic.

        Guess I’m a hopeless fuddy duddy purist!

        Sean M. Brooks

      • Comment by John C Wright:

        “As for Amelia Windrose transcendentally buoyant in her aviatrix’s cap and school uniform, that is simply one of the most evocative paintings period. It nearly meets the quality of the story the writer wrought.”

        I agree. I have that picture for my screensaver at work. The artists name is Scott Fischer and his wesite is:

  4. Comment by fabulous_mrs_f:

    Without cover art, I would not have discovered our fine host’s writing. The cover of “Orphans of Chaos” made me buy the book. How many books out there are NOT romance, fantasy, sci-fi, or some other genre? If we eliminated these sections from the bookstore, including childrens, middle grade and YA romance, fantasy, and sci-fi, we would be missing a big chunk of the writing out there.

  5. Comment by lotdw:

    The funny thing is that it’s classics (generally speaking or of science fiction) where I have the least care for cover illustrations or the book as object – I want THE WORDS! I could be reading Dante in a text file and I’d be happier than reading James Frey’s $50 art-press-published Jesus-porn novel.

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