Sunday, March 16, 2014

Some Well-Done Portrayals of Women in SF and Fantasy Art.

Since March is women's history month, I've been thinking about doing another piece on some issue that relates to women in fantasy and SF. I have some ideas, but one thing that comes to mind is the ridiculous portrayals of women on book covers and in games. Jim Hines has helped to raise awareness of this issue with a series of blogs where he and some other SF and F authors have had some spine-twisting fun as they attempt to contort themselves into the positions in which women are often portrayed on book covers.

And of course, many of us have heard of the Maureen Johnson's coverflip challenge, in which the gender of famous authors is hypothetically flipped and the covers redesigned accordingly.

And lest anyone point out that male bodies are sometimes exploited on romance, and even fantasy novels, I won't disagree. I don't think it's even wrong to use sex to sell novels if you're honest and egalitarian about it. But male and female bodies are portrayed differently. Even novels, comics and game with female protagonists tend to portray the women with fewer clothes and in poses that are less "powerful" than they do their male protagonists.

But it occurred to me that it's not all doom and gloom. I train dogs and teach humans, so I know that marking and rewarding desired behavior is a much more powerful tool than marking and punishing undesirable behavior. I did a quick search and rustled up some examples of portrayals of women that I thought were rather well done.

Jo Walton's The King's Peace Cover art by Julie Bell

Robin Hobb's Ship of Destiny. Cover art by Stephen Youll.

Scott Lynch's Republic of Thieves. Cover art by Benjamin Carre.

Liane Merciel's Heaven's Needle. Cover art by Stephen Youll

Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn. Cover art by Chris McGrath.


Art on original Rune Quest box cover.

Magic the Gathering Knight Exemplar card (2011).


  1. It's great to point out good examples once in a while. Thanks!

  2. I've always been a firm believer that interesting will always trump sexual when it comes to cover art. Good post.

  3. And dare I say that interesting can be sexy in and of itself?

  4. Some great examples - I'll keep my eyes open for others. And yes, there's nothing remotely unsexy about an image of a strong, confident woman, regardless of how much or little she's wearing.

  5. Yes, if anyone can think of others, I can always add them into the gallery :)