Check out this new cover for Sureblood by Susan Grant... You'd never know it's a swashbuckling adventure about space pirates. As the genre of science-fiction romance explodes, publishers are trying to hide the fact that these books are science fiction.
Here's the back-cover copy for Sureblood:
Torn apart by lies and deception...
Five years ago, rival space pirate captains Val Blue and Dake Sureblood stole one incredible night together. But their brief, passionate history ends with the assasination of Val's father and the condemnation of Dake's clan. Now, Val struggles prove her mettle-to herself and to dissenters within her own people. Every successful raid is a boot-heel ground in the burning memory of Dake Sureblood—and their secret son is a constant reminder of their shared past…
Ambushed and captured before he can clear his name, Dake Sureblood returns from hell to expose the true killer of Val's father. But as the identity of their enemy becomes chillingly clear, the former lovers must put aside their mistrust and join forces to protect their clans—and their precious son.
It sounds pretty thrilling, what with the rival space pirate captains and the raids and everything.
As science-fiction romance gains in popularity, the novels have been growing in word count and becoming more epic, emphasizing the sprawling story over the romance part. But publishers are stil hoping to pitch these books to regular romance readers. Thus, according to the always entertaining Galaxy Express blog, there's a constant tension between "man titty" covers like the above one, versus covers that actually depict what goes on in the book.
This discussion has been going on for a while, but it flared up again in response to this latest Harlequin cover. Writes Galaxy Express:
Where are the space pirates promised by the jacket copy? The cover conveys erotic romance to me... Perhaps it's a sign of these difficult economic times that romance publishers are ratcheting up the man titty/erotic romance campaigns. Seems like in order to capture as many sales as possible, they are attempting to appeal to every single romance reader regardless of individual taste (but all readers swoon for man titty cover? Really?). In the end, they will end up pleasing a number that in my totally biased opinion will fall short of potential.
Sexy and romantic covers? Great, awesome-why not a clinch cover for SUREBLOOD, with a starry background, perhaps? A fiercely accessorized, sexy space heroine with generous cleavage would be a great draw for male readers. Why do historical romances get clear historical visual cues and books like these don't? Ghettoization of SFR? Yes, in part, along with the corporate mentality that dictates standardization of art.
Is this cover fiasco another indication that romance publishers think their female readers are idiots when it comes to science fiction romance? Maybe Harlequin thinks the stories are both too science fictional and too exotic for readers to enjoy.
Count this as another vote for novels about space pirates to have covers depicting space pirates... preferably sexy ones. It's also just fascinating to see that every subgenre has its own worries about perceived marginalization. The issues are often the same, even if — as in this case — they're sort of opposite.