Content Warning: Transphobia — In both my original post and comments in the discussion below, I make ignorant and hurtful anti-trans remarks. They are wrong now and were wrong at the time I wrote them. I was wrong—and Mr. Newton correctly called out my ill-informed and ill-considered words. I apologize to those hurt by my words and to the wider transgender community.

Trans women are women. Period.

If you would like more information about how to support the transgender community, please visit GLAAD’s page about “Things You Can Do For Transgender Equality.” – Aidan Moher, June 27, 2020

Over on his blog, Mark Charan Newton is running a poll to choose the cover for his next novel. The two candidates:

'The Book of Transformations' by Mark Charan Newton 'The Book of Transformations' by Mark Charan Newton

Now, Mark and I are good friends, and I’ve greatly enjoyed both of his novels, but, we’ve long disagreed about cover art. And, frankly, it looks like we’ll continue to disagree. For a series lauded for its originality and ties to the New Weird, we’re shown another bland, lowest-common-denominator cover; a far cry from the beautiful US and UK covers for the Hardcover edition of Newton’s first book, Nights of Villjamur. It’s like choosing between a turd and a Murphy Brown: Season 2 DVD. Mark did mention that the posted covers lack polish, so we can probably expect improvements similar to the ones applied to the MMPB cover of City of Ruin, but that likely won’t be enough to change my opinion. I have to admit, I just don’t understand the branding angle they’re taking with Newton’s work.

For all the hullabaloo about The Book of Transformations featuring a trans-gendered character on the cover… she certainly looks like a regular saucy Urban Fantasy chick. Not saying she should look like a man, but rather that her unique situation (that, presumably helps define her character in the novel) should lend a more unique take on her appearance. Newton’s trying to push at the boundaries of the genre… and his publisher’s lumping him right in the middle of the crowd.

For the record, the first cover, the close-up, is the far-and-away leader in Newton’s poll. So maybe I’m wrong. Drop by his blog if you’re interested in leaving your two cents.

  • Kristopher Denby September 28, 2010 at 10:50 am

    The first thing that jumps out at me is that it looks like they hired a model to pose in a martial arts stance. If that’s what it’s supposed to be, why not get someone who is trained in martial arts? At least it would look a bit more believable and authentic.

    In the end, though, I hate photographs in cover art. Give me art art any day.

  • Kristopher Denby September 28, 2010 at 10:52 am

    What I meant to say, is give me a painting for cover art over photographic cover art. The way I said it implies that I don’t consider photography a form of art, and that isn’t true at all.

  • Mark September 28, 2010 at 11:05 am

    I do want to add that this is a draft. The character will be fully integrated into the picture and made to look more painterly, but the decision needs to be based on the draft!

    PS: I still don’t get what you mean on the transgender comment. Do you mean she should look less feminine? That transwomen shouldn’t look feminine?

  • aidan September 28, 2010 at 11:22 am

    @Mark – Nope, as I said in the blog, I don’t expect her to look more masculine, just more unique and interesting. You had the balls and the gumption to write about a transgendered woman, but the marketing department at your publisher went out and put a young, vanilla ninja girl on your cover. To the vast majority of the people who pick up your book, there’s a woman on your cover, there’s a disconnect there (in my opinion) that undersells what’s between the pages. Brynd is clearly albino on the cover of City of Ruin, but there’s nothing interesting or defining about the girl on The Book of Transformations. That’s not your character on the cover; it’s a young model and the easiest association to the text is with your transgendered character.

    Of course, this all assumes that her being transgendered has an important bearing on the story and her character. I assume she struggles with her physical appearance in the novel? I assume she struggles with prejudice and sexuality? The cover doesn’t suggest any of these conflicts for that character. But maybe I’m wrong about all this (assumptions are dangerous, after all); maybe being a ninja-girl is more important to her character than being transgendered.

    I don’t have any suggestions on how these could have been incorporated into the image; rather, I think an entirely different direction should have been taken. You write such wonderful atmosphere into your novels, but that’s totally left to the wayside. You write such weird, creepy and original novels, but that’s also left out. Designers should play to the strengths of the novel (which doesn’t have to preclude market trends and good design), and I don’t feel that that’s the case here.

    I originally applauded the idea that she would be featured on the cover, but now its clear that there was no risk to the publisher in featuring a transgendered character on the cover. She’s just a girl, like all the rest, after all.

  • Mark September 28, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Of course she does – she questions those things about herself. By the time she’s back in Villjamur, she’s been transformed into her natural gender. So she is just a young woman to most others in this novel – and for me, that’s kind of the point. Her gender is female; she was unfortunate to be born in the wrong body, but lucky enough to have that issue rectified. She is a woman.

  • Mark September 28, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Didn’t mean to come across as harsh with “Of course she does” I meant “You’re right, she does”. Stupid language. :)

  • The Evil Hat/Nat September 28, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    I’ve gotta say that I dislike both quite a bit. Still, I guess they’ll likely improve if they’re a rough draft, and the first is better.

  • DiapDealer September 28, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Is it too late to drop back 15 yards and punt?

  • Chad Hull September 28, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Now that’s funny. Is there a third choice? The book premise sounds interesting.

  • Kendall September 28, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    I don’t care for either cover, except perhaps the sky part. But I take Mark’s point that the final will presumably be different to heart. Hopefully the final version will integrate the two totally different things (a photo and what looks like -ugh- boring rendering, sigh) into a more cohesive and artistic whole.

    (hopeful grin)

  • Nick September 29, 2010 at 2:23 am

    Pretty horrible. But then I wasn’t a huge fan of the anime figure on the City of Ruin cover. I loved the UK HB cover for Nights, and felt that the cover of City WITHOUT said anime figure would’ve been great. Likewise, this cover WITHOUT ninja girl would be pretty sweet. Instead it’s a cover I’d probably be a little embarrassed to be seen with. I know people say not to judge a book by its cover, but if I were to do so I’d avoid this like the plague. But hey, I’ll just tuck the dustjackets for Mark’s series in a box in the attic and proudly display the series in their cloth bindings.

  • Andrew Liptak September 29, 2010 at 8:03 am

    I hope that the US version will be more inline with the NoV edition that’s currently out. I’m not a fan of either of these.

  • Alex Keller September 29, 2010 at 8:07 am

    I’ve never seen one of these covers with a photograph of a person that actually looks good. I think it makes the book look tacky and mills & boon-esque. If I saw it in a bookshop/library I wouldn’t go near it for that reason.

  • Jonathan September 29, 2010 at 8:12 am

    If the model and the background are set in stone, I would prefer bringing the model even more into the foreground like #1 but keep more of the city visible like #2.

    In a perfect world you would have a tiny figure and the city looming in the background, like the Spectra Nights of Villjamur cover. That’s just me.

    With the full body shot, she looks like she might just be getting her freak on.

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Aidan Moher and Aidan Moher, Cara Murphy. Cara Murphy said: RT @adribbleofink: Much discussion on the two potential covers for @MarkCN's THE BOOK OF TRANSFORMATIONS. Help him decide! […]

  • The Fantasizer September 30, 2010 at 2:46 am

    Both the covers are pure shitty, what the f*** is the girl doing on the cover, completely ruining the covers. I can’t see how or why anyone could like these covers. Drop the bitch, Mark pleaaaaase!!!

  • Khaled September 30, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    Agreed. When I saw the first cover, I thought to myself, “I’m choosing the other… by default.” I then scrolled down and did the browsing equivalent of a double-take. And now I can’t decide. Honestly, I only iike the background. Please take out the girl. This draft looks so much better without the figure in the front.

  • Locusmortis October 2, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Either cover would be pretty decent without the chick on the cover. It would be much more evocative to have the castle/cityscape underneath the setting sun

  • […] couple of weeks ago, I whined and complained about the early cover for Mark Charan Newton’s The Book of Transformations, the third volume […]

  • […] well this time around; it’s simple, the typography is good and it’s a mile better than the ninja girl that almost graced the cover of the hardback. The cover for the German edition of Nights of […]

  • Mark Charan Newton Interview | Fantasy Faction October 24, 2013 at 11:29 am

    […] with Lan, there was discussion about the original design for The Book of Transformations at the “A Dribble of Ink” blog. Lan […]