Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Phoenix Will Rise from Its Own Ashes

Curiously, like racism! Except racism is more like the ugly, stupid, festering toad that you just can't squash no matter how many times you hit it with a shovel.

This charming book has a new cover! Look:And here's the sequel:
A further explanation here.

You might start thinking that publishers simply aren't listening to the strong reactions that recent instances of whitewashing have elicited from the community of readers / bloggers. You might even think that perhaps they're hoping that eventually we'll get tired of complaining about this, and they'll help us get tired by giving us some more instances.

But I don't think that's really what's going on. I think what publishers and chain bookstore buyers are really thinking to themselves is this:

"We're not racists; teenagers are racists."

Now, whether or not there are book-buying teens who are racist and will not buy this book because there is a Chinese girl on the cover, and whether or not there are enough of them to justify such a statement or make a meaningful difference to sales, letting someone else's perceived racism influence your behavior in the interest of making more money means:

You are racists. And you're whores.

Was that clear enough?

150 comments:

Unknown said...

So true. And so sad.

Anonymous said...

I think they've learned that these outrages lead to lots of exposure on the blogosphere and the books benefit. I am sure LIAR benefited tremendously from the controversy.

Unknown said...

This is surprisingly similar to the reaction I had when I saw the cover to the sequel. I didn't know they were giving the first one a new cover, too. That really pisses me off. Thanks for sharing; even though it's a bunch of crap, people need to know about it. :/

Christi Goddard said...

Personally, the first cover was beautiful. I also want to mention (just for the sake of it) that my daughter and all of her friends are so 'into' Asian cultures right now, they would be MORE likely to pick up the first cover than the rehash.

Vivienne Grainger said...

Yay you for tellin' it like it freakin' is!!

Phoebe North said...

God, this upsets me. Not in the least because the original cover was fantastic, and these are super boring and bland and stock photoish and just terrible.

Not to mention racist.

ClothDragon said...

I do not look back fondly on my teen years. Instead I spent most of my teen years wishing I could be anyone or anywhere else. (said by average height, average weight, fish-belly white -with freckles- person)

The thing is... I don't think I was the only one. I read every book I could find with exotic people or places on the cover. Sticking white people on every book almost makes me thing travel books don't sell or something.

Anonymous said...

You know...I'm usually the first one saying we need to stop catering to the perceived small-mindedness of buyers or chains.

But here's the rub on this instance: I can't stop seeing this as a publisher trying to give a book a second chance, with a cover that harkens to a popular series, in hopes of luring readers. And something about that really makes me want to applaud, not bash.

Seems worthy of respect that they are committed to trying to lure more readers with new covers, covers I'll add that may draw a specific readership by looking similar to a popular series.

I love the original cover - but I also thought it made Silver Pheonix look like a younger book, and I think at least some part of low sales might be the perceived tween-ness of the cover, not the perceived race of the cover. But good luck convincing anyone else of that.

So, when I look at the new covers -I don't see a whitewash. I see covers mirroring Kelley Armstrong's popular books - most especially Reckoning and Awakening, but also No Humans Involved. I was struck right away by the similarities.

So...if I can applaud Greenwillow for the original cover, and assuming the other jacket text and images give the flavor of the book, why shouldn't I also applaud them for repackaging the books in hopes of reaching a wider audience.

Because we have that original cover, so it's hard for me to swallow a "whitewashing" if that was their original vision and cover. Instead, I see a repackaging targeting a specific audience.

And I have to wonder how many publishers wouldn't even bother to repackage.

Anonymous said...

if they were going to do a re-hash for the sake of sales... wouldn't it have been just as easy to use a model that actually fit? i mean, i understand that they were changing the cover to fit with what most kids are likely to pick up, but using an asian model would have made a world of difference for those to whom it matters, and no difference for anyone else.

i am also not a fan of this new trend of cover styles. when i was younger, book covers seemed to vary so much more... :/

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who thinks the second cover has a better design? They're both pretty Photoshopped. The second one seems more likely to stand out on a bookshelf, though.

That doesn't excuse the whitewashing, of course. It's pretty blatant. Cutting her off just below the eyes while simultaneously removing all cultural clues in the clothing? Come on.

I'm sure they could have come up with a better cover than either of these. And without raising the justified ire of the blogosphere.

Anonymous said...

@ first Anonymous:

I agree with you that Greenwillow was trying to repackage Cindy's book to give it another chance to reach a wider audience. I think we all agree that Greenwillow was trying to go with what they think is the most marketable solution at this point.

But what that says about the industry as a whole is that the industry is geared towards a racist system of marketing books. Editorial Anon is totally, 100% right. Elizabeth Bluemle was totally, 100% right when she stated the same thing on the PW blog a few weeks back.

It's not that Greenwillow's heart isn't in the right place. It's that we, as an active blogosphere community, are fed up with having to settle for an industry so fully, pervasively steeped in racist marketing practices that Greenwillow's only option is to default back to "generic faceless cover" instead of sticking by its original, trailblazing, and inspiring marketing scheme for this book.

@ second anon - actually, I don't think we can assume that the controversies helped. Jaclyn Dolamore commented on my LJ post (a mirror to the one linked by EA) that she has yet to see the new cover of Magic Under Glass appear in any chain bookstore.

The frustration is heavy on all sides. My personal feeling is that if the industry standard was more representative, books like MUG and SP would have a better shot at having their more diverse covers accepted and snapped up by the reading public.

Kadi said...

@Anonymous who posted at 5:01 PM

The fact of the matter is that the features of the girls in the two new covers are Caucasian, while the original is Asian. If the new covers had used a similar Kelley Armstrong type cover with an Asian girl, I don't think this post would have been made and I think your point would have been valid--publishers trying to get a book a wider audience with a reprinting.

But that wasn't what happened. The use of a Caucasian model representing an Asian protagonist is very problematic, full stop.

Tara said...

Although there's certainly whitewashing involved, the new covers strike me mostly as trying to cash into the paranormal romance boom. Seriously, the other day I checked the YA section at the bookstore, and it was just shelves and shelves of black and red and soft-edged subdued colors. Like these. Notice that they added the quote "lush, exotic, and romantic..." to both of the newer editions; that goes along with the trendy redesign.

Wangie said...

Admittedly, I winced a bit at the first cover--it seems a bit kitschy (and I also hate the use of that word in the quote on the cover, yikes). Not to defend the publisher's choice to remove any trace of the ethnicity, though. Whitewashing is a real problem.

But--and sorry but this peeved me--commentors, saying (white) kids will like the books because they are all "into" Asian culture right now, or because you are "unmarked" as a white person (unlike exotic brown and yellow people), is problematic too. I get the good intentions, it's just that on the flipside of whitewashing is exoticization and cultural appropriation.

Anonymous said...

Well, the original cover is corny, and the second one just reeks of the whole "vampire" style of covers I've been seeing.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a little different than some of the other examples that have been cited, because:

This book DID have a cover with a distinctly Asian heroine on it.

It now has a sales track record, which certainly was considered in the decision to repackage.

If the publisher repackages to give this book a second chance, and if the new cover sells better, whose fault is that? If racism, whose racism is it?

And if the new cover doesn't sell better, what can we conclude from that, if anything?

And to what extent do the other elements of the cover design come into play--the darker, older, edgier look, changing from pink to black, and from a younger-looking girl to an older-looking one?

I have no answers. Just questions.

KT Grant said...

Knowing that a group of educated individuals actually sat about and discussed changing the paperback cover to a more Caucasian cover sickens me.

Regardless if Silver Phoenix sold well or not, they assume by whitewashing the paperback cover that it will finally sell. Disgusting.

There are many whitewashed covers for books that don't sell well. What's the excuse for that?

Stephanie McGee said...

All I can do is shake my head and ask, "Why?"

fat girl said...

I whole heartedly agree with you, it's ridiculous. And I don't buy "repackaging" to give the series continuity. That could have been done with the original cover. And I don't believe hiding the true nature of the book behind a "mass appeal" cover is respectful at all.

Natty said...

Teen-agers aren't racists--leastwise, not the ones I know. That bright pink costume, though? No sale. Nothing pink in this house--okay, the second-grader loves pink. The other two girls? The teen-agers? NO PINK. And yes, they are totally into Asian, specially Japanese culture. I detest ALL the covers that feature headless (or eye-less) women--or for that matter the he's-nothing-but-a-six-pack male torso covers.

I'd say that the anonymous poster just above me has the probably correct take on this. Righteous outrage is fun, but not always the correct answer. It's a business.

Anonymous said...

No, teenagers aren't racists. Every survey shows that teens and young adults on the whole are far more open-minded than their elders.

Nobody really knows for sure why a book doesn't sell to expectations, but the lousy economy strikes me as reason #1. Thus, there's no guarantee the whitewashed cover will sell better than the old one and may even sell worse.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to agree with anonymous here. Whitewashing infuriates me as much as it would anyone else aware of it, but I have to give Greenwillow some credit. They supported the book with gusto, gave it an awesome hardcover, and wanted the sequel. And now they are trying another way to get the book out. Granted, I'd like it to have a character who actually looks like Ai Ling on the cover, and the new covers don't look anything at all like what the stories are about, but I think they are going for an older teen audience and trying to grasp the coattails of the urban fantasy trend. And it could work, maybe. All of those teens who aren't aware of the anger online just might browse by and pick it up.

Rachel said...

I think the old cover was beautiful and intriguing. Truthfully, I'd be much more likely to pick up the old cover than the new one.

Peter Cooper said...

This is just pathetic.

Even leaving aside the obvious racism in this cover change, those new covers look like almost everything else in the YA section right now. I'm half way through this book, and one of the reasons it drew me was an original and striking cover.

I imagine Cindy has a few things to say about this.

Anonymous said...

I do like the design of the new covers better -- the partially hidden face adds a sense of mystery, etc. However, why in the hell did they have to make the face white?? It's absolutely ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Is it Bloomsbury again?

No, looks like it's HarperCollins.

Nancy Coffelt said...

Thank you. This needs to be said.

And said.

And said.

But dollars also need to come into play. I have NO interest in punishing the author. However, will this stop as long as these covers still move books (or get chains to stock them)? What, as writers are we to do here?

As a fishbelly white person, I spend my days walking in a very diverse town. It confounds me that other faces (or beautiful garb) wouldn't sell books.

Cyndi said...

Yes, Cindy did have a few things to say on her blog. I think her preemptive response to what she knew was coming shows a lot of class.

http://cindypon.com/2010/fury-of-the-phoenix-cover-revealed/

Ebony McKenna. said...

*facepalm*

and you know what? Irony's having a field day with this. Check out the Bookdepository page for Silver Phoenix, and look at the recommended books - there's Justine Larbalestier's white "Liar" cover.

http://www.bookdepository.com/book/9780061730214/Silver-Phoenix

Anonymous said...

So maybe everyone who does want to express their outrage should run out and buy the original hardcover.

The reality is, where was everyone to support the first courageous cover?

Maybe we need to start actively seeking out and buying the books with the covers we respect.

How many copies did each of the outraged folks buy? If the answer was zero... well?

If we as consumers don't buy books with representative covers, then we are allowing our silence (ie, non-sales) to be misinterpreted.

So, everyone who is outraged, why not go buy the hardcover? Or go buy another book with a person of color on the jacket. That's how we can fight the fallacy of the "ignorant masses." And until we prove it with dollars, it won't be believed. And, outside of the kids, the people who get hurt the most are the authors. So, support an author - buy books with jackets that show people of color on the cover (in this case, maybe one of those lovely hardcovered Silver Phoenixes).

Anonymous said...

I agree. And Cindy's post concerning this is classy and dignified. When she posted the cover on FaceBook, I believe I liked it or congratulated her on it because her attitude was so upbeat, but I was really alarmed and disappointed. I loved the first cover, but if they had to rework it they took it down the wrong path. It's insulting to it's target audience as well. I hope they reconsider and re-Asian the cover, it's the right thing to do-the story demands it and the readers do too.

Becky said...

As I said on my blog a few days ago... I think the Fury cover is lovely. Or rather, would make a lovely cover for a novel about the girl it pictures. 'Cause that girl clearly isn't Ai Ling, and that story clearly isn't about Xia.

Michael Grant said...

There's one person who has 90% of the power in this area: B&N's YA buyer. Of course we don't even know what he or she is being shown by publishers.

The dirty little secret of publishing is that they have almost no data on their readers. They aren't in the business of selling books to readers, they sell books to bookstore. So I think this is probably a half dozen behind-the-times editors acting on perceptions that might be outdated

When we make the jump to e-books we'll start getting much better market data.

Nicolette said...

I don't like the new covers very much. But I dislike the original cover enough that it might've made me not pick up the book. The colors are garish, the pose is awkward, and it looks a little embarassing to be carrying around as an older teen or adult. It looks like a fantasy book for little kids. While the new covers are not innovative in the least, they're acceptable (except for the whole not being Asian thing. I agree with you all there). I truly understand why the publishers would want to repackage this book, but it would've been nice to have a Chinese model, even if her face does get cut off.

However, I think there's a large market that goes for book covers that look similar to others they like, because they don't want to risk spending their money on something they'll dislike. It does remind me of Kelly Armstrong's books, among others.

Anonymous said...

Oh for fuck sake, EA.

Newsflash -- most publishers just dump a book/author when the sales are low. At least they are trying to stick by the books and author and issue another type of cover to insight sales and attention. The fact that her pub is trying something new means they believe in the books. That's a GOOD thing!

I'd love to ask if you'd rather one of your author's have a painfully accurate cover or SALES, because without sales they won't be an author for very long.

Anonymous said...

Well if the first cover didn't sell for shit...

Anonymous said...

I agree with the commenters who said the original cover was unappealing -- yes, it's culturally on-target, but kinda cheesy. And I agree that the repackaging is standard fare. (I don't think it's obvious that the character is white or non-white, btw.) The fact is, there's huge pressure from in-house sales and accounts to keep doing the same thing over and over. It's not just culture that gets obliterated, it's innovation and creativity. I commend those amazing folks at Greenwillow for their belief in Cindy Pon, and their willingness to spend time, money, and political capital in repromoting this series.

Anonymous said...

As someone who does the visual merchandising for a book store, I call my teen table the twilight zone because it is a black hole of dark and depressing covers. The best cover I’ve seen in recent times is Shiver with its icy blue and cream colors. I would chose to face out the original cover of Silver Phoenix over the newer additions, because it is bright and pink.
Besides the whitewashing, another disturbing trend is how many dead-looking models appear on book covers.

Rachel Aaron said...

Here's what I don't get. This book sounds like it would be the perfect candidate for some of the amazing manga-style fantasy art coming out of China right now that's so popular on places like Deviant Art. I haven't read the book, but the synopsis sounds good. However, I wouldn't pick it up based on any of these covers except maybe the first (mostly because at least that one has some color and isn't trying its hardest to be emo-goth.) But man, give me something like this: http://hgjart.deviantart.com/gallery/#/d2e63al or http://hgjart.deviantart.com/gallery/#/d2e60sg and I would be ALL OVER that book.

shelley said...

What's also annoying is the repackaged ones are photos. The first one is an illustration. And there's damn few covers given to illustrators these days.

Anonymous said...

I love the original cover - but I also thought it made Silver Pheonix look like a younger book..."

Exactly. The book was first marketed as a mid-grade; the series is now repositioned as a YA. All you need to do is peruse the old Greenwillow catalog, and it's pretty obvious.

And as far as YA goes, it's pretty run-of-the-mill. Is that really not an Asian mouth? How in the world could you even begin to tell? Perhaps it's Hispanic? Serbo-croatian? Any and all of these? Quite possibly.

Editorial Anonymous, if you truly want to be La Liberte leading her people, why don't we have a discussion of the vast majority of YA covers feature portions a chopped-up female?

The persistence of featuring a portion of the female body (here, it would be the tender neck and mouth; another instance is GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY where the curve of the female back was disembodied from its head; the entire Sarah Dessen bibliography with an emphasis on legs) by---in essence---chopping up/off the (female) head.

This, I find a completely unacceptable objectification of women. In the extreme. It makes every girl any girl. Mere interchangeable body parts. Breasts, backs, legs and mouths.

Disembodied sex parts chosen by adults and marketed to teens. Oh joy.

Yup. Every time I pass the YA section in the book store and see shelves and shelves on photo-shopped, random (oh. But not random. They aren't really random, are they? They are breasts and backs and legs and mouths. Sexual, oui?)female body parts lined up on cover display like that, I can only think of an abattoir...


Delacroix

Anonymous said...

While I was just as shocked and saddened by the blatant "whitewashing" done on the book jackets previously featured, I think the situation here is far, far different. Here we have a publisher who tried to reflect the cultural aspect of the book on the hardcover -- and then, when that clearly didn't work, took the huge amount of time, effort, money, and political capital to repackage the books in a more commercial way, emphasizing the paranormal/ fantasy/teen girl angle. Maybe the first jacket was too literal and the second approach too generic. I think the real trouble comes in when the race of the character is obviously completely changed, or the jacket is deliberately misleading. The publisher was not doing this here.

In any case the name-calling seemed totally out of line. I'm disappointed.

Merry Monteleone said...

I will admit right here that I didn't read the whole comment thread, but I will go back and do so when I get a chance.

I showed my 12 year old daughter the trailor on Cindy's site last fall and she watched it more than once... so I got ahold of Cindy and she arranged for me to buy an autographed copy for my daughter for Christmas... It's the only gift my daughter hugged and jumped up and down over... and it's a book!!!! Yay, team! She really didn't give a rat's behind about the cover, guys, sorry... she wanted to read it because she already had an idea of what it was about.... she'd already read some of the blurbs from the amazing author...

Someone on this thread suggested going out and buying books when we applaud the covers... did you seriously want us to BUY A BOOK FOR THE COVER????

I wish I could believe this wasn't whitewashing... I have to believe the publishers intentions were good, to give Cindy the best chance at reaching more readers (and their own bottom line, of course)... but I think the whole idea is misguided...

Even if you convinced "racist" teens to read a book of color by tricking them into thinking it's not... umn... wouldn't they get a few pages or chapters in and feel tricked? They're young, not stupid. And news flash... most of them don't care about race, not unless someone taught them to care about it...

And I'll buy the second book regardless of what ends up being the cover... because I know the story will be stellar. I hope you all will think about doing that, too.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a very interesting discussion and a very difficult problem. Having just had two books remaindered, I don't even know if I'd rather they just got objectionable covers... actually probably not.

But I will add this observation re: this:
"If racism, whose racism is it?"

Are you kidding? This sounds exactly, to me, like a pre-Civil Rights restaurant owner in the South saying, "But we can't let THEM in our restaurants, because our customers won't like it! It's not us, it's the customers!"

That didn't fly, and neither does "it's the buyers' fault." Such systemic problems need to be attacked on all possible fronts or they can't be attacked at all.

Jeannie said...

Interesting that some don't like the first cover. I thought it was gorgeous, and I'd probably pick it up and read a few pages if I saw it on a shelf. The other two just looked like all the rest of the stuff that's out there, which is to say, I wouldn't give them a second glance.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

The first one looks like a trashy romance. It depicts the woman both in a very sexualized way, and not as Chinese but as *stereotypically* Chinese. I had to read the commentary to know which image you were going to call "beautiful" and which you were going to call "racist", and the outraged reaction would have made an equal amount of sense to me if the labels were reversed.

Wordy Bird said...

Yes, yes, yes. I only hope it results in many more sales and a lot more publicity about this issue.

Anonymous said...

Random reactions:

I'm amazed and delighted that the publisher would try again rather than just let the book (and the author's career?) be remaindered and that's that. This, I applaud.

The original cover is younger than the second two. There's more than just race going on here. And I see genre differences, too. To me, the first cover says multicultural tween fantasy. The remake says YA paranormal romance.

Apparently a cover needs to sell the book more than it needs to convey its content. I'd be interested to hear reader reactions to how well covers match stories. Do readers feel baited and switched? Or don't they care?

I'm tired of the sameness of book covers.

If I picked up the books with the new covers and found out the MC was Asian, I'd go WTF?

I agree that if the model on the new covers was Asian, there'd be no issue. Yet the children's librarian at my PL says she seldom spends limited funds on multicultural books b/c they just sit on the shelves. It's hard to escape the fact that the pub is doing what it has to do to give these books a second chance.

Which brings me right back to -- I'm amazed and heartened that they'd do so.

Anonymous said...

The fact that the new cover girl's race isn't obvious IS whitewashing. Given the content of the book, the girl on the cover should look OBVIOUSLY Chinese.

With a Chinese model, the new cover would have been so much better than the old one. I share the adult view that all YA covers look alike, and that recent conventions of the form (darkness, dismembered girls, etc.) are creepy. But I think my 13yo son is typical of young teens in being drawn to books that look like those he already likes. The new cover would correctly signal to him that this book is right up his alley.

With the old cover, he wouldn't read it even if someone gave him a copy. He'd love a fierce, female, Chinese protagonist. But that's not what he'd see. He'd see PINK. And NOT IN THE STYLE OF REALLY COOL BOOKS.

Anonymous said...

Most YA book covers all look alike. That is not art. That is consumerism. But, when artistic decisions are left to bookstore chain buyers and marketing and not artists and editors, with publishers bowing to these criteria, what can else we expect? The head chopping and body parts of females is most disturbing along with the whitewashing. Females as hunks of meat hanging in a window. Here's a better idea. Pay the taxes on the warehousing of books. Stop paying a double salary to celebrity books (they already have a job) and pay the taxes on the warehouses and keep books in print from REAL authors. My lord, this business is run ass backwards.

Anonymous said...

My question is this--how can you all be so sure that the model on the new covers is Caucasian? Because she has full lips?

I agree that it's upsetting that more of the Asian influence from the first cover didn't transfer to the new version, but I sincerely doubt racism was at play here. As many other people have said, the covers were modeled after more successful series (they remind me in particular of Kelley Armstrong's books).

onxy said...

Thanks so much for this article!
I agree with you 100 percent.
I took the time to read through this entire thread, and note that the new covers don't include any images of the Chinese culture. It's as if it truly has been "whitewashed"

Whether its non minority models on the cover of books with poc as the main protag, or putting birds on the cover of books about segregation (the UK cover of THE HELP is different than the American cover. The UK cover has two African American maids attending to a child instead of the Disney-esque three little bird cover US readers have). These tactics send the wrong impression.

Part of the problem with Silver Phoenix may have been the age group it was marketed to first (as stated, it was marketed to the middle grade crowd, and now its YA)

Many thanks to the posters who gave info on the acquisition process by major book stores.

While I'm saddened that Greenwillow has stripped all traces of the protag's true racial identity (I gather that's exactly the point)off the cover, I now understand a bit better who decides what will or won't grace bookstore shelves.

Lyn said...

Oh, Rachel, that art you linked to is gorgeous, poster-worthy. Just wonderful.

working illustrator said...

First cover: hideous kitsch. Other two: generic copycatting with pointless and offensive whitewashing.

All the visual elements of fantasy and Chinese art and this crap is what they came up with?

Publishers: "Work really hard to make your book distinctive so we can work really hard at making it look exactly like everything else..."

Joni said...

EA, I have a suggestion. We hear so much scuttlebutt about the five people (or whatever that small number is) of people in the U.S. -- chain buyers -- who arguably have the most influence on covers and what gets bookstore placement and what languishes as special-order-only. But I've never seen any of those people identified, or read an interview with one, or heard a justification of their immense powers. (What are their qualifications?) And they probably have data about these "it won't sell" issues, if anyone does. (Or not.)

How about getting one as a guest blogger? Or does ANYONE know of info about these folks online that we could link to?

Reb said...

One thing to point out -- it's expensive for a publisher to commission art and it's often rare for a book to get a photo shoot for the cover (there are plenty of NYT books that have stock photo covers).

There's a real chance that Greenwillow couldn't find any stock photos that fit what they were looking for. I'm sure there were plenty of choices with Aisan models, but did they have the right mood, pose, lighting etc. These are all concerns that go into finding a stock cover and there's always something that's sacrificed.

I'm not saying it's right that race was sacrificed in this instance, only that we're assuming Greenwillow said "let's put a white chick on the cover to boost sales" when they probably said "we love this photo we found and it's the best fit for the book but the model isn't Asian... what do we do?"

Unfortunately, that sales of the first cover with an Aisan model were lower than expected probably didn't help in making the decision.

laura Manivong said...

How many people who are calling publishers and booksellers racist have recently spent their money to BUY a book with a person of color on the cover? We, the consumers in capitalist America, need to speak with our dollars by buying these titles in order to create a demand. Create a demand, and publishers and booksellers will happily create the supply. Just like they're creating the supply of TWILIGHT knockoffs.

My hardcover debut novel (Escaping The Tiger...yeah, industry wisdom says I gotta promote myself), like Pon's, features a POC on the cover, and sales are disappointing, but my publisher did the right thing by putting a POC on the cover in the first place. It's up to the public now to do their part.

My recent purchases of 2010 debut novels include BLEEDING VIOLET and TORTILLA SUN. What have YOU bought lately to help create a demand?

Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

"The fact that the new cover girl's race isn't obvious IS whitewashing. Given the content of the book, the girl on the cover should look OBVIOUSLY Chinese"...

Um yeah. "Look obviously Chinese"---sorry, you lost me.

Do you mean she ought to look Han Chinese (to name the largest of the 50+ Chinese ethnicities currently floating around the planet)?

Maybe she ought to look like my neighbor---whose skin is far whiter than mine? So white, in fact, that if you took a picture of his nose and mouth and photoshopped a little kiss-me-kate red lipstick on the image, it'd look pretty much like the second cover.

As I wrote Ed Anonyo....if you download the first pink cover and crop the girl's nose, mouth and neck, then blow it up to cover size, what you'll be looking at is very nice close-up of a cupid's bow mouth (covered in kiss-me-kate red liptstick).


The second cover has a very nice close-up of the collegen-enhanced wide-mouth (in kiss-me red). Sort of an antithesis to a cupid's bow, I admit, but how is it obviously NOT Chinese?

I guess I'd argue that either set of lips are not common genetic occurrences in any ethnicity of any people on this planet.

They are, however, both common enough images of young women's mouths as rendered through the distorting lens of our current popular culture.

Delacroix

Anonymous said...

...and YAY RACHEL---for the deviant art.

I spend hours over there. And yup, I can't imagine why art directors aren't over there signing up some of the amazing talent over there for covers....

Del

Anonymous said...

Hey, I know I am coming late to the party, but

FUCK YOU, EA

Seems to me that Greenwillow is taking all the risks here. They bought a book others passed over. They put a beautiful appropriate cover on it. When it didn't sell they pulled out all the stops to give it the best chance to recover.

Cindy Pon's future is at stake. They are standing by her instead of dumping her. Now they get to be on the hot seat with their bosses because the company is getting negative attention.

Tell me, what risks are you taking that makes you so much fucking holier than them?

Oh, the anonymous online hissy fit. The armchair quarterbacking. The back seat driving.

Bitch, please.

You aren't helping anything or anyone in any way. And if you pretend you are, I call Bullshit. But I am enjoying the opportunity to tell you to fuck off. Thanks for that.

Michelle said...

I went to Cindy's blog to see what she'd said, and a paragraph in her explanation really hit me. I've worked in various facets of publishing, including editor and now independent bookstore owner, so I see some of the factors hidden to the general public. Instead of rewriting, I'm pasting the comment I left on her blog.

"Silver Phoenix was passed on by borders and carried in only limited quantities in select barnes and noble stores. she simply wasn’t being picked up by readers as much as we’d have liked."

Having worked in the publishing industry as an editor, and now opening my own independent bookstore, I understand the pressure publishers and editors feel to have their books picked up widely.

The statement quoted above, though, is backward. The book wasn't picked up by enough readers *because* it wasn't widely available. At the publishing house where I had worked, if B&N told our sales team that they didn't like the cover we'd slaved over, we had to change it. One buyer's opinion—and I literally mean 1 opinion—sealed the fate of that book. If that buyer at Borders or Barnes & Noble decided not to carry your book because of the cover, your book was doomed to small sales before it even hit the printing press.

Sadly, if you surveyed the race and age of the book buyers at these large chains—the people who have incredible amounts of power when it comes to book design and sales—you'll notice that most of them are white and older.

I, as an independent bookstore owner, have no voice when it comes to book sales, but as someone who spends my time selling these books to real teens, I have a much better idea of what they want than a corporate executive (which is basically what B&N and Borders buyers are, as they deal exclusively with publishers and never with real readers).

People tend to go after publishers for these decisions and, though they are partially responsible, the real authority behind some of these big decisions are ignored because people don't realize how the system works. I'd love to see it change, but until readers stop spending all of their book-buying dollars at the Big Bs, nothing will.

Sorry for the long explanation, but the way you'd phrased that paragraph really struck me. I doubt many people realize how much power those big booksellers have in the world of publishing.

Michelle said...

Here's the comment I posted at Cindy's blog about this: (Quoted material is from a paragraph she wrote in her post.)

"Silver Phoenix was passed on by borders and carried in only limited quantities in select barnes and noble stores. she simply wasn’t being picked up by readers as much as we’d have liked."

Having worked in the publishing industry as an editor, and now opening my own independent bookstore, I understand the pressure publishers and editors feel to have their books picked up widely.

The statement quoted above, though, is backward. The book wasn't picked up by enough readers *because* it wasn't widely available. At the publishing house where I had worked, if B&N told our sales team that they didn't like the cover we'd slaved over, we had to change it. One buyer's opinion—and I literally mean 1 opinion—sealed the fate of that book. If that buyer at Borders or Barnes & Noble decided not to carry your book because of the cover, your book was doomed to small sales before it even hit the printing press.

Sadly, if you surveyed the race and age of the book buyers at these large chains—the people who have incredible amounts of power when it comes to book design and sales—you'll notice that most of them are white and older.

I, as an independent bookstore owner, have no voice when it comes to book sales, but as someone who spends my time selling these books to real teens, I have a much better idea of what they want than a corporate executive (which is basically what B&N and Borders buyers are, as they deal exclusively with publishers and never with real readers).

People tend to go after publishers for these decisions and, though they are partially responsible, the real authority behind some of these big decisions are ignored because people don't realize how the system works. I'd love to see it change, but until readers stop spending all of their book-buying dollars at the Big Bs, nothing will.

Anonymous said...

At first, I was kind of outraged by the homogenizing of the character on Cindy's book.

But then I took a breath.

What is the purpose of the cover? To get the kid to buy the book. Why will a TEEN buy a book? Because she IDENTIFIES with the main character.

So make her as vague as possible on the cover, to appeal to as many teens as possible.

Get the kids READING the multi-cultural stories, first. The covers will follow.

Sharde(Shar-day) said...

Look at what the US did with Justine Larbalestier's cover for Liar. http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2009/07/23/aint-that-a-shame/

Anonymous said...

To the people who commented here, and to the dozens of other blogs commentators who said they would purchase the book to show their anger at the whitewashing, the total number of copies sold last week on Bookscan (the industry sales tracker that records actual book sales) was - 9.

Anonymous said...

I am not at all surprised that Greenwillow decided to whitewash the covers of both novels. After all, Greenwillow is an imprint of Harper Collins. Rupert Murdoch owns Harper Collins and FOX News. Murdoch and his minions are all about making money any which way they can--and that includes expecting the author to forsake her integrity and pride by agreeing to have her novels' covers whitewashed.

Christine Tripp said...

If the first cover, which I personally don't like, was a sales failure, I would say it was not about the model being Asian but all about the clothing and background choice.
Not only does stereotype, it also has no resemblance to any teen I see.
The girl could and SHOULD be Asian, but in everyday dress.
I've always had the feeling that covers are geared toward the book buyers, the big chain book stores and they dictate to the publishers the choice of cover. I'd be curious to see what cover would be used on the book for their international market.
I've often wondered why covers are sometimes different for US, UK, CAN etc markets, such as the Harry Potter series.

Anonymous said...

I think a chain store book buyer intervention is needed. Long overdue.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Michelle, thanks for sharing that post.

That "one opinion can = doomed to small sales" thing is a killer.

I sure would like to know more about those one opinions... what they're based on, what qualifications the folks who make them have, if it's the same people in the job for years on end... and why they DON'T spend time with readers.

Anonymous said...

New Anonymous here ...

I agree with recent comments that there are perspectives missing from the puzzle that need to be heard in order to put together the best plan of action. Who I'd like to hear from are:

1. A buyer for a major chain: what's really going on when you're presented a cover with a kid of color of it?

2. Any editor/art director who oversaw a book with diverse characters, especially a main character, that did not end up going with a cover that accurately reflects that character.

Did you end up whitewashing? Obscuring the character so he/she is racially ambiguous? Or did you go with a cover that doesn't show people at all in order not to deal with it? What exactly went into that decision?

3. A marketing person. I don't feel like anyone's really chimed in except to give excuses on the record about a whitewashed cover that attracted controversy.

Anyone in these categories willing to give us some insight? (Anonymity is fine by me; I'm no hypocrite.)

PK

Anonymous said...

You people who are bitching about others bitching about the whitewashing -- please shut the hell up. I preferred the old cover because it was truer to the story as far as I can tell. I'm a teen (not racist and I like variety, thank you very much). I would have liked to see a Chinese model on the new cover, so that it's clear what you are buying.

To those asking why we haven't bought the book before this apparent scandal, maybe it's because we were unaware of the book's existence. I plan to buy the original hardcover.

Yes, the whitewashing issue has brought the book some publicity, but there's no way in hell I'm going to buy the whitewashed cover. Of course, if I like the book I may eat my words and buy the sequel, but that doesn't mean I have to like the cover.

Amy said...

put racism to the side, these are all pretty badly designed. the first one not so bad actually. sad. :l

David Macinnis Gill said...

"Murdoch and his minions are all about making money any which way they can--and that includes expecting the author to forsake her integrity and pride by agreeing to have her novels' covers whitewashed."

Greenwillow makes decisions about its books and covers without input from Murdoch or anyone else named Rupert. They had their reasons for changing the covers, and they were all about giving readers the chance to find and enjoy Cindy Pon's marvelous debut novel and its sequel. I'm all about raging against the machine personally, but there are no whores at work here.

Under Cover Editor said...

All of those covers are striking, but to be fair to the change, the second two are more modern looking, and clearly inspired by the Twilight-type covers that are becoming more common.

Personally, I prefer the first one because the colors and the artistry of the cover are intriguing.

Beyond that, I don't know about your other points. I hope not, but I suspect you're probably right.

I know I came in here for something said...

Bless you, Editorial Anonymous.

Alex said...

This is not racism and really a stretch to consider it any sort of "blow" to Cindy Pon's artistic integrity or to the book itself.

This novel is so steeped in the elements of China and the Chinese culture that having or not having a picture of a Chinese girl on the cover will make no difference to the potential racist book buyer. If you had a prejudice towards the anyone Asian would you really buy a book so clearly rich with the Chinese culture? No. Racists despite their cavemanic prejudices are not stupid.

The cover change was a clear marketing move and it wasn't to "trick" the racists into thinking the book's about apple pie and baseball. It's because front page characters with ambiguous facial features sell better.

The features of a main character even when described are still a canvas for the readers imagination to fill.

Anonymous said...

Whitewashing aside, I don't like either cover. I think the pink Chinese cover looks like a baby romance novel cover and the dark emo cover looks like a bad twilight sequel. They're both bad.

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Chapter 1: Left In Another Dimension
"Do you believe in ghosts? Join me, Hunter Spector, spectre hunter, leader of the Academy of Really Good Ghost Hunters, or ARGGH! As I descend into the scariest place in any home, the basement! Sunday night at 8 PM! Don't miss it, or you'll be left in the dark! ARGGH!"

As Lincoln Loud remembered the advertisement for his favourite TV show, the white haired eleven year old marked an X on his calender counting down the days.

"It's finally here! The live season finale of the greatest show ever!" Lincoln exclaimed before turning towards the audience. "All right, I know you're probably saying to yourself 'Lincoln, with ten sisters, there's no way you're going to get to watch your favorite show.' And, you'd be right. Every Sunday at 8, it's the same thing. All my sisters end up fighting over the remote, trying to watch their shows. But tonight, I have a plan." Lincoln picked up a walkie talkie from his pocket. "Cadet Lincoln calling Cadet Clyde, do you read me?" Lincoln asked.

"This is Cadet Clyde, I read you loud and clear!" Lincoln's best friend answered. "I'm so excited! We finally get to watch ARGGH together. And by together, I mean you at your house, and me at mine, right?"

Lincoln turned back to the audience. "For such a landmark event, we decided that it'd be best for us if we watched it separately. Clyde's got a huge crush on my sister Lori. It gets awkward." Lincoln explained as coincidentally, the bespectacled, African-American boy was staring dreamily at a drawing of Lori.

"Hubba hubba." muttered Clyde.

"Clyde? Clyde? Do you read me?" Lincoln asked.

Snapping out of it, Clyde replied "Uh, you better hurry, Lincoln. It's almost 8:00!"

"It's time to put Operation Distract My Sisters So That I Can Get to the TV First and Watch the Special Live Season Finale of ARGGH and Think of Shorter Name For This Operation into action." Lincoln proclaimed as he heard the door of his younger sisters opening.

"Cartoons! Cartoons! Cartoons! Cartoons!" Lincoln's younger twin sisters, Lana and Lola chanted as they marched out their room.

Lincoln ran out of his room and towards theirs before they could go any further. "Did someone say tea party?" Lincoln asked as he revealed a tea pot and a box of cookies.

Lola, being a pageant star and going so far as to wear princess attire, couldn't help but squeal. "Eeeee! Thank you, Lincoln!" She grinned, showing her two missing front teeth as she took the items and headed back into her room.

Lana on the other hand, wasn't as impressed as she was the exact opposite of her twin, being more into exotic pets and repairing things. Despite their similar appearance, even down to having the same tooth gap, she wore a backwards red baseball cap and blue overalls. "Hey, I don't want to be part of some dumb old tea party, I want to watch TV!"

"Not even if these guys are invited?" Lincoln asked as he pulled out two frogs from behind him.

"Eeeee! Thanks, Lincoln!" Lana squealed as she took the frogs and headed back into her room with her sister.

Lincoln then noticed his comedic, older sister Luan about to head down the stairs. "Hey Luan!" Lincoln called out to her.

"Oh, hey Lincoln," The buck toothed girl replied. "I was just heading downstairs to watch TV."

"You might want to grab your video camera instead. The twins are at it again." Lincoln said as he pointed her to the twins' room. Looking in, Luan could see the twins fighting each other over some petty dispute.

Luan grinned, showing off the braces covering her teeth. "This is totally gonna go viral!" Luan exclaimed as she ran back to her room to go grab a video camera. "Thanks Linc!"

Anonymous said...

Lincoln then noticed his youngest sisters, Lisa and Lily, exit their room. Before his baby sister, Lily, could wonder off, Lincoln picked her up. "Hey, Lisa. I saved you a trip downstairs and got that stuff you needed." Lincoln told Lisa.

"The lactose, triticum protein, sodium chloride crystals, sucrose, and gallus gallus ovum?" Lisa asked, speaking with a lisp. She had a deadpan expression behind her glasses.

"Uh, you mean milk, flour, salt, sugar and eggs?" Lincoln asked in slight confusion as he held out the ingredients. He often couldn't understand what Lisa talked about as she was much smarter than other four year olds her age.

"You say tomato, I say solanum lycopersicum. Thank you." Lisa said as she took the ingredients and headed back into her room.

Yet again, Lincoln then noticed another sister leave their room. This time, his slightly older, sport loving sister, Lynn. "Yeah! Two minutes to game time! Whoo!" The jersey wearing girl hollered in excitement.

"Hey, Lynn, check it out." Lincoln said as he then held out a football which somehow started to float, gaining her attention. "I filled it with helium for the extreme player who demands more."

"I demand more!" Lynn shouted in excitement.

However, before Lincoln could finish dealing with Lynn, his older sister Leni had just left her room causing Lincoln to think fast. "Uh go long." Lincoln shouted causing Lynn to run back into her room as Lincoln had thrown the ball into it.

Lincoln then ran up to his ditzy, blonde older sister. She was holding her hands in front of her, palms facing inward, waiting for her painted nails to dry. "Oh my gosh, Leni!" Lincoln yelled in fake surprise.

"What, is there a spider on me?" The long haired girl asked as she started to panic, frantically rubbing her head. "Get it off! Get it off! Get it off! Get it off!"

"Worse. There's a zit on the end of your nose!" Lincoln lied.

Leni covered her face. "I'm a hideous monster!" She cried as she ran back into her room. Suddenly, Lincoln's older, rock and roll loving sister, Luna jumped out of her room.

"Hey, bro! TV tonight is gonna be rockin'! Yeah!" The short haired girl yelled in a raspy voice as she strummed her guitar.

"Or, you can have your very own flashlight rock show in your bedroom." Lincoln offered as he showed off a multicoloured flashlight.

Luna grinned. "That is sweet! Thanks, Linc!" She said as she took the flashlight and headed back into her own room.

"Has anyone seen my phone? I need to live-tweet my show!" Asked Lincoln's bossy, phone addicted, oldest sister, Lori.

It turned out Lincoln had her phone as he quickly texted something on it. "Hey, Lori, I found your phone!" Lincoln said, offering it to her.

"Give me that!" The blonde girl snapped as she snatched the phone back from Lincoln. "How many times do I have to tell you to keep your hands of my stuff?!"

Lincoln just ignored her though as he started counting down to himself. "Three, two, one."

Lori's phone then started to ring, prompting Lori to answer it immediately. "Hello? Oh, hi Bobby." She laughed as she started to head back into her room. "No, I didn't text you to call me, but I'm glad you did!" Lori said before turning back to Lincoln, glaring at him. "Thanks for nothing, twerp!"

Lincoln then noticed Lily had fallen asleep at some point. Smiling, Lincoln laid her into a laundry basket before giving her a kiss. "And that makes ten". Lincoln then slid down the stairs' railings and jumped to the floor before addressing the audience again as he made his way to the living room. "Like I said, I might not be the fastest, and I might not be the strongest, but to get all of my sisters out of the way, it pays to have a plan."

"You forgot me".

Anonymous said...

"Ahh!" Lincoln yelled out in shock before realising he has missed someone currently sitting on the couch. "Lucy! I always forget about Lucy!"

"Story of my life" The pale skinned, goth girl said monotonously. Lincoln couldn't quite tell if she was looking at him due to her long black hair covering her eyes.

"What are you doing here?" Lincoln asked.

"It's the season premiere of my favorite show, 'Vampires of Melancholia'." Lucy replied.

"This is the episode of ARGGH that everyone is going to be talking about at school tomorrow! Please let me watch it? Pretty please with a black cherry on top?" Lincoln begged her.

"I'm sorry, Lincoln, but you know the rule. I was here first."

Extremely disappointed that all his efforts were for naught, Lincoln dropped to his knees and gave an over dramatic "NOOOOOOO". Suddenly the lights went out and the TV turned off, alarming both Lincoln and Lucy. "Huh" Lincoln said.

"What just happened?" Lucy wondered.

"Sorry, sorry" shouted a voice from the basement. "L-listen, I've got something reeeaaallly important going on down there and I-I'm just gonna need all the power in the house. Just all of it. So y-you guys are just gonna have to just deal with it for a while." The old man wearing a lab coat rambled as he made his way out the basement and into the living room where Lincoln and Lucy were. At the moment, he had some odd green spill down his mouth, possibly indicating that he was drunk.

Lincoln sighed before turning back to the audience. "If you thought having ten sisters was weird enough, this is Grandpa Rick. He's basically a super scientist. He actually just moved in with us just a couple of months ago. Since then, he's been taking me, and usually just one of my sisters, on these crazy adventures across the multiverse! But today really isn't a good day for this." Lincoln explained as he turned back to his grandfather, giving him an annoyed look. "Seriously Grandpa Rick? Now I've no chance of catching 'ARGGH!'." Lincoln moaned.

"W-what, you mean that obviously fake ghost show?" Rick bluntly asked.

"It's not fake!" Lincoln argued, getting more annoyed.

"Lincoln, have you seen an actual real ghost on that show? Like actually see the thing on camera and not-not just special effects and some jerkoff running around pretending to be scared?" Rick asked. Lincoln winced at his language. He hadn't quite got used to his Grandpa's foul mouth just yet.

"It wasn't Lincoln's turn to have the TV anyway," Lucy interrupted. "I was meant to catch the season premiere of 'Vampires of Melancholia'."

"You mean that Twilight knockoff with all that vampire romance crap?"

"Excuse me?" Lucy quietly asked, who's also now starting to get irritated with her grandpa.

Rick decided to change the subject. "L-look, none of that matters right now, I need both your help. We got-we got to get get the hell out of here and go take care of business. It's important." Rick ranted.

"Seriously?" Lucy asked.

"Yes seriously! Do you have any concept of how much higher the stakes get out there? What do you think I can just do it all by myself? Don't you want the power back as soon as possible? Come on!" Rick then got out a strange device and activated it which created a portal. Realising that neither of them had anything better to do due to the lack of any electricity, both Lincoln and Lucy sighed and begrudgingly followed Rick into the portal.

Meanwhile upstairs, the rest of Lincoln's sisters were murmuring in confusion about the sudden power outage leaving them all in the dark. "All right! All right! Everybody just calm down!" Lori shouted, trying to keep everyone in order.

Anonymous said...

"Guys! I can't see anything! I think I've gone blind!" Leni shouted in a panic, arms out in front of her.

"No, you didn't go blind." Lori said, growing more irritated at the situation. "What the heck happened?"

There was a brief silence for a moment as no one knew the answer. "Hey! I know why the lights went out! Cause they liked each other!" Luan laughed as the rest of her siblings groaned at the joke. "Get it?"

"Hey, where's Lincoln and Lucy?" Lana asked, realising her other siblings weren't around.

"I'm gonna guess that they went with off with Grandpa Rick on one of his weird adventures." Lori said, not exactly a massive fan of Rick's adventures. "In fact, I literally know who's responsible for this now."

"If Grandpa Rick did indeed do this, should we really be interfering?" Lisa asked, knowing full well that messing with Rick's experiments could be even more disastrous than someone messing with her own.

"Hey, when Mom and Dad are out, I'm in charge." Lori asserted. "And Grandpa Rick can't just take all the power in the house just for his experiments. Now where did Grandpa Rick say he was doing his experiment thing again?"

"In the basement." Lisa answered.

...

After following Rick through the portal, Lincoln and Lucy found themselves in a place completely unlike Earth. The sky was yellow with other planets still visable from where they were. The grass was blue and the creatures and flora was unlike anything seen on Earth.

"Whoa..." Lucy gasped in amazement.

"Wow, what is this place?" Lincoln asked, equally amazed.

"It's Dimension 35-C," explained Rick as he gestured to the landscape "and it's got the perfect climate conditions for a special type of TREE, Lincoln, called a Mega Tree, and there's fruit in those trees, and there's seeds in those fruits. I'm talking about Mega Seeds. They're-they're incredibly powerful, and I need them to help me with my research, Lincoln." Rick started to walk as he finished speaking with Lincoln and Lucy following behind. While both of them were amazed at this new world Rick had brought them to, they were also both nervous and still upset over missing their shows.

"Are you sure this place is safe? Maybe this was a bad idea." Lincoln asked feeling pessimistic about the situation.

Rick stopped to kneel down and place his hands on Lincoln and Lucy's shoulders. "Alright, listen to me. I know that new situations can be intimidating. You're looking around, and it's all scary and different, but, you know, m-meeting them head on, charging right into them like a bull that's how we grow as people. I'm no stranger to scary situations. I deal with them all the time. Now, if you just stick with me, we're gonna be—"

Suddenly, Rick noticed a giant, green, alien monster with multiple black eyes eyes and sharp teeth behind Lincoln and Lucy. "HOLY CRAP, KIDS RUN!" Lincoln and Lucy looked behind them, screamed and immediately started to run with Rick. "I never seen that thing before in my life. I don't even know what the hell it is! We got to get out of here, kids! It's gonna kill us! We're gonna die! We're gonna die, kids!"

...

Sometime later, after getting chased around for a bit. the siblings and Rick had managed to escape the monster and were now continuing on with Rick's adventure. Though Lincoln was still a little shaken up from the ordeal, Lucy was faring slightly better. "Okay, I have to admit that thing was kinda awesome."

Lincoln gave his sister a look. "Lucy, you know that thing was trying to kill us, right?"

"Sigh. I know."

Anonymous said...

Rick noticed Lincoln starting to frown. "Oh, Lincoln, take a deep breath. Breathe that fresh air in, Lincoln. Y-you smell that? That's the smell of adventure, Lincoln. That's that's the smell of-of-of-of a whole different evolutionary timeline."

Lincoln stopped, growling in anger. "You know, all I wanted to do tonight was just watch one episode of ARGGH! I tried doing everything I can to have this night to myself but noooo! Instead I get brought on Grandpa Rick's crazy adventures to get something that's probably for himself since he's not even telling us what he even needs these 'mega seeds' for. Is that about right Grandpa Rick?"

Rick then got angry at Lincoln himself and pointed an accusatory finger at him. "O-oh I see how it is. You know what I think the problem is with both of you and the rest of your sisters? Y-you're all selfish! The only thing you care about is me, me, me. Like I know it's really stupid that there's only one TV and one bathroom in the whole house but y-you never try to work anything out. Y-you just fight over it! And now you're calling me selfish? How do you know I'm not doing something for everyone's benefit? You ever think about that L-Lincoln?"

Both Lincoln and Lucy glanced downwards with guilty looks on their faces, realising there was some truth to their Grandpa's words. Seeing the guilty looks on their faces, Rick softened up on them. "Besides look at all the crazy crap surrounding us. Look at that thing right there." Rick said gesturing to an odd looking creature rolling around. It's appearance was indescribable. "What the hell is that thing? You think you're gonna see that kind of thing on some fake ghost or vampire show? Look at it just lumbering around. It defies all logic, that thing."

Lincoln sighed as the three continued onwards. "Sorry. It's just that I've been looking forward to this episode all month."

"He does make a good point though. The stuff here is real." Lucy admitted, earning a pointed look from Lincoln with what she was implying.

Before he could say anything else, the three stopped at the end of a cliff. Rick then grabbed Lincoln to show him what he's found. "Lincoln you see this" Lincoln could see a vast forest of strange looking trees. "You see what we just stumbled upon, Lincoln? Any idea what that is down there?" Rick asked Lincoln.

"The mega trees?" Lincoln guessed, feeling slightly uncomfortable.

"That's right, Lincoln the mega trees with the mega fruit on them and that's what I'm talking about, Lincoln. That's where my seeds are. If we would have done what you wanted, I would have never have found them, because you're so in love with Argh or whatever it's called." Rick ranted, gesturing to the forest.

"Ok, ok." Lincoln said, not wanting to get back into that argument. "So, what's so special about these seeds, anyways?"

"You ask a lot of questions, Lincoln. Not very charismatic. It makes you kind of an underfoot figure." Rick replied.

"Huh? But you just-"

Before Lincoln could finish that sentence, Rick gave Lincoln and Lucy each a pair of shoes. "Put those on" Rick demanded, prompting Lincoln and Lucy to do so. "They're special grappling shoes. When you're wearing these things, these babies, you can basically just walk on any surface you want, kids, up, down, below, turn around to the left. These things really-ah!" Rick stopped to grab Lincoln who was just about to walk off the cliff. "You need to turn them on first." Rick explained.

"Oh right." Lincoln said awkwardly before doing just that.

Rick wiped his forehead. "Phew, really uh...really dodged a bullet there."

...

Anonymous said...

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"Dunno sis." replied Luna. "All he said earlier that he was working on something down there and that we weren't allowed to see it".

Lori frowned, remembering Rick telling everyone that earlier that afternoon. "Oh...right."

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Lynn then decided to taunt her older sister. "Ooh! You're scared of the dark!".

"I am not!" Lori protested. "You're the one who's scared."

"I'm not afraid of anything." Lynn claimed. Suddenly, the front door of the house opened up causing everyone to scream.

"What is going on here?" The voice of their mother asked. "Why is the power out?"

It turned out that the Loud siblings' parents had come home. The two approached their daughters. "Well?" Their mother, Rita asked still waiting for an answer.

"We think that thing Grandpa Rick is working on is taking all the power in the house. Also he's gone on another adventure with Lincoln and Lucy." Lori answered, prompting Rita to sigh in frustration.

"Seriously?" Rita asked before turning to her curly haired husband. "Look I'm sorry Lynn but I don't know if Rick living here is such a good idea."

"Oh come on, Rita," Lynn Sr. protested. "I know you two have some issues but I haven't seen him in years. He only just came back into my life. Besides, it's not like he's making us lose money, he takes care of himself fine."

"That's not the issue though. I don't know how safe we are with all these inventions of his around and I'm really concerned with him taking the kids off to who knows where. I don't think he's a good influence on them." The blonde haired woman argued back.

Lynn Sr. sighed "L-look why don't we just go see what it is down there. I mean it can't be that dangerous if Dad would just leave it right?"

Rita sighed "Fine then". She then looked into the basement. "Does anyone have a light?"

"Oh!" Luna exclaimed in realisation before getting out the flashlight Lincoln gave her earlier. "Good thing Lincoln gave me this!"

...

Back in Dimension 35-C, Rick, Lincoln and Lucy had managed to climb down the mountain. "All right, either of you want to come help me get these seeds?" Rick asked.

"Sigh, I'll get them" Lucy said as she made her way up the trees to grab the fruit.

As she did this, Rick got out his portal gun, readying it until he realised something. "Oh God damn it!" Rick shouted in anger.

"What's wrong?" Lincoln asked.

"I forgot to charge my interdimensional portal device. It's got no charge left, Lincoln. It's got no charge left!" Rick explained, frustrated with himself for forgetting something so important.

Lincoln started to panic. "What?"

"It's as good as garbage, Lincoln. It's not gonna work anymore, Lincoln." Rick ranted to him.

Unbeknownst to him, Lucy had come down with the fruit. She heard the conversation and also started to slightly panic. "The portal device isn't working?"

"JESUS CHRIST LUCY!" Rick jumped as not even he was immune to Lucy's sneakiness. "How the hell do you even do that?"

Lucy shrugged before continuing on. "How are we going to get back home?"

Anonymous said...

Recovering from the scare, Rick took the fruit from Lucy, opened it up and took out the two seeds inside of it. "There's ways to get back home, Lucy. It's just-it's just gonna be a little bit of a hassle. We're gonna have to go through interdimensional customs so Lincoln, you're gonna have to do me a real solid."

"What's that?" Lincoln asked apprehensively.

"When we get to customs, I'm gonna need you to take these seeds into the bathroom, and I'm gonna need you to put them way up inside your butthole, Lincoln." Rick explained.

"WHAT?" Lincoln asked, shocked that his Grandpa would ask him to do such a thing.

"You gotta put them way up inside there, as far as they can fit." Rick emphasised.

"Seriously? Why do I have to do that?" Lincoln shouted, horrified about what he was being asked to do.

"Well, somebody's got to do it, Lincoln. Th-these seeds aren't gonna get through customs unless they're in someone's rectum, Lincoln, and they'll fall right out of mine. I've done this too many times, Lincoln. I mean, you're young. Y-y-you've got your whole life ahead of you, and your anal cavity is still taut, yet malleable. A-and you really don't expect me to ask Lucy do you? I mean come on Lincoln, y-you just don't do that Lincoln, it's disgusting. You can't just ask your little sister to do something like this!" Rick ranted to Lincoln.

"Sigh, I'll do it."

"What?!" Rick and Lincoln both shouted, shocked that Lucy would even volunteer.

"I know Lincoln's not exactly had anything his way today so if he doesn't want to do it, then I'll do it." Lucy explained.

Lincoln sighed. "No Lucy, Grandpa Rick's right. I'll do it."

"Are you sure?" Lucy asked.

"I'm sure Lucy. You shouldn't have to do something like this. Granted, neither of us should really but-" before Lincoln could finish that sentence, Rick patted him on the back.

"Atta boy Lincoln. Just remember you're doing this for grandpa. And your sister."

"What have I just gotten myself into?" Lincoln wondered aloud to himself.

...

Back at the Loud House, the family had huddled together as Luna lead the way, unsure of what Rick had actually put down here. "There's nothing funny about this situation. Although, I do like dark humour." Luan joked, making everyone groan.

"Is someone touching my hand?" Leni fearfully asked.

"You're touching your own hand." Lynn replied.

"I hate basements." Lori stated, regretting coming down.

"Luna do you see anything? Rita asked.

Luna used the flashlight to look around. "Nothing out of the ordinary dudes." Luna then saw the circuit breaker and approached it. "Guys, it's turned off". Luna turned it back on bringing power back to the house.

The family members then looked around. "There's nothing even in here?" Rita questioned. "Ok seriously Lynn, how are we meant to trust your dad when he's making stuff up now?"

"W-well, I...umm..." Lynn Sr. was at a loss as he couldn't think of a way to defend his father in this situation.

"When Rick gets back, I'm going to have a few words with that man." Rita stated.

...

Back in Dimension 35-C, the three had made it to Intergalactic Customs. Lincoln awkwardly left the bathrooms feeling very uncomfortable with his predicament. Intergalactic Customs looked a bit like an airport. Lincoln saw all types of aliens here though the ones in charge were these insectoid aliens almost resembling flies that Rick said were called gromflomites. As Lincoln approached Rick and Lucy, who were currently standing in a slowly moving line, Rick started speaking.

Anonymous said...

"I don't like it here, kids. I can't abide bureaucracy. I don't like being told where to go and what to do. I consider it a violation. Word of advice, if you ever find out that someone's linked with the Galactic Federation like these guys, don't trust them. Anyway, did you get those seeds all the way up your butt?"

Lincoln sighed in embarrassment. "Yes, can we please get this over with. They're kinda hurting me".

"That means they're good ones. I take back what I said earlier." Rick said, placing a hand on Lincoln's shoulder. "You're a good kid, Lincoln. You too Lucy. Those mega seeds are super valuable to my work. You've both been a huge help to me. I'm gonna be able to do a-all kind of things with them. It's gonna be great, Lincoln. A-all kinds of science."

Lucy also placed a hand on Lincoln's shoulder. "Sorry you had to do this. I promise next time if I can make it to the couch before any one else, I'll let you choose the show."

Lincoln smiled at her. "Thanks Lucy."

"Okay, next through." Called out the gromflomite. The three walked forward until the alien stopped them. "Except you. You go over there."

"Why does he have to go over there?" Rick questioned.

"Random check. He's got to go through the new machine."

"What new-what new machine?" Rick asked, getting slightly on edge.

"It's a new machine. It detects stuff all the way up your butt."

"RUN KIDS RUN!" Rick shouted. Realising he got caught, he grabbed Lincoln and Lucy, ran through security and tried to make a break for the exit. The gromflomite then called for red alert causing a team of armed gromflomites to start chasing after them. As they ran, Rick pushed over a giant capsule with an alien fetus inside it in an effort to slow down the gromflomites. Unfortunately, a giant door closed in front of them, cornering them. Thinking fast, Lincoln activated his grappling shoes and ran up the wall. Rick and Lucy quickly managed to do the same. "Ooh! Oh, nice, Lincoln! The student becomes the teacher." Rick praised.

The three ran up to the top of a building. Unfortunately, the gromflomites were able to fly, causing the three to continue running for it. The three ran across a pipe and jumped towards a flying vehicle full of luggage. Rick managed to catch a part of it with Lincoln catching Rick and Lucy catching Lincoln. "You know, I have to admit, this is way more thrilling then watching ARGGH!." Lincoln admitted, surprised that he'd actually be having fun running for his life.

"Same." Lucy admitted. Unfortunately, that feeling subsided as Rick's grip on the vehicle slipped.

"Aah! Aw, hell, no, dawg. You know me I'm just trying to—" was all the slime alien could say before the three landed on top of him. The three quickly got up and managed to reach a portal. Rick started to type on the portal computer. "I need to type in the coordinates to our home world. Lincoln. Lucy. Cover me." Rick demanded as he tossed a gun to each of them.

"W-wait, are you telling us to kill them?" Lincoln questioned.

Lucy wasn't feeling much better about it. "I couldn't take someone else's life."

"Look, I already told you, they're Galactic Federation bureaucrats. But if you really can't just kill them then try aiming for their legs or arms or something, whatever! Just keep shooting, kids! You have no idea what prison is like here!" Rick shouted at them, desperate to motivate them into shooting. Being careful where they aim, Lincoln and Lucy managed to hold off the gromflomites without actually killing any of them long enough for Rick to type in the coordinates back to Earth and the portal to activate.

Anonymous said...

"Come on, kids! We got to get the hell out of here!" Rick shouted as he grabbed the kids and jumped through the portal. The three then landed in the Loud house living room. The three took a moment to take in some deep breaths before Rick asked in concern "Ok, you two good? Th-That might have been a bit much for you two. Wasn't really sure if you were ready for that kind of adventure."

Rick hadn't planned for the adventure to get as violent and life threatening as it ended up being. To his surprise though, both of his grandchildren seemed fine and were even smiling. "Ok, that was actually pretty exciting." Lincoln admitted.

"That actually scared me..." Lucy then admitted. "Where's my notebook? I need to write all this down."

Rick smiled. "Y-you see? Why watch some fake garbage when you got me? You two really kicked ass today."

"Ahem"

The three looked behind them to see Rita, Lynn Sr. and the rest of the kids giving Rick an accusatory look.

"Uh oh"

...

At Rick's insistence, the family had moved the conversation to the garage. "So why exactly did you lie about having experiments in the basement then turn off the power while you took Lincoln and Lucy on one of your 'adventures'?" Rita interrogated Rick.

Rick sighed. "Alright...I didn't want to admit this but...we went to go get these mega seeds. If I can harness their energy, I could provide completely free energy to the whole house. I turned off the power and told everyone not to come to the basement to surprise you. Thought I'd, you know, save some money before setting things up."

"Wait, really?" Rita asked surprised at Rick's generosity.

Lynn Sr. smiled. "See Rita, I knew Dad's just looking out for us."

"Lynn, even if that's true, I still don't trust him with these adventures he's been doing." Rita turned back to Rick. "In what way are your adventures benefiting our kids?"

"Rita, I'm a genius." Rick replied in a slightly annoyed tone. "All I'm doing is showing them the ways of the multiverse. I'm educating them, Rita! More than their crappy public schools could!"

"Ok well do you have any evidence of that?" Rita asked.

"Sure, Lincoln, tell your parents the square root of Pi." Rick ordered.

Lincoln immediately answered the question "1.77245385...whoa."

"What the?" Lynn Sr. said in confusion.

Rita then got out a calculator to check the answer. "Wow, he's actually right."

"Hey wait," Leni asked. "I thought pies were circles, not squares?"

Lori sighed. "No Leni, not that kind of pie."

Ignoring Leni, Rick gave Lincoln another order. "Lincoln, tell your parents the first law of Thermodynamics."

Yet again, Lincoln answered immediately. "The increment in the internal energy of a system is equal to the increment of heat supplied to the system." Lincoln looked amazed at himself. "Wow! I'm a genius!"

"See Rita, I knew my Dad would be a positive influence on the kids, I mean, they've never come back injured have they?" Lynn Sr. asked, happy that the suspicions towards his dad turned out false.

Rita thought for a moment before answering. "Yeah, you're right honey. I guess I just overreacted. Ok Rick, you can keep taking the kids on adventures." Rita conceded.

"Y-you've nothing to worry about Rita. I just want you to know, between us, from now on, it's gonna be clear communication." Rick claimed.

"Well, that's great. Alright everyone, remember that bedtime's in an hour." Rita told her kids before she and Lynn Sr. left the garage.

"Man, I didn't know hanging out with you was making me smarter-ow!" Lincoln shouted in pain. As soon his parents left the garage, Rick quickly grabbed some kind of syringe and injected Lincoln with something.

Anonymous said...

"Full disclosure, Lincoln it's not. Temporary superintelligence is just a side effect of the mega seeds dissolving in your rectal cavity." Rick admitted.

"Aw seriously? Then what was that injection for?" Lincoln asked.

"If I didn't just give you that injection, then once those seeds wear off, you would've lost most of your motor skills, and you'd lose a significant amount of brain functionality for 72 hours, Lincoln. You're welcome." Rick explained.

Lincoln just sighed in disappointment. Lori then stepped forward. "So let me guess, the whole 'supplying free energy to the house' was a lie too?"

Rick scratched the back of this head awkwardly. "Uhh yeah...y-you might not believe this but that was exactly what I was trying to do."

"Wait, seriously?" Lori asked in surprise.

"Yes seriously!" Rick replied angrily. "W-what, did you think I was just some self-serving asshole? W-why wouldn't I do something that benefitted the whole family? Real nice opinion you got of your grandfather, Lori!"

To Rick's surprise, Leni jumped forward to give Rick a hug. "Aww, you do care about us!" Rick groaned in response before gently pushing her off him.

"Yeah well don't thank me yet Leni. I needed those seeds real bad, and I had to give them up just to get your parents off my back, so now we're gonna have to go get more adventures." As Rick ranted on, the Loud siblings just simply watched him, not really sure how to react to this. "And then we're gonna go on even more adventures after that, kids and you're all gonna keep your mouths shut about it, because the world is full of idiots that don't understand what's important, and they'll tear us apart kids, but if you stick with me, I'm gonna accomplish great things, kids, and you're all gonna be part of them, and together, we're gonna run around, kids. We're gonna do all kinds of wonderful things. Just you and me, Lincoln. And which ever of your sisters is relevant to what we're doing. The outside world is our enemy, kids. We're the only friends we've got. It's just Rick and The Loud House. Rick and The Loud House and their adventures. Rick and The Loud House forever and forever. Me and Rick and whoever running around, and Rick and The Loud House time. All day long, forever. All a hundred days. Rick and The Loud House forever 100 times. Over and over. All 100 years. Every minute."

As Rick had finished his insane ramblings, Lori came to a sudden, disturbing realisation. "Wait, what was up Lincoln's butt again?"

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