The Horror of Cultural Stereotypes

So I’m reading a pretty good book about making covers.  His “how to pick an image for your cover” and “how to see what’s a good cover for your genre” are spot on.

A lot of his other advice on how to actually DO it seems to lead to the kind of bland, nothing-burger covers that sell pretty well for a certain type of thriller and contemporary mystery, but tend to not sell for beans in say science fiction or fantasy.  And, frankly, suck for romance.

On the whole, though, I think the book is valuable and I wish everyone who asks me to design a cover for them would read it, because honestly, first and foremost your cover needs to signal genre.  It’s even excusable for it to look cheesy or bland, but it has to be the right genre.  A cover that has a spaceship will always sell science fiction over a cover that has something gorgeous and unidentifiable.

Most of all, always, you must signal genre.

There are other interesting tidbits he gives, like the traditional publishers use the proportions of a 6×9 book not the Amazon-requested ones, and that gives a subconscious signal.  I haven’t tested if they’ll let me upload that (they might not) but I’m gonna try.

However halfway through he talked about how bad cultural stereotypes were on covers, like for instance, for Africa all we see is a red sunset and a bare tree, and how Africa has big cities and is as civilized as anywhere else.

Um…. yes.  Kind of.  Any continent where the main form of success is working for an NGO which pays way more than skilled technical professions is not a continent like anywhere else.  Civilized, of course.  In fact, dying of civilization and a peculiar idea of the world that they should help the continent to death.

And see, just above I made a generalization, as when you talk about an entire continent, you can’t concentrate on the little things.

In defense of the author of the book about cover design, he’s not stupid.  He also immediately said that the reason that the covers show a sunset and an acacia tree is because in the collective subconscious that signals “Africa” to people and that a book cover is not a place to educate people.

Of course he also thinks people can or SHOULD be educated about the nature of stereotypes, and the non-stereotypical stuff that lies behind it.

Sigh.  (Does sinal salute.)

Stereotypes are part of the human brain, and frankly one of the parts that saw us become masters of the globe, living in all kinds of environments.  You see, we are monkeys with an overgrown brain, but still monkeys.  Oh, pardon me, great apes (who declared us great, anyway?) have the capacity to notice a lot of things but only remember a limited number of them.

By and large what we remember are patterns.  And they probably allowed our ancestors to survive long enough to become human, and then to become successful human tribes.  Because a lot of the patterns will be things like “trying to hunt tiger ow ow crunch hurts, like Ogg.”  Or “Behind that bush hide “aaaaah! Hyenas!”  Or “If get away from band, lion crunch crunch maul and then Ogg only one leg which makes hunting hard.”

Remembering that type of pattern, particularly when it happens to other people, can save your life.  Of course it’s a stereotype.  Perhaps a tiger is hurt and old, and you could have killed him and have a nifty tunic.  Or perhaps tiger is friendly and you could have joined forces and been super-hunters.  but that’s not the way to bet.  The way to bet is crunch crunch, ouch, ouch, deathy death.

Stereotypes are the product of the same mechanism.  None of us has the time, the patience or the brain space to remember everything about everywhere in the globe, much less give it due consideration and note all the exceptions to the “run of the mill” thing.

Now, stereotypes are often insanely outdated, particularly when it comes to other countries from the US.  They are mostly acquired from movies, and Hollywood’s researchers are non-existent.  Nine times out of ten they have a vague idea that some country is “quaint” or “old fashioned.”  In the US they’re also often acquired from the last known relative or relative of a friend that emigrated from that place.  And this is how my host family ended up teaching me how to flush a toilet, because the grandmother who’d come from Portugal hadn’t ever seen a flush mechanism.

People don’t stop and think “Wait, that was a 100 years ago!” No, they file that under “this is how it is in distant place. And honestly, it doesn’t hurt anyone. I mean, I already knew how to flush a toilet, but it cost us all perhaps a minute of our time.  I wasn’t offended, because I knew where this was coming from.  No sane person should be offended of this sort of thing.

And besides, sometimes stereotypes are true.  At least the ones where you encounter the real thing on a regular basis have to be true, or you’d revise them.

My own stereotype of Africa had come from reading a lot of African exploration books.  Which meant I thought of Africa as huts and tribes.  And I wasn’t far off.  When I visited South Africa I passed a lot of tribal hut villages.  Of course, this was the eighties and they had satellite dishes, but they were still huts.

And while I’m quiet, non-demonstrative and honestly an introvert for the country I come from (the region I come from is more undemonstrative anyway, being English influenced, but I’m an introvert even for there) people who meet me still think I fit the stereotype of Latin female.

That’s fine.  If it becomes necessary for them to know me as an individual, they’ll learn differently.  But while dealing with me as part of a group, that’s enough for them to know, particularly if I’m in one of my occasional snits.

I mean, you could roam the globe “educating” everyone in the ways every stereotype is wrong, and itemizing all the little ways things are different from the picture in their heads.

In the end, all it would do is make people confused, tired of you, and annoyed.

In general, I have better things to spend time on than “educating” people.

In fact if you talk of “educating” other people, perhaps you should already educate yourself on how you’re not superior and we don’t want to hear it.

And if you persist, we’ll show you our middle fingers.  We have a full set.




381 thoughts on “The Horror of Cultural Stereotypes

    1. Seems to be the season.

      I’m tired and annoyed, and the quality of the trolls has gone so low, that “oh, F off” seems to cover 90% of everything.

      I don’t know if I’m more worried that I am wrong, or that I’m right……

    1. Enough of them “persist” such that the digits in question get tired at times. I would most definitely contribute to a cause that would send them to the place they seem to want, i.e. Venezuela, Russia, or points in the mid-east not named Israel.

  1. The human race has survived this horror for several millennia now, I dare say we might want to take our time about hasty “cures” that may only exacerbate the illness.

    1. In the end, all it would do is make people confused, tired of you, and annoyed.

      Interestingly, this describes the reactions to the schooling they recently completed of a fairly large sample of younger folk that I’ve dealt with over the past ten years or so. Though they generally have gotten past their confusion through individual research using primary sources, they absolutely retain the annoyance and I-am-tired-of-you two reactions to pretty much all self-appointed authority figures.

      1. And to tie into RES’ comment that I’m replying to, perhaps this is in the end self-curing.

        1. you could roam the globe “educating” everyone in the ways every stereotype is wrong, and itemizing all the little ways things are different from the picture in their heads.

          In the end, all it would do is substitute one stereotype for another, if only because in the time you spent doing it all of your “corrections” would have become obsolete.

  2. What’s sad is that many of the people who “rant” about stereotypes believe that the “stereotypes” they hold reflect reality.

    The aftermath is the past election shows this. 😦

    1. Ah, but the thing is, all stereotypes DO reflect reality; right up until the point where one finds the stereotype doesn’t apply in this case. We don’t have the processing time to treat everything as a unique instance. That’s part of the problem with a good number of people with autism; an inability to generalize. But we do have enough time to readjust a stereotype when it’s proven wrong, provided we survive the learning.

      1. which is why people with autism are great at certain things; I think computer programming is one that has made the news in the last half-decade.

        Me, I’m not quite face-blind, but almost everybody reminds me of somebody else. A certain computer science undergraduate commented on my coarse pattern recognition in regards to human faces way back then. Voices I do better, I think; or I used to.

      2. The genetic dice are loaded; there are far fewer faces than people.

        Couple this with the Fed’s ongoing deployment of facial recognition systems in Federal buildings and airports, and I get a bit paranoid about going some places. I very seldom go to the aforementioned places due to 2A issues, but more and more places are sharing data among their surveillance systems. Sooner or later one of them is going to go “TILT!” and announce it just saw Hassan Nasrullah, leader of the Hezbollah terrorist group, who walks around wearing my face. (I have several months’ seniority, dammit! It’s *my* face!)

        Nowadays my “suffering fools” reservoir is empty, and I have zero tolerance for pushy authoritarianism. It could get ugly for overanxious JBTs.

        1. 1) Well, flip.
          2) Hm, that might not be TOO bad- it looks like you could go full Santa on the beard, which is a modification that he couldn’t do.

          The most annoying part of looking like those Islamotards is that you can’t even be well groomed to avoid it, because they know you can cut your hair, too, and they’re not going to have tats, earrings– nuthin!

      3. The reversal of a stereotype makes for both good narrative, and good characterization.
        Most people DO have some facets that differ from the generic-group-member, and it’s interesting to see what those are — because they aren’t the same for all people, or else there would be a sub-stereotype, and a sub-sub-stereotype, and so forth .. and fractals eventually get too small to make good stereotypes.
        (They also create the problems currently dooming the Left’s victim-culture, where the sub-sets of intersectionality and resulting conflicts in victim-precedence are straining the cohesion required for political dominance — thank goodness.)

    2. To paraphrase my all-purpose-quote from Ben Franklin: Stereotypes are always legitimate in the first person – our stereotypes; it is only in the third person – their stereotypes – that they are illegitimate.

  3. Of course he also thinks people can or SHOULD be educated about the nature of stereotypes, and the non-stereotypical stuff that lies behind it.

    If one really wants to educate people, the place to do it is not using a cover that ensures that folk in need of said education run screaming away from the book, but between the covers of the book, by telling a compelling, engaging story where the stereotypes, and non-stereotypical stuff flows naturally from said story.

    I.e. “good story.”

    It’s a provocative concept.

    1. This. What took me a while to grasp is that covers is just as much advertising as the style of a hotdog stand. It’s signalling what’s for sale.It’s communicating by symbols. An acacia and sunset on a cover is just as much a symbol as the traditional three spheres in front of a pawn shop. And to me, an acacia and sunset signals a certain type of story, like a safari yarn. It wouldn’t do for a story about a PI on the mean streets of Nairobi.

      1. He DID get that, to his credit. He thought we should NOT try to educate people with covers. I OTOH don’t think I should “educate” anyone. I just write stuff.

        1. I thought the intended education content was economic, by getting readers to learn “If you buy this book, I will write more of them so you can, in turn, buy those.”

        2. If it happens, it should be on the sly. Like messaging, you can have a story with a moral to it that weilds a tiny, tiny hammer to make its points precicely and mostly unnoticed. Things like “a man keeps his word” and “the things worth doing are almost always hard” can seep in without being overt.

          Science fiction can make me think (and I like the ones that do this well). I learned some things from Heinlein early on that no book in school would or could have taught as well. *chuckle*

    2. I was a stereotyper once. You press the flat tray of type into a kind of thick paper, making an indented image. Then you take that paper and bend it in a semicircle as part of a mold. Then you pour hot metal into the mold, making a curved replica of the original tray of type. Then you send that off to the rotary press. Easy peasy.

      Nowadays when I want a simplified but maybe useful description of something I just find the largest eigenvalues and project the data into a simplified space spanned by the corresponding eigenvectors. This is harder to explain.

    3. That’s Racist. You must educate people about stereotypes without using anything that could be construed as a stereotype by the most uncharitable interpretation.

  4. Stereotypes;

    1) No matter how caricatured the streotype of a group may be, there will be members of that group who are apparently determined to live down to it. See; Long-gisland Jews.

    2) By and large the people who lecture you the most about stereotypes are the ones who desperately, DESPERATELY hope,you won’t notice that they are often true.

    1. Actually, I can see his point. We all have ideas of places that might not actually be so. But that’s different from a book cover, which gets into the use of symbols to convey the contents.

      All but one of mine are bad examples of this. One of the bad ones is striking, but doesn’t convey much of what the story is about. If they were hard cover and you saw them, you wouldn’t say “These are fantasy and that’s a crime story” unless you took a look inside. The only one that halfway works well is non-fiction, and without the title no one would realize what it was about.

      To revise the bad covers, I need to indulge in the “stereotype” of symbols. The crime story needs something that shouts criminal activity; the fantasy covers need something that shouts fantasy, And I don’t consider it stereotype at all.

      1. Also, judicious use of stereotypes conveys information very effectively, and playing against them can cause all kinds of failure.

        One of my film watching pleasures is to view YOJIMBO, FISTFULL OF DOLLARS, and then LAST MAN STANDING. They are, as you know, essentially the same story. The first two transformations (from RED HARVEST to YOJIMBO and thence to FISTFULL OF DOLLARS) work. The last one, to LAST MAN STANDING, doesn’t. I think one of the causes of this failure is the decision to tell a Prohibition era version of the story against a jarring background. We expect Prohibition era noir to be repleat with rain soaked streets in a big city. Yes, the actual drama of Prohibition took place all ove,the country, but the RED HARVEST story is a set-piece. The dry desert town was the wrong setting, and the director wasn’t good enough to bring the disjunction off.

        Of course the fact that the director, while not horrible, was no Leone or Kurosawa didn’t help on many levels.

      2. I have a beautiful cover that, alas, signals fantasy instead of mil-sci-fi. Didn’t realize it until six months later. Ow. When I win the lottery, I’m going to replace that and a few other covers so I can but the books into print as well as e-form (contract was for e-cover only, because of finances at the time).

        1. In general, your military sf has a fantasy fingertip-feel.

          So yeah, don’t go toooooo far in that direction. There’s a long pleasurable tradition of “this is science fiction but in a fantasy way,” and “military fantasy with sf elements.”

          1. True, but not “white tree of Gondor from LOtR on the cover” fantasy feel. *waves little clenched paw at Peter Jackson* Curse you, visual culture!

            1. One of the tricks that Don Wollheim used, when he first started DAW Books in the early 70s, was that he used the best covers he could commission for either (a) a book so good that he really wanted to push it, or (b) a book so bad that he absolutely knew that it needed a great cover in the hopes of selling that book.

        2. Even if there *was* some Sekrit Kover Kode, it doubt it is as prevalent as it used to be. Too many books – both tradpub and indie – using generic McCovers and clip art, and too many potential customers, such as myself, who were never in on the Sekrit.

    2. There needs to be a German word for “feeling of discomfort experienced when in the presence of someone exhibiting your own group’s stereotype”.
      For instance, one of us meeting a pale, greasy, unwashed and overweight basement dwelling neckbeard who spends way to much talking about SF.

      1. Oh my gosh that ONE gamer who is insanely fat, cannot speak to a female without propositioning her, and thinks the f word is adult.

        In his late 30s.

      2. For instance, one of us meeting a pale, greasy, unwashed and overweight basement dwelling neckbeard who spends way to much talking about SF

        Actually, I live above the garage…

      1. I took French in high school. The teacher sounded like an over-the-top slave mammy from a remake of “Gone With the Wind.”

        “Cawmaw saa vah, y’all…”

        She also taught second-year French. I didn’t bother to sign up.

        1. I offer, for your edification and amusement, the Texan I had with me during our orientation course to German and those who spoke it in their native land…

          I want you to first picture our teacher, a very sweet attractive young thing, who had been trained as a high school teacher, and who was supposed to be teaching German and English to other Germans. Only problem was, there was a surfeit of such, in the local community, and she’d washed up in our “Headstart to German” course as an instructor. Dreadfully earnest, dreadfully “nice”, in that sheltered sense of the unworldly encountering reality for the first time, and her classroom full of American GIs doing their best to try to do German… Lord, you could hear the spinning sounds from Goethe’s grave where we sat, and it was loud

          Anyway, one of the guys was from Texas, and he had an accent that was heavy enough to require an interpreter for most of the rest of us. I’m not kidding–That drawl was nearly impossible to make out, and I remember later hearing him trying to report that there was a tent on fire out at the training area, and being utterly astounded to realize that he talked like that even in an emergency. Even in what should have been a state of panic, slooooooow drawl…

          But, there he was, bless his heart, trying to learn to speak German with some intelligibility. He tried, and tried, and tried, and it just didn’t come easily at all. In order to graduate, you had to demonstrate at least some ability, so he picked the simplest sentence you could imagine: “Where is the train station, please?”.

          I wish like hell I could render the resultant “Wo ist der Bahnhof, bitte…?” with some accuracy, but I just can’t. I can do a passable stereotypical Texan accent, in person, but I can’t even begin to figure out how to get the full horror across to you in a written form. Trust me, though… It was epic.

          The look on poor Fraulein Schiller’s face, hearing our Texan declaim his sentence…? Oh, you can not begin to do it justice, here: Combined existential horror, and a host of other emotions preceded her momentary utter silence upon completion, followed by a discernible gulp, and a “That is very nice, Mr. Wright… Thank you…”.

          Poor woman. I don’t think that six years of post-secondary education prepared her for that experience, at all.

          1. My imagination supplied a version of “Wo ist der Bahnhof, bitte” that MIGHT do it justice, based off of sweet HM3 Brown and his “oh-hi-yo, go-zeye-mas,” with silent but VERY MUCH THERE “y’all” at the end. (Our Japanese teacher, on the other hand, was a little more experienced and also recognized that if he’d been in the dating pool he would’ve had to get a body guard to walk down the sidewalk, so no such horror.)

            Something like “Hoe eeeeeast der baaaah-naaaa-hoooof, bitttttee?”

            1. Let me try, in order that you may appreciate the sheer schadenfreudalicious horror on Fraulein Schiller’s behalf:

              “Vo isht der bahnhof, bit-tay…?”, and stretch everything out into a slow, lazy Texas drawl, to the point where it was about ten times longer than a native German would say it, and an emphasis on the individual syllables. Also, consider that we were in Hessen, where they’re prone to making mock of the slow Bavarian accents, as well. It was kind of a “Yertle the Turtle” rendering of German, with a Texan twang, slowly drawled out.

              Just like I can’t do a darn Cajun accent in real life, I can’t quite render this in text, either. Blindspot in my linguistics sub-processor?

          2. I don’t think that six years of post-secondary education prepared her for that experience, at all.

            It can be astounding, how much experience six years of post-secondary education does not prepare you for.

          3. Similar story from another Head Start teacher on the class excursion: response to clue-less student from elderly newspaper seller, who had apparently heard the question one time too many,approximately one block from the bahnhof in Kaiserslautern, where he had just tried his “Wo ist der Bahnhof?”

            “Wo ist der Bahnhof? Wo ist der Bahnhof? IN 1945 YOUR BOMBERS DIDN’T HAVE ANY TROUBLE FINDING THE BAHNHOF!”

            1. Funny story, that…

              I had an English acquaintance who flew bombers in that war, who likely would have taken that newspaper seller aside, and gently whispered something like “Sorry about that, old chap… We were aiming for the railyards next door… The ones you were shipping people off to the concentration camps through.”.

              Nice guy, but he had very limited patience for any Germans or Japanese who tried playing victim, and would casually and politely throw the ball back into their court whenever someone started whinging about it all.

  5. Stereotypes persist because, more often than not, they’re useful.

    And because many people choose to conform to stereotypes. Because that’s how they signal who they are.

    If people go through considerable trouble to present themselves in a certain way, I’m not going to put forth any effort to second-guess them unless I have a particular reason for it.

    I once saw bunch of “outlaw bikers” trying to flag down a car after one of their group had crashed. People drove around them and accelerated away, much to their frustration. The bikers had paid good money for their bike-shop colors, denims, chains, and skull paraphernalia; the motorists accepted the stereotype and ignored the fact that they were late-middle-aged and out of shape.

    And I’d like to point out again, completely off-topic, that when you leave the urban hives and the vicinity of major highways, there’s very little cellular coverage, and there ain’t no 911 without a signal.

    1. The weekend biker gang guys I knew in Washington (to a one they work in offices, one was the AA guys– I think they are called “AA Angels” or something horribly sappy like that) managed to do a very nice splitting the difference between “we are FREAKING TROUBLE” and “accountants on motorcycles.”

      The number of lap dog carriers on their bikes probably helped.-.-

    2. I once knew a very successful New York antique dealer (he was living in DC, taking care of his parents, and working in a call center, while his business went to hell. Long story). HE was straight, but presented as Gay, because the stereotype of the Gay New York antique dealer as so pervasive where he had been doing business that he just adopted it rather than fight it. It wasn’t worth the effort.

      1. I got my hair cut once by a guy whose mannerisms were absolutely flaming—but whose conversation revealed wife & grandkids. He was old enough it probably *was* protective coloration to flame as a male hairdresser.

        1. The irony is that in ancient Greece, the same sort of mannerism were held to indicate an adulterer, whom you wanted to make sure your wife never met.

          1. Before Oscar Wilde, a lot of the mannerisms we’d think of as “flaming gay” (poetry, “limp wrist”, a taste for elaborate clothing) were seen as womanizing. It’s because of his trial that those mannerisms became associated with homosexuality.

        2. I took ballet briefly (as an exercise, being well past any age that could have serious pretensions to being a professional) from a retired dancer.
          On one occasion she remarked that, early in her career (which would have been fifties & sixties), the gay dancers would get married and do all the usual things to present a straight persona, because the prejudices against them were so great.
          In her later career, she said, “you were more likely to lose your job if you weren’t gay.”

        3. I worked with a guy who I could swear was gay as an all-male Broadway review chorus, and… Wow, was I wrong–Along with everyone else who knew him. We were in a muy Macho Combat Engineer unit, and he fit in about like a llama in a herd of sheep. Everybody liked him, because he was outstandingly competent at his job, which was field medic, and we were all like “Oh, OK, he’s gay… Who gives a damn?”. Nobody could ever say they’d seen anything indicating that he was gay, but mannerisms and everything else…? Likewise, we never saw him do anything to demonstrate heterosexual preference, either…

          Yeah; we were convinced, based on the “evidence”.

          He rotated out, re-enlisted for a different job in the medical field, one that put him full-time at the hospital. Didn’t see him again, for about ten years, and then I ran into him at the Post Exchange on a different installation.

          With his wife.

          And, three kids.

          Wife was easily a 9.5 on a scale of one to ten, ten being inhumanly beautiful, and the kids were very obviously his biological children. Wife was a doctor, BTW, while he was still a nurse/practitioner working on his PA. I must surmise he had really outstanding game, from how he’d managed to “marry up”, because he sure as hell wasn’t an attractive guy–Receding chin, hairline, etc.

          Dude still gave off the same vibe he had when I’d known him earlier. Hadn’t changed a bit. Got a chance to talk to his wife later, when I had to take someone to the hospital for treatment, and kinda probed around the edges, trying not to seem like an asshole. Determined two things: One, she was deliriously in love with him, even after about 8 solid years of marriage, and two, she had no clue he gave off “less than manly” vibes to other heterosexual males.

          Hell, even other gay males thought he was one of them…

          I don’t even begin to have an explanation. People who met him for the first time, like the kid I took into the hospital where they were both working? Thought he was gay, and nearly blew gaskets when they found out the hot chick treating them was married to him, and demonstrating PDA. It was kind of like you looked at him, did that initial appraisal of who he was, meeting him, went “Oh, yeah… Gay male…”, and then… He’s hugging his obviously female wife with a deep and satisfying familiarity.

          Weird thing was, even seeing that? You were more prone to going “Is she transsexual, or something…?”, because that’s how strong his apparent orientation was.

          That’s a large part of the reason I learned to mind my own business, and don’t judge squat, when it comes to these things. Signals don’t indicate reality very well, at all…

          1. Sometimes you meet guys like that in choirs. It’s funny, because usually they think they are just going with the stereotype for tenors; but they have clearly been raised with the wrong set of tenors. However, they usually do more than okay with the ladies.

            Sopranos do the opposite, stereotypically — a lot of women feel like the higher the voice, the more they need to do Super Hair, Super Makeup, Super Clothes, and Super Attractive to Men. And of course, this means that the mezzos have to compete, and the altos have to compete, and the contraltos have to be Irene Adler on the prowl…. at least until you are middle-aged enough.

            Fortunately, I’ve never been in an SJW-heavy women’s choir, because I suspect it would be terrible.

      1. My favorite haberdashery these days is Tractor Supply Co. They can be a bit pricey, but it was there my wife noticed a reasonably priced one that we both like. The one in my photo is starting to look like Jed Clampett’s.

        It’s interesting to note, though, that my old hat may have been what got us into the back room of an authentic Mexican restaurant where they had the Arizona Diamondbacks on the big screen TV. It may also be why a complete stranger from Asia singled me out to ask directions – I was the only one in the group with a hat like this. Clothes do make the person.

          1. Ha. Dairy farmer privilege had me running around with plenty of cattle about, but no hat. Despite the Army requiring me to keep a “cover” on while outdoors for years, it didn’t stick. Hatless remains my preferred mode, though I may reconsider it someday under the right conditions. Boonie hats are fine in sunburn inducing weather conditions, as are watch caps when it’s freezing.

        1. My dad went to New York, before my brother’s wedding.

          He was wearing his dress lace-up boots, new blue jeans, a good, clean western shirt and his GOOD hat.

          On the street, one of the ladies with a holy-cow-it’s-from-the-movies New York accent stopped and demanded to know if he was from Texas.

          My dad, being the world’s quietest ham, poked his hat up a bit and said “no, ma’am, Nevada.”

          1. Two New Yawk stereotypes I have to relate. One, when I was walking back to the hotel from 5th, had to ask a lady for directions. When she asked me where I was from, and I told her, her companion burst out with “ohmygosh, he’s wearing *shoes!*” *chuckle* Southerners she only knew from Green Acres or the like would be my guess.

            The other was the Chinese tourists that kept wanting to have their picture taken with me. I don’t know why that’s a stereotype, but it is what it is. This would be mostly around the Statue of Liberty. I think I still have one of those pictures around somewhere. Happy smiles, those folks. They may have been new Americans for all I know. *grin*

            1. I nearly died young when I mistakenly mentioned that my family raises cattle in Washington state… to a middle-aged Japanese cab driver.

              “LIKE CHON WAYNE?!?!”
              ❤ ❤ ❤

              It would have been more awesome if he wasn't turned around, leaning over the seat and yelling while driving about 45 in heavy traffic.

            2. The other was the Chinese tourists that kept wanting to have their picture taken with me. I don’t know why that’s a stereotype, but it is what it is. This would be mostly around the Statue of Liberty. I think I still have one of those pictures around somewhere. Happy smiles, those folks. They may have been new Americans for all I know. *grin*

              Actually that’s something I have experienced personally in China. I would be walking down the street and would get stopped by random camera toting Chinese people who would pantomime wanting to take my picture. I don’t think I look like any celebrities, but that’s the way it is.

              1. I usually get people who want me to take their picture (or at least that was the case before selfies were a thing.) Good thing for them—I’m actually in professional photography. I hope they like their lovingly set photos.

            3. Used to be Japanese tourists, before their bubble burst. See: CROCODILE DUNDEE II.

              In fact, see it for its own sake. It’s a good example of a good sequel. I like it better than the first.

                1. If you haven’t seen it, watch it. No chocolate (that I recall), but some wonderful scenes, and an abo actor I could wish I had seen more of, save that the rest of his catalogue loooks tiresome (seems the SJWs got to him).

              1. Back in the Eighties, I got my picture taken at Kings Island, in front of the Eiffel Tower, with a couple of middle-aged Japanese salarymen. I was there with my friend Karen, who was very pretty and had very long blonde hair. And I was brunette, with short hair and glasses.

                It was strange. There I was in Ohio, and I suddenly realized we were both stereotypically cute teenage gaijin, living the dream.

                Somebody else’s dream. For about a minute.

                Aeh, they were nice and polite enough. But it was also weird.

                1. If we’re talking about Rod Ansell, here, I think it’s a bit more of a shame what happened to the poor bastard he shot to death before he was killed himself. It’s funny how Ansell is remembered, but the decent man he killed for no reason has his name forgotten in popular memory.

                  The man Ansell killed was Sergeant Glen Huitson. Sadly, nobody is making movies based on his life.

              2. For a good stereotype example, that’s what the self timer on cameras was for. You’d see a bunch of Japanese tourists lined up at Coit Tower in ‘Frisco*, and the photographer would set the timer and run to join the lineup.

                (*) The Proper Residents call it The City. Eff-em.

                    1. Same thing, actually. As it was explained to me by a Greek Orthodox priest (oh so) many years ago, Constantinople was ‘The City’, which is rendered something like ‘Stano Polis’ (forgive the spelling; it’s Greek to me) which, when the Ottomans took over became Istanbul.

                      FWIW, Wiki-bloody-pedia has it that the phrase locals used is rendered phonetically as ‘is tim ˈbolin’, which means “to the city”.

                    2. Of course, before it got called Constantinople, it was named Byzantium. 😉

                  1. My first days in Silly Valley in the ’70s, I got a copy of the SF paper, and Herb Caen’s (sort-of-legendary gossip columnist) always referred to it as The City. Saw this in use regularly in the SF papers, along with references to something (book, perhaps) Please don’t call it Frisco.

                    I usually don’t call if Frisco, but IMHO, only pretentious twits use “The City” for San Francisco.

                    1. I recall Caen also referring to it as “Baghdad by the Bay”.

                      I’d call it “Frisco”, specifically to annoy residents thereof, when we lived in the South Bay area. Now we live north of “The Cities” in the frozen north.

                    2. I presume you are referring to ‘the’ Twin Cities here in Minnesota (apparently there are twin cities in at least Illinois, Maine, and North Carolina, as well as an actual Twin City in Georgia.

                      There are a buncha tri-cities as well, along with a number of quad-cities.

                    3. I’m writing a story in which The Lighthouse appears.

                      I’ve succeeded in giving the other locations less (attempted) Iconic names, such as Quiet Valley. But I think the Lighthouse is going to insist on its name.

            4. Surreality and Asian tourists, my experiences:

              Yellowstone, 1988. We’ve been tasked to go put on a show for the media, showing that everyone was giving their all to put out the fires, which didn’t really go out until late fall set in with winter. The park is still kinda-sorta open, because they’re running tour buses through that place just as if it wasn’t in the process of burning down.

              We’re taking a lunch break, right near a major road, and while we’re seated there in our yellow shirts and green pants, here comes a line of tour buses filled with, I presume, Japanese tourists. They stop right next to us, a mass of dirty-faced GIs eating sack lunches, and we stop eating, to stare up at them staring at us while we can hear a tour guide inside the bus talking for several minutes. Guide pauses, and then says something else that must have amounted to “And, now… You may take pictures of the American soldiers in their native habitat…”, and about a half-million dollars of high-end camera gear comes up, and we’re just about blinded by the resultant flash effect. Some of us had cameras, and we took pictures of them taking pictures of us…

              And, then, the buses drove off into the smoke. Highly surreal, that day. I should probably include the other major lunchtime incident that took place the following day, and which had the immediate effect of taking us far, far away from any possible exposure to the public, but that’s another story in another genre, entirely.

          2. Robert, when he interviewed at NYU medschool hammed it up like crazy including talking about his horse (he doesn’t have one), riding his horse to school (we lived in downtown colorado springs) AND inventing whole new expressions like “shoe mah horse with butter.”
            That boy!

            1. When we were kids, my best friend from Los Angeles and her little sister and I had a number of their friends convinced that there were neither roads nor electricity in Idaho and we had to ride cows to get around.

              It seems to be a thing. Incidentally, a principal at a local high school doesn’t want kids attending by horseback because of the liability if some other kid does something to a horse, but apparently he can’t actually stop them, just ask that they please don’t.

            2. Back when the meme o’ the day was “GWB Is soooooo stupid because he says ‘nukular power'”, I took great delight in mentioning that the only person *I* knew who said “nukular” spent most of his time saying “no” to NASA when they made their yearly “pleeeeeeeease can we hire you now?” call. (Heck of an engineer. Didn’t want to move his family.)

              1. My reaction to the whole “Bush is stupid” meme tended towards variations on “I know! Because we ALL know that having proper pronunciation is soooo much more important than actually knowing what you’re talking about!

                1. My thought was that while I had a weak background in nuclear lore, I still knew a lot more than the humanities majors who had the correct pronunciation.

              2. I took some physics course in college from a professor who used to work at Oak Ridge, TN, who pronounced it “nukular”.

                1. Agh. That is something of a Southernism. Or at least, Appalachian. It was nukular my whole life, up until around the turn of the century. Physics profs said it that way. Even Chemestry profs, who bloody well should have know better as well. The accent mushes up a lot.

                2. I am more concerned about their understanding of the concepts than their pronunciation. Back in the Depression there were many criticizing Baseball hall of Famer Dizzy Dean for his grammar — especially his repeated usage of “ain’t” — on St. Louis Cardinals broadcasts, for which he had a simple, direct response:

                  1. From my childhood in the ’60s:

                    “Ain’t” ain’t a word, ’cause “Ain’t” ain’t in the dictionary!

                3. Y’know, put this guy in his normal casual wear, take him to a party in any of the Red Cities (e.g., Boston, NY, DC, LA, SF or Seattle) and wouldn’t nobody guess he had a high school diploma.

                  Much less a B.E.E., M.S. Physics, Ph.D. Optical Science and Engineering, M.S.E. Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Master of Astronomy and a Ph.D. Aerospace Systems Engineering.

                  Only inbred Southern Rednecks have accents like his.

              3. Remember when that idiot W talked about the 58 states, or the Austrian language, or mispronounced corpsman as “Corpse-men”… oh, wait… nevermind!

        2. A few years ago I was looking at hats and got interested in pith helmets, like you see on old movies with British adventurers.

          I spent some interesting hours online, reading about the origins and different types of helmets. The part I found most interesting was that my mental image of “pith helmet”, derived mostly from Hollywood, wasn’t the British style. Pith helmets were apparently used by the Vietnamese Army, and somehow that’s what I think of as “pith helmet.”

          1. The Vietnamese style is based on the French style, which makes sense since they were a French colony.

            Was intrigued by the idea that you could soak the pith and feel a little cooler due to the evaporation. That probably wouldn’t work in humid environments, and most “pith” helmets aren’t made of pith.

            Some claim that the inside helmet rig, similar to a hard hat, keeps you cooler because air can circulate around your head. OTOH, while a hard hat is colder in cold weather (they make a hood that attached to the head band for cold weather comfort), I’ve not noticed any difference in hot weather. But hard hats don’t have a ventilated button at the top.

            1. I see that the cowboy style hard hat is still available. I don’t recall ever seeing one in use.

              I worked a couple of summers for a steel supply shop. Part of the job was to go into the big warehouse to mark pieces destined for a fabricator. I figured my hardhat would be pretty useless if the 4′ x 8′ x 3/4″ plates ever dropped from the overhead cranes. Ah, the pre-OSHA days…

              1. Commented about the cowboy style to Kirk, but it disappeared in the aether. At our company, white hard hats mean supervisor, so I’ve never worn one, but one of those cowboy hard hats showed up at our place, and ended up belonging to the big boss.

            2. Helmets are cooler than hats, but you have to set them up right for that to be true. Airspace around the head and inside the helmet must be maintained, and not blocked.

              As well, judicious application of wet sponge or other water-absorbent material to the interior crown will aid immeasurably, and if you can add crown ventilation…? Even better.

              Even an unventilated combat helmet like the PASGT Kevlar or newer Army Combat Helmet can be cooler and more comfortable to wear, if you do it right. Sizing is critical, as well as how you wear the damn thing.

              I do wish the Army would add havelocks to the helmet covers, though–They’d help with breaking up the outline, and shading the back of the neck. The only folks to have done this, that I’ve seen, were the South Africans, who also put brims on the helmet covers to give better eyeshade. Looked goofy as hell, to American eyes, but spend some time out in a desert, and “goofy” starts to look damned attractive.

              1. We prefer doughboy style hard hats both for the extra protection from falling objects, and for the extra shade from the brim. Some like extenders that clip onto the brim, but I tried one once and “Eh”

                We were always believers in hard hats. Oh, the things we’ve seen. Like the fellow working a storm, felt something hit his hard hat, figured it was a limb, and went on. Then he found that the steel core on the end of a wire had struck end-on, and, with the weight of the wire behind it, and punched right through. Without a hard hat, it would have been his skull.

      2. I like my NASA hat from the Rocket and Space Center in Huntsville.
        I only wear my MAGA hat when I’m feeling like annoying the snowflakes.

        1. I usually wear my camouflage Stihl hat (they sell them by the dozen at Coastal Farm and Ranch). Have to get the John Deere hat out next trip to the west side of Oregon.

        2. That would be good. I think I have a ‘baseball’ cap with the old colorful Apple logo on it. Should see if that’s about. The only actual baseball baseball cap I’d wear I do not have. I think it’s that of a high school baseball team… in Hanford, WA.

        1. When I was taking some meds that made me sensitive to UV, I seriously considered buying a sombrero. I figured it would combine the functions of a hat and umbrella…

            1. One thing the video revolution made crystal clear; whatever Desi Arnaz was being paid to put up with that sniveling redhead, it wasn’t enough.

              I’m sorry if thsmoffends anyone, but I have ALWAYS loathed Lucy.

                1. I never, EVER, saw Ball play any character that I didn’t want to kick. Now, that mey be her genius, but if that was what she did, I loathed Ball.

                  Also, somebody should have talked her into doing just about ANYTHING but Mame. Her starring in a remake of THE LONGEST DAY would have been better. I don’t kniw about the broadway productions, but the film was toxic.

                  1. That was her comedy persona– yes, folks found that hilarious.

                    ….I have no idea why folks found it funny; she’s slightly higher than, oh, most of the guys who were on SNL in the 80s and do endless “comedies” now, but that just means I won’t instantly leave the room when it comes on.

                2. There’s a film from the late 40s, early 50s called “A Woman of Distinction,” at the begining of the film this British astronomy is coming to America to give a lecture tour on variable stars. The press is there to cover his arrival, when one of the photographers turns to another arrival, that of Lucille Ball playing herself. When the journalist the photographer is with questions what he’s up to he replies: “This is more my idea of heavenly bodies.”

                3. Her real genius (as a comedienne) was the skits. Old school over-top, on a level with the Three Stooges. When she played a character, it was just an excuse to get her into the skit.

                  Lucille McGillicuddy Ricardo was the ultimate example. And even then, she wasn’t so much stupid as stubborn, impulsive, cocksure, and too proud to back down. Ever. An ideal bridge to the VITAMEATAVEGEMIN skit but not a well balanced individual.

                  I date myself by remembering how I watched the show as a small child. I’d laugh my head of as she ran wild across the stage–then, like as not, have to leave the room rather than watch her burst into tears while the audience laughed at her…

              1. Mistaking the character for the actor who portrays it is about as egregious an error as mistaking an author’s characters for the author.

                Sometimes, they do play themselves, or write themselves, but more often than not, the actor and the author would laugh themselves silly at you for thinking they were one and the same with the characters they write and play.

                1. I loathed Lucy. I loathed the character in the sitcom with Arnaz (and that’s the snivelling readhead I’m talking about), I loathed her in THE LUCY SHOW. She may have been terribly smart, but I loathed her work. All of it. I’m not mistaking her for her character (if I was I would be wondering how Arnaz kept fromtaking a roofing hammer to her), I’m saying her work revolts me.

                  1. The best story I ever heard about Desi Arnaz was the time he did SNL back when it was funny. The director decided to take the old has been aside and explain how they did the show. “We use what we call a three-camera system…”

                    Desi Arnaz INVENTED the three camera-system. And explained that to the snotnose in the calm, mannerly, and mellifluous manner you would expect.

                2. Gracie Allen – apparently a fairly sharp cookie (would have to be to keep up with George), played the complete ditz.

                  1. The key is to remember that she was the comic of the pair — George was the straight man. And it wasn’t so much a ditz as an innocent.

                    The act originally had Burns as the comic, and Allen as the straight man, but, according to Burns’ history of the act, when they saw that her straight lines were getting the laughs, they flipped the act.

      1. This. I wear hats to protect from sun and weather. I actually would have preferred an Outback hat, but this has a wide enough brim. One day I’ll get up the nerve to try a Boss of the Plains hat.

      2. My 13 year old Bailey hat is my go-to foul weather hat, unless it’s blowing too hard. I wore out the straw hat, but I have another I’ll use when doing a lot of outdoor work. I don’t like to use sunblock as much as I should…

    1. Sometimes I wear a cowboy hat, sometimes a baseball cap. It depends on the activity – sometimes I wear a Russian style fur cap for when I’m shoveling snow, a straw broad-brimmed hat when doing yard work in summer.

      Sometimes I wear a snazzy felt fedora

      1. I never liked baseball caps as a youth. I still don’t, really. If I’m going to cram something on my head, it should at least keep the sun off. Then I became an over-the-road trucker, and discovered the good side of having a “brim” that you could aim at the sun–and only the sun. Peripheral vision is a *good* thing.

        I still don’t wear baseball caps, though. A teller’s visor (I suppose they call it a tennis visor nowadays) does the same job without squashing my hair.

      2. I seem to remember that the Fedora is a fashion adoption from a play and that the character wearing the iconic hat was a woman.

        Princess Fedora? Something like that.

      3. The Navy still has command ball caps, and recruits are still issued Recruit ball caps in boot camp. Our (navy blue) ball caps have been authorized for wear with the Type III (green and black) NWUs–which are also supposed to be work with the black boots. Our sartorial splendor, it knows no bounds.

    2. I’ve encountered “hat checks” and “coat checks” in books and old movies; places where visitors to a restaurant or store would hand their hats and coats over to an employee for safekeeping.

      Any hat check booths that existed here in Dixie were repurposed into closets or small offices generations ago, and we never had anything like coat checks, as far as I know. We don’t wear that kind of heavy coats here.

      So, I was amused to see a hat/coat check booth in Memphis, when a friend and I went to the Pyramid for an art exhibition. (“The Art of the Motorcycle”) Most of the people there were what I would have generically thought of as “art people”; we were the only motorcyclists there. The booth was probably there to keep fur coats and fancy hats for the ladies; the woman working the counter was somewhat taken aback when we passed over our helmets and riding jackets. Mine had armor plates inside, and I think it upset her when it clacked when I laid it on the counter…

  6. Romance covers: Do you mean to tell us they’re NOT all Fabio’s bare chest hugging a WOMAN? I am…disappoint!
    Africa: I’m more of a jungle seer than a veldt/savannah seer. I mean, whoever heard of veldt drums? Sure, giraffes and herds of Gnus…
    Snits? You have snits? I get the steely-eyed killer vibe, not snits.
    And middle fingers? I’ll bet you have a passel of friends ready to donate theirs to stand with you.

    1. Yeah, romance covers are MOSTLY that, or a picture of a woman in a luscious dress, from the neck down. He thinks they’re better with you know, a woman from the back, not very visible. That signals mainstream, but never mind.

            1. But they’re usually not Catholic Highlanders. Or they’re Catholic in ways that don’t interfere with the romance heroine. No walking around shrines barefoot for the romance ladies!

              (But yeah, that’s true for all romance religion. Even inspirational Christian romances that are full of message are very generic. Protestants and evangelicals can have some very different theology, but romance Protestantism is vague about such things, and almost always trendy. Don’t expect Amish romances to spend much time on how their theology differs, either; it’s all about the glamorous praxis.)

              1. When I did Big Blue, one of the characters revealed herself to be a devout Christian. I had to do some research to pick an actual denomination specifically because I needed it to be one that had made peace with evolution. As it happened, details of denominational differences didn’t really matter to the story, but it was there in the background if I needed it.

          1. I made the mistake of imagining the Scottish cousins– much less my dad’s Scottish uncles, AKA “I know they are speaking English, but I CANNOT UNDERSTAND A SINGLE WORD!!!”, 90% bones and rawhide, as “romantic.”

            On the upside, I now have a very festive hint of peppermint in my sinuses…..

            1. Hey, I went to a concert by Silly Wizard. Those guys were genuine Scottish hunks. If you didn’t melt when Andy M. Stewart sang, you were not a human woman.

              Of course, the muscles were because they practiced 40 instruments for eight hours a day. And they probably don’t look like that now.

              My Scottish side ancestors kinda looked like Clint Eastwood, except bonier and uglier. This includes the women. I think the family has benefitted by judicious marriage to pretty people, as well as earlier nutrition.

              1. Clint Eastwood is a good summary of the more attractive relatives.

                I think dad is kind of cute, considering, but they are DEFINITELY not a romance cover type! Mom jokes she got the one Scottish guy with bony knees.

                The grandson of the best friend who went back to Scotland is, though. WOOF! (he’s about five years older than I am 😀 )

              2. I was working at a Renfest when this Very Loud Bagpipe Band named Clann an Drumma came through for a weekend. (Highly recommended. Highly.) At the pre-show briefing that morning, the grounds manager explained it thusly: “We have shirtless Gaelic men in kilts playing on the main stage today. They come from a country where the age of consent is sixteen. Those of you still in high school, I have a word for you and the word is NO.”

                Only one of them was objectively cute, but daaaaaaaamn, when they got to playing, it didn’t matter.

                1. Looking at the band on youtube I can see it is not the bonny brae boys’ kilts what arouses the lassies,

                  … it’s dem boots!

                  1. I don’t think I’ve ever seen maracas used as drumsticks before.

                    That’s pretty clever.

                2. Last I heard they had reformed as Albannoch (sp). IIRC this may have been due to legal issues preventing one member from returning to the US. Loud is an understatement, I worked a faire they performed at for several years and I would hide as far away as possible to best enjoy their playing. Between them and the Order of Saint Andrew, I can live the rest of my life without ever again hearing Scotland the Bold.

              3. Silly Wizard was one of my favorite bands back when. Their ability to cast glittering arrays of notes into the air in cascades of music was amazing.

                Couldn’t never understand a wuird they sang, of course, but they were a virtuoso ensemble.

                1. Love their music. Unfortunately, their lead singer, Andy Stewart, passed away a couple of years ago.

        1. 1970’s thriller cliche; pretty woman in a nightdress, running away from the Addams Family mansion.

          I always though “How bad can it be in that house? It’s GOT to be better than dying of exposure.”

                1. Well, sometimes there was a man embracing the nightgown-clad runner.

                  But there had to be a haunted house or castle. It’s a rule. This got to be kinda funny, if you were reading a Gothic set in Arizona or in a nice Colonial in Virginia.

                  Everybody remember the Anne McCaffrey Gothics? Or the Andre Norton ones? And heck, Elizabeth Peters used to make half her bread writing Gothics and the other half art-crime thriller-Gothics.

                  1. Harumph. There used to be at least one web site where someone had scanned and fisked the two main types of romance covers, but when I tried to find the URL, all I got were hits for romance cover artists.

                    I found it uproariously funny. My wife, who came in to see what I was laughing at, didn’t seem to see anything funny in it. Odd.

                  2. I once encountered a curious shelving policy (Halp-Price Books in Houston decades ago) which kept an author’s works together regardless of genre, when I found Mary Stewart’s gothics & other romance mysteries sitting beside her Merlin trilogy in the Fantasy section.
                    One could argue that the Merlin was a romance, or that the romances were fantasies, but not in the, um, stereotypical sense.

  7. “You’re appropiating our/their cultural!”

    “Yes. Anything worthwhile, we adopt, adapt, copy, etc. Thanks.”

    “So.. you mean…?”

    “There ARE culture’s we do not appropriate. Ponder how worthless they must be.”

      1. The phrase is also included in the LDS church’s Thirteenth Article of Faith:
        We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

  8. Hmm. Maybe there’s some law like “the larger the stereotype, the less useful it will be.” For instance, if you’re going to come up with an American stereotype, it’s going to be up against 320 million individuals. But if you make it smaller, and say “people from this city are generally like this,” it’s going to be a lot more accurate. For instance, I can say that there’s a stereotype of Marin County being NIMBY types, and the past few decades worth of voting patterns and zoning laws bear that stereotype out. (And honestly, even if I meet someone from Marin County who is all for rail lines and low-income housing, it’s not going to affect nearly as much as the stereotype does.) But when I say “all Californians are just like X” (where X is a particular set of behaviors local to certain areas of Southern California), it doesn’t work nearly as well.

    Except for the love of avocados. It’s true. Californians love avocados.

    1. “All humans….” generally doesn’t work.
      “All Klansmen…” is more likely to be correct.
      “All Berkeley $TWERP-Studies professors….” is likely even more so.

      1. Alien imposter.

        Being from California, and all, I do happen to like avocado, especially right off the tree. We grew up in the town that produced the Hass variety, developed by a local postman in his spare time in Whittier, CA.

        On the other hand, a high school classmate couldn’t stand eating avocado, except perhaps as guacamole with extra garlic. He’d grown up in Puerto Rico, where his parents were teachers, and gotten used to a lot of different types, some of the very best neither storing nor traveling well.

        There were so many trees around, that the kids would break down large cardboard boxes in which they’d slide down the hill behind their house, the ride being enhanced by the lubricating properties of lots of ripe avocados on the ground.

  9. And then you have “how to write” books that point out how stereotypes can be 1) a useful short-hand for a minor character or walk-on, walk-off person, and 2) useful to throw readers off balance when the stereotype is broken in a novel or at least unusual way. [See the Indians in Mel Gibson’s _Maverick_ movie.]

    1. They’re really useful. Also if you try to write straight off against what’s in people’s heads, they will think you’re nuts. You won’t reach them. You can subvert the stereotype but you have to know it and play with it.

        1. It’s curious that so many of the really good male SF writers have strong, independent women as their leads or major characters.
          There could be a stealth stereotype at work.

          1. I think it’s more “I like women who could totally whup me!” in action, by folks with enough life experience to identify forms of strength besides “Hulk meets Loki.”

          2. Truly strong people generally like those able to push back and tend to have little respect for those who will just roll over. It is the weak (morally) who like pushing people about. Nothing endears you to the strong so much as standing up to them.

          3. “I want a woman who’ll walk beside me, not behind me.”

            (*Several* Louis L’Amour characters)

    2. Sometimes people will play to stereotypes as a means of avoiding you getting to know them, or as a way of lulling you into underestimating them. The more a Georgian realtor plays to stereotype, the more likely the land you’re buying is swamp.

  10. He also immediately said that the reason that the covers show a sunset and an acacia tree is because in the collective subconscious that signals “Africa” to people..

    Meh, I guess in a sort of overly general sort of way. Other things that signals Africa to me are large pyramids, jungles, gorillas/chimps/lions, people with a very large melanin content…there are numerous things that signal “Africa”. And if you add in some specific props they’ll scream for a particular time period as well.

    1. I think it comes from nature shows. The series _Nature_ even uses an acacia, or baobab, as its logo. So savannah = Africa. Pyramids = Egypt, which is not Africa (yes, yes, I know. We’re talking pop-culture, not geography.)

      1. *snickers* Oh, I have a FUN version of that… ran into a guy who was very evangelical about everything good in Europe being from the Middle East, and I did my best bright eyed big smile thing and passionately agreed with him– and went into Christianity as a Middle Eastern philosophy.
        Which it is….. ^.^

          1. Somewhere there’s a group of Jewish merchants standing around a cash register singing what a friend we have in Jesus.

  11. Oh, pardon me, great apes (who declared us great, anyway?)

    According to Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory, that’s just an insult to gibbons (the only non-great apes).

  12. Stereotypes can be really useful to an author – or in an RPG. They provide a shorthand for the character type.

    A great example is the original Star Trek show. It’s LOADED with stereotyped characters. Kirk is the Square-Jawed American. Scotty is the Scottish Engineer. McCoy is the Country Doctor. Spock is alien…but not really, he’s the Straight Man. And it WORKED – these are some of the most memorable fictional characters of the 20th century.

    Now, you can also cut against the stereotypes…but it takes a sense of humor. The Valley Girl who happens to be a genius would work. Hell, I knew a guy who did this for real…liked to play Dumb Jarhead for laughs. Graduated 6th in his Naval Academy class, went on to be an astronaut.

      1. Well, Buffy was more the reluctant hero, forced by circumstance to pick up the role of protecting the world when she just wanted to make the cheerleading team. I wouldn’t call that character a genius-passing-as-average-to-escape-notice by any means.

        1. While it went on about two seasons too long, the middle seasons of the TV show had some just outstanding dialog writing.

        2. I like them both– they go in the same mental category as the Japanese habit of remaking anime with *slightly* different backgrounds for themovie vs the series.

    1. The Valley Girl who happens to be a genius would work.

      It’s actually an entire trope for anime– the ditzy genius. (I can’t remember the actual name for it.)

      There’s also the “are they actually an idiot, or is this an elaborate game?” characters.

      My favorite chief was an Intel guy. THICK southern accent.

      The more annoyed he was with an officer, especially if it was questionable if the twit had been toilet trained as long as he’d been in, the thicker his accent got– and, generally, the more the twit acted like the chief was stupid.

      Only once did I hear him when *I* couldn’t understand him. Still shocked the twit survived.

      1. The movie “Legally Blonde” is about a genius ditz.
        There’s a couple of different ways to run with that trope. “Legally Blonde” uses a ditz who turns out to be much sharper than she comes across, and whose interest in seemingly shallow things ends up being useful. A different type of genius ditz is Mihoshi from Tenchi Miyu (particularly the OVA continuity). She’s a ditzy clutz, but manages to get through via a combination of blind luck and thought processes that are just so plain weird that she reaches conclusions that others can’t.

          1. Mihoshi is pretty much my favorite, although she’s funnier when teamed up with her exasperated straightwoman police partner.

            And Crunchyroll now is streaming the OVAs, so check it out!

        1. One of my more successful characters was based on an observation that the tropes for the Stereotypical Absent-minded Professor and the Stereotypical Dumb Blonde are quite similar…

    2. > Scotty is the Scottish Engineer

      Larry Niven mentioned in one of his books that he and Jerry Pournelle took some flak for having a Scottish engineer in Mote, supposedly because they’d “stolen the idea from Star Trek“.

      Never mind that “Scottish engineer” has been a stereotype since at least the time of James Watt. Maybe before.

      > liked to play Dumb Jarhead for laughs.

      See also: George W. Bush. The SJWs never could figure out how that dumb yokel kept winning against rocket scientists like Al Gore and John Kerry.

      1. Watt…and a truckload of others. Engineering has always been a field where brainpower counted for more than connections. It’s suited to young people with sharp minds and empty pockets. Including me, when I was young and poor.

      2. Did you run into the “Tolkien stole from Harry Potter and World of Warcraft”?


        The educated ones would sometimes pull “this is stolen from D&D!” “No, this is the father of D&D.”

        1. Oh, I used to run into variations of that all the time. Very time fandom got flooded by a new wave of media fen, the last wave would try to show their superiority, and usually beclown themselves. The really funny thing was I would get appealed to as an ‘expert’ (this was before the days of smart phones). I’m very foggy this morning, and can’t recall specific instances, but the ‘Tolkien stole from Harry Potter’ idea is fairly typical. I would do my best to kill the whole thing by saying, “No, they both stole from 7th Century Norse mythology., or so I understand. Go talk to “X”; he knows this stuff.”

          1. *sigh* And here my folks taught me to go “wait, isn’t that just like ____”? unless I knew one was way before the other.

            Then again, my folks also taught me that Tolkien was openly inspired by all kinds of mythology, and even that he was making an English one.

            1. My parents taught me to look at the copyright date, before I complained about the encyclopedia being wrong.

              Yes, we were scary little kids. But my parents must have been, too.

              1. I’ve discovered the best disarming answer for “why we homeschool” is to laugh and say that I was a terror to my teachers– and my husband was WORSE, they need someone who can focus enough to stay a step ahead instead of having a whole classroom to focus on.

                1. Back when we were doing the homeschool gavotte I usually found “Why do you ask?” a good response. First, it implied that their question was just the teeniest, tiniest bit intrusive, allowing a “None of you D— Business” genre response when suitable. Second, in the event of a genuine curiosity and potentially sympathetic ear it allowed me to evangelize. Third, for the naively inquisitive it cued me to provide a generic response that left an opening for sincere discussion if that was their wont.

                  1. Heh, if they came flat out and asked, I might think it’s intrusive– but they do that say-something-generic-where-there’s-an-obvious-implication, like that “oh, that’s…interesting” comment that means something like “oh my gosh SEPHROTH!!!!

                    But if I just laugh and explain I was a holy, oblivious terror– then they start talking about the things they did that upset teachers, or that their kids did, and has a chance of planting a seed of “huh… those problems DO have a solution.”

                  2. — But Why You Are Asking?
                    — Do You Want To Talk About This?
                    — Why Are You Responding With A Question?
                    — Are You An Antisemite?
                    — Are You Looking For Fellow Antisemites?
                    — How do I patch KDE2 under FreeBSD?

        2. Years ago Beloved Spouse & I attended a large-screen exhibition of Red River, after which we joined the attendees invited to sit in on a local film class discussion of the movie.

          Several students complained about the cliched nature of the stampede, unaware that the reason it seemed a cliche was so many subsequent films copied this one, often recycling the same footage shot for this movie.

          Sigh. At least none complained that it was in B&W.

          1. Our film class teacher at least *warned* us that Casablanca would be disappointing, BECAUSE it had done so many iconic things which had been swiped– but it did them first, so they were kind of plane plain or flat.

  13. When I was getting my hair corn-rowed (horrid look, but I had always wanted to try it, so I did), the braider was from Nigeria and we watched a movie set there. Other than a few quirks, it could have been here. Everyone spoke English (most of the time). Everyone drove everywhere. Everyone had a house and a job. It was surprisingly not surprising.

    1. Nollywood. That’s cool.

      There are some films that are more uniquely indigenous; but yeah, people often go to the movies to relax and see people doing well. The Nigerian Dream.

    2. Back when Borders still existed, I was in a checkout line, browsing the minibus out of sheer boredom. One of them was “Style tips for straight white men” or something along those lines, and I happened across the rule “Very few people look good in dreadlocks. None of them are white.”

      I have to agree. I have seen a bunch of white counterculture types trying the dreads look, and they all looked like pillocks.

  14. Some stereotypes are true– say, cops and donuts. (insert Harry Dresden’s point that boils down to donuts are still deliciously edible after 15 hours in a bag by your foot, and give energy)

    Some sort of work, but are incredibly annoying. (Women with multiple small children are stupid. No, they MIGHT be tired, though, so “act like they’re stupid” will work…for a very short time, and if you never have to deal with them again. Because they will start classifying stuff out of your mouth as “idiot.”)

      1. In my days in Baltimore the cliche was cops in a Polack Johnny’s, eating hot dogs. No reliable donut chain in the city (at that time), andmtheremwas a Johnny’s a block away from police headquarters.

        Interesting cultural phenomenon; most of the peep-shows in the city were on The Block, which was actually about a block and a half, and the safest place in the city after about 5pm (the rest of the town rolled the sidewalks up about then. Don’t know why. They got over it in the ‘80’s). Because it was a block away from Police HQ. It was also supposedly on the National Historic Register…which I kinda doubt. Good story, though.

    1. meh. That later extends to “married women with children are stupid” — that is what I ran into, and no, it’s not based on the way we act. It’s based on Marxist ideas.

      1. Because if you really cared about being an intellectual, you would choose to become a bitter, lonely spinster.

          1. There’s a lot to be said for being single. But none of it is said by Woolf and Plath. (I’ll take Sayers, who made good books for others from her own bad experiences. But I’m getting very tired of the “fans” who interpret every single female character in her books as lesbians or bisexual.)

            So, how long until we read a book about a dragonish Maria Von Trapp? Because I might have some money around here for that….

            1. Please don’t kick the Muse. A little niggling idea has been bugging me about a very minor character in the third Powers book and her relationship with Archduke Rudolph, or non-relationship, as it turns out. At least, the relationship is NOT what the other characters assume it to be, much to István’s chagrin. Rudolph, being Rudolph, just laughs as István squirms. The Muse has been whispering, “And then what?”

              1. Well, I think I also have some money around here for _that_.

                You know, I really need to make more money, so that I can just subscribe to the support of other people’s Muses.

            2. Ditto Woolf and Plath; I think they did inestimable damage to women (those stereotypical ones who just happen to comprise the vast majority).
              I never saw anything in Sayers’ work to support a RadFemLib interpretation, but her characters certainly exemplify the True Meaning of Feminism, before it was corrupted.
              This article gives some insight on her character and career.
              “She knew the members of the Inklings circle, and they knew her, but clearly Sayers was an outsider. She was a woman, an educated woman, and a married woman. And she was in no way diffident.

              More than that, however, Sayers–unlike Lewis and Tolkien–lived by her pen. Tolkien and Lewis held academic positions and wrote on the side. Williams worked for the Oxford Press. But Sayers, as a copywriter and as a free-lance writer, had to please the crowd or starve. It was the same terms-of-contract under which Shakespeare operated.”
              (RAH would have approved, I think.”

              Here is another good source, with a fuller explanation of why she didn’t marry her baby-daddy.

              I know quite a few women who made the decision to keep the child but not the father; however, all of my friends openly acknowledged the progeny, which I do think is an advance, even though it also enables far more single-parent households than are healthy for individuals or society.
              Most men have to be taught to care for their families by rigid social and community mores, buttressed by religious doctrine in most cases.
              Oh, and the RFLs probably wouldn’t actually like Sayers to be in their ranks as a live-person, given her devout Christianity (and great books on the topic).
              Notice they only claimed her after she was dead.

      2. Probably guilt, too– “I couldn’t stay home, I’m too smart”/”my (woman I love) couldn’t stay home, she was far too smart to waste that way.”

      3. C’mon – you know what they think of “Breeders.” If you had any brains you would not be spending your energies on reproducing.

        The “anti-stereotypers” are provincial, incapable of comprehending anyone with their intelligence or greater having different values than they cling to.

        1. My observation is that in all subcultures there is a tendency to look down on ‘normals’ (there is also a tendency to fail to see that ‘normal’ has the same amount of reality in it as ‘average’). In the Liberal Intellectual Radical Progressive subcultures this tendency strikes me as pronounced, possibly because they don’t really have much to prove themselves on. In the Gay subculture this is exacerbated by the inclusion of a type of low key sexual predator that isn’t so much Gay as narcissistic, and presents as Gay because doing so gets them more latitude (my Lady had a family member who was one of these. Real sumbitch. Died of AIDS and thoroughly served to.). Such vermin seem to be the majority of the ones pushing the idea that ‘transgressive ‘ behavior makes Gays somehow superior to ‘Breeders’, which coincidently further isolates the Gays (thereby reinforcing their acceptances of the Narcissi) by causing the ‘Breeders’ to think “if that’s what it means to be Gay, then to be Gay is to be a tacky adolescent with poor impulse control, and I don’t want altho living near me or around my children.”

          1. Wait, so like those “sexual revolution” folks where it seems to boil down to “you must serve my desires to be really free”?

            1. I have done no studies, but my impression is that sometime in the late 70’s the heterosexual culture began really making fun of the lounge lizards. And the most predatory of them shifted over to the Gay community, since they don’t really have a sexual orientation other than themselves.

              That seems to be what my Lady’s uncle did. And revolting as he was, I don’t think he was unique.

          2. “Anything that moves”, “let’s see with how much they’ll let me get away” and apparently bad impulse control.
            Yup, on the list. See also: shrink4men and ‘The Psychopath Code’.

        2. *snicker*

          I got to be mildly bad today, and chase that sort around in rational, logically supported circles until the guy who started it deleted the post.

          Apparently they don’t care for having it pointed out that declaring we’re doomed because smart people can’t manage to successfully breed, yet the fact of breeding successfully more than once or twice is absolute evidence of stupidity which overwhelms all objective measures or evidence of intelligence, they’re making a circular argument.

          Which got me called a “brood sow.”

          Which resulted in my quoting Shakespeare to call them an ungrateful child. (which is honestly on the same level of engagement, but is at least craftsmanship you can be a little proud of)

          Little disappointed, I didn’t get to inquire if they believed the Navy was recruiting stupid people as Nukes. (Which would’ve been interesting, because if they’re actually all that smart and not isolated, they’d know that while Nukes are generally high Int, they do tend to have Wis as a dump stat.)

          1. smart people can’t manage to successfully breed“????

            Mr. Darwin suggests those people must not be especially smart.

            Or perhaps that word does not mean what they think it means.

            1. First time I ever saw Idiocracy, besides not being a type of humor I find all that enjoyable, that plot-hole stood out like a sore thumb.

              It is sci-fi, sort of, and you CAN get away with making the plot-hole a plot point, but when one drafts it over to reality as a bludgeon…..

    2. No, they MIGHT be tired, though, so “act like they’re stupid” will work…

      Is that a thing?

      I might stereotype them as “distracted”… multitasking only goes so far.

      1. I’ve had folks nearly die of shock when I glance at something electronic they’re shopping for, identify what it is, figure out what they’re doing, and correctly suggest the item they want.

        Don’t get me started on the literal dropped jaws when we’re homeschooling while shopping and I go into something even vaguely classic, like freaking the Odyssey. The monster in the cave and the monster in the whirl pool are NOT obscure, dang it!

        And the doctors…oy.

        1. I have a feeling that you run into a lot of ignorant people who think they’re smarter than everyone else. The Dunning-Kruger types always have a lot of problems with that.

            1. Personally, I embrace the power of being a middle-aged busybody.

              Of course, it helps to actually work at the store when you’re giving shopping advice; but I never let that stop me when I wasn’t working retail… especially if books were involved.

              1. I’m guessing you’re one of those folks who, for some reason, folks seem to think work in whatever store they’re at?

                It’s kinda awkward when they want to complement you to your supervisor adn you’ve never worked retail!

                1. I was wearing a blue vest one day and another customer confused me with the help. Considering that Home Depot has never (to my knowledge) had people wearing blue outfits, this was a bit odd. I was gentle. 🙂

                  As I was getting ready to go home after cornea work, I ran into a guy in Costco gushing over the 1kW “generator” that’s a LiPO battery pack/inverter. Wasn’t feeling very good, so I bluntly said I preferred generators with engines. (Ignoring my 1,6kW solar backup system behind the house.) I’ve been lectured by a couple of other customers at Costco and wanted to forestall any such. Note to self; I get grouchy when my eye hurts.

                  1. In Walmart and Lowes wearing red; get asked for help OVER THE PERSON WITH THE BLUE VEST.

                    In Home Depot, wearing blue, get asked over the folks in orange or red vests.

                    Sorry you have the “this person will gladly listen to my lecture!” aura.

                    1. I remember the Lazarus Long advice about responding to “This is none of my business” line, but the authorities in that part of Oregon frown on using ballistics to stop a lecture. I’m normally more intimidating than that. 🙂

        2. I was walking dogs and Child once (she was going on six) and the conversation went from dog hierarchy to writing and hieroglyphics to caste systems over the course of 45 minutes or so. I got the most fascinating Looks while Child was fulminating about Untouchables (“aren’t they allowed to SNUGGLE???”) and Dog2 was baptizing the nearest tree.

          I was in a tchotchke shop around that time and had a mild acquaintance with the owner, who mentioned Child’s rather astonishing vocabulary while she was playing in the safe corner. From across the store we hear “I also know ‘obstreperous’ and ‘equilibrium’!”

          1. Now there’s an awesome word that I simply don’t use, because I can’t make it roll with a sentence.

            How about “facetious”? (Although I probably technically use it wrong, since it’s generally to make a point– “why can’t I find a good man?” “have you tried looking in different places? How about under the couch?”)

            1. Ostreperous is pretty much my favorite word ever. It used to be the insult-of-choice for Fat Cat (32 pounds at his peak), which is how the kid learned it.

      2. When I was online in a group with some mothers and discussing the still,
        at the time, in progress Madeleine and the Mists, I said that my heroine was the mother of a two-year-old.

        Gasps of shock and questions about how she found the time.

  15. Stereotypes are shorthand. We know they’re based on incomplete data but we use them because they’re usually good enough to get the job done without making the effort to obtain complete information. In other words, they’re efficient. Not right. Not fair. But efficient.

  16. Stereotypes are quite literally hardwired into the human brain. That’s how it works. We classify things. Information gets put into different parts of the brain depending on what class it fits into- rocks and birds go into different categories, for example.

    I don’t have enough background in general biology of higher order animals to say for sure, but I would bet that it is a property shared with most of them. Because stereotypes, classification in other words, *works.*

    If everything we saw, heard, smelled, etc, or even thought about was its own class- that is to say, there was no higher order classification, just a pile of stuff- information retrieval would be horrendously slow and inefficient. When I say “hammer,” you get an idea in your head of that that looks like. For most people it’s a clawhammer, but for some of us it might be a smith’s hammer (fullering hammer), a specific hammer (i.e. Mjolnir), or an eight pound sledge.

    Classes make transmitting inforation more efficient as well. When applied to covers, like Sarah said, there’s a certain class that signals “this is a sci-fi story.” Spaceship, planet, starfield? These work. Spacesuited man firing a laser? Action sci-fi. Dragons and knights? Epic fantasy. And so on. Trying to fight how the brain works is counter productive. And it will eventually revert back unless pressure is continually applied (and still will even then). For example, see the instances of “woke” and “male feminists” still exhibiting traditional male behavior and male desire for beautiful women…

    1. For example, see the instances of “woke” and “male feminists” still exhibiting traditional male behavior and male desire for beautiful women…

      They are running up against the limbic system (yes, might be an outdated concept) and it’s a very old, very deep system. The joke goes that “The limbic system controls the Four F’s: Feeding, Fighting, Fleeing, and… Reproduction.”

  17. I judge all people as individuals if I meet and interact with them as such.

    There are areas of various cities I simply do not venture into because I stereotype the people who live there, with good solid statistical reasons for doing so.

    Judging people as individuals and holding stereotypes are not mutually exclusive.

    It was true when I was in HS that the kid (male) with hair parted down the middle and the wire rimmed glasses with tinted lenses was more likely a druggie than not. Now the signs aren’t so obvious. To me. My just graduated from HS child can point out the druggies to me without hesitation. He sees different signalling.

    1. “Judging people as individuals and holding stereotypes are not mutually exclusive.” and “He sees different signalling.”
      Both very astute points.
      Not to be confused with the small ‘Stute Fish, of course, although he might have been working from the same premises..

  18. “… for Africa all we see is a red sunset and a bare tree, and how Africa has big cities and is as civilized as anywhere else.”

    Because what’s the visual shorthand OF YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE associated with that place and no other? Are you selling a book, or are you educated the Great Unwashed Masses?

    Clearly the author of the book in question felt he had to signal some virtue toward educating the objectionable herd of Commoners, before getting on with the business at hand.

    One wonders if the virtue signaling was his idea or the publisher’s.

    1. I had something bubble up about “Trying to educate the great unwashed” vs. “Trying to get the overeducated to wash”, but I just can’t bring it in for a landing, so I thought I’d share with my colleagues here and see if another has the key.

      1. People who burble about trying to educate the Great Unwashed reveal their belief in two things that don’t really exist:

        A mass of uneducated working class people and their own superior intelligence.

  19. It depends on what someone is looking for in fiction, I suppose.

    When a cover is more or less the same as other covers in the same genre, it gives the expectation that the fiction inside the book will be more or less the same as other fiction in that genre.

    Me, I don’t want to read a book that is just like another book I’ve already read–I’d rather just reread the first one. What drew me to Science Fiction in the first place was the expectation that I would encounter new ideas and images. I want books that challenge my preconceptions and make me think.

    Certain covers–the big scary spaceship with a cloud girded globe below it, the leather jacketed tough girl with crackling energy around her fists, the bare-chested beefcake with a sword–give me that same feeling as the words “Easy To Solve!” on the cover of a puzzle book.

    And I understand that I am in the minority here. Most readers of fiction–judging from sales numbers–do want fiction that is easy to solve. That’s not a value judgement, it’s a matter of taste. Rock outsells Jazz. Mayonnaise is more popular than Kim Chee. And more readers want Starship Troopers than VALIS.

    1. One of my periodic rants is that I’ve never bought a book due to its cover art, but I’ve slammed a lot of them back on the shelf. A solid color with text is way better than “we used some stock art and ugly fonts because we were putting forth minimal effort.”

      I know from comments that some people *do* buy books due to their cover art – the cover of Heinlein’s “Friday” apparently sold a lot of copies to teenage males – but there are still more chances to fail with cover art than to win.

      1. I bought “Friday” because of the cover, and yes I was a 16 year old male at the time.

        Only one of those conditions still applies.

        1. When I bought Heinlein’s “The Menace from Earth” it was 75% Heinlein’s name, and 25% the cover. At that point I was about 18-19.

    2. A young friend of ours is an exchange high school student from Korea (do any of them ever claim to be from anywhere other than Seoul?). I’ll have to ask him to comparatively rate kimchi and mayonnaise. We have managed during the past year to get several people at church fond of both japchae and kimchi. Others are still frightened of one or the other, so far.

        1. The one that surprised me was Korean black bean sauce. If you don’t put in the garlic, chili peppers, etc., it tastes like a savory gravy at your grandma’s house.

          Cue the surprising Ohio popularity of Colombian food, among older Ohioans who don’t usually eat anything too foreign. There’s a lot of exotic stuff, but also a lot of literal meat and potatoes without much spice. My dad, who hates spicy food of any degree of spice and despises garlic, managed to find quite a few Colombian dishes that he really enjoyed.

          1. My roommate is a former New Yorker of Korean and Sicilian ancestry, and I have a theory that very poor regions develop cooking styles that are based around trying to make it possible to eat meals that are mostly grain with a few bits of poultry or fish every single day without going crazy from culinary boredom.

  20. Your host family might not have been all that far off – just because you know how to flush a toilet, doesn’t mean you know how to flush all toilets. I remember on my first trip to Paris being a bit puzzled by the hotel room’s toilet tank with two buttons in the top rather than a lever on the side. And let’s not even mention those (stereotypical) electronic Japanese toilets with a control panel more complicated than the one in my airplane!

    1. I had to figure out the quirk of the latest hotel toilet. If one held the lever down until the tank emptied, the flapper valve would hang up. Very repeatable until I remembered to do a quick hit on the lever and let it go. Arggh.

  21. “A lot of his other advice on how to actually DO it seems to lead to the kind of bland, nothing-burger covers that sell pretty well for a certain type of thriller and contemporary mystery, but tend to not sell for beans in say science fiction or fantasy.”

    A side note, but I just wanted to say how much the “bland, nothing-burger cover” trend bothers me. Book covers, especially in sci-fi and fantasy, used to have awesome pictures of distant places or cool characters doing awesome things. Now they tend to have blue lettering on a grey background. Blech.

    I believe the official reason is that they don’t want people to be embarrassed to read the book on bus or subway or such, but my guess is that very few people who read sci-fi would be ashamed to be seen in public with a book that has a spaceship on the cover. My guess is that it’s more the publishers who are embarrassed to have put out a book with a spaceship on the cover.

    1. Embarrassed and broke. The way they are bleeding money, or squandering money on political memoirs, cover art is yet another expense to be outsourced to somewhere cheap. Baen is an exception.

      Fantasy, at least feminist fantasy, seems to be going to generic landscape in soft focus. Yawn.

        1. Multimillion dollar political memoir advances and four figure fiction advances. Which ends up in the remainder bin faster?

      1. Yeah, it’s amazing how the new covers make it impoosible to tell what kind of book Ursula K. LeGuin or Ray Bradbury wrote. It’s also impossible to distinguish their sf from their fantasy from their literary stuff, because they are trying to give them all boring covers.

        Boring inspirational covers, even. I keep thinking that this is Ray Bradbury’s empowerment sermons, not Dandelion Wine.

        1. Knopf did an odd one for Julian May’s Galactic Milieu series. The first 2 books in the series (Intervention and Jack the Bodiless) had a completely different style cover and a different cover artist than the last two. No idea what the gory details were, but it’s not a good thing for a series… I knew what to expect, but I’d pity the person who picked up book 3 thinking it was a new series.

            1. “Darkship” in the names is a good way to say series. 🙂

              I see that there was a publisher change for May’s books, and the cover artist lasted one book for the new publisher. Thus, a bit of a mess. IMHO, it was a marketing misstep to change themes mid-series.

      2. Fantasy, at least feminist fantasy, seems to be going to generic landscape in soft focus.

        They dream of Mother Nature, not realizing how red in tooth and claw she can be.

        1. Not sure about that. Maybe they just expect to talk their way out of it?
          I have tried (before Twitter unpersoned me) to inspire some bleeding hearts toward green tourism into polar bear habitats, where they may also find some relief from Climate Whatevering.
          They were definitely not receptive. 😟

    2. “Oh, a challenge”, says my inner art director.

      Give me a big spaceship. Break the picture into sections, one section per cover, with the title in blue over where the star scape is.

      Yeah, I don’t rate my aesthetic sensibilities highly, why do you ask?

    3. My first guess is “Cheap.” Somewhere around here I have two different SF paperbacks with the same cover, except one is cropped differently. These are from traditional publishers, yet it’s clear that they used a stock cover, or part of one. Sure there were likely licensing fees involved, but my guess is that it’s cheaper than hiring someone to paint one.

      OTOH, DIY covers can be a huge pain. Fell back on old drafting skills to make a crown based on 10th Century designs, and found myself wondering if learning a 3D modeling program would be less tedious and faster. It would be great if you could get by with a bland cover. Not convinced that would work well, though.

        1. Exactly! I want a cover that grabs me by the short and curlies and drags me along to see what the hell is going on. (pardon the crude language, I am failing to follow the “Iron Fist” rule tonight, possibly).
          I want a cover that if it doesn’t happen in the book, it possibly COULD happen, or is close enough for government work. I know there have been a few covers that did not meet my impression of the story but they were CLOSE ENOUGH. Idealized, conceptualized, or minimalist just doesn’t really cut it.

        1. What I did was based on orthographic drawings, except, I varied due to the change in perspective rather than a set 30°-60°-90°. Based it on the type of crowns made up of small panels joined by hinges, so I used ovals for the perspective, dropped lines where the panels would go, did the same for the gems and the sockets, and drew it all accordingly.

          I found myself wishing I could have made one panel in 3D software and copied and placed as needed. I guess I need to look at open source software now in case I need to do something like this again.

          FWIW, I’ve already done the second in the series. It’s based on a hammer of Thor talisman common around the 13th Century. Seems some were marketed to both Christians and Pagan – string it through the bottom of the handle for a hammer of Thor; string it through the top for a cross. That turned out to be much simpler to draw.

          1. I recommend Blender for design and Daz3d for rendering. Both are free, and both have a large number of models available for free downloading. The learning curve for Blender is pretty steep, but once you get the hang of it you can design damned near anything.

              1. It’s designed for engineers rather than artists, and like I say, for the actual composing and rendering I prefer DAZ3d, but I think it’s the most versatile for designing models like the crown he described above from scratch.

                The problem with 3d rendered covers (which seem to be becoming more popular) is that making figures look lifelike takes a fair degree of both computer savvy and artistic talent. The good ones look really good, the bad ones look like a scene from a low budget haunted house ride.

                1. It really isn’t designed for engineers. It is designed for animators, at least in theory. Having used pretty much every major 3d software at some level or the other, they just really need some UI and workflow people to go over it, but it is open source and anyone with that level of UI and workflow experience is going to be working on one of the commercial applications.

                  Blender was originally the in-house 3D app for an animation studio that has since gone out of business. It failed as a commercial application, didn’t particularly perform well as shareware, and only found ‘success’ in them giving it away.

                  When a simple operation that takes two or three clicks in any other 3d app takes six clicks in several different places, someone needs to start reworking the workflow. It needs to be streamlined and the UI de-cluttered.

                  Yes I’m pretty tired of hearing how awesome Blender is and how ‘everyone’ is using it. My standard response to that assertion is “Name one visual effects or animation studio whose 3D workflow is based around Blender.” Usually followed by “Are they doing paying work?” (Answer is usually ‘no’)

      1. Yeah, I ran into that too. IIRC, one was a Saberhagen Berserker book, and the other one completely unrelated by another author. The only difference (long ago memory, the books didn’t survive a move) was the cover text. As I recall, it was a modern take of a face, circa 198X.

  22. I just want to say Thank You to the commenters for the mention of the Saga of Noggin the Nog. I have been enjoying the black and white shorts on YouTube, and the color version from the 1980’s looks quite fun, too.

    I am a bit cross, though. I was in the SCA for all those years, and nobody ever mentioned this thing! It’s great! (It’s also obviously a source for the How to Train a Dragon series, without the two series being particularly alike.)

  23. I think the big reason why people hate “cultural appropriation” is that all the great stuff has already been taken, all the good stuff has been nicked, all the okay stuff has been carried off, and even the bad stuff has been fenced. All that’s left is the crumbly stuff in the bottom of a bag that if you try to have it, all you’re getting is salt and dust and fragments that are a choking hazard.

    And nobody wants to be Internet famous on crumbly stuff.

    1. We Americans don’t worry about people appropriating our culture.

      Though those foreigners seem to pick up the *damnedest* bits. Like the created-for-TV hiphop style, resulting in yoof in London aping ghetto rats in Watts…

      1. Here’s the current cause of pearl-clutching in the pop culture world:

        The curious tale of the Marvel comics editor who pretended to be a Japanese writer
        As comic book writers go, Akira Yoshida boasts an impressive résumé. In two years, he went from complete obscurity to working on popular titles such as “Thor: Son of Asgard” and “X-Men: Age of Apocalypse.” The latter was made into a major mainstream movie in 2016 that grossed more than half a billion dollars.

        There’s just one issue. “Akira Yoshida” was a pen name used by C.B. Cebulski in 2004 and 2005 as he broke into comic book writing by pretending to be a promising Japanese scribe. Although Cebulski has lived in Japan, he is a white American.

        Although it was long-rumored in the comic book world that Yoshida was, indeed, Cebulski, no one investigated deeply. Since he retired the pseudonym fairly quickly, the rumors might have died.

        But in November, Cebulski was named the editor in chief of Marvel Comics, arguably the most prominent job in his industry, and the rumors resurfaced. Since the comic book industry is often criticized for its lack of creators of color, the fact that its new figurehead was a white man who had pretended to be an Asian writer drew outcry.

        “CB Cebulski adopted the pseudonym Akira Yoshida to write super appropriative Orientalist comic stories. Seriously? Not just real-life yellowface but total cultural appropriation for money too? Screw this guy,” Jenn Fang, who blogs about Asian American issues, tweeted.
        [END EXCERPT]

        Apparently there is no complaint about never having a Nordic writer on Thor. Nor has there been an outcry over the blatantly racist Central-European-Phobic origins of Doctor Doom.

          1. No, Starlin is mad at Brevoort. Who is apparently not the most pleasant boss in the world, so there’s a lot of sympathy for Starlin.

            Starlin does say he’s not breaking up with Marvel Entertainment (the movie side), because they treat him nice and pay him good money.

    2. Cultural Appropriation is basically the Hipster community complaining that some cool foreign thing they like has become far too popular with the unwashed masses. If everyone is into Thai Deathmetal, or Transylvanian Barbecue, then how are they supposed to show the world their cosmopolitan cultural superiority?

  24. It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

    Diaries from Taxcutmaggedon
    By Sarah Hoyt
    I’ve never heard this much crazy talk about a relatively modest reduction of taxes. Rosie O’Donnell tried to bribe senators on Twitter; journalists who like to pass as sane, if not bipartisan, screech that this is the end of civilization; idiots unable to differentiate between being forced to pay a penalty for not signing on to the truly crappy Obamacare healthy insurance and having health care, declare we want our neighbors to die.

    None of which ah… trumps the asinine fools who claim Trump cut corporate taxes to pay back his backers and supporters and don’t realize this is true, but not the way they mean it. Most corporations and financial institutions backed Hillary because she was a shoe-in and it’s in their best interest to remain on the good side of the reigning powers. …

    1. This is silly. The tax cut can’t be the cause of the end of the world, because the world already ended a few days ago when they repealed Net Neutrality.

    2. …somehow, my brain is mixing the main lyrics from “We didn’t start the fire” with the chorus of “it’s the end of the world.”

      Ie, “ayatollas in Iran/ Russians in Afganistan
      It’s the Eeeeeeend of the world as we know of it–“

      1. That requires a signature change that wants to break my brain in imagining it.

        Oddly enough, no key change required; at least in my head.

  25. My favorite cover challenge has, for many years, been Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife. It’s been constantly in print since it first came out in book form in 1952 (first published in Unknown in 1943), because every editor who reads it recognizes that it’s a great book — if only someone could figure out how to market it. So it’s been horror, gothic/thriller, fantasy, urban fantasy (after that became a recognized marketing category) …. And, of course, the cover painting and blurbs all reflected the new category (except the one cover, after it got made into one of its three successful movie versions which put the title in small print, and pushed the movie title), and the foreign editions.

    The covers for most of the editions are linked from its isfdb page.

    1. I just saw that issue the other day… here y’go:

      There are page images, pdf, epub, djvu, and OCR’d text to choose from.

      I’ve been working my way through the various magazines, looking for stories I’d never heard of, from favorite authors. Turns out a lot of stuff was printed once and never collected or anthologized.

      Leiber isn’t one of my favorite authors, but for a couple of decades he was amazingly prolific.

      I’ve also noticed things like the same story being printed in two different magazines, usually 10-15 years later, sometimes 2-3. The reprints were usually not marked as such. And I’ve been checking each author name on isfdb; apparently if a magazine bought two or three stories from an author, they’d run them all at once, one under the author’s name, the other under a pseudonym, instead of just waiting to place it next month.

      The oddest thing is that in the 1940s and 1950s there were about half a dozen “house names” that were used by multiple authors. The actual author of some of those stories seems to be unknown. Presumably they got paid, but none of the stories seem to have ever been reprinted, so I’m wondering what the rights situation was on those. If they were outright sales instead of “first serial rights” I would still have expected to see them show up again somewhere.

      Why, no, I don’t have a life…

      PS: Sarah, the serial for “Citizen of the Galaxy” is about 25% longer than the novel, “Double Star” is about 10% longer, “I Will Fear No Evil” is about the same, “Methuselah’s Children” is about 5% larger than the novel, “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress” is about 20% larger than the novel, “Orphans of the Sky” is a short story about half the size of the novel, “Podkayne of Mars” is about 10% longer than the novel, “The Puppet Masters” is about 3/4 the size of the novel, and “Sixth Column is about 2/3 the size of the novel. That’s all I’ve found so far. I’ve been cutting and pasting the OCR text from the archive into files.
      It will take considerable hand-editing to mung them into something my file comparison programs can accept.

      I’m kind of curious about “The Puppet Masters”, that makes at least three, possibly four, different versions of one of my favorite books…

      1. Unknown was Campbell’s fantasy magazine, to go along with Astounding, his SF magazine. Much of modern fantasy came from stuff originally appearing there, which became part of the language the genre used. Unfortunately, the government essentially made him fold Unknown in 1943 (they had a paper quota, and told him he either needed to fold Unknown, or have Astounding go bimonthly). A lot of the major works from there got reprinted — particularly the novel length material — but too much of the shorter works are much harder to find.

        Since, in general, the practice was that a given “author” could only have one title appearing a particular issue of a magazine, it meant that the more prolific authors started adopting pen names. So an issue could have a Kuttner/Moore story, a Lewis Padgett one, and a Lawrence O’Donnell one (to pick the most common two of their dozen plus pen names).

        Roger Robinson put together a book for Beccon Publications, Who’s Hugh? that is probably the best source for linking pen names and real author names. It’s long out of print, but there are used copies available for sale.

        Leiber is relatively unknown now — but he set the basic tropes for much of the fantasy genre, as well as pieces of SF (as well as being one of the best wordsmiths around). Much of older urban Sword and Sorcery fantasy is effectively set in Lankhmar (as well as D&D, and the gaming derived from that, through the board game that Leiber designed in the 30s). And Pratchett’s Ankh-Morpork came straight from Lankhmar, as he acknowledged.

        – – spoiler warning, for those who haven’t read The Puppet Masters

        Be careful with The Puppet Masters. It was, I believe, brilliantly edited for its first book publication. However, after Heinlein died, then, under the new copyright law, the contracts on it could be cancelled by the estate a decade later — and, per his instructions to his widow, it did so. And the estate (again, per his instructions) would only allow his unedited version to be reprinted — so all recent editions are the unedited ones. And they really prove how even a brilliant writer like Heinlein needs an editor (and, the better the writer, the better the editor needs to be — and was). The opening paragraph of the original version is magnificent. The “new” version has an unnecessary political digression, and another sentence giving away a plot point that needs a major reveal much later in the book. It’s a perfect example of the value of an editor — but Heinlein, late in life, decided he wanted his originals to be the only ones available. I’ve got multiple copies of the original, just since I know they’re irreplaceable (and the ebook version that’s available is the new text, so I’m really dependent on the older physical books).

        1. Most of his early work was brilliantly edited and frankly the later should have been.
          Unfortunately there are very few editors of that caliber. I knew at least one but she left the field in disgust. And I can’t afford the fee that would tempt her to do my books.

          1. Not completely new. I’ve posted rarely, but for the last few years. Mostly on threads about classic SF, since, as a long-time fan, it’s work I’m very familiar with (read much of it when it first came out, starting with the late 50s, and got caught up on the earlier work since there was little enough new stuff coming out then that I had time to see where it all came from and got to know the authors who produced it).

            But it’s nice to be welcomed, and I hope I can be interesting and useful.

          1. Complicated.

            Nehwon, the location in which Lankhmar is set, was first used in a wargame the Leiber and a friend of his had designed in 1937 (and which was later adapted for release by TSR three decades later). At the same time, the two of them were each writing stories set there — but neither of them finished them for publication until much later, when Leiber finished both of them.

            But Leiber continued writing, and the first published story set there, a novelette titled “Two Sought Adventure”, appeared in Unknown in the August, 1939 issue (and was reprinted many times, and is included (with some rewriting) in the Swords Against Death collection of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories, part of a multi-book collection of those stories that’s still available).

            1. That series of books is on my wish list. Remember reading them when I was younger and I think I would like to read them again.

              1. They were re-released in a seven volume set of ebooks and paperbacks from Open Road Media so they’re all easily available again.

                They’re (for me, at least) as good as I remember them to be.

      2. “The Number of the Beast” was an excerpt (or short story) in Omni some time before the book was published. I recall it being close to chapter 1 of the novel.

  26. I listened to Hardcore History podcast last night and Carlin was talking about Celtic/Rome wars. Romans wrote that Celtic women were more bumptious than Mediterranean females, and they made special notice of fiery redheads they encountered.

    It sounds like you could use picture of a woman with viking sunset hair, as former girlfriend referred to her ginger hair, and a sword in her hand and readers would have good idea what kinda book they getting.

    1. I was in my early fifties before I found out “ginger” was a synonym for “red.” To the best of my knowledge I’ve never seen the plant, or even a picture of it.

      “The sky was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel…” didn’t work out so well for William Gibson, either…

      1. In Canada, ginger is not word people use when talking about redheads.I think ginger is British thing, I learned term from immigrant grandparents.


    Sarah: I remembered “Fellowship of the Talisman” as longer than the 40,000 words Dan came up with. I have that one as an ebook; I stripped it to plain ASCII, no formatting or markup codes, and loaded it into my text editor (Kate) which says it’s 101,277 words. Running the file through the wc utility at the console says 99,502 words. I have no idea what’s causing the discrepancy, but I’d go with wc’s count.

    I’ve seen font size change for the smaller in parts of some paperbacks; I figured it was a way to accomodate the rigid printed page counts some publishers had with their printers, but that wouldn’t account for 2x+ words. Unless the page Dan counted was grossly non-representational of the rest of the text…

    – TRX [“Nitpicking Twits R Us”]

    1. Back when I was playing with a bunch of word-count systems, I noticed some don’t count words like “I,” “a,” “and” or “the.”

      1. The different word processing software programs produce different word counts, since there is no universally accepted definition of “word”.

        Things made up of letters separated by spaces are usually considered “words”, although some programs don’t count short ones. Things with numbers separated by spaces are usually “words”. Things with punctuation separators are usually “words”, although if they’re numbers with punctuation, they often aren’t (“123,456” is usually one word, not two, even though a comma with letters is usually enough to make it two words).

        And the old magazines paid for a word that was a character count, and 5.5 characters was a “word” — since that’s what typesetters usually used to estimate how big the story would be when it got laid out.

        The Hugo Award rules explicitly have a 20% margin on the word count definitions for the categories, just to avoid getting into questions about the different definitions/implementations of word counts.

        1. The word count method I learned back in the day was to take the number of characters in the average full line divided by six, then multiply by number of lines. Short lines count as much as full lines. The rationale for editors to use it is that it did a better job than most in estimating how much space the story would take which was important in trying to fill a magazine of fixed length.

          The rationale for writers to use it is that it produced a “high” count since that snappy back and forth dialog of short lines counted as much as a full page-long paragraph. And when you get paid by the word a method that produces a high word count means you get paid more.

          I actually have a pair of fields in my standard story template that between them estimate word count using that method, averaged to the nearest hundred, simply because it’s what I’m used to. And when I submit to a market that pays by the word–unless they specifically ask for a word count produced otherwise, that’s what I use for my count. After all, I’d rather be paid for 8000 words than for 6753 or whatever. 😉

  28. And again for Sarah:

    While I was at it I stripped “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress” down to raw text and compared it to the OCR’d magazine version with wc.

    original magazine version: 740,781 characters, 126,982 words
    book version: 679,029 characters, 117,863 words

    13,117 words got cut for the book.

  29. And a cover with some curvy girl in mail bikini says the publisher hopes the reader is puerile enough to be distracted by the cover, and doesn’t know better anyway.
    Unless it’s from Boris Vallejo. Then it says nothing at all.

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