42 comes on little cat feet….*

I see that my sister Fanny has been very busy and political and photo-op-y, which merely highlights my own recent lethargy.** As my 42nd birthday barrels down upon me, I divide my time between preparing for the classes I’ll teach this semester, devouring fantasy novels, wondering how I failed to lose 20 lbs this summer, and napping.***

And as I comtemplate becoming firmly, even weightily established in my 4th decade, the covers of the fantasy novels aren’t helping. Finally we get a wide selection of strong female characters who are driven by considerations beyond marriage and child-bearing, and how are they pictured on the covers of the books? Look at her — how can she even wield a sword around those honking big breasts? The artist probably had to use a Dow Chemical silicon pencil just to draw them. And it’s a good thing she’s a strong heroine who is not interested in child-bearing because she couldn’t squeeze a Beanie Baby out through that sorry excuse for a pelvis. Also note that she’s not even wearing a sword and is standing a bit behind the male charachter (who looks eerily like Charlie Sheen in drag), even though she’s the primary protagonist, a kick-ass warrior, and a bit of a bitch. Would a reader attracted by this cover even enjoy such a story?

I’m tempted to pull my almost-42 years around me like the cloak of a doom-preaching prophet and declare that in my day, paperback covers accurately reflected the stories inside. Unfortunately, I’d be telling the truth because most of the fantasies I read in my youth contained trip-and-fall-at-the-crucial-moment females who wanted nothing more than to fall in love, have a family, and settle down near a decent hairdresser.****

So I guess I’ll have to be satisfied that many modern fantasies offer strong, size 8 or 9 shoe-sized heroines with complex motivations, and I’ll try to live with the cover art. But I can still bitch about it. If growing up to be a relatively sane, strong, happy middle-aged female in a world that still produces such book covers doesn’t entitle one to a bit of bitching, I don’t know what does.

*As anyone with cats knows, they can at will increase their weight a thousand-fold and stomp around like buffalo. Sandberg must have been a dog person.

**Although I did rate a direct mention and several references in her recent texts, which makes me feel smugly important.

***And yes, I understand the link between the final two items in that list. You can add the novel reading too, because what’s a good reading session without M&Ms and/or popcorn?

****In my early teens, I read a lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs. His female characters***** had a habit of losing their pretty little tempers and indicating that loss by stamping their pretty little feet. By age 12, I wore a women’s size 10 shoe. I knew early on that traditional heroine-hood was not for me.

*****And talk about the ultimate male fantasy women! Burroughs’ Martian princessess****** reproduced by laying eggs — small eggs that then grew over 5 or 6 years and hatched out school-aged children. So the women reproduced with no unsightly physical changes to discomfit their husbands, and no one had to deal with crying infants and dirty diapers (okay, I kinda like that part). On top of it all, these distinctly non-mammalian women had — you guessed it — honking big breasts.

******I do agree with Fanny and the Col., however, that with today’s CGI special effects, the movie version of A Princess of Mars would rock.


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