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Rules for Anchorites

Letters from Proxima Thule

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Do Cats Look Like Their Owners?
prester john
I posted my "new" author pic on Twitter the other day--it's not really new, having been taken by kylecassidy  while on the tour last year, but I've been told that the image I was using as my standard headshot makes me look like I'm about to cut a bitch, so I figured since The Habitation of the Blessed is going to have my mug on it, I'd pick something softer from my awesome photos file. (You can pre-order it now! Just ignore the hilarious cover thing, it's a system error that's being fixed. Cover should be available for squeeing this week.)

As an aside, it's kind of funny--most of the male author shots I see are definitely in the "I am badass" or "I am super smart" expression set. They wear plain black shirts or suits. They rarely smile, often look hard or hardcore, and of course there is the famous Manly Arms Crossed Pose (patented by China Mieville I believe). This is obviously on purpose as in real life most of those male authors are as goofy and friendly as anyone else. It also has the advantage of allowing the author in question to plump up their biceps a bit with their hidden hands. (I am wise in the ways of OKCupid prodile images.)

But in their author shots, women tend to smile, or to pose with musical instruments or other of their hobby items, to wear fantastical clothes, to dip their head so that they are looking up at the camera rather than down at it as in the MACP, wear soft colors, hair, etc. And both with my previous headshot and this one I've been told I look too hard and mean--even though I am actually smiling (a little) in the new one (and wearing a corset) as opposed to the old one. I find this very interesting because I feel like the gender performance of Male Author is one of power and strength while that of Female Author is of Beauty and Non-Threatening Wisdom. And in that we often police ourselves. We internalize what we think an Author looks like, even acts like, especially online in the age of the Alpha Geek Author, and we perform it. Of course you can show me many women author shots that do not apply (Atwood comes to mind as someone who always looks badass to me) and I beg you not to. It's something I've noticed happening more often than not, not a rule.

So I pick these author shots where I think I look powerful, and eventually I always hear that I look mean. Of course, given a choice, I will always choose Badass and Hardcore over Pretty and Soft, but still, I wonder if male authors get told they look too mean? Somehow I doubt it. 


So I posted this pic and thought suddenly "I do believe I've seen that canary-ingested expression before." And dug up a picture of October lounging on her favorite chaise, which is in this case the Fairyland copyedit but could be any manuscript, really. Do cats end up looking like their owners? You be the judge.

Cat #1:

Cat #2:


Both of you are lovely and epic.

Beware the tiny-lynx and her patriarchy-crushing paws of doom!

(all of my PR shots always have my head tilting up, looking up at the camera. It minimizes the double chin WAY better than gazing down does. Otherwise, I'd totally be doing the arms-crossed-badass-shot.)

See, I also feel like fatness is not perceived as a problem with male authors in the same way. But yeah, I do try to minimize the fat girlness in author shots.

I thought the black and white one was sexy not scary, and I like the corset one too. Not sure why people think you look mean.


I love that picture of you. Love it. Also of Toby. Yay Cats!

I LAUGHED SO HARD when I saw the error picture. You really need a screenshot of that to keep forever. It's kind of brilliant in all the wrong ways.

And both the pictures of you are awesome. I kinda like your Sectum Sempra badass pose!

It's not an error shot--I love it! And about 50% of people love it and 50% of people think I look mean. But no one says, China, you gotta look softer in your headshot, you know?

That is an awesome cover and I would buy the shit out of that book.

OMG I want to play with her fluffy pawses.

<attempts to reassert dignity; fails>

I've been told I look pissed-off in my author photo, too, but the truth is that I can't smile worth a damn for the camera unless you catch me while I'm doing something else entirely. But now that you mention it -- yeah, I'm looking down a bit, I'm not smiling, I kinda look like I'm going to cut somebody, I'm surprised I don't have my arms crossed. I never considered these things consciously, but I knew subconsciously that I can't pull off the Glamour Shots look, and my relaxed expression only looks right in certain poses; it's basically a choice between Bored and Vaguely Pissed Off.

But for all that, people have said it's a good photo of me. Those being rarer than polydactyl cats, I intend to go on using it until I'm sixty.

My relaxed expression is also Bored and/or Will Now Cut You.

As someone who has what has been termed (not by me) a "mean bitch default face," I getcha. And I dig that pic. And I see the resemblance. Also, corset!

I too, get the "Why are you so depressed/angry?" question (also, "Are you Russian?") for my default face. Gotta love those older dudes who tell you to "Smile once in a while!" as if they're doing you this awesome favor by telling you this. Still working on a good comeback.

You look like you could write rings around certain authors that pose with their shoe collection (how cute!) or their adorable fluffybunnypet (how sweet! and non-threatening!). I think that mysterious smile you've got going on works well here - not I Am Serious Author Seriously but also not Don't Worry! My Books Won't Challenge Your Thinking! You've got a humanity in this photo that says you've had your share of both joy and sorrow, smelled roses and corpses both.

(October looks like the kind of cat that brings you a dead raccoon instead of a mouse.)

October is a spoiled inside kitty who when she killed a mouse dropped it in the dog's food bowl all like: this is what a REAL pet does, losers!

The Serious Author thing is hard to pull off. But I WANT to look badass, and at least this has cleavage to sell it. I'm glad you like it!

why not just put the cats picture in as the author picture?

Because posing with cats is a little too twee for me. Also my dogs would riot.

I think you look absolutely beautiful and stunning in that shot! Very very sexxxxxxxy Cat:)

And yes, you and kitteh do look alike

Some male authors smile . . . and I don't own a black shirt.

IMO- And it is only 1 Opinion not THE opinion that matteres!


I love your B& W shot that is on your FB. It is different the one above, which I also like personally.

I don't think you need to do a teethy smile but you have a sexy, Mona Lisa, badass smile/smirk that I think screams "Powerful, in charge woman who can do anything" look.

I thought I saw it in another of the pictures from the set that the above photo shoot. May be I am remembering it wrong.

Love the picture of Toby!

When I someday have an author photo, I would like it to be of me performing a flying karate kick, one hand punching a tyrannosaur in the throat and the other simultaneously rescuing kittens from a Dumpster.

It would be hard to make out my face, because my face would be putting out an orphanage fire, but that would only add to my authorly mystique.

But corsets are cool, too.

Now I want an author "photo" that is an image crammed with text saying, "The author photo which was too be shown here has been withheld on counsel, owing to the risk that the density of awesomeness will create black holes in bookstore shelves, for which the author depicted cannot be held liable. But it depicts the following: [etc.]" Or something to that effect.

I thought only metal bands and rappers tried to look hardcore in their pictures. I didn't know that this extended to writers as well.

You look more mysterious, rather than mean. Especially in your new shot. You expression says" I know something you don't". Which is good for a writer, you should know something we don't: )