Let’s say you’re the art director at a small press that publishes fantasy fiction exclusively. A hefty tome entitled something like The Elysian Gems sits on the desk in the art department. Now, your dilemma is that you can’t decide between the cover image that depicts a dragon and the one that depicts a group of drunken dwarves verbally abusing a haughty, teetotaling elf king. If only you had a statistical breakdown of the previous year’s trends in fantasy fiction cover art! You would know which choice was more original.
Well, worry no more. The folks at the publisher Orbit have released a chart contrasting 2008 fantasy cover art trends to those in 2009. The results are, uh, revelatory. For instance, the use of swords in cover art has declined considerably (GASP, no!). The appearance of bows and arrows also appears to be down, while dragons—reliable as always—have held steady. Orbit also began tracking some new visual elements this year, such as my two favorites: Hooded Figures and Damsels (No Distress). It’s probably the most advanced scientific project of the last twenty or thirty years.