Why do so many books have DNA on them?
Today we’re going to talk about book covers, specifically the science fiction and dystopian covers that have DNA on them. I’ll be quite honest (as you know I always am 😉 ): this pisses me right the fuck off. But rather than just saying that and walking away (because I love hearing myself talk 😂), how about I explain why it annoys the bejeebus out of me, eh? Okay!
Preface: I have a degree in genetics. I spent four years studying this field of science and would consider myself knowledgeable. I’m also currently studying and researching this in graduate school. ie I have even more specialized understanding of genes and DNA.
Alright. With that out of the way, let me get to the number one reason why I hate when people use DNA on a book cover.
1. The book has NOTHING to do with genes, genetics, or DNA.
I cannot fathom why anyone would want to put something on the cover of a book that has nothing to do with the book, except for the fact that it looks ‘cool.’ The sad part is that this happens all the time. Not just with genes, but with everything and in every genre of books. Who cares if the cover has anything to do with the book? It gets the person to pick and buy a book and after that, the publisher doesn’t care because they made sales. It’s false advertising. And I’m pretty sure we all hate false advertising. Am I right?
2. The story is ‘based’ on genetics… but the author obviously knows nothing about genetics.
Now, I can kind of let this one go because genetics is still a relatively new field in comparison to other science fields. However, it’s just like if you were writing a historical fiction book, you need to get the facts right. Yes, there is some leeway because it’s ‘fiction,’ but the author has to remember that most people are unacquainted with genetics. As such, they have a tendency to take fiction for fact. So, not only are you misleading people, but you’re pretty much disrespecting a field that people devote their lives to because you were too lazy to look up the facts. (Or, you know the facts, and simply didn’t like them. Which… just no.)
3. Genetics is used as a cheap throw in to explain something and is never fully developed.
Seriously??? Does anyone just throw an off-hand comment in about physics and walk away? Uh… no. Because the physics usually has some greater impact on the story. It has to be developed as part of the world. To just throw something in about genetics is basically saying that it has no real impact on your story, in which case you shouldn’t be using it. Science is extremely complex (to the point that we probably only know 10% of it all) and you just throwing it in is basically a cheap gimmick. It’s all a disservice to all the scientists who labored to uncover the facts you just slipped into the story. RAWR!
*sigh* Anyway, the point is, you should really not use genetics as a gimmick or a ‘reason’ for something to happen in the story. If your story is based around some mutation, great! If you just throw in genetics as a tiny piece for why character X did something, wrong! Genes do NOT dictate who you are, how you act, or any of that jazz. People can overcome their genes (nature vs. nurture people). Genes actually can change as you age (because the physical environment can actually impact the expression of your genes). And, lastly, you should NOT use something in your book or cover that you don’t fully understand. That’s just being lazy. Yes, I am calling you out on your shit. Deal with it.
And check out my discussion from last week:
“Female Characters in RPG“