Evil Fairy Godmother from the story "CINDY" by James Dorr for the Spring 2001 issue of Fantastic Stories magazine.  This was an issue in which I did all the interior artwork, including Cloning Jesus, Lifeforce, and Joey's Machine and Karuna, Inc.  Jim Lee reviewed this magazine, including the art, in his "Skeptic Tank" column in the Sept. 2001 issue of Scavenger's Newsletter.  He wrote: "The interior art is by Frank Wu. Some is quite good, with nothing less than respectable."

This and many other Frank Wu images are available on T-shirts, etc. at Cafepress.

This piece won the "Best Fantasy - Pro Choice Award" at Norwescon science fiction convention in Seattle, 2002. 

Derryl Murphy, editor of On Spec, the Canadian science fiction magazine, liked this image so much he selected it for a cover:


Right after this piece was published on the cover of ON SPEC the editor, Derryl Murphy sent me this amusing email with an interesting piece of hate mail.  A reader had sent him this note:

"I hope you won't read any tone into the following - none is intended. It is simply a statement of my feelings. And this will not prevent me from browsing future issues of On Spec.

The cover's image focus was a woman who was smoking a cigar and appeared to be enjoying the experience. In this day and age when people are very much aware of the dangers of smoking, I  indeed found the cover to be "offensive and in bad taste".

I do not think that this is a suitable cover for display on newsstands or book store shelves, especially for a magazine which should be trying to achieve sales to all ages.

It was the impact of the artwork that caused me to toss the magazine without looking inside. Digging deeper would not have meant anything. The title of the piece, or the artist bio, would mean nothing to me. If you were to tell me that inside I would have found a note telling me that the object of the cover was a strong anti-smoking message, then the attempt to pass along that message would have been a dismal failure. If the purpose of the cover was to make me curious and want to find out why you would run such a cover, the purpose failed, because my reaction was significant enough to make me toss the magazine rather than to seek more information.

Some people might wish to defend the illustration as "art" and they are welcome to do so. It is an argument that might be justification to some, but it does not change my personal feelings.

I did however think it important enough to let you know, so that you could take it into account. If I am the only person to comment negatively, then it won't have much impact on your future decisions. If I am one of many many people, then it may give you pause for consideration in future.

The copy that I saw was mailed to the [insert name here] mailbox. I am the person who always opens the mailbox and then passes the copy on to our [such and such] head (who lives in my house with me).

I tossed it, with the full knowledge that I was tossing away a copy that was addressed to the [such and such] and not to myself. I have no problem with that action.

Truthfully, if I had not tossed the issue, I would have retained it and probably taken it to the next [such and such] meeting and belittled the cover to other people. It is best that I did not."

Derryl then wrote to me:

Derryl again. Frank, you'd better win that Hugo, because getting up on stage to receive it would be ... revenge. More, I cannot tell you.


Comments from Frank: I think this excessive knee-jerk political correctness is just hilarious. I never meant to be controversial.  The picture is really about relaxing after a long hard haul - this was the final piece I did for a big assignment for Fantastic Stories and I was tired, but glad it was over.  This illo says "Whew, I'm done."  That's all.  Really.  But... Isaac Asimov once said, "Just because you wrote it doesn't mean you know what's in it."  How true. There's been even more response to my art and the reader's letter above:

"Cool cover.  Moronic letter." - Julia Blackshear Kosatka

"While I am highly allergic to cigarette smoke and tobacco (yes, smoke around me and watch me vomit at your own risk), I don't see why that cover should be offensive.  It's actually a nice cover IMHO." - Laura J. Underwood

"I like the cover.  It's interesting in both design and concept. Why should a picture of a woman smoking a cigar be offensive?  Does this mean that more women with wings will now take up the habit of smoking? I guess if you show something on your cover, people, since they have no minds of their own, will immediately start doing it.  Don't put no robots on your cover or people will start being robotish.  Don't put no zombies on that cover, think of how it will adversely influence our youth.  Laughable." - Jeff Ford

"I enjoyed the cover myself... I'm a bit bemused to find that it really is the smoking that has his knickers in a twist." - Richard Horton

"I certainly didn't find it offensive. I like it a lot." - Marc Brutschy

"I love the cover for its originality (and Frank's usual wonderful use of texture *g*). It breaks a number of stereotypes, shows some fun movement, and invites me to assess both the magazine and the artwork carefully.

"But then, I also believe that a book that nobody wants to throw across the room missed a point somewhere. *g*" - Elizabeth Bear

"I think Derryl ought to cut a deal with Frank (Wu), make up a bunch of art prints or even posters of this cover, and sell 'em at Torcon for, I don't know, 7 or 8 bucks a pop (the posters). Any female who buys a poster gets a free cigar. <g>" and "I think it was a terrific cover, Derryl. Judging from the way the woman on the cover was dressed, one can pretty closely deduce the time period she lives in. Given _that_, she was quite a _liberated_ woman to be smoking on that stogie."- Dave Truesdale

"Well, I think it's a pretty funny cover, and Mr. Hancock needs to go find himself a sense of humor.  (And I don't smoke, either). You've also reminded me that I've been meaning to subscribe to On Spec, which I shall now do forthwith." - Andrew Hatchell

"(1) Fantastic cover. Makes me wonder what my life would have been like if, say, Pat Cadigan had been my fairy godmother. "Yeah, sorry kid, I traded the wand for a box of Cubans, so you're gonna have to settle for a carmengia. But at least it won't turn into a fucking pumpkin. Now don't be home before dawn."

"(2) The reaction is pretty stupid, and certainly not in line with the 'big tent' history and present culture of fandom." - Bluejack

"Just wanted to say that Gavin [Grant] and I were both just talking about how much we loved the cover of the new issue -- thanks for sending it, by the way.  I think it's my favorite Frank Wu art so far." Kelly Link.

"Wow - unbelievable! Larry needs to get a grip. I LIKE the cover art!  Personally, I've always hated anyone who rabidly forces their viewpoint on others - non-smokers and smokers alike." - Sandra Kasturi

"As a raging and militant non-smoker, I nevertheless also side with Derryl-- "Offensive"?  That's one funny cover -- not to mention smartly designed and eye-catching.  Well done! Much better looking than the cover of any American genre digest." - Claude Lalumiere

"How silly. PC assholes strike again!" Ellen Datlow

"Sure, easy for you guys to be outraged, but what about all the young and impressionable fairy godmothers who might see that cover and say, "Gee, I bet it would be cool to fire up a big old stogie?" - Matt Hughes


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Image (c) 2001 Frank Wu