Monday, November 27, 2006

Debunking Authorly Urban Legends

Eons ago, when I was in college (or it might have been grad school), I remember listening to a professor expounded on what L. Frank Baum really meant to say when he wrote the Wizard of Oz. It had something to do with repressed homosexual urges and a fascination with bestiality…well, you can figure out the rest. It was, to my way of thinking, really off the wall. And of course, L. Frank was dead and couldn’t walk up to the professor and pop the man one in the eye for his far-fetched statements.

But the prof said all this with such authority. Because he was a learned prof and therefore, knew more than the poor little author did.

I laughed about it then. Being a poor little author myself, I’m not laughing about it now.

Thankfully, Linnea Urban Legends are rare (at least, I’ve not been pointed to a great many of them). But there are a few out there that readers have directed me to. And since I’m still alive and kicking, I’d like to debunk a few of those before some learned prof stands up in class fifty years from now telling people what Linnea Sinclair really meant when she wrote her books—and have it all be so very wrong.

These are a few things (paraphrased and clipped for brevity) I’ve seen reviewers, bloggers et al state they "know" about me and my writing:

1 - McMaster Bujold is obviously Sinclair's SF antecedents. The opening scenes of Finders Keepers owe a great deal to Shards of Honor.

Answer – This is really embarrassing to admit but I’ve never read Shards of Honor. I know I should read Bujold but I haven’t. Slap me silly for not keeping up with my required reading but don’t make assumptions as to where I get my storylines from. Try asking me. So any conclusion that I’ve ripped off Bujold’s work is pure bunk.

2 – I just finished Gabriel’s Ghost. Having read An Accidental Goddess, Gabriel’s Ghost is proof that the author gets better the more she writes.

Answer – Thanks for the backhanded compliment. Check the publication dates. Gabriel’s was written before Goddess. So I guess I’m going downhill. It must be age and an increasing lack of tolerance for alcohol.

3 – Gabriel's Ghost was written by someone whose SF influences are movies and TV series… It's clear from Linnea Sinclair's skills that Gabriel's Ghost is not the product of a writer who doesn't read. [Therefore] Gabriel's Ghost is the result of a canny calculation... poised to pull an audience... ignorant of...nanotechnology, quantum states, posthumans, the singularity and other staples of post-1980s prose SF. [Gabriel's Ghost is] a romantically charged SF novel that sticks to humanoid aliens and media-SF technology.

Answer – And you say that like it's such a bad thing...

Okay, if I'm reading it right, the reviewer here had decided that because my book didn’t focus on quantum states and singularities, that it was a deliberate concoction on my part to garner a non-scientifically oriented audience ("dominated by women and girls"). Wow. I had no idea I was so smart, marketing-wise. How come Madison Avenue isn’t banging down my door? Fact is, Gabriel’s Ghost is what it is. No, I didn’t sit down one morning and say, hmm, the next book I’m writing will be geared towards women unfamiliar with nanotechnology. I wrote Sully and Chaz’s story with nary a thought to marketing or audience. I write ALL my books that way. I write my character’s stories. Period. Please don’t assume nefarious behind-the-scenes machinations on my part. If you want to know why I wrote a book, ask me.

And finally…

4 – ICK! The book has romance!

Answer – Yep, it does. The corollary to ICK is "It’s shelved in science fiction!" as if my books infect those around them on the shelves with some disgusting malady. The Urban Legend associated with this is that somehow Linnea Sinclair browbeat or bribed the powers that be at Bantam to shelve the books in science fiction, or that the author is in any way responsible for a book’s shelving. WE ARE NOT. I AM NOT. No one ever asked me where my books belong. If you have an issue with those who like romance and romantic subplots in their novels, do not demean, denigrate or damn those of us who do…and those of us who write it. We don’t put you down for what you like to read.

There are a few more but they’re pretty much variations on the above themes.
Point is this, and I’ve already said it several times above: ask me. Ask any author why they wrote the book they did, why their characters are such, why the plot took the twist it did. I’ve been blessed with some wonderful interviews—on line, in print, and in radio and television—where people took time to ascertain the facts and not just throw assumptions and accusations together. Ask.

And by the way, to the blogger who complained that Sully was a typical alpha male, he’s not. For one thing, I don’t write to archetypes. But if I did, Sully would be more gamma (poet, monk and warrior).

Just wanted to clear that up.



  1. Well, I, for one, appreciate you taking this. You're 'plowing the field' for us newcomers. Before I read your interview in Speculative Tart, I had no idea what sub-genre I was writing in! If I hadn't already had faith in my story, I would have been knocked out of the water by the hardcore science fiction critiquers. I just knew it had to fit in somewhere!

  2. Anonymous12:01 AM EST

    Go get 'em, Captain! I won't even get into the so-called "Ick" factor, except to say - as usual,the double standard comes into play. In yon other genres it seems to be okay for men to write sex, but not for wimmen to write love scenes. :-x

    Yes, (hypothetical)Virginia, if you're reading this, there IS a difference!

    You're a brilliant writer. And you know it. Don't let the uninformeds get to ya.

    I get grumpy about this stuff after thirty plus something years of hearing the same old, same old about romance no matter where it's "put" on the shelves. *eg*

    Commander Carla : )

  3. Well said, Linnea!

    I admire your gift for blogging. You're always fascinating, witty, relevant, and pleasantly provocative.

    All the best,