Wait, what?

That’s kind of how I feel about a lot of things right now. But, in this particular instance, the question comes from a review I saw the other day. It wasn’t for one of my books, although I have received similar comments. In this case, the writer in question, a long time friend of mine, was left scratching her head and wondering whether to be flattered or insulted or what. My response? Ignore it on the whole and be thankful the reader not only read the book but left a review and said they would buy more of their work.

You see, my friend writes science fiction. They write it almost exclusively. Most of what they write falls into space opera, but they have written some military SF as well. The review in question came on one of their books that fall into the latter category.

Basically, the review said the book was enjoyable but there was only one Honor Harrington. The reviewer felt sure David Weber appreciated having someone honor (my word because I am too lazy this morning to go back and find the review) him by trying to imitate his heroine, but still . . . .

Now, I love the Honor Harrington series, especially the early books. But I have seen this very same comment/complaint by more than one reader over the last decade or so. It doesn’t matter that the only thing the book in question has in common with Honor is the sex of the lead characters. There will always be those who will see any female ship’s commander as a rip-off of Honor.

Those comparisons are fine solong as the reviewer doesn’t automatically assume the book is going to be a pale comparison and goes into it with that mind set. Fortunately for me friend, while the reviewer had sort of that mind set, they did admit they enjoyed the book and would read the next book in the series. The 3-star review was a bit harsh because the only critique the reviewer had was that the main character wasn’t Honor Harrington. Still. . . .

The conversation got me thinking about some of the comments I’ve received over the years of writing the Honor & Duty series. I’ve had the same Honor Harrington comments. I knew I would going in because I’d seen them regarding other series where the main character was female. So I was prepared for them. What I wasn’t prepared for were the comments, usually in private messages or emails, from folks telling my my books were wrong–yes, wrong–because I let my female lead character be on the front line with the Marines under her command. After all, there was no way she could carry all the equipment needed for the mission and keep up with her male counterparts.

Most of those raising that concern backed off when I pointed out a couple of things. First, we’re talking about non-Earth and non-US military. So they can’t assume the same rules would apply, certainly not when the rules they were referencing went back to Vietnam or earlier. Second, my books take place along a completely different timeline with a different history than our own (or at least so far in the future that civilizations have come and gone and if my folks are originally from Earth, they’ve forgotten about it). Third, I pointed out that the Marines in my series not only are augmented with implants that would help with certain aspects of being a frontline fighter but that they also wore various types of power armor. So the strength complaint didn’t fly.

I guess why my friend’s story stuck with me and why it spawned this post goes to a FB comment I saw the other day. Someone who is not a writer climbed onto their soapbox and told every writer, no matter what their background and no matter what the rules of their “world”, that they should read, study and follow the examples set out in a certain book on naval history because there are certain traditions that are just bred into the Navy (no matter whose it is) that don’t change.

I’ll admit, the comment got my back up. Yes, it is important to know the history and traditions. But, as writers, we are not bound by them. We are bound by the rules of the world or universe we create. Just as there needs to be rules regarding magic and we need to keep in mind things like economic realities of any world we write, we also create our own traditions and “reality” for our science fiction worlds.

Does that mean we throw all of the known and comfortable out? Not unless we take the time to build a realistic and believable world to replace it.

And, believe it or not, I’m not bitching because of the comments of any of the above critics. I learn from them. I hope they can learn from me as well. But it does hurt when you see someone saying your book can never be as good as someone else’s simply because you have a character that is the same sex or something but you aren’t that writer. I’ve learned to look at the humor of it–or at least try to. Let’s be honest, good as Weber is, he isn’t the first to have a female ship’s commander in outer space. The Honor Harrington series isn’t “original” in that you can see the series where he drew at least some inspiration. But he made it his own.

Just as each of us try to make our series our own.

At least we should.

It’s certainly what I try to do.

And it is what I’m trying to do with Destiny from Ashes, coming later this month.

Colonel Ashlyn Shaw is on a collision course with an enemy determined to destroy her and all she holds dear. Honor demands she not turn away from the upcoming battle. Duty requires her to do whatever is necessary to protect her command and her home system. The Corps and her family stand with her, ready and willing to do whatever it takes to finally bring this war to an end.

But when the enemy turns out to be closer than she thinks, how will Ashlyn react? Will this finally be what breaks her or will it see the might of the Fuerconese Marine Corps raining death and destruction down on all who would stand against Fuercon and her enemies?

Honor and duty. Corps and family. These are the hills upon which Ash and every Marine in her command will live and possibly die as they fight to protect Fuercon and her allies.

Featured Image by prettysleepy1 from Pixabay


    1. True, but if you look hard enough, you can find characters that are similar (real or fiction) who came before. Kylara first appeared, iirc, a decade after Honor. Honor appeared several years after McCaffrey’s Sassinack. IF Magazine back in the Golden Age of SF had space captains, male and female, who predated all of them. All of those characters are unique in their own ways.

  1. What gets my “Wait, What” going are the Blubs/Publishers Advertisements that praise the author as the Next Heinlein (or other big name author).

    I may like That Big Name Author, but I firmly believe that the “new” author’s work has to stand on its own without comparing the “new” author to Big Name Author.

    There’s also the “If you like Big Name Author, you’ll love this author” stuff.

  2. I don’t understand why some people feel compelled to make these comparisons. Why not complain that EVERY-SINGLE-ONE of 21st century writers about space is borrowing themes – and, often, characters – from the 19th century writers who imagined what space flight might be like? Jules Verne wrote From The Earth To The Moon back in 1865 but I don’t suppose that many critics heve even heard of that book, let alone read and enjoyed it. I like your own stories, so just ignore the critics and carry on what you do so well.

    1. John, first of all, thanks!

      Second, I agree with everything you said about the early stories. Too few folks these days have read the Golden Age of SF stories and yet condemn them for not being up to today’s standards–whatever that means. They certainly haven’t read the earlier works that really started the genre down the path it is on now.

  3. Oh, jaaaaayzussss….

    And here I’m bending over backwards to have folks Have A Reason for women being very uncommon.
    Mostly, boils down to solo=>vulnerable.

    Because with technology and support, it goes away!

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