NOTE: This is not a call to seek out the review cited below and castigate the reviewer, who is, after all, entitled to her opinion. Indeed, I’m grateful to her for presenting a viewpoint that would have never occurred to me, and for presenting me with an opportunity to explain the origin of an important part of the Liaden Universe®
This is a riff off of a reader review of Carousel Sun. I do read reviews, and sometimes I riff off of them. Consider yourselves warned. This particular review took exception to the appearance of the word “leathers” in Carousel Sun, when, if I understand the argument correctly, “leathers” had already been co-opted by the Liaden Universe® and ought never appear in any other work written by me or by Steve.
Even, apparently, when it is the correct word (i.e. the protective clothing worn by motorcyclists are referred to as “motorcycle leathers,” or “leathers.” Here’s an example of cycling leathers.) used in the correct world, by the correct people.
Which is, IMHO, a. . .really interesting viewpoint.*
But! It got me to thinking about the origin of “space leathers” in the Liaden Universe®.
Steve and I grew up in the 1960s, when the Great Public Mind was in the process of mythologizing World War II. That meant that we saw a lot of war shows on television, including: Combat!, McHale’s Navy, Twelve O’Clock High, The Rat Patrol, Hogan’s Heroes. . .among others, and a whole stack of movies: The Longest Day, Dirty Dozen, The Great Escape, Bridge on the River Kwai, von Ryan’s Express, &c, &c
My dad used to make it a point to take me to see war movies, as a father-daughter bonding thing. Most, if not all, of these movies, featured pilots. And the pilots were. . .heroic. They wore their leather jackets with pride and with attitude. The other characters might have reservations, but even those who did honored the pilots for their courage, derring-do, and amazing ability to pull things out of hats.
When it came time to write the Liaden Universe®, and fill in Clan Korval’s pilots-by-intention lineage, with a birthright of attitude, courage, and over-the-topness — we dressed them as they deserved — in space leather: protective gear that was instantly recognizable, even by those who were not pilots (or Scouts), which not only protected them, but illuminated and increased their mystique.
*Leather has, of course, been used throughout history as protective clothing; after all, it’s tough. Conquistadors wore leather; American Indians wore leather; Vikings wore leather. I speak here only of the leathers that influenced us.