Vonda N. McIntyre is the author of the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus award-winning novel Dreamsnake. She is also the author of The Moon and the Sun (which also won the Nebula Award) and several other novels, including a Star Wars novel and several Star Trek novels. Other original novels include The Starfarers Quartet, Barbary (a book for younger readers), Superluminal, and The Exile Waiting. Much of her short fiction has been collected in Fireflood and Other Stories.
Readers have a tendency to identify authors with their characters, and this was certainly the case for Arthur Conan Doyle. He received piles of letters from readers asking for his help in solving actual crimes, to which he could only throw up his hands. Not only did Conan Doyle lack the rigorous, logical, machine-like Holmesian ability to penetrate subterfuge, but the author was also famously gullible. He repeatedly put his reputation on the line championing any hokey spiritualist who waved some ectoplasm at him. (In fact, the stage magician Houdini, who knew all the tricks of the spiritualists and who dedicated himself to unmasking them, displayed more Holmes-like behavior than the author ever did.) Perhaps the most embarrassing example of Conan Doyle’s credulity was his publicizing the case of the Cottingley fairies—amazingly, the creator of Sherlock Holmes showed no skepticism when some mischievous teenage girls took photographs of themselves standing beside cardboard-cutouts of gnomes and fairies and then presented the images as real. This next tale shows us this side of Conan Doyle. Of course, in the wilds of an author’s imagination, you can never be too sure what’s real and what isn’t.