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Author responsibility

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JMJacobsen
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Author responsibility

Post by JMJacobsen » Thu September 18th, 2008, 5:56 am

Okay, this question occurred to me while reading all of the various answers in the 'Worst HF' thread because I noticed a number of you citing historical inaccuracies as, at the very least, an irritant in your reading.

So how much responsibility does an author have to historical accuracy when writing HF? After all, it is fiction, so I would assume that some liberties are allowed.

Personally, I'm willing to overlook quite a lot if an author makes a note, perhaps in an afterward, of those inaccuracies and why they used them.

Thoughts?

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Volgadon
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Post by Volgadon » Thu September 18th, 2008, 8:02 am

I'm a lot more forgiving if the author explains.

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Alaric
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Post by Alaric » Thu September 18th, 2008, 8:05 am

Same. If they add a note at the end of the novel explaining where they went different from the history for the sake of the story then it's fine. It's when they blatantly ignore it and make up something entirely different that I have a problem.

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Divia
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Post by Divia » Thu September 18th, 2008, 11:09 am

Well when it comes to personalities of different historical figures thats always up to interpertation. I mean what I view as strong willed and a good trait someone could view a stubbern and a bad one. So this is always tircky.

However, when an author's research is poor and their historical details are way off. Ahem 1899 The Luxe with slutty girls, then I have a HUGE program and I cant get over it.

If I dont know the hitory of the characters then I probably wouldnt notice if its true or not. If I do know the history then the author had better stand up and deliver.
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donroc
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Post by donroc » Thu September 18th, 2008, 11:51 am

All of the above.
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Bodo the Apostate, a novel set during the reign of Louis the Pious and end of the Carolingian Empire.

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JaneConsumer
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Post by JaneConsumer » Thu September 18th, 2008, 12:03 pm

Liberties are fine as long as they are in line with known history. It's when the author changes the history - without explaining why, or without an explanation that makes sense - that s/he'll lose me.

EC has a blog post that I think illustrates well where a fiction author should draw the line. Referring to William Marshal's oldest daughter, Mahelt, she writes: "Like most women of the medieval period, even aristocratic ones, she is little mentioned in the narrative historical record."

She goes on to discuss what is known and from which sources. What is known illustrates "a special father-daughter bond" that nonetheless does not "get in the way of politics."

She explains all of this because it's relevant to Mahelt's marriage to Roger Bigod. Quoting from The Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal, EC writes: "The boy was worthy, mild-mannered, and noble hearted and the young lady was a very young thing and both noble and beautiful. The marriage was a most suitable one and pleased both families involved."

Her point? "Again note the bog-standard accolades, but that doesn't matter. It leaves this novelist with a bit of leeway!"

She offers more insight into what is known about Mahelt. Then, she remarks, "My task, my responsibility and my pleasure is to assemble the bones of this great woman and show her as she just might have been."

I agree. It's one of the reasons I continue to read everything she writes. :)

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Post by boswellbaxter » Thu September 18th, 2008, 12:30 pm

I agree with what's been written here. Liberties, if explained in an author's note, don't bother me (though in many cases the actual event was more interesting without the liberties). Imaginatively filling in details that have been lost to history doesn't bother me either, providing that imagination is consistent with known fact.

It's when an author distorts history or character, either because of a personal agenda or shoddy research, that Mr. Book meets Mr. Wall, at least when the author doesn't come clean. In Sandra Worth's Richard III trilogy, for instance, William, Lord Hastings, who historically has a reputation as a womanizer (with willing partners), is shown as drugging and raping a virgin peasant girl, who later dies of the effects of the drug. The narrator informs us that this is a common practice with him. There's no basis in historical fact for this episode, but the author doesn't tell the reader this in the afterword (at least, not in the edition I read several years ago). Worse, since the author touts the extensive research she has done, the reader who doesn't delve into the matter further is likely to think that this is an accurate portrayal of Hastings. It's an inexcusable liberty for me, especially coming from an author who decries the way in which Richard III has been slandered.
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Post by Ash » Thu September 18th, 2008, 1:41 pm

I also am less likely to wallbang a book if the inaccuracies are mentioned by the author. And I don't mind imaginative writing of gaps in history (I love the ideas EC has for King Johns lost treasure in Marsh Queens Daughter, esp as they make absolute perfect sense). What is more likely to get my goat is characterizations that make no sense. Phillipa Gregory does Queen Eliz a great disservice with her depiction of her in Virgin's Lover. Here is a queen whose name is used to denote an entire era of history, but she makes her out to be a lovesick bungling blonde who needs men in her life to help her rule. Bah - talk about a wallbanger.

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boswellbaxter
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Post by boswellbaxter » Thu September 18th, 2008, 1:58 pm

[quote=""Ash""]I also am less likely to wallbang a book if the inaccuracies are mentioned by the author. And I don't mind imaginative writing of gaps in history (I love the ideas EC has for King Johns lost treasure in Marsh Queens Daughter, esp as they make absolute perfect sense). What is more likely to get my goat is characterizations that make no sense. Phillipa Gregory does Queen Eliz a great disservice with her depiction of her in Virgin's Lover. Here is a queen whose name is used to denote an entire era of history, but she makes her out to be a lovesick bungling blonde who needs men in her life to help her rule. Bah - talk about a wallbanger.[/quote]

A blonde? :confused:
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Volgadon
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Post by Volgadon » Thu September 18th, 2008, 2:55 pm

I think she means a figurative blonde.

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