historical fiction: just how historical
does it have to be?
The necessity of historical accuracy is a pretty well accepted concept in today's literature. In past centuries it was typical for "historians" to twist and embellish history according to their own bias, or whoever was funding their literary efforts; nowadays there is at least an ideal of presenting a true, unbiased picture of the past (ironic, rather, since the importance of history has reached such a low in the minds of our generation). Although we still come across novels where events or characters are blatantly misrepresented, there is a tendency to scorn the author when the mistakes are recognized. This much is agreed upon by most writers: extensive research is indispensable.
All the same, I think just about every writer who has any scruples has wondered, just how accurate do we have to be? How many dates do we have to incorporate? How many events can we get away with leaving out altogether? How much care should we take in handling a historical figure? Why can't Abraham Lincoln be a vampire slayer? Do we really have to specify the exact type of food banqueters in 1317 would be eating? Is it necessary to record every single skirmish of the Civil War our particular regiment went through? Is the whole world going to end if we get our hero's weapon wrong? Are we actually creating a tear in the space-time continuum with our inaccuracy?
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