Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Historical (in)Accuracy

clipart etc
ost everything I write has roots in some archeological site, artwork, or historical figure. I take what information I need and leave what I don't, which isn't easy. I want to honor the history, yet my story needs are different (and more important). It takes me a few days to process the research and pick out the suitable details. I don't pretend to write historical fiction. I write fantasy, yet what I keep usually rings pretty true. However...lately, I've been wondering just how far I'm willing to drift from my sources.

As far as accuracy of place, I try to be strong willed and make the story fit the landmarks. I don't change things. Two excellent examples of my reasoning:

1) Assassin's Creed-Revelations put a port in Cappadocia.
2)The International relocated Yerebatan Sarnici beneath the Blue Mosque.

Shifts like that irk me because I know better, and because those shifts mislead people. Many viewers or readers won't know the difference, and worse, they might take the information at face value. I suppose the important issue is exposing the public to the landmark, regardless of location, but it bugs me. Does it bug you?

I find historical figures are even more sticky to handle. So much so, I'm thinking to rename some major characters in Burnt Amber to avoid a big headache later.

Exhibit A:

The Turkish series I currently <3 <3 <3, Muhteşem Yüzyıl (Magnificent Century), featured Isabella Fortuna, Princess of Castile -  a whole subplot of her falling for Sultan Suleiman. Give me a break.

In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.


That Isabella died in 1504. (I think they're referring to queen Isabella - I can't find evidence to the contrary.) What was she doing in Istanbul in late1526?

Don't screw with my head like that, people. Readers and viewers are not stupid, and we don't appreciate being misled. Although what worries me most is the idea that these inaccurate episodes may be the only history lesson people get about these rulers. At least give us a decent disclaimer. No?

So. Maybe I can and should go farther from my source than I thought, especially since I know accuracy is not all it seems to be either. Winners wrote their version of the story. What would the losers have to say?

I say creative license is a blessing. What say you?

10 comments:

Li said...

Well, weighing in as a reader and not a writer, stories with glaring inaccuracies bug me...and if there are too many, I will put the book down.The only exception is if the entire concept of the story is false (Abraham Lincoln was an alien, Queen Victoria was really a man, etc.)In other words, I want to know from the start that I should be reading from an imaginative perspective, and that major changes in the historical record aren't just messy slip-ups or plothole fillers from the author.

Old Kitty said...

Working in academia, I'm all for research! Having read my degree in History - I'm all for accuracy - the interpretation of the data is at the behest of the historian but the data must be accurate.

:-)

I think that's why I don't even try to write sci-fi much as I enjoy reading it! I'll be rubbish with the science and technology - being completely clueless with both!

Take care
x

Connie Keller said...

There was a very popular book written a few years ago that was set in a time period that a friend of mine is an expert on. (My friend is a prof at Cambridge.) Anyway, I asked my friend about the book and it's historical accuracy. My friend said, "The author got one thing right--the historical figure died."

So I'm guessing you've got a lot of creative leeway.

J. A. Bennett said...

I'm afraid I'm guilty of twisting the facts, but to me the story is the most important and I am planning on writing a little blurb correcting my follies :)

Deniz Bevan said...

Argh! I'm a stickler for accuracy. That's why I love Diana Gabaldon's books so much.

You must have gotten ahead of me in Muhtesem Yuzyil - I stopped around episode 17. Isabella of Castile??? Oh please! She's queen in my novel's time period :-)

Carin Siegfried said...

Seeing as how my favorite thing about historical fiction is that I get to learn historical facts as I read, inaccuracies are horrid (and I may repeat them and sound like an idiot!) That said, if they are sometimes necessary, a good Author's Note is a must, and I think it can cover a lot of sins.

Southpaw said...

I think creative license is great, wonderful, awesome even, but when a story seems to follow a historical/landmark path and then suddenly changes it up it does throw me off.

I really like it when they stick to the basic facts but then throw in something new. Like a secret passage or something.

I moved my blog, but there is a feed problem with my old blog and the posts aren’t showing up. You can visit my new blog here.

LTM said...

I say, I get where you're coming from. I mean, personally, I don't mind people getting creative with history. Hubs, on the other hand, gets very annoyed b/c he says for most, that's all they'll ever learn about the historical event. And it's wrong. :D I see the point. And I say, do what you need to do b/c you're writing about some pretty obscure stuff. In a GOOD way. :D <3

Suki said...

Maybe its Isabella of Austria :D

su Suzanne said...

Isabella Jagiellon (Hungarian: Izabella királyné; Polish: Izabela Jagiellonka; 18 January 1519 – 15 September 1559) was the oldest child of Polish King Sigismund I the Old and his Italian wife Bona Sforza. In 1539, she married John Zápolya, Voivode of Transylvania and King of Hungary, becoming Queen consort of Hungary. At the time Hungary was contested between Archduke Ferdinand of Austria who wanted to add it to the Habsburg domains (see Royal Hungary), local nobles who wanted to keep Hungary independent (see Eastern Hungarian Kingdom), and Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent who saw it as a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire (see also Little War in Hungary). While Isabella's marriage lasted only a year and a half, it did produce a male heir – John Sigismund Zápolya born just two weeks before his father's death in July 1540. She spent the rest of her life embroiled in succession disputes on behalf of her son. Her husband's death sparked renewed hostilities but Sultan Suleiman established her as a regent of the eastern regions of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary on behalf of her infant son. The region developed as a semi-independent buffer state noted for its freedom of religion.[1] Ferdinand, however, never renounced his claims to reunite Hungary and conspired with Bishop George Martinuzzi who forced Isabella to abdicate in 1551. She returned to her native Poland to live with her family. Sultan Suleiman retaliated and threatened to invade Hungary in 1555–56 forcing nobles to invite Isabella back to Transylvania.[2] She returned in October 1556 and ruled as her son's regent until her death in September 1559. i do believe that thisis the person whom the chatacter isabella fortuna is based upon and it does say in the title fictional based on historical figures

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