Fact Checkers Anonymous
As a librarian, I pride myself on providing my library patrons with accurate, up-to-date information in all forms -- which recently meant pitching all the nonfiction books that referred to Pluto as a "planet" and purchasing new titles which referenced its new status as a "dwarf planet." That's just one example.
So it pains me when I read fiction that plays fast and loose with facts. I am perfectly willing to hand myself over to the author's universe, but if you are writing realistic fiction, make sure you get it right -- or you risk pulling me out of your story. Case in point: The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. The novel is set in Seattle during both the early 1940s and 1984 as it tells its Romeo and Juliet tale of a Chinese-American boy and Japanese-American girl who experience first love amidst the Japanese internment after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
My problem with this novel? It makes several references to the protagonist's son going "online" in 1984 and finding his father's long-lost love through a short "Internet search." Sorry -- this just wasn't even a remote possibility in 1984. The author, who was questioned about this on his own blog, talks about going online in 1984 with Compuserve for $100 per hour. Yeah, that was a possibility -- but the "online" on 1984 was not the "online" of today -- or even 10 years ago. Where's an editor when you need one? I found myself shaking my head as I was reading the story -- saying "nope, wouldn't happen."
Now, middle school students -- who really seem to be the audience for this novel -- probably wouldn't even think twice about it -- for them, the world has always been online. But for those of us of "a certain age," it just cried out for a re-write and a more plausible situation.
Authorial laziness? Maybe. Editorial laziness? Definitely!
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