A recent discussion about research with a bunch of writers from all genres led to an out and out argument over having correct facts in your work vs. making them up.
No, no one was hurt, it may have been an argument but there were a lot of belly laughs too. Needless to say, the science fiction and historical writers lined up on one side while fantasy and romance were on the other. I’m glad to say the mystery writers stood in the middle and jumped back and forth as we saw fit—thus all the laughing.
We had a good time at the expense of the SF writers as they wanted good sound facts and science in their work. I brought up a quote by Harlan Ellison (that led to a ‘I never heard of that” or “no it was Steve Barnes or it might have been David Brin”—whatever, it was some famous SF writer) “I going to tell you something that is impossible or unproven or not real, and I expect you to believe it while I weave this very interesting story.” And so, they gave us space travel long before Sputnik went up, and (my favorite) wormholes to get to other galaxies long before they were discovered to only be blood vessel size. The fantasy writers had a great chuckle out of that one, which gained the response that it was only a matter of time before WE (get that egomania at work) figured out how to enlarge them for space craft. And besides, they argued, that is science at work, not invention from nothing of something unheard of. Instead of sneering at the fantasy writers they rolled their eyes at the romance writers, who fought back with the reality of human interaction and more importantly LOVE.
We mystery writers (well me) brought up the use of minimal facts, nothing long winded, to suit a story and it was the historical writers who had a fit over that one. We all agreed that it was unfair to make up things and call them facts in history or science, but if history and science are not the main ingredient of the story, say it is a romance or a mystery, then a light dusting of true facts should only be needed. Grumbling from SF and History writers, but okay, after all you are ‘only’ mystery and romance writers. (If only an evil eye could sting like a wasp.) But we got even by pointing out that historicals and science stories were far more interesting and not so dry when a bit of of mystery and/or human romantic relationships were added.
So, as usual, nothing was accomplished except for all having a very good time. We did settle on agreeing that if you were going to write cross genre stories, you have to lead with your main genre when describing the story. A romantic/mystery is going to be about the romance or developing romance of two people and some kind of mystery revolves around this love affair. However, if you are writing a murder mystery that takes place on the moon and two people seem to be interested romantically in each other then (according to the SF and mystery writers) it has to be a SF/mystery. The romance writes demanded an explanation. And the following is a convoluted mash of what SF and mystery came up with. In the romance/mystery the reader wants to know about the developing love story and couldn’t care less about solving the mystery, doesn’t look for clues, just assumes the answer comes at the end as the marriage will. In the mystery on the moon, SF lovers will probably choose to read it because astronomy and space travel are involved, they’ll watch for accurate facts, they’ll enjoy the mystery, look for clues and won’t care a hoot about the romance between the couple as long as the two protagonists get laid.
What can I tell you, that was what we came up with. Again, another night of agreeing not to agree while having another glass of wine. Nobody said we were geniuses, just writers. Do you worry over getting the facts, science, or history into your stories? WHY??
Oh and have a Happy, Spooky, Overeating, Good Halloween.