Author Topic: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books  (Read 79953 times)

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Offline Puppylove

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Re: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books
« Reply #15 on: February 27, 2008, 04:42:14 PM »
In my wildest dreams I cannot fathom how editorial error could account for the disconnect between King's and Wilson's own words and Rob's cogent analysis. Bear, Simon or anyone in contact with them, how do King and Wilson account for this? Not a challenge, just a question.

King and Wilson did post an explanation of this and a couple other issues on their forum many months ago. To the best of my knowledge, they said the error regarding the Rus testimony had to do with incorrect placement of footnotes. Unfortunately I never thought to copy and save their statement, and their entire forum is no longer accessible. If we had a copy now, I'd be interested to see whether their explanation would satisfy readers' concerns.

I'm interested too; Bear may have this information handy.
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Offline Puppylove

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Re: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books
« Reply #16 on: February 27, 2008, 04:49:47 PM »
I see Penny Wilson online, maybe she can help us clear up the confusion.
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Offline Sarushka

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Re: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books
« Reply #17 on: February 27, 2008, 04:51:06 PM »
Sarushka, when I initiated the thread in its original form, I didn't want to limit discussion to any one author or book, hoping to avoid the Kurth/King/Wilson personal vendetta charge. The thread has stayed true to topic, with slight forays into fiction and movies as well. If I understand you correctly, you would want a separate thread for each author and each book?

Nope. What I mean is, we all agree -- even Simon, I think -- that there are errors in FOTR. The point of this thread as I see it is not to dissect and examine errors in any given book, but rather to discuss what an author's response and responsibility should be once errors are discovered and brought to light.

I'm not sure that's going to be any clearer than my last post.... If anyone else sees what I'm trying to say, feel free to help clarify what I mean!
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Offline AGRBear

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Re: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books
« Reply #18 on: February 27, 2008, 04:51:31 PM »
I don't have permission from FA to give you any answers about my thoughts on the events which occurred on the Russ or how the error occurred in FATE OF THE ROMANOVS by King and Wilson, which I remember very well.

Sorry.

AGRBear

« Last Edit: February 27, 2008, 04:57:06 PM by AGRBear »
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Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books
« Reply #19 on: February 27, 2008, 04:58:43 PM »
I see Penny Wilson online, maybe she can help us clear up the confusion.


I wouldn't hold my breath...


I don't have permission from FA to give you any answers.

I wasn't holding my breath...

Offline Puppylove

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Re: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books
« Reply #20 on: February 27, 2008, 05:37:29 PM »
Sarushka, when I initiated the thread in its original form, I didn't want to limit discussion to any one author or book, hoping to avoid the Kurth/King/Wilson personal vendetta charge. The thread has stayed true to topic, with slight forays into fiction and movies as well. If I understand you correctly, you would want a separate thread for each author and each book?

Nope. What I mean is, we all agree -- even Simon, I think -- that there are errors in FOTR. The point of this thread as I see it is not to dissect and examine errors in any given book, but rather to discuss what an author's response and responsibility should be once errors are discovered and brought to light.

I'm not sure that's going to be any clearer than my last post.... If anyone else sees what I'm trying to say, feel free to help clarify what I mean!

Well, I may be coming off as thick-headed so apologies in advance, but we're laying the groundwork by specifying the errors and then determining what corrections would be necessary to satisfy both the author and the reader. We were also debating what effect errors have on the writer's reputation, based on how those errors are addressed, or not addressed as the case may be. But please feel free, if you would like to begin a thread with a narrower focus you'd be more comfortable with.
"The censor's sword pierces deeply into the heart of free expression." Earl Warren

"...and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:32

Offline Puppylove

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Re: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books
« Reply #21 on: February 27, 2008, 05:54:55 PM »
Post heading: Dr.Strangelove or How I Stopped Frothing at the Mouth and Learned to Respect Peter Kurth

I learned one very important thing when this thread in its original form vaporized, and that is this: I have a new-found respect for Mr. Kurth. I don't share his beliefs (don't really even comprehend them), but I admire the fact that the man has guts and the courage of his convictions. He's outspoken, passionate, welcomes challenges (even heated, ornery ones) and DOES NOT FEAR THE WRITTEN WORD. I just cannot imagine this man requesting anyone to cover for him anywhere, anytime. I appreciate this now more than ever.

Jenn

Sorry for replying to my own post, seems a little sad, but what I wrote hurt the feelings of the first poster who ever befriended me here. This post was written with tongue thoroughly in cheek. In reality, Mr. Kurth's treatment of his opponents has been deplorable, as an email Annie had posted in the original thread yesterday clearly proved. My intent here was only to advocate for freedom of speech, no matter how disgusting or objectionable that speech might be. My intent was good, the execution backfired.

Jenn
"The censor's sword pierces deeply into the heart of free expression." Earl Warren

"...and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:32

Offline Forum Admin

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Re: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books
« Reply #22 on: February 27, 2008, 06:19:49 PM »
There is no mystery about the explanation about this particular incident. Penny told me personally on the phone that this was sloppy editing as they were in a rush to publication.  I believe her entirely and accept this. However, I stand behind what I said before is a primary obligation of an author: ANY author writing what purports to be accurate historical non-fiction must keep what they know "for sure from the evidence" separate from their speculation and imagination based on that evidence.

With all respect to Penny and Greg and no personal implications here at all, I simply find that certain instances in the book are speculation or assumption on their part, stated to give the appearance of facts. Its fine for them to speculate on the events, but they do NOT let the reader know that these are their speculative conclusions, nor did they present the contradictory evidence to allow the reader to draw their own conclusions as I did above. This is why I brought up the particular incident on the Rus, as well as Simon having bought into the statements as being fact "because Gibbes said so and he was there", when the large balance of the evidence simply indicates otherwise with respect to anything having possibly happened to the Grand Duchesses on the Rus. 

Offline ChristineM

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Re: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books
« Reply #23 on: February 27, 2008, 06:28:13 PM »
The fact of the matter is, that until the deepest recess of GARF is opened and the events of the journey of the Imperial children on the 'Rus' is released and fully and professionally sourced - if indeed it exists - NOBODY knows what happened on that river journey.   It is all speculation and the really disgusting thing is that it should be sensationalised.   In so far as this particular episode in the lives of the Imperial daughters is concerned, they should be allowed to Rest In Peace.

Please show some sensitivity.

Christine

Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books
« Reply #24 on: February 27, 2008, 06:39:33 PM »
I agree with Christine. This has been rehashed so many times, and here it is even off the topic of the author's obligations.
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Offline LisaDavidson

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Re: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books
« Reply #25 on: February 27, 2008, 06:40:39 PM »
Sarushka, when I initiated the thread in its original form, I didn't want to limit discussion to any one author or book, hoping to avoid the Kurth/King/Wilson personal vendetta charge. The thread has stayed true to topic, with slight forays into fiction and movies as well. If I understand you correctly, you would want a separate thread for each author and each book?

Nope. What I mean is, we all agree -- even Simon, I think -- that there are errors in FOTR. The point of this thread as I see it is not to dissect and examine errors in any given book, but rather to discuss what an author's response and responsibility should be once errors are discovered and brought to light.

I'm not sure that's going to be any clearer than my last post.... If anyone else sees what I'm trying to say, feel free to help clarify what I mean!

Sarah: I understand exactly what you mean. You're saying to us - let us discuss an author's obligations as a separate topic and not get into personality attacks on authors. I agree this would be a most worthwhile subject. And, if others want to dissect a particular book in a responsible way, that would also be worth looking into, too - but in a separate topic area.

« Last Edit: February 27, 2008, 08:07:44 PM by LisaDavidson »

Offline Sarushka

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Re: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books
« Reply #26 on: February 27, 2008, 07:03:51 PM »
There is no mystery about the explanation about this particular incident. Penny told me personally on the phone that this was sloppy editing as they were in a rush to publication.  I believe her entirely and accept this. However, I stand behind what I said before is a primary obligation of an author: ANY author writing what purports to be accurate historical non-fiction must keep what they know "for sure from the evidence" separate from their speculation and imagination based on that evidence.

With all respect to Penny and Greg and no personal implications here at all, I simply find that certain instances in the book are speculation or assumption on their part, stated to give the appearance of facts. Its fine for them to speculate on the events, but they do NOT let the reader know that these are their speculative conclusions, nor did they present the contradictory evidence to allow the reader to draw their own conclusions as I did above. This is why I brought up the particular incident on the Rus, as well as Simon having bought into the statements as being fact "because Gibbes said so and he was there", when the large balance of the evidence simply indicates otherwise with respect to anything having possibly happened to the Grand Duchesses on the Rus. 

I think I agree with the bulk of this. A relevant point I brought up late last night is the fact that technically and literally speaking, Volkov has not been misquoted. The four words in quotation marks attributed to Volkov in the text of FOTR are correct: "leave them in peace." However, as Rob said, the speculation and unreferenced information surrounding that quote causes heaps of trouble.

Radzinsky has a similar habit, though he seems to get away with less backlash, perhaps because his speculations tend to be more like poetic asides than concrete claims. I'll try to dig up a couple examples....
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Offline Sarushka

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Re: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books
« Reply #27 on: February 27, 2008, 07:06:55 PM »
Well, I may be coming off as thick-headed so apologies in advance, but we're laying the groundwork by specifying the errors and then determining what corrections would be necessary to satisfy both the author and the reader. We were also debating what effect errors have on the writer's reputation, based on how those errors are addressed, or not addressed as the case may be. But please feel free, if you would like to begin a thread with a narrower focus you'd be more comfortable with.

That's all valid and relevant. I guess I'm just gun-shy after seeing so many threads over the years digress into an FOTR maelstrom. After watching the discussion veer off late last night -- and I have to admit I contributed a post or two dissecting King & Wilson's portrayal of the Rus incident -- I can't help being concerned that we're going to end up fixating on the error itself again rather than all the issues you mentioned above. In short, this shouldn't (IMO) be a thread about just one book, or just one error. On the original thread we also talked about Radzinsky well as the editing team of Mironenko and Maylunas.


Sarah: I understand exactly what you mean. You're saying to us - let us discuss an author's obligations as a separate topic and not get into personality attacks on authors. I agree this would be a most worthwhile subject. And, if others want to dissect a particular book in a responsible way, that would also be worth looking into, too - but in a separate topic area.

Yes, that's pretty much what I mean.
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Offline Sarushka

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Re: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books
« Reply #28 on: February 27, 2008, 07:38:38 PM »
An example of Radzinsky's slightly fanciful speculations. This passage concerns the arrival of the first secret "Officer Letter" in the Ipatiev house:

 "This is how the letter promising them escape appeared. It was signed: 'Prepared to die for you, an officer of the Russian army.' Oh, how Alix likes this signature. Her migraines are but a memory. She is once again the old spitzbube. Yes, it has come to pass. They have come. They have not abandoned their tsar! Good Russian people! They are prepared to liberate their emperor. The holy man has sent the family a 'legion of angels.'
 "She begs Nicky to reply. As always, he calmly agrees."
~The Last Tsar, pg 318

To my knowledge, there's no record of how Nicholas and Alexandra reacted to the arrival of the first letter proposing an escape plan. Alexandra's diary doesn't mention it at all. So it appears that Radzinsky invented the notion that Alix "likes this signature" or "begs Nicky to reply," and that "he calmly agrees." Sure, these reactions are all consistent with what we know about the imperial couple's personalities, but no matter how well Radzinsky knows his subjects, the fact is that NOBODY really knows how the tsar and his wife reacted to this letter. To my way of thinking, that means this passage is technically historical fiction. The scene he's created is possible, maybe even probable, but it's NOT non-fiction.

Radzinsky's done a heap of research in Russian archives and has had access to formerly classified information. As a result, he seems to feel a deep intuitional, even mystical connection with Nicholas and Alexandra. Frankly, I think that's pretty nifty, and I think his extensive research probably has given him great insight into the imperial family. However, I still want to know when the information he presents is derived from fact, and when it's coming from his own instincts.
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Offline Dominic_Albanese

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Re: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books
« Reply #29 on: February 27, 2008, 09:06:53 PM »
Can we (please) not tear into FOTR again, it's been discussed en-naseum on multiple threads.  The authors gave their explanation (which you can or can not  accept).  Let's move this discussion back out to a more generic discussion that those of us who are still learning to write can learn from...

dca