Fact for Fiction

Summer, 2006 / No. 16

Why, oh why, don’t more authors and editors see the importance and nobility surrounding the art of fact-checking fiction? Your Derek McCormacks find it exasperating, your John Degens believe it to be somewhat humourous, and a vast majority of others are simply indifferent. The failure of so many literary journals and book publishers to fact-check has resulted in a plethora of factually inaccurate novels and short stories being published each year.

Keeping a clean magazine is fun—really it is. Taddle Creek’s fine team of editors, fact checkers, copy editors, and proofreaders relish every opportunity to employ their godlike dedication to the sanctity of the printed word by correcting a grammatical error or righting a factual wrong. Taddle Creek uses some of the same spelling and grammar guides as many other publications do, namely the Oxford English Dictionary (and, more commonly, its abridgement the Canadian Oxford Dictionary), The Chicago Manual of Style, A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, by H. W. Fowler, and, most importantly, The Taddle Creek Guidebook to Editorial Style and Its Usage. But while these reference books alone make editing a joy, it’s another in-house guide that really makes finding mistakes in writers’ copy more like a trip to the ice-cream stand than a job: The Taddle Creek Guidebook to Fact-checking Fiction.

“I see your point in regards to checking non-fiction,” you may be saying, “but fiction? Isn’t fiction fictional? ” Yes, of course it is, Taddle Creek may be answering, but that’s no excuse for it to be inaccurate.

Take “Spring Poem,” by Mr. Chris Chambers, found elsewhere in this issue. A man about the neighbourhood such as Chris knows full well that the Red Rose serves aloo gobi, but suppose he’d been wrong, and the Red Rose served only Mexican food. Red Rose regulars reading his poem would certainly be distracted by this inaccuracy, hindering their enjoyment of Chris’s fine, fine work.

Taddle Creek’s editor would have flown into a blinding rage if the New Brunswick city of Saint John had somehow appeared spelled as “St. John” in Leanna McLennan’s “Chained for Life.”

Does Jim’s Restaurant, on Queen Street East, really claim to offer “the best westerns,” as immortalized in Adrienne Weiss’s poem “Augusta Could Be a Woman the Driver is Trying to Find,” or does it more modestly offer “pretty good westerns”? (It’s the former, and they are.)

Fans of Julie Delpy would surely never pick up the magazine again had Kevin Connolly misspelled her name in “Plenty.” (For the record, he didn’t, and Taddle Creek is in no danger of losing this delightful, albeit odd, subsection of its readership.)

And what if Lucy, the female lead of Suzanne Alyssa Andrew’s “Extreme Ironing,” had transferred from the orange line to the blue line of Montreal’s metro not at Jean-Talon station, but at Rosemont? Montreal readers surely would have thought the magazine mad.

Some of the above examples may seem petty and unimportant, but it’s the attention to the little details that separates the good magazines from the sloppy. That’s why Taddle Creek is proud to announce that The Taddle Creek Guidebook to Fact-checking Fiction is now available outside the walls of Taddle Creek World Headquarters for the first time. Any literary magazine or literary book publisher may request a copy of this handsome, sixteen-page chapbook by writing to P.O. Box 611, Station P, Toronto, Ont. M5S 2Y4, or E-mailing to editor@taddlecreekmag.com. The book is free, though, if you would like to send a couple of dollars to cover postage, it will not be refused. (If you reside outside of Canada, the magazine must insist on you sending five, in U.S. currency.) Please—don’t let the noble art of fact-checking fiction die.

[Correction: The magazine’s summer, 2006, editorial referred incorrectly to The Taddle Creek Guidebook to Fact-Checking Fiction as The Taddle Creek Guidebook to Fact-checking Fiction. Taddle Creek must have been ill when it let such an egregious hyphenation/capitalization error slip by. Taddle Creek regrets the error.]