My writing group met last night, and we got on the subject of historical fiction and the historical inaccuracies that bedevil it. I remember L. Sprague de Camp writing that the first time he picked up a story by Robert E. Howard he had immediately tossed it aside because Howard had Romans using stirrups and the Romans had no such thing. I must admit the stirrup thing didn't bother me a bit, although I guess it's as anachronistic as having a Civil War soldier glance at his wristwatch. On the other hand, I've read books where the author made historical or factual errors and my response has been: "What an idiot. Doesn't this guy know anything?" So what's my reasoning? As near as I can figure, here it is below, though don't expect it to be logical. I do think these are much the same reasons others use, however.
1. I'll forgive the error if I don't even know it's an error. Frankly, I didn't know the Romans didn't have stirrups.
2. I'll forgive the error if it's a minor one. If the clothing isn't exactly right, but it's pretty close, who cares? I don't. I don't read fiction because I want to learn the precise details of another time or culture. There are textbooks for that.
3. I'll forgive the error (even if grudgingly) if the story is just a ripping fine read.
4. I won't forgive the error if it would have been easy to get it right. If a writer has the wrong year for the Gettysburg Address then I'm going to be irritated since a couple minutes of checking would have revealed the correct answer.
5. I won't forgive the error if the writer holds himself or herself up as an authority and claims that they got it all right. I've seen writers who put in notes at the end of their books to make the reader aware of anything they changed for purposes of the story. That I respect. But don't tell me you're an expert and then proceed to fill your pages with nonsense.
I think that's about it for me, but perhaps others out there have different opinions. What do you think?