I was reading a book by a successful author, and amidst the rest of what was a splendid manuscript, I hit a snag. A particular kind of airplane was being flown by a particular branch of service.
Normally, this shouldn’t be the slightest issue. Whatever. It’s just equipment. Who cares if it’s a P47 or an F4U? One flew in Europe by the Army Air Corp and the other flew off islands with the Marine Corps, OR it flew off carriers with the Royal Navy during WWII. It did not ever operate off US Navy carriers until after the war.
See the difference there? It’s a glaring error if you say, “Joe’s flight of F4Us swooped in to drop bombs on the nazi scumbags.” If Joe is Army Air Corp, he’s not flying F4Us. If Joe is Royal Navy, he MIGHT be flying them, in the Mediterranean.
This is minutia, you say. “Pontius, nobody cares about that stuff but you.” Maybe that’s true, and it doesn’t matter, and you can have alternate universes in your books where the F4U was all over Europe countering the FW-190.
Back to how this matters to your book. See, if you make glaring errors like this, it drops your street cred a little. This is near history or near future history, and you either must make a point of saying “this is a fantasy alternate world” or it’s gotta conform to what is and was and is to be. A technical error is a FULL STOP removal from the immersion of your world.
If you have a technical error, do you want to hear about it? Or are you moving on to the next 27 books? This is true for everything from detective novels to technothrillers to historical romance.
“He ripped her bodice off.” Really? That’s a lousy-made bodice. I can tell you that I’ve run into all sorts of period underwear for women in my 20+ years of faires and re-enacting and all that, and there wasn’t a one I could rip off a woman. Putting them on the women usually was a long and tedious process. They build those things for keeps! That’s a technical error. If you’ve seen the garment in question, you’d know that it isn’t that easy. Victorian sex? The lady would have to lift her skirts unless she wanted to go through a 20 minute disrobing process.
Or wearing armor. Yesterday, I went on a 3 mile hike with my Roman re-enactment group. I used to wear plate (segmentata) and yesterday I wore a 6mm riveted chain shirt (hamata). There was a HUGE difference in comfort between the two. Chainmail on your bare skin? bzzzzt Boris Vallejo! NOT COMFORTABLE AT ALL. And the edges will chafe you and leave marks. And so on. I could tell you about the experience of wearing the plate armor (it does things to my shoulder blades that are not suitable for anyone except mature audiences. Edema, edema!). If you’re doing fantasy and you’ve never worn armor, best you talk to someone who does. SCA people know this stuff backward and forward, and will keep you from your faux pas.
I could go on, but I won’t. Tell me: Once you’ve written a book, do you care about the errors and nitpicky commas and grammar and stuff, or are you done done and moved on to the next thing? What if you’re being harassed by annoying readers like me?