Is it okay to make up a story about a real tragedy?

Is it okay to make up a story about a real tragedy?
This is the staircase where 173 people died.
Is it okay to write fiction about it?

Jessica Francis Kane wrote a fictional novel about a tragedy in the Bethnal Green Tube station in the UK on March 3 1943. In this disaster, 173 people were crushed to death in World War 2 inside an underground subway station that was being used as an air raid shelter. There was no air raid at the time – it was caused by panic, rumor, lack of safety features, and one person stumbling.

There are still people alive who survived it. What obligation does Ms. Kane have towards them? Is there a profound difference between nonfiction and historical fiction? Can something "fake" tell the truth better than something "real"?

Ms. Kane was in England promoting her book and said:

"…interviewers asked if I’d considered writing the story as nonfiction. I was asked if I’d interviewed survivors. It was suggested several times that it was a daring move to take a true event and mix it up with fiction. Oddly, I found myself in the position of defending the very premise of historical fiction, which turns out to be one thing when you’re talking to writers, editors and other literary folk (when the "fiction" is always stressed), and quite another when you’re facing a survivor. Suddenly, the "historical" is all-important. I met a woman, Sandra Scotting, who is the secretary of the Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust, an organization trying to raise money for a permanent memorial at the site. In 1943, Sandra’s mother held her baby nephew in the crush at Bethnal Green and didn’t know until the next day that he’d died in her arms. Sandra’s not particularly interested in the fictional parts of my novel, and who would blame her?"

Read the rest of her article: Caught Telling Fiction, The Morning News>>

– The hush-hush catastrophe. It was the worst civilian disaster of the second world war: the night 173 people died seeking shelter at Bethnal Green tube station during an air raid. It was followed by cover-up and rumour. Why? Jessica Lack asks the witnesses, The Guardian>>

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