An artist I once knew told me how she loved it whenever she saw a mistake in a painting or drawing. The smudged charcoal or the not quite perfectly blended stroke of acrylic, she explained, was the fingerprint of the artist. It let you know someone real had created it.

I’d loved the idea of "artist’s fingerprints" ever since, whether they’re goofs in movies or prose. An example: Watson tells us in the first Sherlock Holmes story of how he took a Jezail bullet in the shoulder, but in a later novel he says it’s his leg. How cool is that little bit of incongruity, especially in the canon of the most precise character to ever grace fiction?

Easy to forgive and even celebrate artistic fingerprints of others, though. A little harder for oneself, it turns out.

In my introductory story here at Liberty Island, "The Wreck of the Hu Jintao", our protagonist tells us, "It takes oxygen to fire a bullet. On either wrist I had sealed-system gun barrels, each capable of firing a single round." An acquaintance of mine helpfully emailed me yesterday, "Loved your story, but you can fire a gun in outer space because gunpowder contains its own oxidizer. Sorry."

After confirming this with a two second Google search, a question presented itself: email the LI editors about a correction or let the mistake stand? It’d be easy to fix. All it would take is striking the sentence about needing oxygen to fire a bullet. Most readers won’t know the difference, but if it stays it’ll cost me credibility with those that do. I can’t think of any reason in the world to leave it in.

Except that it’s a fingerprint.

I may yet change it. I probably should. But for the time being, it’ll stay.

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