I have a very special guest today – the lovely and talented Angel Martinez. We’ve been friends for a little while and so happy to finally have her on my blog. Take a look at a HOT one she has…
Romeo opines (while pining) that names shouldn’t matter. Changing the name of a rose, he insists in far more poetic language than we’ll use here, will not change the properties of the rose.
Fair enough. So why do we take such great and often agonized pains over picking names in fiction?
My friend Sara asked recently how I choose names of characters and planets for Science Fiction pieces. The how is certainly important, but I think it’s backed by a why. Names in fiction, especially genre fiction like SF and Fantasy, give the readers immediate clues regarding the nature and origin of things. Often, this is done in a purposeful, even tongue in cheek way—exaggeration so no one could possibly mistake the sort of thing involved. Who could ever mistake the name Malificent for someone benign? Who could believe that the planet Pandora, even before we reached it, was a safe place for humans?
Most language cues in SF are slightly more subtle. Lois Bujold named her all-male planet Athos after the mountain and peninsula in Greece (somewhat isolated, independent, and home to an ancient monastery.) Immediately, the cultural cues are there, whether we consciously recognize them or not. Orson Card nicknamed his hero Ender to create a pun on the phrase “endgame.” (While the name means “one in a million” in Turkish, Card didn’t know that at the time.) Ender, the name, also gives the reader feelings of foreboding as we anticipate endings before we’ve even begun.
My naming decisions are often an odd recipe of the personal, the cultural clue, and the type indicator. Isaac Ozawa, from Gravitational Attraction, sprung from the Eurasian heritage of the Altairian Empire, has a name that immediately gives the present-day reader ancestral clues. He’s also named in honor of my son, Ian, who really likes the name Isaac and has, on more than one occasion, dubbed it “the world’s coolest name.”
The names in Vassily the Beautiful follow the cultural heritage of the original Russian fairytale, Vassilisa the Beautiful, on which the story is based. The horrid, amoral stepfather has the name Boris, since that still has echoes in the American mind of not-so-ethical characters. Baba Yaga’s sons have as names the Russian words for the times of day they represent in the original tale: Rassvet for dawn, Poldien for noon, and Sumerki for evening.
For Sub Zero, I wanted to delve into a language and people who understand cold, so I turned to Tibetan and a single Hindu place name. Dras, the town in Kargil, is one of the coldest inhabited places on Earth, hence Drass became the name for my ice planet. The Tibetan language provided the perfect sound and feel for dangpo names and words. A language full of soft consonants, the words feel right for a people unfamiliar with the concept of war.
Names may not change the substance of the thing, but they can certainly change the perception, and in fiction, perception is sometimes all we have.
Coming this Sunday, August 19!
M/M Science Fiction Mystery
A Forbidden Liaisons Story from Amber Allure
Always send the right man for the job – even if he’s been dead for a hundred years.
Major Aren Dalsgaard’s newest assignment is to investigate a series of murders on the frigid planet, Drass, where relations between the Treaty settlers and the natives have taken a nasty turn. A linguist and trained xenologist, Aren should be the ideal Special Investigations officer for the assignment. So what’s the problem? Drass is where he died, more than a hundred and twenty years ago.
Sent by his family to the chigyel city, Nyachung finds himself confronted with a murder charge, racial prejudice, and a cryo-revived investigator who claims to be a hero from his grandmother’s generation. Major Dalsgaard could be crazy or he could be lying, but the sincerity in his spring-green eyes disturbs Nyachung more than anything else he encounters in the foreigners’ city.
Now, confronted with mysterious black boxes and a beautiful yet evasive young man as a prime suspect, Aren hopes he can solve the murders before his fierce sexual attraction to Nyachung gets the better of him…
Thuds and muffled screams came from the lab up ahead, only serving to underscore the sergeant’s anxiety. Aren bulled through the door and skidded to a stop, speechless in shock. Nyachung lay on his back on the gurney, stripped to the waist, arms stretched out to either side and strapped down to extensions. The staff had shoved something soft between his teeth, either to keep him from breaking them or to keep him from screaming too loud, and they had electro-pulse leads attached to his forearms, directly over the venom sacs and spur pads. The shocks from the hookup came in pairs, the first forcibly extending his arm spurs and the second zapping the sac in an attempt to force the venom out.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Aren bellowed.
The tech stared at him, nonplussed. “Getting your venom sample, sir.”
“By torturing him?”
“It’s standard operating procedure, sir.”
“Since when is physical abuse standard procedure in any branch of the service?”
Sergeant Wickstrom gave him a little nudge. “Sir, use of force in the obtaining of information or cooperation is up to the discretion of the facility commander. It’s in the manuals.”
“In the—you must be joking.”
“Afraid not, sir.”
Aren rubbed both hands over his face. “God. Barbaric century.” Then he stalked over to the tech. “Unhook him, please. Not only is this inefficient, it’s inhumane. Do you have any idea, Corporal, how sensitive those venom sacs are?”
The hapless corporal gulped a breath. “I…don’t know, sir.”
“Imagine hooking one of those damn things up to your testicles and then shoving another up your urethra. That should give you some idea.”
The poor tech had turned green. Aren patted his shoulder, not wanting the boy to pass out. “Just turn it off. Unhook him. There’s a better way to do this. Several, actually. You could have just asked him for a sample, but now that he’s a shuddering mess, he’ll need some help.”
While the tech unhooked the leads, Aren went around the gurney undoing straps.
“Sir, you know he’s a murder suspect, right?”
“Oh, yes. Terribly dangerous, I’m sure. Maybe you should stand back. Safety first.” Aren perched hipshot on the edge of the gurney and gathered Nyachung into his arms as he switched to dangpo. “Are you with me, little one?”
“Why are they doing this?” Nyachung tangled both fists in the front of Aren’s jacket, shaking uncontrollably.
“Sh, sh, they want some of your venom. To compare it to the venom in the woman you found. If it’s not your venom, then you didn’t kill her.”
A hoarse sound, more sob than laugh came from the little tale-singer. “They could have said so.”
“Yes, they should have.” Aren held up a collection tube. “Can you do it on your own?”
Nyachung held out one shaking arm, well away from Aren. He curled his fingers, forearm muscles contracting. “I can’t,” he gasped out.
Gently, Aren placed his hand under Nyachung’s elbow. “Will you let me help you? I know we’re strangers and this is in front of others, but it would be better than their way.”
Black eyes gazed up at him, wet with unshed tears of pain. “All right. Do you… Have you done this?”
“I have.” Aren massaged his thumb over the tense forearm muscles a moment. Then he reached around, encircling Nyachung with his arms, partially hiding him from prying eyes. He pressed gently on the pad with his thumb, pushing the arm spur out as one would a cat’s claw. Keeping the pressure constant and the collection tube held over the spur in two fingers, he turned his attention to the venom sac. Besides the obvious places, this was the most sensitive spot on a dangpo male’s body.
He caressed the tender, abused skin, barely holding back the urge to curl forward and kiss the spot where the electro-pulse had been. Nyachung made a sweet, whimpering sound that shot straight to his balls and Aren hoped he was holding the stone-faced expression he was trying for. He began to massage the sac, his thumb describing slow, gentle circles. Nyachung twitched in his arms.
“Easy, little one, easy. As soon as you’re able.”
With a soft cry, Nyachung hid his face against Aren’s chest, his body shuddering with pain as he released his venom. His poor sacs would most likely be tender for days but he had managed enough to fill the tube…
Thank you so much for being here!