Tuesday, March 1, 2011
What's in a name?
One of my pet peeves is the stupid names that authors choose when they are writing junky pulp sci-fi. Junky pulp sci-fi being what it is, you may not think that there's much of an improvement to be made simply by having better names. But the problem is that authors seem to compensate for their lack of originality and vision by loading as many weird consonants and punctuation into their characters' names as they can in order to make them seem exotic. Which is fine, but when you're incapable of reading without moving your lips, like me, it's really tiring to have stories full of names like "Krikk'k'thlan'aaknth" and "Xoxothogg".
The opposite end of the spectrum is equally bad. It's deflating to read of the adventures on alien worlds of Space Captain Trevor and his intrepid sidekick Brett. A little novelty is necessary, just not too much.
So here, for your edification, I present a foolproof method for coming up with names for junky pulp sci-fi characters, using only a list of medical abbreviations and your native wits!
First, to answer your obvious question, where can you find a list of medical abbreviations? It's simple - just enroll in a medical degree and keep a list in a notebook of all the abbreviations that people use from day to day. But if you're too busy, here's a sample list that I'll use for examples in this blob:
MRSA, VRE, LNMP, MCHC, NKDA, all drawn from this site that happened to be thrown up by google in response to my query and that I take no responsibility for in accordance with my Iron-Clad Disclaimer(tm).
See how there are some funny letters in there for flavour? But not so many as to induce reader fatigue?
Now all you have to do is choose your favourite vowel (you do have a favourite vowel don't you?) and put enough copies of that vowel into the abbreviation as to make it pronounceable word. You should try to use the same vowel all the time, as that will substitute for some kind of "cultural feel", unifying all these weird names.
My current favourite vowel is O, so now our sample list of names is:
Morsa, Vore, Olnomp, Mochoc, Nokda.
Clearly this method, while foolproof, is not infallible. Mochoc is not such a great name, but you could amend it to Chomoc.
Using other vowels gives a different flavour, and you could, for example, use O for the people of Terra, slaving under the alien yoke of the other people whose names have I's in them:
Mirsa, Vire, Linimp, Imchic, Inkida.
So all you junky pulp sci-fi authors out there - sin no more! Go forth and use PTR's Ingenious Exotic Name Generator To Be Used For The Generation Of Exotic Names freely and without restraint.