Nik Vincent on naming the Aux
4 years ago
Dan had set quite a precedent when he named the Aux he wrote about in Kingdom. I loved Gene the Hackman.
He had a cast, but, in comics, casts are often small, and Gene was soon alone.
Writing a novel is an entirely different prospect, and with not only one Aux tribe, but several and with an ensemble cast, and with no pictures, so many more characters have to be named. It was a much taller order to come up with a convincing cast list.
Needless to say that cast list was my job.
Naming characters can be a lot of fun, and names are important for lots of reasons. I’ve named characters before, my own in my independent fiction and I’ve named characters in tie-in fiction, too.
Fiefdom is set in a different time and on another continent, so while it was fine for me to name some of the characters after movie stars, I wanted to bring in other cultural reference, and, because Fiefdom is set in Europe I thought it might be nice to look at Art and Literature. It didn’t hurt that those are two areas in which I also have a pretty keen interest.
Of course, the names also had to have some significance of their own, and they all had to show some qualities related to the Aux as a race. Gene the Hackman was, quite literally, a Hack Man, after all.
Oberon and Evelyn War, father and daughter were named after Evelyn and Auberon Waugh, the writers, father and son. War was an obvious choice, the spelling of Oberon was changed to reflect the King of the Fairies and, of course, we wanted a key female character. For what it’s worth, Evelyn also means ‘life’.
On the one hand, naming the leader of the Aux after the poet Ezra Pound was a simple choice, because the name conjures both the act of pounding the enemy to death and a dog pound. On the other hand it was a complex choice because the poet was a controversial literary figure. For those who are interested, a look at the poet’s biography explains it, for the rest the simple knowledge that Pound wrote a poem entitled In a Station of the Metro is probably enough.
All of the Aux characters in the novel were named in this way, for artists, writers, characters in novels, films, tv shows and so on. They all bear some reference. Some will seem obscure.
Some readers will not have heard of Frank Brangwyn, (BrangWIN, because who wants to lose?) who produced over 80 WWI poster designs, despite never being an official war artist. Austin Spar (SPAR as in practice fighting) was named after Austin Osman Spare, another favourite artist, who was employed as a war artist during WWI and who remained in London throughout WWII after trying to enlist, but being deemed too old. His home was bombed and all his work destroyed as a result, but he continued, regardless, and by the end of the war he was living in a cellar with two chairs for a bed and a number of stray cats.
Of course, names have been altered to fit the purpose, so that brothers Peter and William Blade derive from Peter Blake and William Blake, for example, Damien Hurts from Damien Hirst and Dorothy Barker from Dorothy Parker.
Naming the female characters was tougher than the males. We all look forward to a time when women are the equals of men in the arts, or at least when they are equally represented. It was never clearer that this has never been the case than when I was looking up eighteenth and nineteenth century artists and writers. Some men’s names sounded sufficiently feminine to be borrowed for female characters, hence Singer Sergeant after John Singer Sargent and Somerset Mourn after Somerset Maugham. But I wish there had been more great women to draw upon.
I did enjoy using Becky Sharp. Long may she reign!