A Name, By Any Other, Rose

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Title: A Name, By Any Other, Rose
Creator: Susan M. Garrett
Date(s): 1993
Medium: print
Topic: the pitfalls and traditions of naming characters in fanfiction
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A Name, By Any Other, Rose is an essay by Susan M. Garrett in Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? #4.

In it, Garrett writes of the considerations and pitfalls of naming characters in fanfiction.


It all happened quite innocently. I had given a character a name... Calandra.

It was perfect It bespoke elegance, breeding, money, authority, power, and had just that edge of a classical education that ran through Southern education up unal 1960 (check out bow many Horaces there are in South Carolinian history-you'll be amazed!). My search was over.

Or so I thought. During a telephone call in which we were discussing a recent edit Ann said (if I may paraphrase), "You do realize you'll have to change her name?"

I was floored. Had I erred in my search? "You don't think it's appropriate?" I asked, with a certain amount of trepidation.

"Oh, it's appropriate. And if this were a professional story, it would be perfect. But not in fandom. People will think it's a Mary Sue. Most character names like that in fandom are a dead give away.'

"My God! You're right!" I responded, with an appropriate note of horror. And so, to prevent the slightest hint of that calumny from even whispering through the brain cells of my readers, I changed the name.

Claire. It's a good name. A solid name. But it's not Calandra.

And I folded like a bouse of cards because mere are subcurrents and implications in fan fiction that don't exist in the professional marketplace...
...in fan fiction, we have our own particular problems... I couldn't use the name I wanted because it might just throw the reader off track from my intended characterization and plot The same goes for any poor neo fan writer who decides to name the female protagonist of their dramatic and heart-rending novel Mary Sue. Let's face it, fan fiction has developed its own set of contextual baggage. We don't have to like it, but it's still there. Not that there's always a problem, especially if you follow the lead of the mythos in which you're writing- Trek, for example, established a precedent for naming Vulcans with short "s," non-Anglo names (Spock, Surak, Sarek, etc.), or that lovely T-apostrophe business (T'Pring, T'Pau, etc.). Fandom has followed the lead of the show, with occasionally unfortunate results—reading some Trek fiction is like trying to read The Brothers Karamosov, the reader is forced to replace names with T'This, T'That, and T'Other just to keep the characters straight!
This isn't to say that fan writers don't have their work cut out for them. Science fiction is a genre where "it" is often more applicable than "he" or "she." And the problem doesn't stop with alien races. What's to be done about all those lovely fantasy realms where elves, unicorns, dragons, and dwarves have day-to-day lives? - I don't suppose we even want to think about the supernatural, where vampires have grand and impressive flowery names. Is there a rule somewhere that a guy named Sid or Irving can't become a vampire?

I suppose the only answer regarding names is to try to take a lead from the original source, review all possible contexts (we don't want a leading man named Charles Manson, do we?). and try to avoid all silly factors... unless, of course, you're going for parody and farce. Me, well, I'm stuck with "Claire"...

But she'll always be Calandra to me.