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Sci-Fi Baby Names by Robert Schnakenberg

01/10/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

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pub: Quirk Books. 160 page indexed narrow book. Price: $12.95 (US), GBP 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-59474-161-6.

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The sub-title of this book is ‘500 Out-Of-This-World Baby Names From Anakin To Zardos’ which explains what this book is about. Will this book help you if you’re looking for an unusual name to call your spogs from Science Fiction? If anything, compiler Robert Schnakenberg has made too much emphasis on terrestrial ordinary names than alien names rather than suggesting you might called your son Nog, which isn’t actually in the book but Quark and Neelix are.

Although I’m not an advocate of giving some child a name that will guarantee them being bullied at school, these days there are enough odd names so choose something that will be unusual and not a target. Interestingly, the selection for girl-names is a lot more interesting than boy-names. It’s a shame that although the source is given, a writer’s credit could reveal who came up with it if for no other reason than see who comes up with the best names. Schnakenberg does give some info about each name used but this might be of more use to the novice than the more experienced amongst us

Although the book is split into sections, it is possible to check out the index for names you want to see if they are in there. It isn’t as though there aren’t some unusual names but ones you’d expect like Chiana from ‘Farscape’ is absent yet ‘Aeryn’ is so don’t expect this book to be complete. Indeed, if you are fans of a particular show then chances are you’ve already got a name in mind anyway.

There are very few names from written fiction other than from well-known works from the likes of Frank Herbert and Robert Heinlein although there is a scattering of comicbook character names. The more I read this book with its selection from ‘B’ movies and such, the more I got the impression that Schnakenberg went for the material he’d either read or watched himself than a scout around for names that would be out of this world if you selected them. This might explain the big gaps that should have been there and could have made this a really useful definitive collection, not just for baby names but ensuring writers can check that they haven’t copied any significant name out there. References are made to other characters with the same name but why reference Alfred Bester from ‘Babylon 5’ who was only addressed by his first name once in five seasons and not Alfred Pennyworth from ‘Batman’?

Looking for mistakes is occupational hazard in reviewing. Schnakenberg sites ‘Holden’ from ‘Blade Runner’ as a choice. Apart from the fact that it was likely to be a surname and in the wrong section when there is one for single names, he wasn’t actually killed in the film but seriously wounded. When ‘Blake’s 7’, Kerr Avon is used, Grahame-Smith doesn’t appear to know what his surname is let alone knowing his forename was rarely used in the TV series. Naming someone after him has too many connotations with the word ‘cur’ and that would make your off-spring a real dog. Don’t know where he got his info from but all the DC Brainiacs from from Colu not Bryak wherever that is.

Schnakenberg doesn’t notice that the two aliens, Kang and Kodos, used in ‘The Simpsons are actually Klingon names. When you consider the number of ‘Star Trek’ names he cites, he should have spotted that. Then again, he also fails to spot that Emperor Palpatine was also in the original trio of ‘Star War’ movies and not just the current three.

I ought to say something about the odd font used for identifying the names, mostly because although the book is no doubt designed to be browsed rather than read straight through as I’m doing, ‘A’ and ‘R’ and ‘D’ and ‘O’ look so similar you’d think one of Superman’s foes was called ‘Zoo’. Now there’s a menagerie if ever I’ve heard of one. Let’s not even look at ‘Yoda’ as ‘Yooa’. Maybe it would have been better had the font not been used in uppers throughout.

I think Schnakenberg was pushing it a bit with names that are single word, mostly cos a lot of them weren’t and certainly you’re not going to call your sprog ‘Morbius’. Robbie The Robot was unavailable to comment.

Considering the amount of detail addressed to name sources, it’s a shame that the name of the actor or actresses that brought the role out is neglected, especially when so many ‘B’ movies are cited. I should point out that this isn’t so much nit-picking just a wish list of how good this book could have been as a reference source than merely a curio to buy as a gift.

I’m sure a lot of people are going to buy this and start listing the names that were missed as something to do in their leisure time. Off the top of my head, there’s Mennolly and Robinton from Anne McCaffrey’s ‘Dragonrider’ books, Jommy Cross from Van Vogt’s ‘Slan’ which for the record is a compression of John Michael. None of which would be embarrassing to call your sprogs.

The fact that I have so much to say about this book doesn’t mean it doesn’t have any good points. It shows how much I read it. If anything, I’m surprised a book like this wasn’t out years ago. Science Fiction as a literature and in visual media has a wealth of unusual names without even referring to the normal terrestrial names that also litter it. Let’s regard this one as the start and you would need to look at it before making your own lists.

GF Willmetts

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