Thursday, February 16, 2012

Stealing Names is A-OK

Today's post is a quick one, but I want to take a moment to talk to you about names in your world design. What I want to tell you is that it is ok to steal names from works of fiction along with works of myth. After all, a lot of the fiction we have now is basically modern mythology. Now, by this I don't mean you should have an NPC named "Luke Skywalker" in your D&D game, but something called 'the force' is totally appropriate. Let's take a look at why.

Scientists Are Geeks
The biggest reason it is ok, especially for comics and sci-fi settings, is because scientists are geeks. If we ever did discover faster than light travel there is a real good chance that the guy who made it is going to be a Trekkie and thus name it a "Warp Drive." If it turns out to FTL travel is attained by entering some other type of space, it'll probably be "Hyperspace" unless a Halo fan finds it, then it'll be "slip space."

Why is this? Well, for one that is the name that the people already have in mind for it. We think of FTL in terms of "warp speed" or "entering hyperspace" because those terms are in our common usage vocabulary. When we reach for a name for these things, those terms are going to come up because...hey, that's what we've always used.

Don't believe me? Did you know that the access/login portal in a lot of places is called a Kerberos portal? As in the 3 headed dog that guarded Hades in greek myth. Several other aspects of your every day computer network use go through systems named after Cthulu mythos as well. The airforce has a "sky war net." Drop the 'war' and you get 'skynet." Sound familiar doesn't it?

If You Want To Do It, Someone Else Probably Does Too
The other reason this is ok is because, odds are, if you think this is a fitting name for something then someone else does to. It is perfectly reasonable in this day and age for a "super human" program to be called "project krypton" or "project x." Why? because they get the point across.

Plausible Deniability
The last fun thin with using comic/game/mythological names for projects, especially the clandestine ones, is that it gives deniability. Who is going to believe someone that the government is abducting hobos to inject them with a serum to make super humans? Sounds like comic stuff. What is it called? "Project Krypton"? Ok, sure, read another comic there, kid.

The reason we want to avoid using these names at times (sounds silly, plagiarism, etc) are exact reasons why they can work as a secret. Don't be afraid to try it.

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