That’s not my name (name name name)
17 March 2010
Reading the first half of a good fantasy novel is like the first day of fieldwork somewhere you’ve never been. (Hopefully, somewhere further, stranger and a lot more dangerous than anywhere you’re actually likely to be.) What are the social strata? How many genders are there? Just how ethnically complex is this place going to be?
I like it when names help me figure that sort of thing out. If I can’t have that, though, I’ll settle for this:
Please don’t be accidentally named after the opposite of you.
The one that prompted me to comment on Mark’s blog was a swashbuckling knight from Tom Lloyd’s Twilight Reign series called Count Vesna. If he led any more cavalry charges or broke any more female hearts, he could probably have got into The Princess Bride. He probably wears a lot of leather, and a ponytail.
Vesna is also a South Slavic woman’s name. There are several celebrity Vesnas, plus a famous academic and memoirist in this country. Count Vesna is undoubtedly intriguing. But not quite as intriguing as I’m preconditioned to think he is.
It happens with place names, too. I’m used to Istria as a region of Croatia that’s the national equivalent of Quebec crossed with Brighton Kemptown (comfortable with its multilingual past and so socially liberal that it practically has its own colour on electoral maps), and Styria as an unobtrusive region of the Austrian and Slovenian Alps. Istria the repressive desert empire where women cover their faces (thanks, Jude Fisher), and Styria the internecine coalition of Italianate city-states (as per Joe Abercrombie’s latest), are never quite going to work.
An important lord in one of this year’s (over?)hyped fantasy debuts has picked up the same surname as the footballer who cursed Zinedine Zidane’s mother in the last World Cup. I probably won’t read it, after the reviews, but that might be more spot on.
I can understand not knowing about Vesna, Istria and Styria, especially pre-Google (which Istria might have been). The football one, even more so. But Jolene? As the name for one of x hundred gown-wearing, magic-using, high-politicking women in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series? It’s never been filmed, but if or when it is, every time this character comes on screen there are going to be fans bawling ‘I’m beggin’ you please don’t take my man’…