Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What's In A Name?

I'm a fan of SF pulp and campy stories, truly I am. I've seen BARBARELLA. I used to watch HE-MAN regularly. I've read my share of pulpy stories in both books and comics. Too many to list, actually. Pulp can often mean "tropes I like" so I'm always game to explore such stories.

I own this DVD set!
Having established my relationship with pulp, my interest in them doesn't mean I don't question certain elements. Lately I've been wondering about sci-fi romance stories that use a "Flash Gordon" approach to naming things. Specifically, aliens and places. Like so:

For many years, the three companions have adventures on Mongo, traveling to the forest kingdom of Arboria, ruled by Prince Barin; the ice kingdom of Frigia, ruled by Queen Fria; the jungle kingdom of Tropica, ruled by Queen Desira; the undersea kingdom of the Shark Men, ruled by King Kala; and the flying city of the Hawkmen, ruled by Prince Vultan.
image source: Flash Gordon Wiki

I haven't encountered naming conventions quite so blatant as the above in SFR, but I do encounter ones that are close. To qualify, I expect those types of names in comedic SFRs or parodies, but I question their appearance in other stories, especially if there's nothing to indicate I'm supposed to interpret the names as humorous or tongue-in-cheek.

Because of their simplistic nature, Flash Gordon style names can be a real disconnect in non-comedic stories that have steamy or erotic sexual content and/or tackle adult themes. Therefore, the crux of the matter for me is this: why are adult readers expected to be able to handle mature sexual content, but not more complex science fictional names?

I can understand why it'd be difficult to shake the Flash Gordon approach since it's been so prevalent in SF. And such names can be a lot of fun.

I'm also all for sci-fi romances with accessible names for alien characters and places. However, I'm concerned some names go too much in the other direction. Surely there's a happy medium? Or maybe such names are code for something, like a particular type of story, and I'm just in the dark about it.

Have you come across the pulpy naming approach in your SFR reading? If so, what do you think about it?

Joyfully yours,