Origins of Titles…

One of the author’s I follow, Jay Kristoff, has a new book out later this year – a collaborative project, with an interesting title. (His previous trilogy – The Lotus War – just finished. I talked a little about the first book, here. Short version: Japanese Steampunk! I enjoyed it enough that I put in a plug, suggesting it for one of the “Current SF/Fantasy” reading classes for the MFA program.)

He recently talked about the new project, Illuminae, and the origin of it’s title here. It involves music. Tool, to be precise.


So. Early on in the piece, I was tossing around the word “Illumine”

verb (used with object), verb (used without object), illumined, illumining.
1. to illuminate.

because it’s the name of a song by one of my favorite bands, and the book is about shining light on the awful truth about what went on aboard this refugee spaceship fleet, what with the conspiracies and plagues and insane artificial intelligences and aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAA. But as a title it was a little meh.

So then I go to a Tool concert.

Tool are one of my favorite bands. They’re as close to religion as I get. So they’re up there playing a song called Lateralus, which (I suspect) is a song about opening yourself up to random possibilities and contemplation of the constant expansion of the universe and along with it, our consciousness as a species (they’re punching a little above the weight of your average top 40 song, is what I’m saying). Anyway, they’re playing Lateralus and there’s this amazing, mind-bending light show…

(Follow the “origin” link for the full story.)

I can relate. I am with Rush as he is with Tool. It’s not unusual for writers to use code names (aka – “Working Titles”)… I think it’s playing off of a psychology thing, where we can call be (slightly) emotionally detached to something, knowing it will be changed later. I have at least three projects (at the moment) that started with working titles culled from titles of Rush songs (one of which, with how the project has since developed, I know for sure will have to be renamed).

Are you a writer? What do you do for titles? Leave something “untiled” until the muse strikes, cull from pop culture, or slap some unsexy buzz word as a place holder? [Buzz word example: my MFA Thesis went by “Contact Center” for most of the early draft, because the main character works in… a call center. Or, I’ve read of authors under contract calling WIPs “summer vacation” or similar.]

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