I am the Sealord of Pendor, oaf, and I will have the gold my fathers won

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Idly thinking about names and fantasy, specifically modern fantasy, and how they are chosen. Each era – by nature of simply being human – imagines that it is the most progressive, the most evolved, and the SFF scene is no exception. I find myself wondering if that’s really the case, or if we simply move with a shifting set of tastes and call that progress?

There’s a bit of a fashion at the moment for verisimilitude in medieval combat – or boasting of it, at least – and standing almost as counterpoint, modernisation of language. The line is still firmly drawn at “okay”, thanks to the very well known and peculiar etymology of the word, but the percussive “fuck” is simply too useful for us to cast it off. There was a wonderful tweet about Orcs in the film version of LOTR saying “menu”, implying Orcs have restaurants, but generally speaking modern idiom is given a pass on the basis that Orcish idiom would be impenetrable to humans and thus we are given a suitable translation.

Names in modern fantasy are one of the things I find fascinating. Mostly because I suck at thinking up names, and therefore every time I crack open someone else’s book it’s an exercise in how did they do this? but also because I am really interested in how they shape the world and the characters.

Proper Nouns – these crop up a lot, and it’s easy to understand why: they are resonant and immediate, and because of this they are a powerful tool for worldbuilding. It’s almost impossible for a reader to not see a place like The Iron Market or Gallows Hill in their minds eye the moment they read it, and we can move on to the action. Similarly, there’s no point in calling the character who binds himself in magical links to keep his power in check Gary Smith: you call him Chains and are saved the effort of having to remind the reader of them every other sentence. A great recent example, Noon in The Ninth Rain is called Fell-Noon, the prefix a constant reminder of her destructive capacity and an intimation of evil that is set in the reader’s mind and flipped to great effect when she eats a tomato, something mundane that is transformed into a moment of vulnerability and humanity.   

Fantasy Names – still a staple of the genre (I recall bouncing *hard* off the word grolim in Eddings when I was a teen and going back to Tom Clancy for a few years), these form the opposite function to the Proper Noun. They are unlinked linguistically – the roots of words are unimportant, as long as the proto-languages that birthed them are close enough to one another – and they sound familiar without being recognisable. It’s likely you will know or have met a Ryan; Ryhalt, however, is a cipher. Free from all of your previous experience, the ideal fantasy gibberish name is both unique and memorable, turning the reader into a newly hatched duckling ready to imprint upon the character: heroic, but not so heroic as to be beyond the reader’s daydream reach; flawed, but not so broken as to make them a true villain.

We should’ve named one “Buck”.

Today, we drove down to Outgate Poultry and bought ourselves some chickens. It had to happen, really. We had already spent almost £400 on an Eglu, and God only knows how much else on bedding, feed, grit, diatomaceous earth and other chicken-keeping necessities and sundries that would have made not buying chickens a financial disaster.

The smallholding we bought them from was a little bit far away, but it was really worth making the trip down there because the guy running the place was very experienced and very helpful. We arrived nice and early, and he was able to give us lots of advice on settling the chickens in and looking after them – much of it both of us had read already, but it was nice to hear it confirmed and to get the chance to ask questions.

What I wasn’t aware of when we bought our three birds is that they are self-packing:

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The Blue on the right is called Kerrigan, Queen of Blades. The Black, below and on the left is Commander Shepard. The youngest bird, the Ranger at the top, is Alexstrasza the Life-Binder.

Yes, we are that sad.

When we got home we gave them a quick chance to run around a little (an hour in a cardboard box can’t be good for anyone’s nerves) and then picked them up (took one or two goes to get hold of Alexstrasza) and put them in the run. They need to stay in there for a few days at first so that they become habituated to living in the coop and run. Eventually they’ll get command of the whole garden but this first bit of captivity is essential, apparently.

I might let them out for a little bit later on, though.

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Kerrigan and Alexstrasza check out their new house. I went out to check on them a few minutes ago and discovered Shepard squatting obstinately in the nesting box, Kerrigan trying to take all of the bedding out one piece at a time and Alexstrasza trying to devour the same leaf she had been picking at three-quarters of an hour earlier.

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Shepard staring intently at a piece of completely featureless land trying to find something of worth. Kind of like the mining in Mass Effect 2, really.