Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Pairing it Down: Farscape...What's in a name?

    By Kiel Howell
     Welcome back from Super Bowl madness, dear readers! If you watched it...I hope your team won. If you didn't, I hope no one berated you for not watching it (I did not watch). This week's focus here at the Flying Pincushion is Farscape. If you haven't checked out this wonderful show then you should really do yourself a favor and queue it up on Netflix...it's even on Instant Watch!

     I've decided pretty quickly that my topic is something near and dear to my heart: naming. Naming is an art and a science at the same time. A name can conjure up images of a rough and ready tumbler or a thin and wispy know-it-all. You can (usually) determine gender, ethnicity, or even if a character is human by the name. Weapons that have names generally indicate it is legendary or powerful. What's in a name but the first thing a reader sees. It sets the stage for everything to follow. Even as far up the ladder as the name of game, book, movie, or whatever it is you are looking at.

     So what makes Farscape bring up this topic? First, the name of the show. Far and scape mashed together. What do those words mean?  I think we all know what far means. Scape is the far more interesting part of the name. Scape has multiple definitions ranging from zoological, modern, botanical, biological, or archaic. The different types of meanings are interesting in and of themselves but we'll focus on the modern usage, that being "a scene or view". Quite literally, Farscape would be a far scene or a far view. This right here is a great choice of words for a name for this show. An earth astronaut who gets sucked through a wormhole to the far reaches of space. New locales, peoples, and technologies. And we, as the audience, are viewing this from the comfort of our living rooms (or beds or wherever you happen to watch). The various names in the show like Moya, Scorpius, and the Peacekeepers all have great meanings and portents of what they are.

     Let's come up with the name for something then shall we? This may sound like a bit of a no brainer but we need to decide what to name first. When we have something to name that can often give us the first step in naming it. I'd like to name something big...something like a story or campaign or even game system. Alright then, we're starting at the top of the pyramid.

     Which brings up another interesting point when it comes to design. There's 2 main approaches to designing something, whether it is a character, a city, a world, or an entire campaign or story.  There's the top down approach in which you come up with the generalities like name of a country and work down from there until you've built regions, cities, shops, people, and items. Then there's the reverse of that, the bottom up. You start specific—maybe a person—and work out from there until you've built a shop, city, region, or world.

     I personally prefer the top down method as once I have the overall established my mind spins stories off from there. Whichever method works for you is OK, as long as it works for you then it is the right way. Right then, so I want to figure out a name for a campaign system. Something that sparks imagination, is broad enough to have countless stories spun inside of it, yet specific enough to give a good idea of what it's about at first glance. I know I need to dial in my first instinct to be clever. There are countless clever people in the world but not everyone is clever in the same ways. I probably won't base this around ancient greek or some obscure language. I want some steampunk involved (because airships that's why) but I still want it to be fantasy. Magic and science side by side. Magitek would be great but that was already used in Final Fantasy VI (U.S. III) as the powers for the walking armor suits. It's got to roll off the tongue too so simply mashing words together doesn't always work like Magivention (magic and invention). You know, maybe I can steal from Magitek. Spelltech. Oooo, I kind of like that. It's got enough in the name to give me an idea of what it's about.

     Spelltech. I already can think of 10 different stories to tell involving spells, technology, and people. There's probably a dictatorship that's kidnapping the top of both scientific research and magic. There's probably a city that's devoted to one and a diametrically opposed forest state. Cyborgs. Airships. I could go on.

     I won't though, I leave it to you the reader to leave ideas in the comments for Spelltech or your own name for something. Until next time in which we explore Homer's The Odyssey.

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