Name That Character!

It is with some delight (and geek-laden glee) when I tell people how I come by the names of certain characters in my stories. You may or may not know that Zakary Corbin, the young lad in my upcoming release, ZAK CORBIN: MASTER OF MACHINES, is named after my son.  (Nowadays he prefers Zachary, but he still goes by Zak as the short version.)

Old Steam Robot

So on to another seldom known fact that I bring up as part of my writing process. I choose the names of my characters a very specific way. No, not the way George Lucas names them in Star Wars (you can find your Star Wars name here.)  I choose names either because they convey an action (“Dexter” sounds, well, “smart”), alliteration (first and last names that start with the same letter, like “Lex Luthor” and “Lois Lane”, not that I had any bearing in creating those names!) or because they sound familiar.

When I was first wrote a story about a robot-designing scientist, I wanted a name with some connection to past science fiction archetypes. I wrote down a short list: Doctor Cyclops, Doctor Xavier, Doctor Shrinker, Doctor Doom, and so on. Nothing seemed to click.

Then I remembered a movie called Colossus: The Forbin Project. (Wave to the screen if you remember.) This was about a computer scientist named Forbin who creates a very very aware supercomputer named Colossus (which also was the name of several first computers created by the British to help decipher the ENIGMA code in the Second World War.)  Colossus is too smart for his (its?) own good, decides we puny humans can’t make sound decisions, and takes over the world’s networks. It even blackmails us by taking over our country’s ballistic missile system (a.l.a. War Games.)  The movie was thrilling for its time, although it was centered on characters reading computer printouts.

So I plucked the name of the scientist, “Forbin”, switched the “F” for a “C” and voila! Doctor Corbin was born.

And the name of the robot that figures prominently in ZAK CORBIN? His name is Pogo, but he’s a Guardian type Corbin robot. “Guardian” happens to be the name of the Soviet supercomputer that is Colossus’ counterpart in the same movie.

See how serendipity works?


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