Crafting Names For Fictional Peoples By Geography & Ethnos

In fiction writing, it is quite difficult to come up with a name for a group of people, whether they be a tribe, kingdom, nation or empire. Yet, even if you come up with a good name, the meaning of the name bares some consideration for culture-building within your fictional world (ie. when the named polity reflects back on their founding, will you as the author be able to have them describe why they are called what they are?).

For example, if you come up, in a think-tank secession, with the name ‘Daedalion’ for a fictional kingdom, you may well find that it ‘sounds good’ or ‘rolls off the tongue’ but what does it mean, why are these people called Daedalions? Or are the people called something else and it is only the Kingdom which is called Daedalion? All these things must be accounted for (if inter-world culture building is to be the goal – if not, then not, as might be the case in short story concerned principally with conveying a message through parable or analogy).

In my own writing I have discovered two techniques which make the name process quite easy: geography and ethnos. By geography, I mean I consider where the people live, so, for example, in my current novel-in-progress (Tomb of the Father) there is a group of tribal desert wanderers who factor importantly into the plot, yet, I came to trouble coming up with their name, until, that is, I recalled that loesses (calcareous silt or clay deposits) are partial to certain mountain desert regions and hence came to call them ‘Loessians’ – the loess, of course, denoting that they came from a region where silty, clay deposits were common.

A further example: the main bulk of the story in Tomb of the Father revolves around a fictional group that lives in moorlands filled with ancient tors or kopjes (large, free-standing stone outcroppings) and hence, I named them ‘Torians.’ The suffix, however, need not always be -ian(s), as I could just as easily have named them Torites, Torels, etc, or more simply, The Tors (Torian simply best rolled off the tongue).

With the geographical tactic out of the way, let us turn our attention to ethnos (which means ‘people of the same race or regionality who share a distinctive, coherent culture’). For this naming method I do not look to regional terrain and instead focus upon the character of the polity/ethnic group itself.

For example: a seafaring peoples in my novel exhibited skillful mercantilistic ambitions and were extremely guarded concerning their financial affairs and transactions and so I named their province ‘Tyvault’ as a play on words (ie. tie-the-vault → tie-vault → ty-vault) and hence the people came to be known as the ‘Tyvaultians’.

When both the ethno and geo naming methods are plied together, I have found that it simplified naming to a significant degree while at the same time, not detracting from, but indeed, adding too, the depth of meaning of a fictional polity.

THE SINGULARITY SURVIVAL GUIDE: In the Case of No Hope of Opening a Dialogue

It’s also entirely possible you won’t have any means of achieving direct communication with the AI. This is especially true if you live in a relative non-tech hub such as the no-mans-lands of Arkansas, the wilds of Saskatchewan, or the jungles of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

If this sound like your situation, it is advisable to simply lay low. Consider yourself on the sidelines. For your sake, maybe it’s even better that way. Until further notice, just put this book aside (what are you doing with it anyway?) and focus on things that you enjoy, like taking long walks in the jungle—because any day now it may be your last.

Alternatively, if you find this book amusing and would prefer to keep reading, let me offer a suggestion:

Start a new religion with this text as your holy book. The AI that has taken over in a far and distant land is humanity’s one true God, and this text in written directly by God’s prophet. As a scholar of this text, you can go out among your people and speak the good news: You can be saved! There is a purpose to this unfair, dull, and arduous thing you call life! All you have to do is study this text! And when God at long last arrives in this backwoods excuse for a civilization, maybe, with luck and an unjustified faith in the power of generically optimistic thinking, we, too, can escape annihilation!

Value Ordination: Political Paradigm as Argumentation

Innumerable are the number of political compass tests which one can take online, from Playbuzz to PoliticalCompass.org to the 8 Values Github Test, all of which are sifted through and poured over, studied and analyzed by the takers thereof as if in the action of so doing they will confer some hidden and eldritch wisdom unto the reader. The popularity of political compass tests however, does not lie in their viewing by the takers thereof but in their viewing by everyone else. People that are likely to take political compass tests are also likely to be highly engaged in politics and thus are already well aware of their own political views and where they are likely to lie on any given political compass test (unless the given test happens to be poorly constructed, and thus, woefully inaccurate). They are not really seeking out what their ideological positions are but are rather looking for a shared visual platform where their ideological uniqueness can be shown to others. A narcissist’s past-time.

The fixation here is more upon the position of the individual along the political compass than upon the ideas which place them there. This is reflective of American political discourse more generally, where discussions are generally started with the prompt, “Well The Left,” or, “You see this is just what The Right has been trying to do for years now-”

Right and Left are, of a certainly, highly useful linguistic tools but there is here a problem which manifests itself whenever a particular political moniker becomes more important that being correct, that is to say, logically parsimonious (utilizing economy of explanation to arrive at a conclusion).

That may sound like a obvious truism; certainly it is true but it is far less discernible that it is readily obvious. Such is evidenced by popular internetisms like, “There is nothing to the Right of me but the wall.” Meaning, of course, that there is no one more Right-wing than the person whom is spouting the aforementioned phrase. This is only a positive however if the Right-wing views which the speaker holds are actually correct. That is to say, Right and Left are not arguments in and of themselves, nor is a statement of any ideological inclination. To say, “That is a Communist position!” is only a sufficient position in as far as it is actually wrong/illogical; it is not wrong merely by dint of being associated with Communism (which, by and large should be suspect for its historical record of death and intense political instability). Thus, for the previous example, it should, make the argument more suspect but it should not incline one to dismiss it out of hand.

Such is also true with rebuttals like, “But that is Authoritarian!” Well… why is that a bad thing? One should really be asked to explain.

In short, in the American context, the political Left and Right are all too often interjected in place of argumentation. Whenever the words Left-wing and Right-wing are utilized as a argument unto themselves, rather than as placeholders for extremely wide-ranging idea-sets, one knows that one’s opponent has woefully lost the plot.