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Sci-Fi Baby Names:
A conversation with Author
Robert Schnakenberg

Baby Names Garden: Why do you think so many sci-fi names include letters like X, Y, and Z?

Robert: I think many of the great sci-fi authors probably wrote while drunk. Or they couldn’t afford working typewriters. So they used the keys that were accessible to them. Why else would someone name a novel Ubik?

Q: Who is your favorite science fiction author?

A: It’s hard to pick just one. I love Ray Bradbury. Douglas Adams, Kurt Vonnegut, Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, and Tom Reamy would all be on my list as well. I’m also quite fond of Harlan Ellison, even though he was once very rude to me at a sci-fi convention. Bradbury’s All Summer in a Day is probably my all-time favorite sci-fi story. I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream by Ellison is a close second. I tend to like dystopian stuff.

Q: Is science fiction, whether it’s novels, movies, comics, or television, as big today as it was say in the 1950s and 1960s?

A: Yes. Sci-fi was kind of ghettoized back then. It was more of a discrete, defined genre. Now sci-fi elements permeate the rest of popular culture. Look at movie like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or a TV show like Lost. Forty years ago stuff like that would have either never gotten made or been consigned to a cult audience. Now it’s mainstream fare. So in the end sci-fi conquers all.

Q: Why did you decide not to include R2D2 in the book?

A: We were trying to strike a balance between really weird, impractical names and names that prospective parents could actually use for baby. As a consequence, some names that you really couldn’t foresee anyone choosing had to go. Besides, I wanted to leave some room for a Volume Two!

Q: What is your favorite sci-fi name?

A: I’m quite partial to Zardoz. If I named my kid Zardoz it would give me an excuse to do my Sean Connery impersonation all day long. “Zardoz, clean up your room!”

Q: I’ve seen quite a bit of good press about your book. Has it been an exciting time, launching Sci-Fi Baby Names?

A: It’s always a gas when a new book comes out. So far the response has been very, very positive. I hope people like the book and don’t find too many mistakes in it!

Q: Have you done any television interviews so far?

A: Not yet. I’m waiting for Larry King to call. Come on, Larry! Mama needs a new pair of shoes!

Q: Where did you get the idea for a book about science fiction baby names?

A: I was trying to come up with a fun book idea that would combine something I know something about—science fiction—with a book genre that was popular and that was adaptable to an irreverent kind of treatment. When I put the words “sci-fi” and “baby names” together it was kind of a chocolate meets peanut butter moment.

Q: How do you feel about the recent trend among parents to give their babies unique names, like ‘4Real.’?

A: That wouldn’t be my choice, but as a general proposition, I think parents should have the freedom to name their children as they see fit. When the child is of age, they can make their own decisions on all kinds of lifestyle and belief issues, including what they want to be called.

Q: Do you like the name Nicolas Cage gave to his son, ‘Kal-El?’

A: It actually has a nice ring to it: Kal-El Coppola.  I think I was more upset about the idea of Nicolas Cage playing Superman than I was at the idea of his naming his kid after Superman. But fortunately that never came to pass.

Q: My favorite section in your book is ‘Exotic’ names. What’s your favorite?

A: Slartibartfast. Douglas Adams was on a roll when he came up with that one.

Q: Have you seen all the movies that you draw on for your book?

A: I wish I could say I had, but there were some names that needed to be included and I didn’t have time to check out every one. One of the great things about writing this book was discovering some movies and shows that I had never encountered before. Or rediscovering others that I hadn’t seen since I was a wee tot. Like The Slime People, for instance. It’s pure genius!

Q: Do you think that sci-fi names could catch on as a trend?

A: Why not? As the world population explodes, we’ll need more and more names to be able to tell each other apart. Can’t you see little Anakin and Barbarella driving to work together at the Soylent factory? I can.

Q: What is your favorite sci-fi movie?

A: Hmmm.  Ask me on different days and you’ll get different answers.  So many to choose from. I’ll give you three: the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the original Planet of the Apes, and A Clockwork Orange.

Q: Do you think, if there is life on other planets, they would be interested in Earthling Names?

A: Yes, I firmly believe if there is intelligent life on other worlds they are naming their children after Nicolas Cage.

* Interested in a name that’s out of this world, for your baby? Check out our list of sci-fi baby names, along with our book review of Robert Schnakenberg’s Sci-Fi Baby Names.

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