Writing Blake's 7 stories can be a tricky business.
It's not the rich, elaborate personalities involved, or the world of dark, gritty adventure, or even the complex socio-political
commentary, that give aspiring writers headaches. Emulating these things can be challenging of course, but they also open
up such possibilities that with a modicum of imagination they're a real boon.
No, what's so tricky is the thing that most new parents
have problems with. Names. Creating a name for a Blake's 7 character can be an unfeasibly awkward business, not least
because of the knotty interplanetary scenarios and cultural styles of the roll-call of established characters.
Do you write Blake's 7 fanfics and have difficulty
thinking up names for the characters you invent? Chin up then, weed, I've got some tips that may make the difference.
These are just rules of thumb I follow, and occasionally
break, but they usually work... *
1. For a male character,
generally make his name five or six letters long, and NEVER make it more than two syllables. Some of the worst names
in the history of the series were three syllables or more, like Dorian, Docholli and Egrorian. One syllable
is also inadvisable. (Gan, and even Blake if you think about it, are not Terry Nation's best efforts name-wise.
They could do with the extra syllable to get the right pace and flexibility of emphasis.) The first name should be three or
four letters. **
2. For a female character, again it's best to use two syllables, although you may get away with a
third. It's handy if it begins with S and/or ends with a vowel-sound. ***
3. The second and fourth letters should generally be vowels (or virtual vowels like the letter
Y) and should alternate with consonants.
4. Consider that the premises for Blake's 7 names are simpler than people sometimes
realise. Blake was an artist, Avon is a county, Vila is a football team, Servalan is a recipe
(honest! It's a Portuguese salad, believe it or not), Tarrant is a quiz show host, Cally, Dayna and Soolin
are all variations of names already in common usage i.e Kelly, Dana, Sue, and Lynne, Travis
is a pop group etc. (All right, some of these comparisons are anachronistic, but the principle is still sound.) Keep the name
simple in terms of connotations and easy to pronounce, and try not to make them exotic. Names such as those invented by Barry
Letts when he wrote the radio plays belong in The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, not Blake's 7. Flatgamp?
Vadgebanger? Ghaeblakon? (Never mind Hitch Hiker, Ghaeblakon sounds like something from The Transformers.)
Of course you can't call them Kenny McClonkey or Horace Hanson either, but that's self-evident.
5. Examine what names already exist in Blake's 7 and try to copy the rhythm, even massage
them into something new. For instance, when I invented the name Kyben for Blake's Legacy, I started with Blake
and Avon. I decided I wanted five letters like Blake, but two syllables like Avon. So I took the letters of Blake and saw
that I could make two syllables by simply jumbling them up a bit i.e. Kabel. It had potential but it sounded a bit
too noun-ish, not really a name, and besides the anagram was very obvious. So I then looked at Avon again, and changed the
last letter - Kaben. Better, but I thought it sounded too similar to Avon like that, so I changed the first vowel as
well. I tried several before I chose the letter Y, but I knew immediately that it would work.
6. And if all else fails, the late-great Douglas Adams' recommendation was that you try a different
brand of coffee, preferably an Italian blend. Sounds futile I know, but the extra caffeine actually seemed to work for me
on one occasion.
7. Tip from Neil Blissett; type three or four consonants at random
and slot a vowel in between each one.
* Please, nobody mail me
with angry objections if you've found that you were able to create perfectly good names by other means. These are not meant
as stone-wall laws, only guidelines that I find work well for me. If they can help you too so much the better, but it's really
just a bit of fun, so if you don't agree with them, or if you find they don't help, just do it the way that works best for
you. (By the same measure, none of these guidelines are untrue or made up on the spot, they're just not meant to be taken
** An ideal name for a male
character, in my mind, would be five letters going consonant-vowel-consonant-vowel-N. Good examples are Varon, Joban,
Farin, Kyben, Toron, Lydon, Balon, Laran, and Zukan. (Doran, of course,
is the exception that buggers up the rule.) Excellent near-misses include Avon, Leylan, Farren, Provine,
Tarvin, Harmon, Bayban, Atlan, Molok, and Oren.
Some other good names have come from ending two-syllable
names with an O, for instance Arco, Pasco, Largo, Chasgo (just about!), and Kelso.
*** The best female names
tend to be five or six letters, but generally you can be far more flexible with naming them than the lads. However I think
I can say with some confidence that Tyce, Ralli, Levett, Ohnj Verlis, Sleer and Bartolomew
are fine examples of directions not to head in.
Again, please don't send me any objections to ** and ***. I know that relatively few names in Blake's 7 actually
follow these particular patterns, but I do find that they tend to be among the best names.
Interestingly, Jane L. Barlow once took issue with these
ideas after I questioned some of the names she thought up for one of the episodes of her series, Blake's Progress.
I confess I do get disproportionately annoyed about the use of weird names in drama stories, but I felt that she was going
over the mark with two names in particular that she'd used for an early draft of Reverence. The names I took exception
to were Balthazar Blade and K'Tal Chan.
To me, the first name just sounded desperately hokey,
the sort of name you'd give to Dan Dare's more effeminate cousin. The second one was less comic book, but still out of place.
I argued that you might find a character going by that name in Jabba The Hutt's palace, but it was not what you'd be likely
to find in the Blake's 7 universe.
Jane's counter-argument, quite reasonably, was that
I was attempting to Anglicise where Anglicism didn't apply - that I was implying that a name sounded alien, when in fact it
just didn't sound English. A name not sounding English surely wouldn't be anything remarkable in a future where the entire
Earth is governed as one society. The name might have evolved from a name that originated in Japan or Saudi Arabia or Africa,
or any of dozens of alternatives.
While there's an echo of truth in this, this element
of "un-Englishness" wasn't actually my reason for disputing the names' authenticity at all. After all, names such as Roj,
Vila, Kerr, Soolin, Dev and Olag are not very English-sounding either (although they do
bear more resemblance). My argument was simply that Balthazar Blade and K'Tal Chan don't sound like Blake's
7 names, and that they don't fit into any recognisable precedent set by the series.
There's good reason why they don't, and that is that
the Federation in Blake's 7, while encompassing all of the Earth, and indeed many other worlds, is not like the world
order of today. Most pertinently, it is not multi-cultural. The argument about names originating in non-English speaking countries
is hard to sustain because the Federation is rigidly conformist, and whatever language is the mother tongue in the Federation,
it clearly isn't just the dominant language but an all-conquering one. Our modern world has hundreds of different nations
in it, each one with its own culture, but the Federation's a single nation state that strives to prevent expression of identity
and cultural uniqueness, both of which it sees as a springboard to opposition (a little like Edward I's oppression of Wales
in the thirteenth century). Local languages, including naming-customs, would fall into this category. Therefore, the great
majority of people in Blake's 7 would be named in accordance with one culture.
This is demonstrated by the names that are already known
in the Blake's 7 universe, including Dev Tarrant, Del Tarrant, Tel Varon, Administrator Farren
etc, or Doran, Dorian, Egrorian etc. At least two characters have been called Zee, at least
two have been called Kline (Klyn), and even Moloch, artificial life-form though it may have been, shared
a name with a crimo - and both were products of the Federation in their way. There are distinct phonetic patterns in naming
styles, and while the spectrum of styles is still fairly wide, it's clearly nowhere near as wide as today's. It doesn't appear
to extend as far as Balthazar or K'Tal, at least not as first names. Indeed, the Federation appears to be evolved
from an Anglo-Germanic society like America, or a Slavonic society like Russia, neither of which would be very likely to propogate
a name like K'Tal Chan. The most exotic - or "un-English" if you prefer - sounding name is probably Ginka, which
isn't really that far from, say, Vila.
Variation in names is something that is outmoded in
the Federation, and practically all the names we do encounter appear to be born of the same dialect, a language we know of
only as "Terran". It might be descended from English, or equally possibly from German, Russian or Spanish, but that's beside
the point. Taking into account what we see in the four seasons of Blake's 7, there's evidence to suggest that styles
of naming are contracting substantially, and that the names themselves appear to be contracting and simplifying as well, in
an apparent bid to reduce people's cultural consciousness. An archaic name like Balthazar, if it exists in the Federation
at all, would therefore probably have contracted into something like Balta, both to simplify or remove any connotations
and to completely separate it from its original meaning. K'Tal Chan sounds like it may well be a contraction already
but in the names used in Blake's 7, abbreviation marks like apostrophes are rare in the extreme. It's therefore more
likely that it would've been contracted into something like Kachin. (Oddly enough, there's a character in Blake's
Legacy called Kochin.)