Book titles

The process of naming a book isn't always that easy. My first novel, Angel Stations, had that name essentially be default. It was the working title, and I couldn't think of anything better, and so it became the actual title. I suspect I might have tried to come up with something arty-sounding, but in the end people told me the name in fact had an air of mystery about it that they liked. So in the end, keeping that working title was a good thing.

Against Gravity was a difficult one, partly because I completely forgot to include the Paolo Soleri quote at the beginning that would have given the title context, and the line that essentially related that quote (about architecture - and thereby all of human effort - being a constant struggle against gravity, by building higher and higher) wound up getting deleted during the edits. So it wound up with that title because a) I thought it sounded really cool, and b)again, I couldn't think of anything better.

Stealing Light, however, I'm fairly proud of. That title had resonance with Promethean legend, stealing fire from the Gods and so forth; and indeed the basic story was a variation on the classic Promethean myth of stealing from the Gods, or at least the Shoal. I got stuck for at title with the second book in the series, and offered various options to the publisher - one idea was Night's End. Instead, they came up with their own title, Nova War. I'll be honest; I've never been that crazy about it. If I'd thought of the title 'Empire of Light' earlier, that would have been a great title, but that again would have left me with the question of what to call the third book.

(I recall that at one point I considered keeping the word 'Stealing' instead of 'Light' in each book of the series. Hence book two might have been Stealing Fire and the third Stealing...something or else. But in the end, I realised just how naff that sounded.)

Final Days and Thousand Emperors I pretty much had the titles for from the get-go, and I still like them, particularly Emperors or, as I sometimes like to call it, 1kE.

The working title for the book I just handed in (and which I'm currently once again editing) was River of Light. It's a continuation of the Shoal books - a stand-alone, not a direct sequel by any means, and with an entirely new cast. However, the current thought at my publishers - and I've reluctantly come to agree with them - that the name River of Light implies that it continues directly on from the previous books, rather than being a stand-alone, and so that title might put off those potential new readers who believe they need to have read the previous three books in order to understand what's going on. It's my hope that they won't have to at all, although inserting relevant details of the previous books without swinging into full as-you-know-bob-ism has certainly been a long and intricate process.

The working title for River of Light was Core - 'core' referring to the core of the Milky Way. Then I came up with A River Across the Sky, except the faux-poetics of a title like that don't necessarily reflect a book which is in many ways an action-driven space opera. Then it became River of Light for, well, obvious reasons.

Myself and Bella, my editor, swung briefly back to Core. But coming in late is a new title contender: Marauder, this being an entity that plays a crucial part in the story. Marauder is growing on me.

First person who mentions a certain Blackfoot album gets slapped with a wet fish.


Anonymous said...

Titles are something I struggle with. I can never quite decide what I want to call something and it's very rare that I actually like the title I assign a story. I'm working on a psychological piece at the moment and I'm calling it "Fade To Black" it's a working title but it fits the story well. However I know that it's hardly original so I'll have to change it before I submit to what... well that's the tricky part. I'm hoping a sentence or fragment will grab my attention.

I think River of Light is a fine title and much better than core which, as far as I am concerned, has too many connotations with a certain terrible film...

Gary Gibson, science fiction writer said...

Actually, yeah, that film title had occurred to me as another reason not to call it Core! I do like River of Light, but, like i say, I can see the publisher's reasoning. An unrelated title would much more clearly make it a stand-alone.