Thursday, December 03, 2009

Nerd Word of the Week: Tuckerization

Fanboy (comics)Image via Wikipedia
Tuckerization (n.) - The use of a real person's name for a fictional character as a conscious literary in-joke. The term derives from SFWA Author Emeritus Wilson "Bob" Tucker, a science fiction writer and fanzine editor who famously appropriated the names of his friends family for his fictional characters. A contemporary example of a serial tuckerizer is John Scalzi, who has made a habit of doing so in his novels, though Scalzi claims it's simply because he's terrible at conjuring names for his characters. (In fact, in Scalzi's novel The Ghost Brigades, he presents several artificially engineered soldiers named after famous scientists, and notes that their creators chose those names simply out of convenience, effectively as a meta-tuckerization.) Nonpersons can also be subjects of tuckerization, as in Allen Steele's novel Spindrift where the author named a pair of space probes Larry and Jerry, after sci-fi authors Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle -- authors who themselves were known for some famous tuckerizations.

It should be noted that tuckerization is different than including real people as fictional characters, as often happens in alt-history novels, or in the somewhat self-referencing tradition of including some version of the late writer/uberfan Forrest J. Ackerman in sci-fi works. Tuckerized characters are simply namesakes, not sci-fi versions of a roman à clef . Over the years, it has become tradition for established science fiction authors to auction off tuckerizations to benefit science fiction conventions or charitable causes.

I bring it up because: A host spec-fic authors are auctioning off tuckerizations this week in support of the Trans Atlantic Fan Fund, which pays for sci-fi and fantasy fans to cross the big pond in order to meet their respective ante-oceanic counterparts. Basically, it's an exchange program for geeks. Elizabeth BearDavid BrinJulie CzernedaCory DoctorowNalo Hopkinson, Mary Robinette Kowal and Charlie Stross all have TAAF-benefit tuckerizations up for auction now, with the most expensive one (Stross's) still lingering around $250. That's a very reasonable price for fan-insider literary immortality, even accounting for the price-sniping that will occur when the auctions expire on Monday. If there's an uber-nerd in your life and you've got a a Benjamin or three to drop on his/her hobby, this would make a frakkin' awesome Christmahannukwanzukah-Solstice-Festivus present. (Hint, hint.) And it might even be tax-deductible.