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The Joy Of Literary Jokes

Monday, 21 April 2014

If you're a writer, do you ever slip private jokes and references into your work? I confess I do.

For instance, in The Genehunter, there's an evil guy called Grendel. Fans of Beowulf will spot the joke. Grendel is a monster. But in my book he's also a pioneer of cloning technology and it amused me that "Grendel" could also be a contraction of "Gregor Mendel", the father of genetics. OK, I'm not saying this is a great joke - but it amused me.

Or in Engn, there's a bit where the hero Finn is approaching the machine/city and his companion says "That's Engn, lad." A throwaway line, for sure, although I was pleased with it because "Engn lad" is an anagram of "England" and in the crypto-autobiographical world of this book, Engn pretty much stands for England. In my head at least. Then there's Connor. Is he conning Finn or not? That's one of the central questions of the book.

Or in Malware, there's a libertarian hacker called NaN. His name isn't explained, but software developers would probably know that, in some languages, "NaN" means "not a number". And fans of The Prisoner might recognize that from the line "I am not a number, I am a free man!"

Or in A Sorcerous Mist (reprinted in Witching Hour) I needed a boat captain. I ended up calling him Quirk. This is a common enough surname on the Isle of Man (this story is based loosely on Manx mythology), but the thought of having a Captain Quirk was too good an opportunity to miss for this Star Trek fan.

And so on. Most of these "jokes" are things no one else would ever get (although I know the estimable Jeff Chapman spotted the Grendel one). There are probably some that even I wouldn't understand now. Some are more obvious, but whether or not anyone notices them, who can say?

Really I put them in because they amuse me. But I do like to think that, somewhere, there's a reader who gets them and who, nodding their head in appreciation, reads on with a smile on their face...

Ever slip private jokes and references into your own work?




6 comments:

  1. All the time. Sometimes it's little nods to family and friends. Other times, I might include very small political digs, although I try to minimize those, because that's a good way to lose readers.

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    1. Heh, yep, I do that, too. But I'll leave those for the reader to spot...

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  2. Glad to know these were intentional! I assumed they were, of course, but I missed a couple. I make a habit of including inside-jokes only my wife gets -- a nod to my Constant Reader.

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    1. Good to know you spotted them. I do like thie idea of inside-jokes only certain people will get. I do that, too...

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  3. I remember Grendel. And I did chuckle when I came across Captain Quirk. I love finding these inside jokes. That one about Engn lad => England is cool. There's a literary joke in Last Request but so far no one has noticed it.

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    1. There' sone in Last Request? Now I'm going to have to reread it to find it!

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I'd love to know what you think.