All about titles

So, what’s with the name of this blog?   It comes from a quote from Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome, the first of 12 novels he wrote for children from the 1920s to 1940s, and which I read many times as a kid.  In the first book, one of the characters, Captain Flint (AKA James Turner, uncle to Nancy and Peggy Blackett, the Amazons) says:

“Never any of you start writing books.  It isn’t worth it.  This summer has been harder work for me than all the thirty years of knocking up and down that went before it.”

And that’s really pretty good advice, which I have summarily ignored.  I am indeed writing a book, on my research among people who are working toward the very long-term goal of moving millions of humans to places in the cosmos other than Earth. That said, there is a strong assumption outside the communities in which I’ve been doing research that never any of you will end up going to live  on Mars, the moon, or in a rotating free-space community.  It’s seen–at best– as a diversion from the real and important politics of living on Earth or–at worst–an alibi for capitalism gone mad.  I’m agnostic on this point, but I want to take seriously the fact that people are working diligently toward that goal, and to ask what it is that results from this kind of work.  So, “Never any of you” is both about writing a book and about the stance I intend to take in my book toward the conventional analysis of the space settlement movement.

So, that’s the title of the blog.  The title of my book itself?  Taking suggestions.

By the way, Swallows and Amazons is a great read if you’re into Edwardian Englishness, sailing, and the adventures of white kids.  There’s a great analysis to be made of S&A’s colonial and racial themes (cf. especially Peter Duck).  But it also has some very interesting gender politics that set it apart from other literature of its generation; you know that Nancy Blackett will be a suffragist.  And the writing and characterization is sublime.  Here’s an example from a later book, The Picts and The Martyrs, which, in three lines of dialogue, tell you all you need to know about Dick and Dorothea:

“What are the other books?” asked Dorothea
Pocket Book of Birds,” said Dick, “and Common Objects of the Countryside…”
“Oh,” said Dorothea.  “Nothing to read at all?”

The economy of style is brilliant.  Paraphrasing Dylan Thomas:

A good rule for writers: don’t explain too much

Wish me luck with that part.

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2 thoughts on “All about titles

  1. John Calendo

    Enjoyable blog post. Space and children’s book. The title I thought of is LIFE ON MARS. With a sober photo on the cover to convey that this is not sci-fi but speculative non-fiction based on present day facts. So nothing with craters or red skies, David! Please control your inner child!

    Another Title: WHEN THE TIME COMES. This provocative and mysterious and will need a subtitle. Something blandly to the point, but in a smaller font: Moving Masses Of Humanity Off Planet.

    Good luck…J.

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