Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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8 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Book Titles Inspired by Poetry

I liked this post by Natalie Zutter at tor.com: 8 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Book Titles Inspired by Poetry

A few years ago, Jo Walton (inspired by a conversation with Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden) took on the sort of challenge that we love doing at Tor.com: She counted up the number of science fiction and fantasy book titles pulled from two classic poems, William Blake’s “The Tyger” and Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress,” to see which had inspired more titles….in this post, we’re doing a deep dive into some of the titles from each to see the different ways in which authors have interpreted the oft-quoted words of these poets.

Neat idea! I like poetic titles, usually, and certainly if you can find justification for using an actual line of poetry as a title, that’s one way to achieve this kind of title. I think this is the most interesting example:

“Silently and Very Fast” by Catherynne M. Valente

fitting that Valente should draw the title of her Nebula Award-winning novella from Auden’s poem, as it takes place in the dreamworld between human Neva and AI Elefsis, who communicate more in story tropes than in actual words. Elefsis absorbs fairy tales like any other piece of information, knowing that when Neva sends her the image of a woman transforming into a crone it means to change the subject, and that she must express human notions of feel and love with strikeouts, not allowed to fully possess them. But this quasi-language has given Elefsis the mistaken impression that all stories have a happy ending—an interesting bit of parallelism to the fact that “Silently and Very Fast” is the final line of Auden’s poem.

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4 Comments 8 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Book Titles Inspired by Poetry

  1. Andrea K

    “And All the Stars” is actually a play on a line from The Tyger.

    “When the stars threw down their spears,
    And watered heaven with their tears,
    Did he smile his work to see?
    Did he who made the Lamb make thee?”

    Of course, it’s pretty much only the ‘stars’ and ‘spears’ that comes through into the book, since it’s rare for my characters to get into theological musings, but that’s where the title’s from.

  2. Rachel

    Interesting! And it’s a great title.

    My space opera work-in-progress, No Foreign Sky — I actually got that title from:

    “No foreign sky protected me, no stranger’s wing shielded my face. I stand as witness to the common lot survivor of that time, that place.” – Anna Akhmatova

    Although in fact in my book, the point is kind of that there is no foreign sky — strangers do shield each other. But this is the line I had in mind when I came up with a working title.

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