Wednesday, February 25, 2015

On Naming the Devourer of Worlds

[Why am I talking about Magic: The Gathering in a blog about stories?  Read this to find out!]

My understanding is that the official fiction written for the Magic: The Gathering universe has a bit of a... checkered quality to it.  That's more than understandable; the focus of a card game shouldn't be the strength of its licensed prose.

But one thing Magic does do very well?  Naming!  Check this guy out:

Vorinclex, with its hint of voracious mixed with the insectile 'cl' and  'x' sounds.  Voice of Hunger, a nonsensical title in any non-fantastic setting, but one that implies great primal power here.  What a great name!

Am I overthinking here?  Am I overselling what the Magic flavor team does?  Maybe I am.  I guess all I can say with certainty is that I myself am not great at coming up with names.   And so I am continually impressed by what the Magic team can do.

Let me give you one more example.  In Magic lore, the Eldrazi are terrible and unknowable beings, a cross between Lovecraft's Elder Gods and Marvel's Galactus.  They travel from plane to plane in mindless fashion and devour each dimension's mana sources, leaving nothing but a shriveled husk of a world behind.

There are three principal Eldrazi.  Who are they?

Okay, not bad.  Kozilek is a name with a spoken sharpness you can almost see, and Butcher of Truth is... well, honestly it makes Kozilek sound like an evil propaganda minister.  Not the most effective name.

Much better!  Ulamog is simply a disgusting word to force out of your mouth; it sounds like something you might gargle out during a drunken binge.  And The Infinite Gyre?  When I first read the card, I wasn't entirely sure what a 'gyre' was (something to do with drills?), but I knew that having an infinite number of them was badass!

It turns out that a gyre is a spiral or circular motion.  Ulamog is a being that forever bores away at... space?  Sanity?  Reality itself?  I don't really know, but I do know I like it!

Still, you can't beat this one.  I can give or take Emrakul, but The Aeons Torn... wow.  A... thing that scars the very notion of time, that exists outside all the presumed laws of existence.  There is an implacable and hopeless grandeur about this title, making it perfect for the most powerful being within the Magic multiverse.

I play Magic for many reasons.  One of them?  I hope that a little bit of the Magic team's gift for naming rubs off on me.

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