On Hugos and Nebulas, Part 13: Titles

Coming up with a good title for a book is the second hardest thing about writing. (The first? Writing the back cover blurb. Wow, I can write a 106,000-word, coherent, interesting story but the 106 words to describe it? Pffff…) That’s why I usually skip the idea of chapter titles. One title is hard enough.

There are, of course, rules about good titles. According to The Rules, titles should be…

  1. short
  2. related to the plot
  3. devoid of uncommon foreign words
  4. devoid of made up words
  5. interesting
  6. unique.

Is it any wonder some of my works go through several versions of titles before we find a good one?

So, how did the Hugos & Nebulas in my challenge do?

  1. Dune: Hey. not bad. 6 out of 6.
  2. Left Hand of Darkness: 4 of 6. Sorry but I can’t give it short or plot related (unless you pick up on the obscure reference to the alien proverb)
  3. Gateway: 6 of 6.­
  4. Fahrenheit 451: If you happen to know the spontaneous combustion temperature of paper, you’ve got 6 of 6.
  5. Starship Troopers: 6 of 6
  6. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: 5 of 6. Definitely loses on the length requirement, wow.
  7. Rendezvous with Rama: 5 of 6. “Rama” appears to be made up, but it’s actually foreign (The name of a Hindu god). Either way, it breaks the obscure (to most Westerners) foreign word/made-up word rule.
  8. Ender’s Game: 6 of 6, but iffy. Ender is the kid’s name.
  9. Ringworld: 6 of 6 If you count a made-up compound word built from common words.
  10. Dreamsnake: 6 of 6, with the same caveat as Ringworld.

So, really, the “experts” did a pretty good job with their titles.

Here are my existing and forthcoming titles. How did I do?

  • Lines of Succession
  • Remnant in the Stars
  • Negotiator
  • The Hat
  • The Last Mission
  • The Loudest Actions
  • The Condemned Courier
  • Urushalon 1: Like Herding the Wind
  • Urushalon 2: Into the Open
  • Mindstorm: Parley at Ologo
  • Jewel Among the Stones
  • Interference
  • Hand Knocks
  • The Fall of the Invincible Man
  • Dragon’s Bane

4 thoughts on “On Hugos and Nebulas, Part 13: Titles

  1. I love the stories – whatever you call them!


    • Thanks!

      Ironically, not long after I posted this, I found out I needed to truncate a title to make it more “Twitter-friendly.” Care to guess which one was shortened to 2 words?


  2. Edward Forrest Frank

    Harlan Ellison has won eight Hugo Awards, a shared award for the screenplay of A Boy and his Dog that he counts as “half an Hugo” and two special awards from annual World SF Conventions; four Nebula Awards of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA); five Bram Stoker Awards of the Horror Writers Association (HWA); two Edgar Awards of the Mystery Writers of America; two World Fantasy Award from annual conventions; and two Georges Méliès fantasy film awards.

    Ellison won the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1993. HWA gave him its Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996[66] and the World Horror Convention named him Grand Master in 2000. SFWA named him its 23rd Grand Master of fantasy and science fiction in 2006 and the Science Fiction Hall of Fame inducted him in 2011. That year he also received the fourth J. Lloyd Eaton Lifetime Achievement Award in Science Fiction, presented by the UCR Libraries at the 2011 Eaton SF Conference, “Global Science Fiction”

    He was awarded the Silver Pen for Journalism by International PEN, the international writers’ union. In 1990, Ellison was honored by International PEN for continuing commitment to artistic freedom and the battle against censorship. In 1998, he was awarded the “Defender of Liberty” award by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

    In March 1998, the National Women’s Committee of Brandeis University honored him with their 1998 Words, Wit, Wisdom award. In 1990, Ellison was honored by International PEN for continuing commitment to artistic freedom and the battle against censorship.

    Ellison was named 2002’s winner of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal’s “Distinguished Skeptic Award”, in recognition of his contributions to science and critical thinking. Ellison was presented with the award at the Skeptics Convention in Burbank, California, June 22, 2002.

    In December 2009, Ellison was nominated for a Grammy award in the category Best Spoken Word Album For Children for his reading of Through the Looking-Glass And What Alice Found There for Blackstone Audio, Inc.

    The list continues. Now lets look at a selection of SOME of his winning titles:

    Best American Short Stories: The Man Who Rowed Christopher Columbus Ashore (included in the 1993 anthology).

    Bram Stoker Award: 1) I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (best other media – audio, 1999), 2) Mefisto in Onyx (best novella, 1993 – tie), 3) Chatting With Anubis (best short story, 1995).

    Edgar Allan Poe Award: The Whimper of Whipped Dogs (best short story, 1974).

    Hugo Award: 1) “”Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman” (best short fiction, 1966), 2) “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” (best short story, 1968), 3)The City on the Edge of Forever (best dramatic presentation, 1968), 4) “The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World” (best short story, 1969), 5) “Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans: Latitude 38° 54′ N, Longitude 77° 00′ 13″ W” (best novelette, 1975), 6) “Paladin of the Lost Hour” (best novelette, 1986)

    Locus Poll Award (I am not including repeat titles that are already listed above): 1) Count the Clock That Tells the Time (best short story, 1979), 2) Djinn, No Chaser (best novellette, 1983), 3) Sleepless Nights in the Procrustean Bed (best related non-fiction, 1985), 4) With Virgil Oddum at the East Pole (best short story, 1986), 5) Angry Candy (best collection, 1989), 6) The Function of Dream Sleep (best novellette, 1989), 7) Eidolons (best short story, 1989)

    Nebula Awards (I am not including repeat titles that are already listed above): How Interesting: A Tiny Man (best short story, tied with Kij Johnson/”Ponies” 2011)

    Writers Guild Awards (I am not including repeat titles that are already listed above): 1) Demon with a Glass Hand/The Outer Limits (Best Original Teleplay), 2) The City on the Edge of Forever/Star Trek(Best Original Teleplay), 3) Phoenix Without Ashes/The Starlost (Best Written Dramatic Episode, 1974), 4) Paladin of the Lost Hour/The Twilight Zone (Best Anthology Episode/Single Program, 1987).


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