Ship names

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I love ship names. I don’t know why, but I get a real kick out of it when writers name their fictional ships. My favorite example is in Robert W. Chambers’s The Repairer of Reputations, when the characters all go out for a walk and see the ships in the harbor of fictional future New York, and Louis rattles off the names of the vessels. I loved that.

I think the reason I’m so fascinated is that every ship name has a story behind it. You see a ship name, and you automatically wonder why it was given that particular name. It’s an implied story all in itself.

This goes for spaceships in science fiction too, by the way. In fact, I might even enjoy those more, because there’s more room for unusual names. I’m working on a story now that has a spaceship in it, and I’ve been struggling to come up with just the right name. It’s an important consideration–the story that the name suggests to the reader will color their perception of the characters who fly it.

Some fictional ship names I like:

  • Alert–from H.P. Lovecraft’s Call of Cthulhu 
  • Nostromo–Ripley’s ship in Alien
  • Invisible Hand–General Grievous’s flagship in Star Wars: Episode III
  • Tempest–Pathfinder Ryder’s ship in Mass Effect Andromeda
  • PRCS Wall Cloud–a ship carrying a virus in Deus Ex
  • Pillar of Autumn–one of the first ships in Halo

Wikipedia has a list of more fictional ships. Frankly, from skimming it, I think writers aren’t being bold enough with names. The U.S. Navy names ships after famous battles–we need more of that in fiction. Also, more named after obscure historical figures, please.

10 Comments

  1. I don’t pay attention to this as much as you do, but when I’m on the coast and wander through a marina or otherwise see a bunch of boats lined up, I like looking at the names and wondering what the story is behind the name. Which suggests an idea for a story. Hmmm….

  2. An interesting topic – something I’ve never really thought about, ship names, that is although I used to sail small sailboats and the names were very important. One was called “Look Out!”, another “Flipper” and another “Non Sequitur” and they all had stories behind them. I hope you come up with a good name for your spaceship – I have a feeling you will!

  3. There’s an old sci-fi short story I read in an Isaac Asimov anthology, can’t remember the author’s name. I was in high school. It was called the Space Beagle. A forerunner of Star Trek about a ship sailing through space and coming across different aliens. It wasn’t until college I discovered Captain Cook’s ship that explored the Pacific was the HMS Beagle.

    1. Cool. I’ll have to see if I can find the story. Although the words “Space Beagle” make me automatically picture Snoopy in his scarf and goggles flying a spaceship.

      1. I think the anthology was Before the Golden Age, these were pulp short stories in Amazing and other mags in the 30’s and 40’s. Great stories, but dated a bit science wise.

  4. I actually went to your annotated Repairer of Reputations to have a look at the bit you mentioned, and ended up reading it again. Truly a weird and wonderful story. I like some of the fictional ship names you mention there–Pillar of Autumn–very evocative! And hey–thanks for tweeting the Smashwords sale and Friendship of Mortals! Now I’m wondering if anyone would ever name a spaceship the “Herbert West.” 😉

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