Recently, on the Space Opera: Writers group on Facebook, we got into a discussion about nods we insert into our stories. I’ve done this since the fanfic days when I was younger. Song lyrics became lines of dialog. A missing starship captain named “Vorhees” was a star on the Starfleet Academy hockey team. And it didn’t stop when I got serious and started writing crime fiction.
What prompted the discussion was another thread where I mentioned naming a star near Earth “Nemesis” after the red dwarf in Isaac Asimov’s novel. And what was the “real” Nemesis’s only habitable planet called? Well, since, in the Compact Universe, Asimov’s story proved prophetic, humans dubbed their nearest extrasolar neighbor “Trantor,” after the seat of the Empire in the Foundation series. But there’s more!
The character who calls Trantor her homeworld is named Eileen Burke. It’s revealed in Broken Skies and Warped that Eileen is from Trantor, but Burke herself is a decidedly non-science fiction nod. She’s named for a detective in Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct series. McBain’s Burke is young and a bit confused about her role in Isola’s police department. My Burke is a 107-year-old admiral (who looks 35), has been through far more than McBain’s Burke ever suffers, and is not someone to cross.
This opened the floodgates on the group. One writer talked about a character named Jessica Kannichen. “Kannichen” is “rabbit” in German. Some name their ships after science fiction writers and characters in Pokemon. One military SF writer had a Rocky Horror reference after a maneuver came across as “a jump to the left…”
The best SF nod I’ve seen comes from John Scalzi’s Red Shirts. The ship’s doctor on the Independence is named Hartnell. On my second reading of it, I realized that “Doctor” Hartnell was named for the First Doctor on Doctor Who. It prompted me to name a doctor “Troughton” (who looks rather shabby) in Tishla.