Previously we looked at the titles Revenge of the Fluffy Bunnies and Dover Beach and decided that Revenge of the Fluffy Bunnies won hands-down. In fact, in my opinion Revenge of the Fluffy Bunnies might be the most awesomest title ever.
Let’s consider Bride of the Slime Monster. There’s no question that this is also an excellent title. Short, funny, gives you a clear sense of what the book is all about. Is it as good as Revenge of the Fluffy Bunnies? I think not, but I recognize that others may feel differently. The cover is also pretty good.
Now, what are we to make of Locksley Hall? I think it’s pretty clearly an awful title, except maybe for a Regency romance, with a cover showing an auburn-tressed young maiden running from an English country estate, her half-uncovered bosoms heaving with strong emotion. While “Dover Beach” has the benefit of being the title of a somewhat familiar poem, nobody nowadays reads the 1842 poem “Locksley Hall” by Alfred Tennyson. It’s too long, too hard to follow, and it’s got just this one memorable line: “In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” So memorable, in fact, that it has been totally decoupled from the poem in which it occurs.
So what kind of an idiot would title a science fiction novel Locksley Hall? That kind of idiot would be me! That’s what I named the long-unawaited sequel to Dover Beach. If you think you have read this sequel, you are quite probably deluded. But before too terribly long it will be an ebook you can put on your eshelf next to your dog-eared ecopy of the original novel. Yay!
My original error, it seems, was in buying into my editor’s idea that naming a post-nuclear-war private-eye novel after a nineteenth-century poem was a good one. So I decided that I should do the same thing for the sequel. But when Bantam examined the box office receipts for Dover Beach, it decided that the market for post-nuclear-war private-eye novels named after a nineteenth-century poem wasn’t as strong at they had imagined it to be and, in spite of great reviews, they didn’t want to publish its already-completed sequel. Boo!
Which isn’t to say that Locksley Hall is a bad title, in the sense that it is tightly integrated with the novel’s themes, in just the way that Dover Beach is. The poem “Locksley Hall” (that’s its author over there on the right) is all over the map. In outline it is a standard romantic poem about lost love. But it takes weird digressions into sexism, racism, and weirdest of all, science fiction.
Here is the SF-y passage, which seems to come out of nowhere:
For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;
Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight dropping down with costly bales;
Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rain’d a ghastly dew
From the nations’ airy navies grappling in the central blue;
Far along the world-wide whisper of the south-wind rushing warm,
With the standards of the peoples plunging thro’ the thunder-storm;
Till the war-drum throbb’d no longer, and the battle-flags were furl’d
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.
There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law.
My novel, it turns out, is about the attempt to form a better government as New England is recovers from the “ghastly dew” that rained upon it. Some people are still dreaming of a parliament of man, a federation of the world, and other are thinking: You’ve got to be shitting me. Look how well the old government worked out for us!
And in the middle of it all, Walter Sands stumbles onto his second case, and he has to figure out which side a private eye should be on.