Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Naming Names

There's a character in Blind Shadows, the novel by James A. Moore and me, named Carter Decamp. He's a former Olympic fencer and a retired professor of English literature. He also hunts monsters.
   For some reason, Decamp, who isn't one of the main characters, has proven unexpectedly popular. Readers like him. I get a lot of questions about him. The other day someone asked me if I had named him after SF/Fantasy authors Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp.
   The answer to that is...sort of.
   Decamp is actually an old character of mine, created a couple of decades ago for a series of short stories I wrote that were read aloud at a friend's annual Halloween party. I needed a mentor/wizard sort of character who dealt with occult menaces and such for these stories so I came up with Decamp. I made him a fencer because he occasionally needed to use a sword, and a professor because I needed to show in short hand that he was an intelligent, well read sort.
   The name came about more or less by accident. You know how in the movies, when someone is trying to give a fake name and they look around and see a sign or something and use part of that as a name? That's more or less what happened with Decamp. I was looking for a name and my glance fell on the spine of one of the ACE Books Conan paperbacks that had been written by Lin Carter and L. Sprague Decamp and the spine read "De Camp Carter". I didn't think de Camp sounded like a good first name, so I flipped it. And I changed the spelling slightly from de camp to Decamp. I liked the sound of it and I figured it would elicit a groan or two from my intended audience when I mentioned the character's name for the first time. (It did.)
   Jump forward about twenty years and I was writing away on Blind Shadows. I was at a point in the book where I needed a character who could explain some of the supernatural occurrences in the story. On a whim, I just decided I would lift this old character or mine from those old short stories, figuring I could always change his name to something else. But as I started to write him I found that I enjoyed visiting with my old friend. He is exactly the same character he was in the original stories. Still lives in a Victorian era house on Church Street in Marietta Georgia. (A real house by the way, though I've no idea who really lives there.) He still has a study full of books and weapons. There are even one or two references to those earlier stories in Blind Shadows, in-jokes for a very small group of people.
   Because, comic book geek that I am, I like continuity. In my own personal continuity, those old stories happened in the same fictional universe as my current stories. We're just picking up in Decamp's life twenty years later. There are other old characters of mine, who appeared in previous stories, who show up in Blind Shadows, but we'll talk about them another time.
   Carter Decamp has a larger role in Congregations of the Dead,(Available for pre-order now from Miskatonic books, he said in a shameless plug.) the follow up to Blind Shadows.  I think there's a good chance I'll write some short stories featuring the World's Most Dangerous English Professor too. He's just a fun character to write. He has a mysterious background that's slowly being revealed. Heck, some of it is new to me.


Paul R. McNamee said...

Very neat. :)

Keith West said...

So are we going to get to read any of these old stories?

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Thanks, Paul.

Keith, there would be two obstacles to reading the old stories, the main one being that they don't exist digitally, so they would have to be retyped from old manuscripts. The second being that they were written toward a very specific audience so a lot of the in-jokes and references would have to be eliminated, explained, or reworked. That said, a re-write isn't out of the question.