What is Tuckerizing? Ideas for Writing

What is Tuckerizing?

To Tuckerize is to create a cameo appearance of a real person inside a work of fiction. Sometimes authors take the names, nicknames and/or personas of real people and use them in a fiction as characters, often as a kind of satire. One of my favorite examples is Nivens’ and Gerrod’s “The Flying Sorcerers,” (1970) in which every member of a pantheon of gods is named after a famous science fiction writer. You can read a list of the many names here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Flying_Sorcerers They include Caff for Anne McCaffrey and her ‘Dragonriders of Pern’ series, and even Rotn’bair for Gene Roddenberry of t.v. ‘Star Trek’ fame.

Wilson (Bob) Tucker, the science fiction author, popularized the technique. He’s a fascinating author, an orphan who grew up in Illinois, edited fanzines, and became inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 1996 and was awarded the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Grand Master Award in 2003. See more about Tucker at http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/tucker_wilson His approach was mainly to leave tracings of real people in his fictions, as inside jokes. Tuckerizing appears in science fiction as early as the 1930’s, but Tucker Tuckerized one or two characters in almost all of his writings.

Paul Park’s recent “All Those Vanished Engines” includes tuckerizations, such as a Shawn Rosenheim, a delightful wit who many of us here in the Berkshires know, and who in the book plays a… Well let’s just say you have to read the novel to find out. (A highly recommended, dreamlike, metafictional suite…read a preview of the novel here: http://www.tor.com/stories/2014/06/all-those-vanished-engines-excerpt-paul-park ) Park’s appropriations aren’t limited to people. He inserts artworks, places, history and its variations all within various fictions unfolding in the minds of the characters. You can read a much deeper set of Park’s thoughts on metafiction, and how it differs from elements of science fiction that can be escapist, in that the metafiction could both signal and interact with the real world that we know: see interview at http://www.locusmag.com/Perspectives/2014/10/paul-park-metafictional-demons/

Author Michael Swanwick accomplished a successful 2010 fundraising project for the Clarion West writing workshops, tuckerizing a huge number of people who donated funds. He wrote one flash fiction per day for six weeks, each related to a donor. You can find some of the tuckerizations and a lot of great content over at his blog FloggingBabel (http://floggingbabel.blogspot.com/ )

Some Considerations

– What happens when you take a familiar story, fable or folktale and replace the name of the main character with someone else’s name?

– In your story, what peripheral locations, characters, or interactions could contain Tuckerizations? How about the name of a street, or a building, planet, or spaceship?

– Do you need to have permission to write tuckerizations? (why not just talk to people about it ahead of time or during the writing anyway?)

A few creative writing prompts for the fun of it

– An extraterrestial species makes contact with someone you know: who, and what happens?

– A brilliant hacker invents a new form of money for international transactions. What is the money called, or who is emblemized on it?

– Two characters from the future find a time capsule from today. What’s in the capsule and who is mentioned in it?

– An advanced robotics company can make its robots look like any human. They choose one of your worst enemies or competitors, or closest friends or compatriots. What do you do?

Linking with Your Communities

To me the best part about Tuckerizing is that it can involve your community. This winter we had some big storms, so online I threw together “The Great Snowperbole Contest,” offering winners a chance to have their names used in one of my short stories. For a time they appeared in “The Rose Remodeling Company,” a story since then that I’ve completely reworked. We had a lot of fun goofing around and trying to guess how much snow we would get. The winners guessed a lot less snow than official meteorologists predicted… which just goes to show that your friends on Facebook might just be a better place to get the news than elsewhere. Is real life stranger than fiction (is anything online even real?) Ack!  😉

About The Author

Gregory Scheckler