I’m terrible at titles. If a story doesn’t have a title when I start writing it, I can sometimes sit there for hours trying to figure one out. Sometimes I’m lucky – “Greener” had its title almost immediately, as did “Aubade”. “My Pillow” is a story about the main character’s pillow; in “Dreaming of Suzanne”, the main character dreams of Suzanne. Simple enough.
But then there are those days when a title escapes me. I couldn’t think of anything funny for “Section 3A”, so I named the story after something discussed in it. It’s a humor story, so I wanted something amusing. “Belief” was a nightmare – it started life as “I For One Welcome Our New Robot Overlords”, but as I wrote it, the story changed so much that that didn’t make sense; while I sold it as “Belief”, I’m still not thrilled with the title. And when I wrote what eventually became “Amid the Steep Sky’s Commotion”, I spent almost two hours finding the perfect Shelley quote for the title (because the airship is named Ozymandias, which is from a Shelley poem) – I eventually found the title in Ode to the West Wind.
And then there are those stories where I’m completely at a loss and I have to find a good song title.
I learned something this past week from the editor of Asimov’s: there is no fair use when it comes to song lyrics. Well, the story I sold them is called “Bring on the Rain”, which is the title of a Jo Dee Messina song (which I’ve never heard; I’m not really into country music). I was looking for songs about rain, and I thought the title fit. Then I ended the story with the lyric “Tomorrow’s another day / and I’m thirsty anyway / so bring on the rain.”
The lyric is gone now. I’m fine with that; it’s not necessary.
Well, as I said in the afterword of 27 Jennifers, when I heard the song I knew that would be the title and the topic of the story. I didn’t know how, but I knew there would be 27 Jennifers, 16 Jenns, 10 Jennies, and one more woman (“her”). It actually worked out really well, and I ended the story with this lyric:
You might be the one that I’ve been seeking for
You might be the strange delightful
You might be the girly who shall end all girls
It makes sense when you read the story.
Well, unfortunately I’m about to e-mail the Dunesteef and suggest they take the lyric off the site, because as I said there’s no fair use for song lyrics. Which, in my opinion, kind of sucks. I mean, I’m pretty sure Mike Doughty is a cool enough guy not to sue people because they like his music, but given the RIAA’s penchant for lawsuits… better safe.
So that’s the lyric that used to be on the story. Now you know why.