SFnal Onomastics: Fantastic Asteroids

Jack McDevitt recently had an asteroid named after him, (328305) Jackmcdevitt, which is a pretty cool honor. The Visible Suns blog sought and found a number of additional asteroids named for SF authors, and plotted their orbits, which is also pretty cool.

Being a fan of SFnal onomastics, and probably overly fond of lists, I thought I’d take a look and see what other minor planets have names that derive from authors or works of fantastika. The Minor Planet Center has a handy list, which I used to try to find them. This is a decidedly unscientific survey. The results are basically me trying to guess who might be popular, well-known, or “classic” enough for someone to nominate, plus scanning randomly through the list. (McDevitt’s asteroid is the 328,305th one found, so that’s a very long list to scan through. I didn’t even try to be thorough.) The MPC, besides the handy text list, has a database that includes a note about what the minor planet was named for; however, the database isn’t searchable by keywords in the text, nor is it indexed by Google, so there’s no way to simply search the database for strings like “science fiction” and “fantasy,” which would make a comprehensive list much simpler. (Wikipedia, slightly surprisingly, lacks a category of “minor planets named for SF writers” which is totally the kind of thing it would have, although it does have a list of minor planets named after people, which was much too large to help me much, unfortunately.)

Bearing all those caveats in mind, here are the ones I was able to find, plus the ones listed on Visible Suns. I’m being very generous with what qualifies as fantastika here, since I think it’s more fun that way. However, for people who are more peripherally associated with SF, I only included them if the citation (follow the links) mentions something to do with the fantastic. So Rabelais is in, but Jack London, Johannes Kepler, and Leo Szilard are all out, even though they all wrote at least some SF or fantasy. The idea being that this list is of people (and things) who were honored for some contribution to fantastika. Also bear in mind that I am unquestionably missing scads of asteroids; feel free to add more in the comments if you know of any.

(25924) DouglasAdams (note last two digits of the asteroid number)
(7758) Poulanderson
(5020) Asimov
(5099) Iainbanks
(230765) Alfbester
(11510) Borges
(9766) Bradbury
(21811) Burroughs
(14976) Josefcapek
(1931) Capek
(6984) Lewiscarroll
(77185) Cherryh
(4923) Clarke
(7016) Conandoyle
(3582) Cyrano
(5748) DaveBrin
(10177) Ellison
(91007) Ianfleming
(6312) Robheinlein
(115561) FrankHerbert
(10758) Aldoushuxley
(3412) Kafka
(196772) FritzLeiber
(3836) Lem
(7644) Cslewis
(2625) Jack London
(12353) Marquez
(328305) JackMcDevitt
(11020) Orwell
(17427) Poe
(12284) Pohl
(127005) Pratchett
(152319) Pynchon
(5666) Rabelais
(10895) Aynrand
(43844) Rowling
(2578) Saint-Exupery
(228883) Cliffsimak
(3054) Strugatskia
(2675) Tolkien
(2362) Mark Twain
(5231) Verne
(5676) Voltaire
(25399) Vonnegut
(196540) Weinbaum
(235281) Jackwilliamson
(238129) Bernardwolfe

(8883) Miyazakihayao
(11356) Chuckjones
(28600) Georgelucas
(4659) Roddenberry
(25930) Spielberg

(13562) Bobeggleton

David Bowies:
(342843) Davidbowie

Characters not appearing in Lewis Carrol’s oeuvre:
(29401) Asterix
(2991) Bilbo
(9007) James Bond (Note the number.)
(12410) Donald Duck
(224617) Micromegas
(58345) Moomintroll
(274020) Skywalker
(14941) Tomswift
(10160) Totoro

Lewis Carroll characters:
(6042) Cheshirecat
(17712) Fatherwilliam (Actually a character within a poem within Alice.)
(17627) Humptydumpty
(7470) Jabberwock (Ditto)
(6735) Madhatter
(8889) Mockturtle
(17518) Redqueen
(9387) Tweedledee
(17681) Tweedledum
(17612) Whiteknight
(17942) Whiterabbit
(Note that there is an asteroid named “Alice” but there’s no indication which Alice it’s named after.)

(9777) Enterprise
(9769) Nautilus
(3325) TARDIS

(1819) Laputa

(15907) Robot

(2309) Mr. Spock. This was actually named after a cat who was named after the character.

What conclusions can we draw from this?

Minor planet namers are clearly besotted with the Alice books, for some reason. I mean, they’re major works of literature, truly wonderful, greatly beloved, and overall quite worthy of besottedness, but I’m not sure why Carroll is so over-represented compared to other beloved creators; there is no other creator with more than one character that I could find (fantastical or otherwise). Although the moons of Uranus are named after characters from Shakespeare (and Alexander Pope), so that probably accounts for the paucity of Shakespearean characters (not that I looked very hard, since his characters are mostly not fantastic, and his two most clearly fantastical works are the main ones the Uranian moons are drawn from).

Not a lot of women here, or people of color. (Note that this is just an observation on the SFnal asteroids, not all named asteroids, which I haven’t looked at enough to make generalizations about.) I’m sure I’ve missing some, but can we have an Octaviabutler or Ursulaleguin or Sunra? Pretty please?

Virtually no comic creators or characters: Asterix is the only one I could find. And no television that’s not Star Trek- or Doctor Who-related. (Again, that I could find.) Dunno what to say about that, other than get on the stick, media fans.

Also, what is up with the utter lack of naming conventions? We have names separated with a space (Mark Twain, Donald Duck); names where all the parts are mushed together in title case (Cslewis, Cheshirecat, Miyazakihayao); names mushed together but in camelcase (JackMcDevitt, FrankHerbert); and some highly informal names (Cliffsimak, Alfbester). Actually, now that I think of it, the lack of standardization is kind of glorious. Objection withdrawn.

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