If you got to name a new planet, what would you name it and why?
“That smells amazing, Mrs. Chang,” Al said, strolling into the galley.
She made a dismissive gesture with her spoon hand. “Would be better if I had real Zodarran ginger root.” She gave the dish a taste and shrugged. “But this works, I think. Come, taste.”
He did as ordered and joined her in the kitchen. She held the spoon up for him. A mix of vegetables and tofu eagerly awaited him at eye level. He lowered the spoon to his mouth and took the proffered bite. Flavors danced on his tongue and he sighed with satisfaction. “I’m not sure how a Zodarran ginger root could make that any better. I’ve never tasted anything so divine.”
Cook snickered from her cutting board on the opposite counter. “Not even in Echelon?” She grinned slyly. “Surely you had your own personal chefs to make you the highest quality meals from whatever cuisine your heart desired.”
“I was an heir, not a prince,” Al pouted. “I ate just as many preprocessed to-go meals as plenty of kids my age.”
“Don’t tease the boy, Cookie,” Mrs. Chang admonished. “He may be cultured, but he is still just a boy.”
Cook gave him an apologetic grin. “That you are,” she said. “It surprised me your first night on the Jack when you knew the dish we had made for dinner. Of course, that was when we thought you were just a runaway from LowBow. Looking back now, it’s really not all that surprising.”
“I know a little about the cultures of a lot of different planets, but Zodarra is one I’d always wanted to know more about,” he said, resting his elbows on the counter behind him. “It was such a small planet in such a far-off system though that Moira didn’t see any benefit to my learning anything more than the basics. I tried asking Lee about it, but he doesn’t remember much.”
Lee’s mom chuckled. “Of course he doesn’t. He was just a baby when we left.” Her hand searched the counter for the salt shaker.
He handed it to her. “But you’ve been back since then, haven’t you?”
“Twice.” She nodded thanks and shook the container over the pot, stirring the granules into the stew. “Once for his first connection and then again when my mother returned to Zho Dar.” Her gaze saddened.
Al looked to Cook for clarification. She shook her head as she continued chopping vegetables. “What is Zho Dar?”
Mrs. Chang turned her face towards him with a mix of concern and incredulity. He’d seen teachers give their students that look after asking a particularly stupid question. “Zho Dar? It is the true name of my planet.” Al flinched. She shook her head. “It is the name of our guardian deity. The Mother who gave us life and to whom we must return when our life is spent.”
“Oh,” Al said. He didn’t know how else to respond. His locket lay heavy on his chest as he thought about her loss. “I’m sorry.”
She turned back to Cook for the next bowl of chopped greens. “It is the way of things for us,” she said. “One day I will also return to Her.”
She tilted her head thoughtfully. “Lee is not as bound to our ways. I think it is because he belongs here, in the stars.” She shook her head and shooed Al away. “Enough chitchat. Go and clean up for supper. I am blind of sight not of smell. There is still engine grease on your face, unless I am mistaken.”
Cook smirked. Al rubbed his neck nervously. “I thought I’d gotten it all.”
The women chuckled. “Go and fetch the other children. They’ll make sure you are presentable.”
Notes: As a writer of a handful of science fiction space stories, I have named several planets over the last few years. They all came from a random name generator site, as do many of my alien names and fantasy names. For this prompt I decided to pick one and reverse engineer a history of the name. One of my goals for the first half of the year is to finish the novel I started during NaNo, so I thought this would be a fun (literal) world-building exercise for one of the planets mentioned in the novel. So far it’s the only one I’ve actually named, because when I shared the excerpt a few weeks ago, I didn’t want to leave the empty “[planet name]” filler and forced myself to just pick a name from a generated list I’d saved.
I also haven’t settled on the names of half the women on this pirate crew, and I went down a rabbit hole trying to decide on Lee’s mom’s name for this silly little scene. Somewhere along the way they became Chinese-inspired and I have almost no working knowledge of Chinese naming customs except that it’s complicated. I’m sure I’ll find a better name after some actual research and not just 40 minutes of furious Googling to suit my prompt only to settle for calling her by her surname.
I’ve said it dozens of times before, but these prompts are great tools for world-building and developing pre-established characters. This prompt was great for me to work out more lore for my novel and gave me new insight into one of my characters that I didn’t have before. I wanna use it again for figuring out the origins of Mosarix in my Galactic Empire story. One story at a time, Sara, please.
That’s all I got for tonight. One more prompt to finish out the week. Have a great Friday!
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