Fictional references that became true

Sometimes somebody comes up with a fake name, or idea for a book, and briefly describes it in a work of fiction. Then later somebody else comes along and decides to make it real. How often does that happen?

For starters: Toad the Wet Sprocket is referred to by a radio DJ on a Monty Python album (and it was an intentionally terrible band name).

Fuck Everything, We’re Doing Five Blades.

Venus on a Half Shell, referred to by Vonnegut and written by Farmer. Farmer put some other fiction titles in there which he later wrote.

A really good example is the Nov. 1949 issue of Astounding. In November 1948 a letter appeared reviewing the Nov. 1949 issue, with a bunch of great stories by top writers. Campbell went out and got these writers to write the stories, and published them in the Nov. 1949 issue, with a few exceptions. A story by Don A. Stuart (Campbell) did not appear, and a part of one of the Foundation serials by Asimov not forecast ran. Gulf by Heinlein was one of the stories in this issue.

Here is a little article about it.

Jean Sheperd came up with a fictional book entitled I, Libertine and demanded his listeners ask for it at their local bookstore to see what kind of result they would get. Eventually, I, Libertine was actually published as a result.

A famous British television commerical featured an old man using the Yellow Pages searching for a book about fly fishing by J.R. Hartley, the punchline revealing that the man himself is the author. Eventually, an actual book about fly fishing was published under the name J.R. Hartley.

When the minor-league Calgary Cannons moved to Albuquerque, the fans voted on what their new name should be. The winner was Albuquerque Isotopes, which partially references the fact that the atomic bomb was first tested in New Mexico, but is mainly a reference to the fictional minor-league baseball team from The Simpsons, which once threatened to move to Albuquerque due to poor attendance.

Conan Doyle made an offhand comment in one of his Holmes stories about “…the giant rat of Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared.” He never did write the story, nor do I imagine he ever intended to.

But since then, there have been many stories published based on that one throw-away reference.

Oh, and of course, “O Brother Where Art Thou,” which was the title of a fictional movie in Preston Sturges’s Sullivan’s Travels long before it was a real Coen Brothers movie.

I would say the most obvious one would be California, although there’s some dispute about exactly where the name came from.

The term thagomizer to refer to the spiked portion of the tail of a stegosaur; it came from a Far Side cartoon and is now used by real specialists.

H.G. Wells wrote about the atomic bomb in The World Set Free. Leo Szilard is supposed to have realized the political importance of the atomic bomb from Wells’ novel. I notice that, of all the names they could have used for the first fission bomb, thery DId use “atomic bomb” (although, to be fair, I think Wells codged the name from Frederick Soddy’s work)
You could make the same point about a lot of science fiction. Kurd Lasswitz was a contemporary of Wells’, an important German science fiction writer, almost none of whose work has been translated into English. But all the German Rocket Engineers in nthe early part of the 20th century were big fans of him, including werner von Braun, Hermannn Oberth, and Willy Ley, and they named parts of their rockets after corresponding parts of the space ships in Lasswitz’ Zwei Planete.
A parallel case might be Heinlein’s “waldoes”, named after the titular character in “Waldo” – they were mechanical arms used for manipulating dangerous or very small items. but i have to admit that, after someone challenged the issue here on the Board, I’ve never seen the term used in R&D or in industry, although at least three science fiction authors have used the term.
a social example is Larry Niven’s “Flash Crowds” . he envisioned it as a result of cheap teleportation, but the phenomenon has been realized due to the availability of cheap and highly portable communication.

The one that comes to mind, as I own a copy of the book, is “Futility or the Wreck of the Titan,” which is similar to the sinking of the Titanic.,_or_the_Wreck_of_the_Titan

Oh yeah, and then there’s the Masked Marauders. Back in 1969, a joke review appeared in Rolling Stone, reviewing a purported tape of a secret super session involving Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, John Lennon and Paul McCartney. So many people took the review seriously that they decided to actually record the album (without any of the actual superstars, of course).

I have a copy. The imitations aren’t all that good, but it’s an interesting document.

In A Clockwork Orange, there was mention of a band called The Heaven Seventeen.

Heaven 17

I was somewhat involved in the creation of TWAIN, the standard protocol and API for scanners. It got passed around among those working on it to call it TWAIN b/c acronyms were getting annoying to us and we thought it sounded cool as well as descriptive (getting scanners and computers to connect was a hassle back then - ie. “never the twain shall meet”).

We used it internally, and eventually it became what everyone called it.

It stands for “Technology Without An Interesting Name.”

Silly one, but the book referenced in **Castle **is actually for sale.

Dean Koontz references a fictional “Book of Counted Sorrows” in his novels often. Demand for a real one was so great that he’s supposedly working on it.

The TV series Lost featured among its many plot points and goings-on a manuscript of a book called Bad Twin, which was actually written and published as a tie-in to the series.

Somewhat similarly, J.K. Rowling wrote three fictional books she herself created in the Harry Potter universe- Quidditch Through The Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them were written for charity, and Tales of Beedle the Bard was made as a gift for her closest partners on the Harry Potter project as a thank-you (and later released to the public).

Not exact, but my favorite pseudoexample is President Schwarzenegger from Demolition Man.


A minute apart?

SF author Gene Wolfe was writing a book Citadel of the Autarch, part of the Book of the New Sun series. His agent misheard the title as **Castle of the Otter **and publicised it as such, so Wolfe felt obliged to write a story by that name in order to keep him (appearing to be) honest.