Inside Jokes in Books

I noticed a few Jewish “inside jokes” in books.

In Peter David’s Imzadi, there are five alien terrorists whose names are Marror, Karpas, Haroset, Hazeret and Zeorah. Those five names also happen to be the names of five items on the Passover seder plate.

In Harry Turtledove’s Darkness Descending, I noticed a few names he uses among the “Ice People.” They include Abinadab, Eliphelet, Elishamma (son of Amihud), Hepher, Machir and Pathrusim. I immediately recognized them all as lesser-known Biblical names.

Does anyone know of any other “inside jokes” in popular books (not necessarily Jewish…)?

Zev Steinhardt

This one’s sure to raise my Nerd Quotient.

n George B. Thomas’ book “Calculus an Analytic Gemetry” you can find “Whales” listed in the index. Turn to the page and – no whales! Of course, there woudn’t be in calculus book. But two of the graphs of functions look kind of whale-like, so Thomas and his editor (who must’ve been pretty punchy at the time) put “whales” in the index. (I have this story from Thomas himsef).

Perhaps the biggest inside joke in a book I can remember was in “Murder at the ABA” which Asimov wrote as if he were Harlan Ellison writing in the first person and took every shot at Ellison imaginable (and a few at himself I should add).

The book was OK but the jibes and jabs seemed never ending.

Was involved in a writers group not long after the publication and Asimov and Ellison were both supposed to be there (at least that’s what the organizer said). Asimov made it breifly, but as I remember, Ellison did not make it at all.

If you want a LOT of science fiction in-jokes, read “The Flying Sorcerors” by Larry Niven and Devid Gerrold – their one and only collaboration. The story is a good one in its own right (a sort of “Conecticut Yankee” story, where a scientist from a technological culture finds himself stranded on a primitive world, and must build the means to get back home), but it’s filled to he brim with references to sf writers. I’m sure I missed some of them. An example: “Elcin” is the diminutive and short-tempered God of Thunder. It’s clearly Harlan Ellison.The biggest joke, of course, is the hero, whose name is translated by his Univrersal Translator as “As-a-shade of purple-grey”

Actually I just read this book not too long ago, and the first-person “author” was not Ellison but a fitcional author, Darius Just. I found the little footnote dialogue amusing.

Christopher Morley’s “Kitty Foyle” (which got made into a movie, with Ginger Rogers) takes place on the Philadelphia Main Line, and a lot of character names are local towns: Wynnewood, Gladwyne, etc. Something only a local would get (like the joke, “Main Liners are very nice to people below their station—as long as the station isn’t below Overbrook”).

In Terry Pratchett’s Maskerade Granny Weatherwax compliments a young woman named Colette on her interesting earrings. This is a reference to a well-known poster and her homemade earrings (full story here:

Joan K. Hughes wrote a college-level PL/1 programming language text & reference book, and included a glossary in the back. The entire book is serious, straightforward, and dry, except for one entry in the glossary:

“Optimist: a programmer that codes in ink.”

Yeah, this book was written in the days when you wrote your code on paper, then took it down to the keypunch room and punched your own cards. Well, you could give it to the keypunch girls to key for you, but they always came back to you and asked “Is that was a 6 or a G, a 0 or an O, and what the hell does STUD_FINDER_ARRAY mean, and why are you looking for them?”

Oh, and Larry Niven did a book called “Fallen Angels”, or some such, and incorporated references to SF fans, writers, and so on all through the book. IIRC, some of the fans actually paid him for the privilege of being written into his book.

One of the few that I can think of off the top of my head isn’t so much an inside joke I think, as much as it is a bit of an easter egg.

In Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books, the beginning is always done by Herald-Chronicler Myste. Mercedes Lackey is more often known as Misty among her fans.

I thought it was kinda cute, especially when I read through one of my books for about the 16th time and said “OH!!! NOW I get it!” :slight_smile:

O.K. think me a moron if you will, but…
I don’t get it.

I know it’s fairly obvious, but I (what’s the word…hmmm) SUCK at word games. It’s not like I know nothing about SF*, but this refference just goes “whooosh!” over my head. What’s worse, I think I read this book at one time and didn’t get it then either. I thought about it till I got headaches, then I gave up.

I’m horrible at deciphering vanity plates on cars too. But that’s another thread.

*See, I know enough that it’s SF and not sci-fi.

In George Orwell’s 1984, the room Winston goes in to be tortured by his greatest fear, Room 101, was named after a room number at the BBC where Orwell used to work. The room was used for meetings that Orwell found horrendously boring (as a lot of meetings are).

I read a serious, detailed biography of Gandhi that speculated on whether Gandhi had ever met Sherlock Holmes, since both were in London at the same time. As far as I could tell the author was serious, but I can’t really believe he believed it.



It took me a while, too. (Like a lavender? In the fashion of a color? What the hell?)

One of my other favorites from “The Flying Sorcerers” was Rot’in’Barr, the god of sheep a nice dig at Gene Roddenbery of Star Trek fame.

(Sorry, the spelling may be off as I’m doing this from memory)

Try looking in the Easter Egg archive.

Many authors put in jokes for their own amusement. Wilson “Bob” Tucker used to put the names of friends in his books so often that it gave rise to the term “tuckerization.” A friend of mine has been tuckerized in one of Anne McCaffrey “Dragonriders of Pern” novels, for instance. Sometime authors use this as a way to raise money for charity – the highest bidder gets tuckerized.

Some other examples:

“The Starcrossed” by Ben Bova is one big in-joke about the making of the TV series “The Starlost,” including a portrayal of Bova and Harlan Ellison, who were both involved.

The name “Ford Prefect” in “Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” is – well, it’s an in-joke to U.S. readers, though very obvious to British readers. The Ford Prefect was a car model popular in Britain; a rough U.S. equivalent would be “Ford Escort.”

In the fairly obscure young adult novel “Trying Hard to Hear You,” by Sandra Scoppettone, all the characters are roughly based on actual people in the town at the time (I was one of them). Scoppetone was director of a performance of “Anything Goes” and used that for the novel – maybe too much so.

The creepiest in-joke was in a James Tiptree, Jr. story about a character who committed suicide by shooting himself in the head and discovering he was in a wonderful version of heaven. It was published postumously, after Tiptree had committed suicide with a bullet to the brain.

Yes, Darius Just is, in fact, a surrogate for Ellison. That is what makes it an inside joke; if the Character’s name was Harlan Ellison, it wouldn’t be much of a joke, would it? Asimov was known for making fun of his close friends in this manner, Ellison being a very close friend. In his “Tales of the Black Widowers” stories, each Black Widower is a different member of a group to which Asimov belonged called “The Trap Door Spiders.” I can’t remember off-hand who the various characters represent. For details I’d recommend Asimov’s various autobiographys.

Spider Robinson is also known for this kind of thing. There is an old Callahan’s story where the weird “alien” guy is really a joke for “Alfred Bester.” There is a pun involved.

I wonder if Darius Just is a pun of some sort. Puns were something of a trademark of Asimov, much like Robinson.

Just remembered another one.

In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets there’s a character named Gildroy Lockhart, who’s pompous and really full of himself but is a coward and insecure underneath. JK Rowling says that Lockhart is the only character that she ever based on someone she knew. She’s never said, but it’s thought to believe that he’s based on her ex-husband.

Also, when Adams was at Cambridge, he formed a comedy team with two pals named Will Adams and Martin Smith. This led to the scene on the Heart of Gold where Arthur says to Zaphod, “I’ve seen you before, you know,” and Ford interrupts, “What?! This is the President of the Galaxy you’re talking to, not bloody Martin Smith from Croydon!”

I knew a Ford Prefect was a car when I first read HGTTG, of course, but someone had to explain to me that it wasn’t just a matter of being confused about proper names: Ford had actually thought, at first, that cars were the dominant life form on earth! Hee hee.

David Weber has been known to tuckerize some of his fans on mailing lists who discover spelling/continutity/grammar errors in his books…they often get to be redshirts. The joy of being able to say, ‘Well, I was the private who had her guts spread across the landing bay!’ must be great. :wink:

(I know one girl who was a redshirt, she loved it.)

Bringing things back to an odd sort of circularity–Peter David, in addition to his ST novel work, is also an accomplished and renowned comics writer. As such, he also references others in the comics industry in his ST books. The quickest example I can give is in his The Siege from the DS9 series of books (which is the only one I have on hand). There are two characters, “Lobb” and “Del”, therein. Scott Lobdell is another comics writer. zev, is Imzadi the one with “Nici” and “Eza”? These names are takes from comics writer/editor Fabian Nicieza. I know David has used others, but those are the only ones I can remember off headtop.

Also, in the credits for “American Beauty”, there is a “Thanks To Dr. Bill and Alice”. Dr. Bill and Alice were the characters played by Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in “Eyes Wide Shut”. “AB” director Sam Mendes also directed Kidman in London and on Broadway in “The Blue Room”, and I think both Cruise and Kidman had some influence in getting Mendes the “AB” job.

[sub]I don’t even care to count the number of levels of geekhood I revealed in this post…[/sub]