Your chance for fame and immortality has come and, like all other such offers in legend, song, and story, it’ll cost you. Probably not your soul, though, unless PayPal has changed its policies.
Next month, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Amy Tan, Lemony Snicket, Nora Roberts, Michael Chabon and 10 other best-selling writers will auction the right to name characters, items, and places in their new works. Your name could soon be read by millions on subways, listened to on iPods during long lines at Starbucks, maybe even assumed by Curtis Armstrong in the straight-to-DVD adaptation. It’s every American’s dream!
Profits from the auction will go to the First Amendment Project, which seeks to protect the free speech rights of activists, writers and artists. No word yet if any activists will follow suit with personalized protest signs (“Hell No, Glen Harbecki of Ponce Inlet, FL, Won’t Go!”).
The idea came from Gaiman, who previously parceled off naming rights to a cruise ship in his forthcoming novel “Anansi Boys” to benefit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Despite little advertising beyond his blog the naming rights still sold for over $3,500, and Gaiman suggested the auction to author and First Amendment Project board member Chabon as a way to raise needed funds.
Even if you win you won’t necessarily get total control over the results. King will kill you off but only if you’re female. Snicket will have your name uttered by a toddling adventurer. Andrew Sean Greer wants to put you on a soda shop sign, probably. Jonathan Letham will make you a professor in a comic book, and Dave Eggers will stick you into an illustrated story. John Grisham promises to portray you in a good light, Peter Straub promises just the opposite, and Rick Moody suspects you’d be “reasonably sympathetic.” Gaiman will put you on a gravestone, possibly to commemorate your murder at King’s hands.
Most of the authors have provisions against accepting inappropriate names, although it wouldn’t surprise me to see a sudden influx of fictional characters named “Gold N. Palace.”
Product placement used for the power of good. And it’s hardly new. Patrons of the arts used to have likenesses of themselves painted into classics. Fully a third of the begats in the Old Testament were really just shout-outs. Shakespeare would never have used the names Rosencrantz and Guildenstern if someone hadn’t paid him to. And besides, how many times can you horribly torture your boss, your ex-wives, and your childhood enemies in your fiction before it gets old? 10, 12 times, tops.
Had I the ready cash I’d be all over this. I’d love to pop up in the worlds of my favorite writers, and there are plenty more should the First Amendment Project ever want to do another set.
I want to be a Chuck Palahniuk character with an entirely new pathology, maybe something involving floss.
I want to be a mysteriously desiccated corpse floating through the works of Carl Hiaasen, Dave Barry and/or Tim Dorsey. I’d even get a bizarre and ultimately significant Aztec tattoo if it would be integral to the plot.
I want Orson Scott Card to make me part of Ender’s jeesh. I want Terry Pratchett to get me into (and possibly quickly back out of) the Ankh-Morpork City Watch whenever I’m not working the night shift at one of Spider Robinson’s establishments. Allen Steele can put me on the moon, Robert J. Sawyer can put me in an alien ship, and Harry Turtledove can put me on whichever side of the Civil War he’s got winning this time.
I would totally be in Ravenclaw. Or maybe Gryffindor. No, Ravenclaw, they go for the smart ones. But then, Gryffindor wins all the Quidditch matches, so…
I want to be robbed by Bernie Rhodenbarr, hunted down by Elvis Cole, insulted by Spenser, maced by Stephanie Plum, seriously boozed up by Kinky Friedman, and captured by Thursday Next.
Jennifer Crusie, Tom Robbins, Peter David, Christopher Moore, John Varley, Mark Leyner, Max Barry, Keith R. A. DeCandido, Audrey Niffenegger, Jeff Strand, Steven Gould … Do with me what you will. I can take it.
The auctions begin Sept. 1 in three 10-day events. Best of luck to everyone who bids! Especially if you have a name close enough to mine to be easily altered. That’s the closest I’ll get, unless PayPal changes their minds over that whole soul thing.
On the Net:
eBay auction site: http://www.ebay.com/fap
First Amendment Project: http://cgi3.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewUserPage&userid=auctioncause