7

In his stories, Isaac Asimov avoided giving common real world names to his characters, instead most of the time he invented new names or new spellings to existing names. This gave us lots of memorable character names: Wendell Urth, Giskard Reventlov and Kelden Amadiro, Lodovik Antyook, Hari Seldon and the emperor Cleon I. A few characters have more commonplace names, such as Susan Calvin and Gregory Powell.

Following the pattern of Did J.K. Rowling give two or more unrelated characters the same first name in any of the 10 books?, I'm curious to ask:

Did Isaac Asimov use any name word for two unrelated characters in his science fiction writings?

Let me set up some long arbitrary guidelines.

  • Only published stories written by Isaac Asimov count. Stories written by other writers but published in anthologies or journals by Asimov don't count. Stories in the Foundation universe written with Asimov's permission by other authors after his death don't count for this question either, despite that I like some of them. (Eg. Lodovik Trema has the same first name as Lodovik Antyook, but the former wasn't named by Asimov. Update: nope, the hero of Blind Alley is actually called Loodun Antyok, so the names differ.) I do count the three novels expanded by Robert Silverberg from Isaac Asimov's short stories though.

  • Only science fiction stories count, whether in the Foundation universe or outside. (Most of my examples are from the Robots and Foundation stories, but this is only because that's what I'm familiar with.) Interpret science fiction broadly, that is, any story that would be on-topic for this site is good. Novels or short stories both work. Non-fiction books, such as books on popular science don't count for this question, so that we stay on topic.

  • Any significant word in the name counts. Given names like Hari or Han or Peter, family names like Seldon or Delmarre, other parts of the name, or parts of which we can't tell the role from the stories, they are all okay if they appear in multiple unrelated character's name.

  • However, common prefixes or suffixes like Jr. don't count. In particular, the R. prefix in several robot character's names doesn't count.

  • Names of characters count no matter whether they are main characters or just incidental, seen live or just mentioned, living or dead before the start of the story. Any species counts: robots, humans, cepheids, whatever.

  • Names of real people, or of characters not original to Asimov's fiction but known from before him don't count, unless the name itself is original to Asimov's stories. (These are rare in Asimov's fiction, but e.g. The Caves of Steel mentions a few characters from the Bible.)

  • Duplications that have an in-world reason don't count. This means that the same name shared by people in a family don't count, e.g. it's no surprise that Raych Seldon shares Hari Seldon's family name. Similarly, it is explained in character in Robots and Empire that Elijah Baley is seen as a hero by many colonists, which is why many of them, including the character D. G. Baley, share his names.

4
  • 3
    This is only a sidebar to your main point, but Cleon is not an invented name or spelling: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleon – recognizer Jan 20 '16 at 20:11
  • Do the characters sharing a name have to be in the same story, or just exist in any of the stories that fulfill your criteria? – Alex Dec 14 '18 at 15:36
  • @Alex They don't have to be in the same story. – b_jonas Dec 14 '18 at 15:37
  • There was a very close call in the short story "Mother Earth"; one character was called "Moreanu" and another was "Moreno". – Clara Diaz Sanchez Jan 11 at 22:09
15

“In his stories, Isaac Asimov avoided giving common real world names to his characters, instead most of the time he invented new names or new spellings to existing names.”

No, this is only true for some of his stories. In many stories he used common names like Sam, Robert, Mike or Joe, so it's almost inevitable that several characters share the same first or last name.

First name: Just one example, Mike: Mike Shea (Marooned off Vesta), Michael “Mike the Slug” Maguire (The Magnificent Possession), Mike Donovan (Reason and other robot stories), Mike Manners (All the Troubles of the World), Myron “Mike” Ginsbook (The Holmes-Ginsbook Device), etc. Mike is also the nickname of a robot in Too Bad! and of a computer in Think!

Last name: The famous Susan Calvin shares her last name with Preston Calvin (The Weapon). There's a Doctor Hamilton Sloane in It’s Such a Beautiful Day and a Jim Sloane in Sure Thing. Boris Vernadsky occurs in Sucker Bait, and Larry Vernadsky in The Talking Stone

First name/last name: Heredity has a Professor Harvey and Old-fashioned a Harvey Funarelli.

17

There are actually quite a few names that Asimov reused in his works:

  • Thaddeus
  • Thaddeus Araman in "The Dead Past"
  • Thaddeus Milton in "Breeds There a Man"
  • Norman
  • Norman Muller in "Franchise"
  • Norman in "What If —"
  • Sarah
  • Sarah Muller in "Franchise"
  • Sarah Hillary in "Dreaming is a Private Thing"
  • A slight variation: Sara May Evans in "It's Such a Beautiful Day"
  • Joe
  • Joe Hammer in "Franchise"
  • Agatha's Joe in "Franchise"
  • Joe Dooley in "Dreaming is a Private Thing"
  • Joe Manners in "All the Troubles of the World"
  • Joe in "Breeds There a Man...?" (Joe might not be the guy's actual name though.)
  • Joe Bloom in "It's Such a Beautiful Day"
  • John
  • John Paulson in "Franchise"
  • John J. Byrne in "Dreaming is a Private Thing"
  • John Drake in "Green Patches"
  • John Smith in "Breeds There a Man...?" (John Smith is not his real name though.)
  • John Stuart in "C-Chute"
  • John Polen in "Flies"
  • John Abramowitz in "It's Such a Beautiful Day"
  • John Hansen in "Insert Knob A in Hole B"
  • John Henderson in "The Machine That Won the War"
  • John Semper Travis robot expert in "Light verse"
  • A variation: Fair Johnnie in "Someday"
  • Samson
  • Samson Levine in "Franchise"
  • Samson Harridge in "Sally"
  • Peter
  • Peter Dorogobuzh in "Franchise"
  • Peter Bogert in "Satisfaction Guaranteed"
  • George
  • George Fallenby in "Living Space"
  • George Kilroy in "The Message"
  • George Jones in "Jokester"
  • George Platen in "Profession"
  • Joseph
  • Joseph Vincenzo in "Hell-Fire"
  • Joseph Manners in "All the Troubles of the World"
  • Winthrop
  • Winthrop Hester in "The Last Trump"
  • Winthrop in "Flies"
  • Richard
  • Richard Levine in "The Last Trump"
  • Richard Sayama Altmayer in "In a Good Cause —"
  • Richard Hanshaw in "It's Such a Beautiful Day"
  • Tommy
  • Tommy in "The Fun They Had"
  • Tommy Slutsky in "Dreaming is a Private Thing"
  • Timothy
  • Timothy Whistler in "Jokester"
  • A variation: Timmie in "The Ugly Little Boy"
  • Henry
  • Henry Anton Schmidt in "Profession"
  • Henry Brand in "Spell my Name with an S"
  • Henry J. Lafkowitz in "Unto the Fourth Generation"
  • Edward
  • Edward Talliaferro in "The Dying Night"
  • Edward Harponaster in "I'm in Marsport Without Hilda"
  • A variation: Ed Skidmore in "What Is This Thing Called Love?"
  • Ben
  • Ben Manners in "All the Troubles of the World"
  • Ben Porter in "C-Chute"
  • Randolph
  • Randolph T. Hoch in "All the Troubles of the World"
  • Randolph Fluellen Mullen in "C-Chute"
  • Jerry
  • Jerry in "The Ugly Little Boy"
  • Jerry Thorn in "Green Patches"
  • Drake
  • Drake in "Hostess"
  • John Drake in "Green Patches"
  • Dick
  • Dick Sayama Altmayer in "In a Good Cause —"
  • Dick Reinhardt in "What If —"
  • Dick Hanshaw Jr. in "It's Such a Beautiful Day"
  • Bill
  • Bill Ching in "Living Space"
  • Bill Billings in "Nowhere Here but —"
  • Elizabeth
  • Elizabeth Manners in "All the Troubles of the World"
  • Elizabeth Robbins in "It's Such a Beautiful Day"
  • Elizabeth in "Unto the Fourth Generation"
  • Hester
  • Hester Adams in "It's Such a Beautiful Day"
  • Winthrop Hester in "The Last Trump"
  • Hester in "Sally"
  • Stephen
  • Stephen/Steve in "Sally" (Steve is a car)
  • A slight variation: Steven Lamorak in "Strikebreaker"
  • Alexander
  • Alexander Adell in "The Last Question"
  • Alexander Dexter in "The Up-to-Date Sorcerer"
  • A variation: Alex Naylor in "Unto the Fourth Generation"
  • Samuel
  • Samuel Jones in "It's Such a Beautiful Day"
  • Samuel Marten in "Unto the Fourth Generation"
  • Sam
  • Sam Ellenford in "Profession"
  • Sam Marten in "Unto the Fourth Generation"
  • Phineas
  • Phineas Welch in "The Immortal Bard"
  • A slight variation: Phinehas ben Jehudah Levkovich in "Unto the Fourth Generation"
  • LaMarr
  • LaMarr in "The Dead Past"
  • A slight variation: Lamar Swift in "The Machine That Won the War"
  • Max
  • Max in "Jokester"
  • Max in "I'm in Marsport Without Hilda"
  • Max Jablonsky in "The Machine That Won the War"
  • Johnson
  • Cantwell Johnson in "Franchise"
  • Johnson in "Jokester"
  • Jones
  • Margie Jones in "The Fun They Had"
  • George Jones in "Jokester"
  • Byrne
  • John J. Byrne in "Dreaming is a Private Thing"
  • Edwin Byrne in "It's Such a Beautiful Day"
  • Mandel
  • Hubert Mandel in "The Dying Night"
  • Mandel in "Unto the Fourth Generation"
  • J.
  • Horatio J. Billikan in "The Last Trump"
  • John J. Byrne in "Dreaming is a Private Thing"
  • Raymond J. Gellhorn in "Sally"
  • E.J. Link in "Flies"
  • Henry J. Lafkowitz in "Unto the Fourth Generation"
5

In the short story "Liar!", there is a mathematician named Peter Bogert. In the short story "Frustration", there is a computer programmer named Peter Jonsbeck.

In the short story "Robbie" there is a character named George Weston. In the short story "... That Thou Art Mindful of Him" there are robots named George Nine and George Ten.

I'd be surprised if there were not more examples. Given how prolific Asimov was, and during a period without personal computers, I can't imagine that he kept track of such trivia as name reuse.

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