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Rereading Pebble in the Sky (1950), Isaac Asimov's first complete novel, I noticed a particular word near the beginning chapter 6:

Ennius looked at the stars. They were the real beauty to him, since they were the Empire.

Earth's sky was of an intermediate type. It had not the unbearable glory of the skies of the Central Worlds, where star elbowed star in such blinding competition that the black of night was nearly lost in a coruscant explosion of light. Nor did it possess the lonely grandeur of the skies of the Periphery, where the unrelieved blackness was broken at great intervals by the dimness of an orphaned star—with the milky lens shape of the Galaxy spreading across the sky, the individual stars thereof lost in diamond dust.

Coruscant (defined as "glittering, sparkling, gleaming" by the Oxford English Dictionary) is not a particularly common word, and is used here specifically in connection with the majesty of the "Central Worlds" around the hub of the Galactic Empire. This immediately made me wonder whether the name of the capital planet in Star Wars was named as an homage to (this passage from) Asimov's work, which seems to have been extremely influential in the development of the galaxy-wide civilization in Star Wars.

The Empire and Foundation novels' capital planet is one of the prototypical examples from science fiction of a completely urbanized futuristic world, a complete world-city. Another well-known example is the capital world of the Star Wars universe, which went by many names early on—most notably "Had Abbadon," when it was planned that the Episode VI showdown between Luke, Vader, and the Emperor would take place down there on the planet, rather than on the Death Star. According to this site, early drafts of the first Star Wars script or storyline would have called the capital planet "Jhantor," also reminiscent of Asimov's Imperial capital "Trantor." However, the name "Coruscant" was introduced in Timothy Zahn's 1991 novel Heir to the Empire (which was a crucial turning point in the development of the extended universe), and was confirmed in The Phantom Menace.

So is there any evidence that Zahn (or whoever else might have been involved in coming up with the planet's name) intended it an as allusion to the description of the starry heavens over Trantor in Pebble in the Sky?

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    Doc Smith used "coruscating" multiple times in Spacehounds of IPC and various Lensman novels, some of them before Asimov wrote Pebble -- it was a somewhat common word then.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Oct 19, 2022 at 16:56
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    Just pointing out that Trantor was the worldcity Imperial capital (i.e. Coruscant analogue) in Asimov's works, not Earth where Pebble is set.
    – Spencer
    Commented Oct 19, 2022 at 18:13
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    Also in this passage "coruscant" is used to describe the sky (viewed from the surface), not the world or worlds Commented Oct 20, 2022 at 3:23
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    also also in English there is a /k/ sound in the word, unlike the weird faux-French way it's pronounced in Star Wars (weird because in actual French it also has a /k/ sound!)
    – AakashM
    Commented Oct 20, 2022 at 8:31
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    @user14111 ah the ol' stack exchange switcheroo Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 1:32

1 Answer 1

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Zahn supposedly just liked the name because it literally means "glittering", a word that matched George Lucas' earlier description of the planet.

"Just to make it clear, I did not invent the planet... George Lucas had invented the planetwide city a long time ago. When I was starting the Thrawn Trilogy, they told me to coordinate with the West End Games source material, and they had it listed as the Imperial Planet. Well nobody names a planet 'Imperial Planet,' so I thought it needed a name, so I picked the word that means glittering: 'Coruscant.' Apparently, when it came time to choose a name [for the films], people persuaded George to go with Coruscant and be done with it. So I felt very vindicated -- the tail wagging the dog. It was an honor to be slipped into the movies this way."

Timothy Zahn: Celebration III

And

"The source material I was given when I started the Thrawn Trilogy was mostly from West End Games RPG source material and it was very handy. It kept me from having to invent the wheel all over the place, with vehicles and aliens and such. But they refer to the Imperial Planet, I think they call it "Imperial Centre". I started writing it, but it seemed to me that nobody names a planet Imperial Centre. All planets, all capitals have a history; Rome, Paris, London, so I picked the name Coruscant, which means "glittering". Since it's a big city, a planetwide city, it seemed a nice sort of touch."

SW Action News - Podcast

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  • To be clear, George didn't invent the concept of a planet wide city, for that see Ecumenopolis Commented Oct 20, 2022 at 15:25
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    Bill, The Galactic Hero also has a planetwide city as a key part of the plot Commented Oct 20, 2022 at 15:37
  • "Nobody would name a planet 'Imperial Center'". With respect to Mr Zah, I believe The Empire would take a planet and decide to rename it "Imperial Center". But the planet surely had a real name first, and Coruscant is a good choice. Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 16:16
  • @JoelCoehoorn - Because the various sources didn't agree, they retconned it so that both things were true, that it was originally called Coruscant, then the Emperor named it the Imperial Planet, then the New Republic changed it back to Coruscant. In canon they did away with all of that nonsense and it's just called Coruscant all the way through the Empire period.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 16:41
  • Argh, "Zahn", not "Zah" 😢 Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 16:47

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