I am trying to remember the name of a short story I read in the 1990s or earlier.

  1. The story was either in an anthology or a science fiction a magazine.
  2. The story is centered on a woman on a space ship or a space station.
  3. The woman was pregnant and going to have five children (all at once.)
  4. There was something else going on that was the focus of the story, but I don't remember what it was.
  5. The woman has discussions with someone (possibly what you'd call an AI today) about naming the children.
  6. She wanted to name them all for the various types of armed forces. There were five types of armed forces that she named, but she didn't like the fifth one.
  7. The story ends with the children sounding off with their names: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Elephant.
  8. "Elephant" may be wrong. Whatever it was, it was totally out of keeping with the theme of the other names.

1 Answer 1


Equinoctial by John Varley. It was first published in 1977 in the anthology Ascents of Wonder, which is where I read it. It can be read on the Internet Archive as part of the collection The Barbie Murders.

Now was one of the big moments in her life. She proposed to savor it to the full and refused to be distracted by the hunters. She was giving birth to quintuplets.

Uni, Duo, Tri, Quad ... Hopelessly trite. Doc, Happy, Sneezy, Grumpy—No, there were seven of those. Army, Navy, Marine, Airforce, Coastguard? That was a pentagon, for an interesting pun. But who wanted to be called Coastguard? What was a Coastguard, anyway?

The story ends:

“We’ll go with you. Say, what are your names?”

“Army,” said one of the girls.

“Navy,” said another.



“And Elephant,” said the boy.

They laughed all the way to Alpha.

(Alpha is a division in the ring of Saturn. The story is set in the space around Saturn.)


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.