Mentioning existing entities within IF

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Sam Kabo Ashwell

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May 16, 2001, 1:39:14 PM5/16/01
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Problem. Let's say you want to represent a very large and recognisable (but
only generic: the specific companies in the examples below are irrelevant)
international company or corporation in a piece of writing. What do you do?
You can't really give a real company's real name, for obvious reasons. If
you're not aiming to go for comic effect or parody, you can't really call
the corp MiniSoft or AOK Tome Warmer; if, however, you make up a totally new
company name, it doesn't have the instant recognition quality; when films or
other media depict fictitious megacorps, they have to spend time building up
the image of their invented company and basically tell their audience that
This Is A Big Corporation With X, Y and Z Associated With It. It's a clumsy
and unpleasant technique that doesn't feel real, and it's particuarly
inconvenient if said organisation is of non-central importance to the story.
If you use the name of a real and well-known company, it summons up a whole
host of associations; what the company does, its approximate size, and so
on. If someone doesn't recognise a company name, the automatic assumption is
"I've never heard of this company, so it must be minor."
It can be possible to say "a major record label" or "a big player in
electronics", but in certain examples, (conversation, e.g.) this isn't
appropriate. Sometimes (see Fight Club) you can weave company anonymity into
character motivation, but sometimes this isn't possible.
Possibly the best technique I can think of that's used in literature (in
Orwell for swearwords and countless writers for real names, e.g.) is using
___, as in "The vice-president of the ___ marketing department was wearing
a toupee of real ibex fur", but this, or using initials, would pose its own
problems in IF: how does a player 'ASK VICE-PRESIDENT ABOUT ____ ' ?
The same problem would apply to things other than corporations, of course,
and I've no doubt that it's been discussed before, but I was just wondering
what people's takes on this were.
SKA

Joe Mason

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May 16, 2001, 2:06:36 PM5/16/01
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In article <B72879D2.478F%ka...@btinternet.com>,

Sam Kabo Ashwell <ka...@btinternet.com> wrote:
>Problem. Let's say you want to represent a very large and recognisable (but
>only generic: the specific companies in the examples below are irrelevant)
>international company or corporation in a piece of writing. What do you do?
>You can't really give a real company's real name, for obvious reasons. If

What obvious reasons?

Joe

Alex Watson

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May 16, 2001, 4:25:04 PM5/16/01
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Sam Kabo Ashwell selected the three most edible things out of the fridge
and sat down to eat, while telling rec.arts.int-fiction this:
<pnip>

> company name, it doesn't have the instant recognition quality; when films or
> other media depict fictitious megacorps, they have to spend time building up
> the image of their invented company and basically tell their audience that
> This Is A Big Corporation With X, Y and Z Associated With It. It's a clumsy
> and unpleasant technique that doesn't feel real, and it's particuarly
> inconvenient if said organisation is of non-central importance to the story.
<pnip>

> It can be possible to say "a major record label" or "a big player in
> electronics", but in certain examples, (conversation, e.g.) this isn't
> appropriate. Sometimes (see Fight Club) you can weave company anonymity into
> character motivation, but sometimes this isn't possible.
> Possibly the best technique I can think of that's used in literature (in
> Orwell for swearwords and countless writers for real names, e.g.) is using
> ___, as in "The vice-president of the ___ marketing department was wearing
> a toupee of real ibex fur", but this, or using initials, would pose its own
> problems in IF: how does a player 'ASK VICE-PRESIDENT ABOUT ____ ' ?

I, personally, think this looks even worse than making up a company. If the
making-up technique is done well, by building up history of company,
associations, employees (even if you only do all this in your head - it
will show through when you write about them!), makes the game sound no less
credible.

For example, when I started creating my latest game, I actually set about
creating 'Guide' entries about the most important concepts, people and
places (I think I may indeed incorporate this guide into the game; it would
be good for background story). This helped enormously in letting me build
up a solid and real gameworld, where all the concepts (etc.) were nicely
consistent.

--
Alex Watson
http://www.watson1999-69.freeserve.co.uk/froup/
Replies to me[AT]watson1999-69.freeserve.co.uk
"Oh, drat. I just sustained an injury caused by an extended sneezing fit,
and I was hoping you'd pay for it..." - Jonathan [apinha]

Dennis G. Jerz

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May 16, 2001, 5:32:26 PM5/16/01
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From an artistic perspective, it's perfectly legitimate to mention existing
corporate entities within works of fiction. For example, novelist Don
Delillo mentions brand names, trade marks, etc., with the intention of using
the "brand recognition" as an aid to character development.

Comedy and parody are options, of course, but not the only ones; satire can
be awfully serious, and extremely powerful. If you ask me, "AOK Tome Warmer"
borders on brilliance. If the characters within the story took this parodic
name seriously, then I would, too.

But "mentioning" and "creating fictional and perhaps unflattering stories
that are set within" are two different things. A further problem is that
the more specific you make your cultural references, the more rapidly your
work becomes dated.

--
Dennis G. Jerz, Ph.D.; (715)836-2431
Dept. of English; U Wisc.-Eau Claire
419 Hibbard, Eau Claire, WI 54702
------------------------------------
Literacy Weblog: www.uwec.edu/jerzdg


Alex Watson

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May 17, 2001, 1:13:18 PM5/17/01
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Alex Watson selected the three most edible things out of the fridge and sat

To add to this, Douglas Adams created the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation
and gave them a very strong reputation. This is an excellent example, and
seems to be the right way to go about it.

"Windows 98 Setup could not find a keyboard or other input device. Press
enter for further instructions."

Thorsten Franz

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May 17, 2001, 5:12:30 PM5/17/01
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"Alex Watson" <alexw...@deadspam.com> schrieb im Newsbeitrag
news:MPG.156e17097...@news.cis.dfn.de...

> To add to this, Douglas Adams created the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation
> and gave them a very strong reputation. This is an excellent example, and
> seems to be the right way to go about it.

Frobozzco comes to mind.

> "Windows 98 Setup could not find a keyboard or other input device. Press
> enter for further instructions."

Brought to you by the Frobozz Magic Error Messages Company?

--
Thorsten Franz, Bonn, Germany (shlomo.g...@gmx.de)


Alex Watson

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May 17, 2001, 5:55:43 PM5/17/01
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Thorsten Franz selected the three most edible things out of the fridge and
sat down to eat, while telling rec.arts.int-fiction this:
> "Alex Watson" <alexw...@deadspam.com> schrieb im Newsbeitrag
> news:MPG.156e17097...@news.cis.dfn.de...
> > To add to this, Douglas Adams created the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation
> > and gave them a very strong reputation. This is an excellent example, and
> > seems to be the right way to go about it.
>
> Frobozzco comes to mind.

Indeed, another good example of this kind of 'organisation-building'.

> > "Windows 98 Setup could not find a keyboard or other input device. Press
> > enter for further instructions."
>
> Brought to you by the Frobozz Magic Error Messages Company?

I'm informed that a caller phoned a tech support line asking what to do
with this message... So I presume it's real. Please enter any 11 digit
prime number to continue.

"I think you ought to know I'm feeling very compressed." - Hollis [afda]

Tim Mann

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May 17, 2001, 6:56:40 PM5/17/01
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In article <MPG.156e593b2...@news.cis.dfn.de>,

Alex Watson <alexw...@deadspam.com> wrote:
>Please enter any 11 digit
>prime number to continue.

10000000019


--
Tim Mann tim....@compaq.com http://www.tim-mann.org
Compaq Computer Corporation, Systems Research Center, Palo Alto, CA

Randall M! Gee

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May 18, 2001, 3:22:23 PM5/18/01
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> Please enter any 11 digit prime number to continue.

375*2^26+1

375*2^26-1

-- Randall M! Gee, Keeper of Gummi Wisdom
(g...@math.berkeley.edu)

Jonadab the Unsightly One

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Jun 23, 2001, 10:31:55 PM6/23/01
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Sam Kabo Ashwell <ka...@btinternet.com> wrote:

> You can't really give a real company's real name, for obvious reasons. If
> you're not aiming to go for comic effect or parody, you can't really call
> the corp MiniSoft or AOK Tome Warmer; if, however, you make up a totally new
> company name, it doesn't have the instant recognition quality;

The problem with AOK Tome Warmer is that it isn't plausible as a
company name; the resemblance to an actual company is okay, but
you have to make it plausible (and keep it in the same field).

MacroSoft might work better than MiniSoft, for example.
If you casually mention Macrotech Software Limited first
and then shorten it to MacroSoft later, it sound just enough
like M$ for people to get the idea, but hopefully (IANAL)
not enough (IANAL) to invoke (IANAL) lawsuits (but IANAL).

It also might be possible, with sufficient thought, to
construct a fictitious name so succinct and straightforward
that it would be hard to imagine it as other than a major
player in the field. The hard part here would be making
sure the name isn't already taken by an insignificant
company, because just because it *sounds* like a big
company doesn't mean it _really_ has to be that way.
Something like Biogenetic Technologies or fibre.net or
Bank of Europe or Pacific-Rim Shipping Corp or Central
Columbia Cocaine Corporation perhaps -- any of which
may be real companies AFAIK (I didn't check) but if not
could readily be imagined as huge megacorps.

Just a thought.

There are also several major companies that share the
most significant and recognisable word of their names
with smaller companies. If the word is sufficiently
common, you can probably get away with using that
word with a fictional rest-of-the-company's-name.
If I am not mistaken, there are other companies with
Ford in the name besides just Ford Motor Company,
at least one of which used to manufacture vehicles
(farm vehicles, particularly) before Ford did so.
(Ford may have since bought them out; I don't know
the recent history of this case.) Given that, you
could probably construct an acceptable fictitious
company name based on a common word that happens
to be closely associated with a large extant company.
Digital Electronics Company, perhaps? (This is
an especially good case, because you could call
them Digital, which is arguably not the same as
digital, quite, though IANAL.)

- jonadab

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