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Bewildering Stories

Bewildering Stories discusses...

Choosing Names

Mark Leinwand’s “Target Unexpected” appears in issue 713.

One can never be too careful in choosing names.
— a Bewildering Stories unofficial motto

The advice to choose names carefully is one of our oldest mottoes. It is practical and has proved to be one of the most useful.

In Mark Leinwand’s “Target Unexpected,” a religious fanatic thinks he’s on a mission from God to kill people he considers sinful. Actually, his victims just seem to be out having a good time.

The murderer isn’t named, and the origin of his motives isn’t specified; he seems to be a “lone wolf” terrorist. He is ultimately foiled when he tries to shoot Morningstar, a character who is outwardly unprepossessing but happens to have powers reminiscent of Superman’s.

Now, that is all the information the readers have. And, since the name “Morningstar” is unusual, it raises questions. Where might it have come from, and what might it mean? One of our Review Editors surmises:

I think we all assumed that Morningstar is basically Superman. But the name choice, in conjunction with interfering with a character who’s on a mission from “God,” suggests that he could be a demon, or some other sort of minion of Satan, formerly Lucifer, the lightbringer or morning star. For the record, I think that's just a coincidence, not intentional.

An excellent topic! “Morning star” was originally a generic term referring to a bright light suggesting prominence. It was like our term “superstar” for someone who excels at something, e.g. film, sports, etc.

In translating Isaiah 14:12, the Greek term for “light-bearer” became a proper name in Latin, “Lucifer.” And the Latin translation has caused no end of problems in interpretation, because “morning star” often refers to Jesus in the rest of the Bible.

There is no real contradiction. Satan was pre-eminent among the angels — a “star angel,” so to speak — until he fell from Heaven by trying to usurp the place of God. Isaiah calls out a king of Tyre, who, Isaiah says, has this fallen angel standing behind him, i.e. as motivation. In short, Isaiah is saying it’s a bad idea to bask in the light of the wrong celebrity, particularly one who would be called an “Antichrist” by later generations.

As a kind of side note: Angels, cherubim and the like were necessary to cultures that depended heavily on concrete images rather than abstractions. It was difficult to refer to states of mind in languages that approached the concept of mind with words like “soul” and the somewhat ambiguous term “spirit.”

Now, is the Morningstar of “Target Unexpected” a demon because he opposes a serial killer who claims to act in the name of God? Whose god? Remember: “A tree is known by its fruit.”

The killer is a master of the “alternate fact,” namely the lies he tells himself. And that brings us right back to Isaiah: what kind of god does the killer represent? If Morningstar were a demon, we’d expect him to greet the killer with low-fives and hail fellow evilly met.

The author has kindly explained how he invented the name. Apparently, Morningstar was brought up in an orphanage where nobody knew his real name. The director of the orphanage gave such children the names of wineries. The author says he checked to make sure that “Morningstar” was not the name of a real winery.

As Star Trek’s Mr. Spock might say, “Fascinating.” But he might also note that, logically, we’re right back where we started. If the name refers to a non-existent winery, what does it symbolize? As we always say, “One can never be too careful...”

Responses welcome!

date Copyright May 29, 2017 by Bewildering Stories

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