Tag Archives: musing

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The art of names

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Categories: development, influences, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 

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I have to say, one of my favorite parts of the writing and character-creating process is coming up with names. I like it when I can make them subtly significant, if only in my own head, or at least give my characters names I’m going to enjoy saying over and over again.

I’ve written about how Mrs. Hawking’s name is supposed to be deliberately disassociated from her in-universe, but behind the scenes it was carefully chosen. Her married name, Hawking, came first, because it’s a good solid English name and conveys her bird-of-prey nature. It took much longer to choose her first name, but I went with Victoria because I’ve always loved it, the “victory” meaning connotes her warlike nature, and because of the connection with the regnant queen. Stanton, her maiden name, also took some time to determine, and was chosen mostly because I like the way it sounds.

The character of Mary Stone basically just walked into my mind and introduced herself by name. I love when that happens, it feels as if I’m writing about a real person. Thinking about it, I think there was some influence from the fact that she is in some ways a gender-swapped analogue to Dr. Watson, and Watson’s wife is named Mary. I think Mary’s name fits her so well I’m kind of sorry that her surname will change when she gets married. I have given some thought to who her eventual husband will be, and while I don’t want to mention anything about him yet, I chose his surname with the specific intention that I shouldn’t mind using it to refer to Mary. Her middle name, Frances, came from Frances Kimpel, my model for Mrs. Hawking. I very nearly made Mrs. Hawking’s middle name Charlotte, after Mary’s model Charlotte Oswald, but I didn’t think it sounded right with the rest of our hero’s name. I plan on paying tribute to Charlotte’s name in another way in the future, though.

When I noticed that both she and Mrs. Hawking were named after prominent English queens I decided I would continue on with that trend where appropriate. That’s where her eventual Moriarty, Elizabeth Frost, got her name from. I’m kind of sorry that Nathaniel’s wife Clara doesn’t fit the mold, but I think it fits her too much to change. Their daughter Beatrice doesn’t quite, as there is no English queen by that name, but it was the name of the youngest Victorian princess. Reggie, their son, is so called because of course Nathaniel would name his son after his hero.

As for Nathaniel himself, he is named after my friend Nat Budin. Not for any particular reason, except that I like both Nat and his name.

Stephanie Karol, who read the roles of Celeste Fairmont and Grace Monroe in the Mrs. Hawking Bare Bones reading, commented that I seem to like naming patriarchs “Reginald.” Both the Colonel and the head of the society family in The Tailor at Loring’s End both have it. I like the name, but it does have kind of an old-fashioned masculine sound to it.

Cedric Brockton sounds solidly British and upper-class, perhaps to the point of parody, but I like the way it sounds. Ambrose Hawking came from the same impulse. It might be a little absurd, but I guess I have a taste for names like that.

Gabriel Hawking came from the fact that Gabriel is one of my all-time favorite names. I wanted something powerful and striking, given that the mention of the name has a rather totemic quality when uttered in this story.

Justin’s first name came from something silly. I remember thinking that Ryan Kacani, the actor who played for Nathaniel at the Bare Bones reading, looked like a Justin to me for some reason. So I gave that name to Nathaniel’s brother.

Johanna Braun, the name the client gives in Vivat Regina, was chosen because it translates from German basically to “Joan Brown,” as plain and nondescript a name as they come. There is a reason I wanted it to be so generic, but I won’t say what it is here.

Arthur Swann, also a character introduced in Vivat Regina, is also named in the vein of English royalty, though King Arthur is fictional. Also it’s my granddad’s name and I always liked it.

There’s also a bit of a bird theme going on. The Hawking family, Arthur Swann the police man, Clara’s maiden name being Partridge. It doesn’t have any specific meaning, but the presence of a bird name means that they are a character to watch.

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Across the universes

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Categories: looking ahead, supplemental, Tags: , , ,

It was suggested to me once by Jami Brandli, one of my excellent writing mentors at Lesley, that these Mrs. Hawking stories should exist in the same universe as The Tailor at Loring’s End and Mrs. Loring, stories I told about Fairfield, a small town in Connecticut, in the 1930s. They are set in fairly distinct milieus, but they both take place in more or less the real world and deal with somewhat similar ideas– they tend to be mysteries, and deal with themes like societal injustice, classism, and feminism. So there’s certainly something appealing about the idea. Thinking about it, the one other story-world of mine that I think could integrate into those others is The Stand, my series of cowboy stories from the American westward expansion period. It’s another historical fiction that takes place in more or less the real world. I like the idea of connections, that these various characters and story that I’m interested in could relate to each other in some way– maybe even meet.

The timelines do overlap a bit, but they are offset enough to curtail character interactions between the three. Space also makes for a real divide. The Stand takes place in 1849 in California, Mrs. Hawking in 1880s London, and Tailor at Loring’s End in Connecticut of 1934. To illustrate the point, it turns out that Mary Stone and Reginald Loring, patriarch of one of the important family in the stories, are about the same age. Which means, for example, if I ever wanted the leads of Mrs. Hawking and of The Tailor of Loring’s End to meet, Mary would be an old woman, and Mrs. Hawking herself probably wouldn’t be alive anymore.

But I would like to figure out some way to make connections between them. Character appearances, family relationships, that sort of thing. Bernie suggested that maybe Alice Loring from Tailor would be a good candidate for Mary’s eventual recruitment, when she assembles a team of heroic women. I also like the idea of some cool American cowboy– or more likely, cowgirl –showing up in London and bringing an adventure to Mrs. Hawking. Those two stories are thirty years, a continent, and an ocean apart, but perhaps an aged version of someone in The Stand or even one of their descendants. I’m not sure what the best way to do it is, but I would like to figure it out.

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How to introduce Clara

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Categories: character, development, vivat regina, Tags: , , , ,

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Even before I had any idea who the character of Clara Hawking was, I knew she had to exist. Nathaniel was to be in every way fitting into and profiting from the current social order, so part of that meant he had to be married. I’d already finished the script of Mrs. Hawking before I’d given her much thought. Once I considered her, though, it didn’t take long before I figured out what service she would be to the story, her weaponized traditional femininity existing in contrast to Mrs. Hawking’s complete rejection of traditional femininity. I think Clara has the potential to be a very interesting character, so I’ve been pondering how to bring her into things.

In the very early planning stages of Vivat Regina, I wrote a bit of Clara with the vague notion that she could be included. The very first thing I ever wrote of her was a monologue where she, under the guise of perfect friendly politeness, needled Mrs. Hawking for what a pain she is. It’s a pretty funny piece, and I’d like to use it in some form. But this, nor anything else with her, ended up making it into the first draft of the script.

There’s a lot to unpack with Clara story-wise, specifically about how she’s going to feel about Nathaniel’s involvement in his aunt’s work. I haven’t quite figured out what her reaction is going to be, but he’s been putting himself in danger to participate. He has an unusually close relationship with a maidservant, and while I’m taking liberties with the setting where I need to, that was unheard of in this time and place. He’s challenging a social order on behalf of women who don’t fit into their place in the world as comfortably as she does. And he hasn’t told her about any of it yet. How’s she going to feel? What’s her response going to be? I don’t want to dash that off; I think there could be a lot of interesting story in her and Nathaniel’s relationship.

But to include that in Vivat Regina would have tipped the focus a little too heavily on Nathaniel. While he can and will certainly take center stage sometime, it is important to me that these remain fundamentally stories about women. Mary and Mrs. Hawking, their relationship, their struggles, are to be prioritized, especially when we’re only into the second story.

However, after having put together a draft of Vivat Regina, I find it’s somewhat in need of a subplot. In its current state, it pushes along the course of the plot pretty unrelentingly, which is a fairly typical problem my work tends to have, at least in the early drafts. I find myself struggling to figure out exactly what would be the appropriate extra thread. But I suppose the obvious thing to include is Clara.

I’ve mentioned the problem with having her in– I don’t want to dash off any story I can tell about her, and I don’t want to shift the focus of this second piece too far away from Mary and Mrs. Hawking. But perhaps it’s possible to just introduce her for now, in preparation to deal with her more seriously in future stories. I am kind of already doing that with Arthur Swann, who makes his first appearance in Vivat Regina, and while he does serve a purpose to the plot, is mostly just being set up to feature more significantly later.

If I did that with Clara, I’d have to make sure she doesn’t feel tacked on or shoehorned in. She would have to be relevant in some way, without blowing her dramatic potential. I’m not sure how that could be accomplished yet, but it’s something I’m currently pondering. A solid, integrated subplot would not only improve Vivat Regina, I could use it as an opportunity to set up further stories in the series, which would make the overall series stronger.

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“I wonder… did she ever tell the Colonel?” — scribbling while looking ahead

Categories: character, development, looking ahead, scenes, vivat regina, Tags: , , , ,

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I’ve been working on the sequel to Mrs. Hawking quite a bit lately, and while in that mindset, I wrote this little scene, a conversation between Mary and Nathaniel. I think the two of them would become good friends after the first adventure, in part because I think they both love having somebody with which to marvel at just how weird Mrs. Hawking is. I get the feelings they spend a lot of time sitting around psychoanalyzing her, the way you would any brilliant/infuriating friend or boss or both. :-) This notion amuses me greatly.

Also, there is the problem of the Colonel. Oh, how delighted I am at the questions posed by the Colonel, as it gives endless opportunity for speculation. I love how the audience wonders about him, and I love how the characters cant stop arguing over him. This is a particular bee in Nathaniel’s bonnet, because he idolized the man and had such a firm image of him in his head that he must now reconcile with Mrs. Hawking’s perceptions and experience. And I think it’s also interesting how Mary has to construct an idea of the person who she has never met but has had such a profound effect on two people who are so important to her.

~~~

MARY: I wonder… did she ever tell the Colonel?

NATHANIEL: Tell him what?

MARY: How unhappy she was.

NATHANIEL: I don’t know. But, if I were to guess… I should think she didn’t.

MARY: No?

NATHANIEL: I really think not.

MARY: She was so angry, though. One says things in anger.

NATHANIEL: She would have had to trust him to tell him what she really thought. And that she could never do.

MARY: It would have been an incredible risk.

NATHANIEL: I know. And that was not something she would have undertaken for his sake. Still… I wonder if he knew anyhow.

MARY: Do you? If she went to great pains to keep things from him?

NATHANIEL: Oh, I don’t doubt that. Heaven knows she is capable of things I never would have fathomed possible… but he wasn’t a fool, Mary. And he loved her, blast it; if there’s one thing I shall never disbelieve of him, it’s that. He would have… had a care that she was so… miserable… with things as they were.

MARY: But if he knew, how could he have done nothing for it, then?

NATHANIEL: She would never have wanted him to.

MARY: Certainly not. But still… I should think he might have tried.

NATHANIEL: Not if he understood.

MARY: Do you think he did?

NATHANIEL: He may have hardly known her, Mary… but I think he knew her well enough to know that. And I believe he would have loved her enough to give it to her.

MARY: If that’s so… I wonder what else he might have given her. If he knew she needed it.

6/8/13

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Hawking, Incorporated

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Categories: character, influences, looking ahead, themes, Tags: , , , , , ,

One thing I will have to explore sometime in the far future of these stories is the eventual aging of Mrs. Hawking. I made a conscious choice to depict her as forty years old when our story opens in 1880, and though she is a remarkably healthy and fit individual, as time goes on she will have to face the inevitable truth that eventually everyone physically deteriorates.

I think this will be extremely hard for her. So much of her work, upon which she bases her identity, requires her being an agile infiltrator and a dangerous fighter, all of which require her to be strong, flexible, and able to endure, and heal quickly from, injury. I also think that the idea of becoming a fragile old woman terrifies her. Even today we live in a culture that devalues weak old woman, and I think her own distaste for weakness made it so that she could not help but internalize it. Coming to terms with being unable to do the work by which she defines herself will be one of the greatest struggles of her life.

In the second story, she is going to settle upon the idea that Mary will be the one to continue on her work when she can’t do it anymore. Mary is not only her assistant but her protege and eventual successor. But I think she has not yet really thought about how this won’t just be after she’s dead– there will come a point in her lifetime when Mary will have to take over because she just can’t physically do it anymore. I think that struggle is going to make an impression on Mary as well. And that is going to spur her forward.

As I’ve said many times, Mary is the dynamic force that will take everything that’s great about Mrs. Hawking’s work and ways and bring it to a whole new level. She is not limited by the old resentments and psychological baggage that her mistress is. I think she’s going to see the enormous potential they have to do good and realize that it doesn’t have to be just a few women against the world, the way Mrs. Hawking has always seen it. I think Mary is going to start bringing in more people, and making a true organization devoted to society avenging.

A big inspiration for Mrs. Hawking has always been the character of Batman. A brilliant, brooding, lone wolf detective simultaneously motivated and handicapped by old psychological wounds. We’re already heading toward something that resembles the Bat Family, as it’s called, the group of heroes associated with Batman. If Mrs. Hawking is our Batman, Mary is a combination of Robin and Alfred, both her assistant and protege as well as her lifeline against losing herself in her own darkness. In the upcoming second story, our “Hawk Family” as it were, will expand to officially include Nathaniel as well.

In the excellent animated series Batman Beyond, Bruce Wayne goes through a similar struggle coming to terms with aging out of the ability to be a crime fighter. The solution there was to recruit someone new to be Batman who could act where our hero couldn’t, with the original Batman as his mentor and adviser. While Mary herself will never work in exactly the same manner as Mrs. Hawking, she recognizes the need for such ability. So I think eventually Mary is going to propose bringing in others who can expand the team, with Mary as their leader, and Mrs. Hawking as their trainer. In time, it may come to even resemble “Batman, Incorporated,” a concept from the comics where Batman essentially expands into franchises across the world, training people such that every city has a trained Batman to protect them. I love the idea of Mary recruiting youths (mostly women, but I doubt she’d turn away boys as well) and leading them as a team of society avengers fighting for justice, trained by their original and inspiration, Mrs. Hawking.

This would not happen until fairly far down the line. A great deal of adventure is to be had before then. But I think it would be an excellent evolution, and fitting consummation of their talents, to move in time to a point where brave young women are trained by fierce and cunning Mrs. Hawking and under the brave and sensible direction of Mary.

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Musing on a prequel story

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Categories: gilded cages, looking ahead, Tags: , , , ,

Thinking so much about Mrs. Hawking makes me think of all the other possible stories that could be told about those characters and that world. It’s very much set up to be a series of adventures, given that they theoretically work “cases,” so even though Shakespeare is the only theater writer I can think of that does sequels with any success, I can’t help but think of what else could happen to our society avengers.

I would love to write an “origin story” of sorts for Mrs. Hawking, how she came to become the female-Sherlock-Holmes-Batman that she is, detailing her youth and circumstances that made her who she is. What I see of her background is that she grew up the child of a local governor in the Asian colonies or something like that. Her father had a native valet with a martial background who she insisted teach her how to stalk and sneak and fight. And there would have to be something that introduced her to her trade, some injustice to women that would pull her into her true calling, of avenging those who society had trapped and wronged. Her resentment toward her father is a huge motivator for her in the present day, so the cause thereof could give me a great deal to work with.

One character people ask me about a lot in regards to this story is the Colonel, the esteemed Reginald Prescott Hawking, Mrs. Hawking’s late husband. As he died before the events of the play, we do not actually meet him. In fact, all we know about him is provided by his two family members, his wife and his nephew Nathaniel. What makes it interesting is that they have very different perceptions of him, and neither of them are totally reliable narrators. Nate idolizes him while she resents the hell out of him, and I like to think that neither of them are entirely right, nor entirely wrong. That origin play would also have to include how she and the Colonel met, how they got married, what led to all Mrs. Hawking’s resentment.

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On the theoretical “Gabriel Hawking”

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Categories: character, Tags: , , , , ,

WARNING: Spoilers ahead for reveals in “Mrs. Hawking”

One aspect of Mrs. Hawking’s character that I like thinking about is how this woman, who is completely unmotherly and has zero desire to have children, interacts with the theoretical person of “Gabriel Hawking,” her stillborn baby boy. (Here I go again, with Important Babies in everything.) She is haunted by the idea of that dead baby. I think he is weirdly personified to her. Through most of the pregnancy it wasn’t a person, a child then, just a parasitic medical inconvenience. But when Reginald named him, and when he came out fully formed but dead, he became cemented in her mind at least as the suggestion of the person he would have been.

She has no maternal feelings for him. She doesn’t really think of him as her son. Instead he is Reginald’s son, he belongs entirely to Reginald. And Reginald’s pain at his death– see the ten-minute play “Like a Loss” for an exploration of this –is the biggest source of her guilt. In her mind, she has this nagging feeling that she took something that was his away from him and killed it. I think up until that point she never saw anything really get to him, wound him, even when she unleashed her own venom. But that was the most hurt she’d ever seen him, due to something she feels responsible for because of how hard she wished that baby away. As mad as she is and will always be at her late husband, she never wanted to hurt him like that.

Pregnancy was awful for her. This active woman, honed like a weapon and in complete physical control, becoming heavy and awkward and incapacitated. Did she push to do everything she did before? Did she ever get hurt or overexert herself? I think that if so, she couldn’t help but wonder if all that was the season the baby died. That it wasn’t just her wishing him away– that she actually did something to kill him.

And I think she benefited from the loss of that baby more than she is comfortable with. I imagine that after it happened, Reginald concluded that she was at least as devastated as he was– probably more so, because in his mind, as a woman and the child’s mother, she had to be. And so forever after that, he attributed all her cold, standoffish behavior to her having had to endure that. She forever had that as an excuse for her behavior, no matter how outlandish or unpleasant. And because it was effective like nothing else was, she used it. She took advantage of his assumption in order to keep him out of her business. And she feels guilty about it. She feels like she killed his child and then benefited from a death that doesn’t hurt her like it hurts him. A baby she never wanted in the first place, but didn’t want to kill. And she resents having to feel guilty about it, but still, she does.

I think she has an image of “Gabriel Hawking” in her head– a vague, incomplete, nonspecific one, but an image nonetheless. An impression of the person– the man specifically, not the child –he could have been. I’m not exactly sure what she pictures, but I imagine it’s mostly influenced by her impression of Reginald. And I think she wonders how much he would have been like Reginald… and if he’d have been any different.

I don’t think she likes to dwell on that last part.

It would make for an interesting literary device. To have a character follow her around who isn’t actually there, who she mostly tries to ignore but sometimes can’t help but engage with, who is actually that impression of Gabriel. If it were a film, I picture a young man that resembles the Colonel but with curly golden hair occasionally appearing at odd moments, rarely addressed but never totally able to be banished. Unfortunately that’s probably too far out of tone with the rest of the story, but it’s definitely interesting to think about.

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An anti-Mrs. Hawking

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Categories: gilded cages, looking ahead, scenes, Tags: , ,

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In a future story, I would love to give our hero an opponent who was the “anti-Mrs. Hawking,” a woman just as devious and formidable as she, but who uses and manipulates the system to take advantage of women’s social entrapment for her own ends. This is interesting because I think Mrs. Hawking’s usual opponents are men, not other women. They could have a secret war, and I think it should be someone who knows her, someone for whom such actions would be a deep betrayal. I also like the idea that she would know Mrs. Hawking’s ways. Our hero trades on being unsuspected and underestimated, but would not have that advantage over an opponent who knows her for what she is.

I actually like the idea that they grew up together, that they were good friends in their youth in New Guinea. I could include this character in the prequel that details that time. I think at that point I would give no hint to her future villainy, but establish her as having a mentality in conflict with our hero to foreshadow it. And so when she did recur later, as the villain of a later story, it would be particularly shocking to Mrs. Hawking, and seem all that more treacherous.

I call her Elizabeth Frost, nee Danvers. You’ll note I am naming the major female figures in the Mrs. Hawking universe after the queens of England. We have Victoria and Mary already. Mrs. Hawking’s nemesis and opposite, then, is Elizabeth– one of the most powerful and brilliant of them all.

I scribbled a small scene with her this summer. I’m not sure of all its details and it’s not grounded in a plot yet, but it gives a vague idea of who this woman is, and how she interacts with our hero:

~~~

MRS. FROST: It’s no use, Victoria. I know you’re in here somewhere.

(MR. HAWKING emerges from the canopy on the balcony door and land catlike on the floor.)

MRS. FROST: Hmm. The canopy, very cunning. I would have guessed you’d be clinging to the transom.

MRS. HAWKING: It’s been a long time, Elizabeth.

MRS. FROST: Yes, it has. But some things never change.

MRS. HAWKING: I had wondered what become of you after that Frost man took you away. I never suspected this.

MRS. FROST: You make your own way in the world, and I make mine.

MRS. HAWKING: On the backs of helpless women?

MRS. FROST: You never did grasp how the world works, Victoria.

MRS. HAWKING: Oh, I grasp it. I just refuse to be complicit in it.

MRS. FROST: Complicit? No, not you, never you. You’ve never gone along with anything in your life when you could wage all-out war on it instead.

MRS. HAWKING: A world and a system I have spent my life defending helpless women against, you manipulate and exploit to your own advantage.

MRS. FROST: Oh, spare me your righteous wrath, darling.

MRS. HAWKING: You are as bad as any of them!

MRS. FROST: And you are hero, is that it? You are a beast in a menagerie pounding against the bars of your cage! For all your work and all your heroics, what have you done? So you pulled a few petty bacons from the fire. Nothing has changed, the world still traps us and uses us and batters us down! Do you honestly believe you can put an end to all that on your own?

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Mary’s big future

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Categories: character, looking ahead, Tags: , ,

Of course a big part of any further stories will have to be Mary’s future. Mary would definitely need to come into her own even more, more independence, more agency. She will become more and more important to Mrs. Hawking’s work, to the point where she is not totally just the protege and able to contribute more on her own.

She also will have to develop separately from the path of Mrs. Hawking. I’d love Mary to eventually meet someone and have a romance with a gentleman who was worthy of her, who of course Mrs. Hawking would despise because she would hope Mary to be a confirmed lone wolf like herself. I think a major issue to sort out will be that while the women compliment each other, they are also extremely different from each other, and those differences will sometimes make it difficult to always work in harmony together. I think that will be a great source of dramatic tension.

Honestly, in many ways the story is Mary’s more even than Mrs. Hawking’s. She is, you will notice, the only character in every single scene in the original piece. Mary turned out to be even more central and significant than I ever expected, so I would want her to continue to grow and develop, and, as she proved to be remarkably good at, to force Mrs. Hawking to do the same.

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Mrs. Hawking’s name

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I chose the title of the play not to name it after the main character, but specifically because it isn’t really her. Her full legal name is Victoria Cornelia Stanton Hawking, and no part of it belongs to her. I had a vague sense of this when I first picked the title of the play, but more I think about it, the more I realize just how completely, tragically true that is.

I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries on Victorian times recently, specifically ones about the queen. She was a fascinating lady, that’s for sure, and the more I learn, the more I think Mrs. Hawking would not care for her. The queen was of German extraction, and was likely the first time an English baby girl was given the name Victoria. If my calculations are correct, our heroine would have been born right around the time the queen was crowned. Her father, Gareth Stanton, was a high-ranking officer in the colonies, and so likely would have patriotically named the girl in her honor. So her given name came from a woman of whom I can’t see her having a high opinion. Meaningless.

Her middle name, Cornelia, I see as being her mother’s name. The woman died young and Victoria has no memory of her. And from everything she heard growing up about what a proper lady she was, Victoria would likely not think much of her either. Meaningless.

Stanton is her father’s surname, a symbol of his power over her when she was young. One of the driving forces behind her push to never be caged or controlled, to subvert the patriarchy and the rule of men, is her unending rage at her father, her eternal desire to get back at him. She had no attachment to his name. Meaningless.

And then there is the name she currently uses, has no choice but to use, that of her husband, Hawking. Her feelings for Reginald Hawking are complex, but she did not love him– she is not, I think, capable of romantic love –and she resented him intensely for the life that his love and marriage pressed her into. And now, even though he is gone, she still has his name, the mark of his will imposed over her identity. The name is a small thing to her, I think, in comparison to everything else, but still, the primary name by which the world knows her is meaningless to her.

I mentioned once that one of my all-time favorite Batman moments was one on Batman Beyond. One of the bad guys tries to make Bruce Wayne think he’s crazy by putting a voice in his head. But he knows it couldn’t possibly be from his own mind, because the voice called him Bruce. He doesn’t call himself Bruce. :-)

But as much as Mrs. Hawking is my Batman, she doesn’t have a superhero “chosen name” sort of thing. So… what does she call herself? If she has so little attachment to her given names, who is she in her own head?

I think I need to ponder this.

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