You've probably been wondering why I gave a story the baroque title, "From Babel's Fall'n Glory We Fled." And you've certainly wondered why I called another, "For I Have Lain Me Down on the Stone of Loneliness, and I'll Not Be Back Again."
I did this for you, my children. To amuse you and to edify those who might themselves aspire to be a writer someday.
Occasionally -- only rarely! -- I've taught at one of the three Clarions. The students run the gamut from already-publishable to almost ( but not necessarily) unpublishable. And I've found that the most common flaw they have is a fondness for what are technically known as sucky titles:
For contrast, let's look at some classic titles from yesteryear:
Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream
We, in Some Strange Power's Employ, Move on a Rigorous Line
Imagine that you had bought a science fiction magazine and were running an eye down the table of contents. Which story would you read first? The Semi-Precious Stones one? Or "Lint"? Better yet, imagine you're walking down the street in a shabby part of town and you see a dingy shop with a sign over the door labeled LINOLEUM. Beside it is another shop whose sign reads CARPET REMNANTS. And just beyond the two is a shop whose sign proclaims it to be the EMPORIUM OF FORBIDDEN ASIAN EROTIC SCULPTURE.
It's entirely possible that the first shop has linoleum that will change your life, while the last one has explicit statuary that will put you off of sex for a week.
But which are you more likely to enter?
Here's a sad truth. Most magazine subscribers don't read everything in the zine. Most people who browse a bookstore only pick up those books which look interesting. A great cover can do the trick -- but very few writers have much say over the cover. The title, though, can turn the trick and get the reader to glance at the first sentence of your story. At which point, the battle is half won.
Am I saying that I gave the two above-mentioned stories their extraordinary titles just so new writers would be reminded that they don't have to burden their best efforts with drab gray forgettable titles?
Yes. That's exactly why I did it.
Because, as I said above, children, I care for your welfare.