A Short History of Porter Tuckerizations

“Tuckerization” is the practice of giving a real person’s name to a character, place or artifact in a story. The term was inspired by Wilson “Bob” Tucker’s sly habit of sneaking friends’ names into his work. Sometimes this is easy for a fan to recognize, as I’m sure Tucker’s close friends did. Other times, if the subject’s name is not uncommon, it’s an open question whether a Tuckerization was intended.

Lately Andrew Porter has been reading all of Larry Niven’s “Known Space” stories, including some in paperbacks he acquired decades ago but had never opened until now.

Porter realizes he should have read them a lot sooner, explaining —

Niven is a known serial-Tuckerizer, known best for his Fallen Angels, in which dozens of fans are named in transparent, easy to recognize ways. In his Flatlander, I’ve already come across one character named “Lowndes”. But I was stunned to read in his short story “ARM”, a reference to “Andrew Porter, Janice Sinclair’s lover…”

So if Niven wrote this in 1974 or so, and it was first published in 1975 — in something called Epic, which I vaguely remember — I’m wondering whether it was random, or deliberate.

And I’m amazed that however it happened, I’m getting 38-years-delayed egoboo!

I checked with Larry Niven, who made it official –

I don’t actually remember, but I don’t doubt that was a reference to the fan Andy Porter. A tuckerism.

Porter obviously knew about a second example:

I was, of course, Tuckerized by Robert Sawyer in his Mindscan, as a major character who is not only recognizably me, but appears throughout much of the book. This was deliberate; I paid for the Tuckerization via a fan-fund auction held during a Toronto convention.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

21 thoughts on “A Short History of Porter Tuckerizations

  1. In Diane Duane’s Star Trek novel “My Enemy, My Ally” I appear as the Captain of the star ship Constellation.

    And in Jack Chalker’s novel “And the Devil Will Drag You Under” I appear in the epilog as the author of a newspaper report that concludes the novel.

  2. I’ve Tuckerized several times, the fruit of auctions at cons. ‘Twas fun!

  3. Forgot: Larry Niven & I used character Beth Marble in BOWL OF HEAVEN & SHIPSTAR (due in Jan 2014) as an auction Tuckerization. It actually helps visualize the character, too.

  4. Is there a distinction drawn between using a real person’s name for a character who is not necessarily intended to be actually that person (as in ARM) and depicting real people under often-transparent pseudonyms (as in FALLEN ANGELS or LUCIFER’S HAMMER)?

  5. DB:

    According to Fancyclopedia:

    “Note that this is different than a roman a clef where the fiction is in some fashion about the real person or a story where the fictional character resembles the real person in appearance or behavior or background. In a tuckerization, only the real person’s name is used — the fictional character does not otherwise resemble the real person.”


  6. That Fancyclopedia definition probably needs to be tweaked. The fictional character in many cases does resemble the real person, or is an intentional parody of the person’s characeristics, depending on how kindly disposed the author feels towards that person.

  7. And in the next story in the book, “Patchwork Girl,” we find “Octavia Budrys” and “Chris Penzler” (from Chris Steinbrunner and Otto Penzler).

  8. Linda Bushyager’s two fantasy novels from the late 1970s — “Master of Hawks” (Dell 1979) and “The Spellstone of Shaltus” (Dell 1980) — as thick as flies with contemporary Tuckerisms. Or is that thick *with* flies? My name was taken in vain to designate the Evil Sorceror and His Empire in the first, giving me the dubious honour or “raping the kingdom of Avedon” or something like that. I also had a Council of Seven Wizards. I’ve fallen on hard times since then, and have long ago let them go. It’s as much as I can afford to keep up a simple House Elf that I got from J.K. Rowling.

  9. There’s a nepotistic Star Fleet Admiral named Michael Lowrey in a Kathleen Sky ST:TOS novelization, but I have no reason to believe he’s a tuckerization, as I have only the most fleeting of acquaintances with Sky.

    Now if anybody WANTS to tuckerize me, I’m game. It would be wittier, of course, if the character were as monochromatic as I. (A local would-be fantasist said she was going to put a purple-wearing evil priest into one of her books with my SCA name on him; but the book proposal never sold.)

  10. I’ve been Tuckerized three times — as Master Dennilien in Kara Dalkey’s THE
    SWORD OF SAGAMORE (1989); as Deleen in Steve Brust’s DZUR (2006)


    and as Denny in Gene DeWeese and Buck Coulson’s CHARLES FORT NEVER MENTIONED WOMBATS (1977).

    In the first two I am a tall, portly, wispy-haired librarian, which works for
    me. In the DeWeese/Coulson I am tall, slim (a gross canard even then, or maybe
    antigross would be the mot juste), and allegedly never speak without making a
    bad pun (a slight exagerration, and in any case in my one speaking scene I get
    to make a couple of jokes but no puns at all).

    Bob Vardeman was going to use me as a mad scientist in a book based on a
    throwaway idea I mentioned that he liked, but he never wrote it.

    Always happy to be a spear-carrier in anyone’s story; I work cheap.

  11. I was Tuckerized in Rob Sawyer’s Illegal Alien, and Yvonne was Tuckerized in Peter Morwood’s Trek novel Rules of Engagement. We need a complete list of Tuckerizations!

  12. I’m in The Spellstone of Shaltus literally as a spear-carrier, a guard. Linda originally was going to call the book “The Spellstone of Schalles” after Jeff Schalles but said later that he changed him mind about having his surname in the title, asking her to not do that.

    I got a look of great delight from Robert Silverberg at SunCon in 1977 when I came up to him and said “You wrote me into one of your books when I was three years old and you’ve never met me!” He immediately wanted to see the passage, and I showed it to him, from Recalled To Life, which he inscribed with his description of the character in the book, “To pale, goggle-eyed David Klaus, best wishes, Robert Silverberg”.

    Many of the best come from The Flying Sorcerers (serialized as The Misspelled Magishun in If Magazine) by David Gerrold and Larry Niven. There are lots, but my two favorites were always “Purple” (more formally “As-A-Color, Shade of Purple-Grey” or “As-a-Mauve”), and Elcin, the tiny god of lightning and loud noises.

  13. Michael Walsh: If that’s the case, then someone should tell Andrew Porter, since in the original post he cited FALLEN ANGELS as an example of Niven’s tuckerizations, but by this definition it’s not a tuckerization at all.

  14. If you read the description of “Andrew Porter” on page 40 of MINDSCAN, you’ll find it a tremendously accurate depiction of me, at least as I was when the book was written, so it’s a double whammy: my name and my appearance.

    So the Fancyclopedia definition *does* need to be tweaked.

  15. I’m Tuckerized in Neil Gaiman’s forthcoming novel THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE.

  16. “So the Fancyclopedia definition *does* need to be tweaked.”

    The Fancyclopedia is in a Wiki format. So, register and tweak it yourself. Of course you may end up down a rabbit of tweaking madness.

    Fancyclopedia is sponsored by Fanac.org and the current editor is Mark Olson.

  17. Mike: By the Fancyclopedia definition, no, “Mike Gilder” is not a tuckerization. It’s a character in a roman-a-clef, that is, it’s you, but the name is disguised. Whereas a tuckerization, by this definition, is the opposite: it’s your name, unaltered, but the person it’s applied to may or may not actually fit your personal description.

    Same rule, differing facts, apply to “Andrew Porter” in Mindscan. It’s his name (and his description), so it _is_ a tuckerization by the Fancyclopedia definition. No tweaking of the rule is necessary whatever to cover this case. It’s Fallen Angels, not Mindscan, which does not fit the Fancyclopedia definition of tuckerization.

  18. You and the Fancyclopedia are right — a Tuckerization uses the person’s real name. Whatever Mike Glider is in Fallen Angels, it’s not a Tuckerization.

    Roman a clef may be the right term, although an author of a roman a clef dealing with subjects who are still alive usually avoids sound-alike names. That’s more the province of satirists and Mad Magazine.

    The Fancyclopedia still needs to be tweaked to dispose of the idea that the named character has nothing else in common with the real-world person.

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