correct guess as to how Mr. Vance derived his names? And thanks for
the many hours and days of pleasant reading.
The Names of Koryphon
By Jamie R. Schloss
Jack Vance published The Grey Prince in 1974. The Jack Vance Reader re-published the novel under Vance's original title: The Domains of Koryphon. This essay discusses a theory on how Vance derived Koryphon's place and character names. I conclude that Vance derived the names by ciphering the then current names of 1974 from South Africa and United States politics. For instance, the name "Adelys Lam" would cipher to "Male Lady;" the name "Koryphon" to "Africa."
My conclusion derives this hopefully logically logic. First, how does one derive a story? And second, how does the author derive the names he gives the characters? It seems reasonable to assume the author may use the issues being discussed as a source for the names in his story.
On how Vance derives story ideas, he introduced his Hugo and Nebula Award Winning short The Last Castle with the following thoughts:
"Sometimes the source of a story is a mystery even to the writer himself: a seepage from his subconscious. Other times the derivation is clear and direct. In the case of "The Last Castle," both situations are equally true.
"The germ of the story was contained in an article dealing with Japanese social interactions. As is well known, Japanese society is highly formalized-much more thoroughly so in the past than during the relatively egalitarian times since the last war. [for example, when different classes conversed, each used different syntax]
"So, "The Last Castle" concerns a society of somewhat similar folk, and examines their behavior when the society is subjected to great stress."
See, The Best of Jack Vance, 1st Ed Paperback c 1976 pages 54-55.
On how Vance picks character names, this writer recalls, but cannot re-locate, an in which Vance described his first published short story. "I do not recall where I got the names." I think Vance said.1 Knowing a few authors here in Los Angeles, it is common for them to obtain story names, and more often characters, from individuals known to the authors. I posit that Vance is no different.
To discuss Vance's Korpyhon, the novel combines several tales. As science fiction tales dating back to Gulliver's Travels do, Koryphon combines adventure, drama, family issues, all set against a back drop of social commentary and political insights.2 Vance, as in The Last Castle, is obviously commenting on then current affairs and political issues. In his Jack Vance Reader introduction, Mr. Resnick points out the novel engendered some controversy when published in 1974.
The first name which I ciphered was "Adelys Lam" a minor character who espouses "ethical systems" and criticizes "cynical pragmatism." If you followed California based politics in the 1970's to 1980's, you immediately get the connection. While I am despised by some as a so called "liberal," for years I shared Vance's ridicule for the character whose decisions are based on her "ethics" to the point where they outweigh reality. Let me digress for a moment:
Jack Vance is a United States author born in the1920's. After working various hard jobs and serving in the merchant marine in Word War II in the 1940's, he received a college degree at the University of California at Berkeley and resided in the Oakland Hills. Now in 2009, reportedly blind and infirm, Vance resides there still. Vance is pragmatic; scorns thieves and cheats; has a good sense of humor.
I was blessed to attend the University of California at Berkeley from 1981-1985. Berkeley is next to the city of Oakland; much of the same news and political personages mix in the cities. During the early 80's, I studied a bit of philosophy both at Cal, as well as at other schools, was interested in politics. 3 The 1960's, 1970's and 1980's saw a growing United States and European political movement which thought to pressuring the British descended Rhodesians and the Boer descended South Africans to leave their land: what came to be called the "anti-apartheid" movement.
This was a bit of hypocrisy, as Vance points out in Koryphon, for US citizens to criticize the South African Boers and their descendants for taking land from the Africans. After all, we Americans stole our land from the Indians, or, in California, stole our land around 1850 from the Spanish, after they had stolen it from the Indians. And those Indians had stolen it from other Indians.4 So who owns the land? And why? Can we say it was "moral" that, in this was at least, Spain lost? Should we give California back to the Spanish crown.5 If not, why should we protest the Boers taking of domains from the negroid races of Africa-or from the Bushman who proceeded the Zulus and other tribes?
Seems to me these are all good questions, which Vance's denouement answers:
"Dm. Doris was answered by Aelys Lam, a thin nervous woman with a bony face and restless eyes. She spoke in an urgent voice and punctuated her words with jabbing motions of her forefinger.
"I intend to speak of law and its innate nature. Dm. Doris, you have used the words `doctrinaire' and `abstraction' in a pejorative sense, and I must point out that all law, all ethical systems, all morality, are based upon doctrines and abstract principles by which we test specific cases. If we adopt a pragmatic attitude, we are lost and civilization is lost; morality becomes a matter of expedience or brute force. The edicts of the Mull therefore rest not so much upon exigencies of the moment as upon fundamental theorems. One of these is that title to pre-empted, stolen or sequestered property never becomes valid, whether the lapse of time be two minutes or two hundred years. The flaw in title remains, and reparation, no matter how dilatory, must be made. Again, you scorn the Redemptionists; as for me, I rejoice that the Redemptionists are sufficiently idealistic and sufficiently motivated that they have urged this sometimes sluggish Mull to decisive action."
"Gerd Jemasze responded in a cold voice. "Your ideas might carry more weight were you not hypocrites and persons with an infinite capacity for-"
"'Hypocrites'?" flared Adelys Lam. "Dm. Jemasze, I am astounded by your use of the word!"
"Erris Sammatzen said reproachfully: "I had hoped our discussions might proceed without fulmination, threats or invective. I am sorry to see that Dm. Jemasze has become intemperate.""
"Jorjol strode forward. "Very well, do as he suggests! The Uldras support the concept! Give all Uaia back to the erjins; let them take ownership! We will roam the wild lands as before; only destroy the grotesque halls of the Outker land-barons! Break their fences and dams and canals! Expunge every suppurating vestige of the Outker presence! By all means deed the land to the erjins!"
"Not so fast," said Kelse [Madduc]. "There is more to come: the second part of my father's joke." He spoke to Sammatzen. "Do you recall the erjin shrine, or monument-whatever may be its function?"
"This was the `recent event' to which Dm. Jemasze referred a few moments ago-not to the erjin insurrection as you supposed. Perhaps you noticed that the erjins are depicted riding in what apparently are spaceships? You know that fossil traces of proto-erjins have never been found on Koryphon? The conclusion is clear. The erjins are invaders. They arrived from space; they conquered the morphote civilization. The morphotes are true indigenes; the fossil record is clear on this point. So the chain of conquest has yet another link. The erjins have no better title than the Uldras."
"Yes," admitted Erris Sammatzen, "this is very likely true."
"Jorjol emitted a wild yell of laughter. "Now you award Uaia to the morphotes! Then be sure to give them Szintarre as well, and the villas of Olanje, and the luxurious hotels and all the property you believe yourselves to own!"
"Kelse gave a sardonic nod. "This is the third part of my father's joke. You of the Mull, and all the Redemptionists, found it easy enough to give our land away, by reason of your ethical doctrine; now demonstrate your integrity and give away your own property"
"Sammatzen showed him a sad twisted smile. "Today? At this instant?" "Anytime you like, or not at all, so long as you rescind your edict in regard to us."
"Voices called out from every corner in the chamber: protesting, jeering, applauding. Sammatzen at last restored order. For a period the Mull conferred in soft mutters but obviously came to no concerted opinion. ...."
The land barons have just saved everyone from death and ruin, by means violence fighting off the Erjin uprising. Undaunted, at least one character does not want to deal with reality and insists her self-constructed "ethical system"-which by the way just happens to leave her in charge as self-proclaimed protector of ethics-are what everyone must follow.
"Adelys Lam cried out bitterly: "It is clear to me that the land-barons not only profess a creed of violence, but that they also warp their creed into a travesty of an ethical system."
In Berkeley of the early 1980's, there were many "violence never settles anything" types. These people took themselves very seriously. There was a vocal group of women; many lesbians; many communists; some wearing Che Guevera shirts; who were as anti-male white establishment as you can get. They generally were for empowering woman and removing the "white male power structure." As Vance discussed in Koryphon, in Araminta Station as well as other novels, those demanding re-distribution in the name of "justice" often work from selfish interests. In Berkeley, these characters benefitted from and derided the white male establishment-as the Lam character does in Koryphon. 6
So at the ripe age of 40 or so I went back to peruse my old school philosophy texts. And I again perused Koryphon. The name "ADELYS LAM" came to mean something different to me, yet again, as I think I figured out Vance's ciphers.7 Here is what I conclude for the various place and character names:
I heard the same comments at Berkeley from "Male Ladies" that Vance describes in Koryphon. I do not remember one with bony fingers but I was ten years behind Koryphon's time.
Answer: Mad Dutch-
Boers of South Africa-what else but Mad Dutch? Went off into unknown lands as conquered them. See, Zulu People of Heaven, Von Kapff 1997, page 6, Battle of Blood River (VoorTrekker's)
Answer: A silly love
Character is a potential love interest for Schaine Madduc, Koryphon's first protagonist-and, as she discovers in the novel- a silly love interest.
re-arrange letters a little; remove "n"
: Karyphan to Aphryka
1 2 3 4 5
A E I O U
e=a (1 vowel difference)
o=u (1 vowel difference)
L=N (12-14 -2 consonant difference)
G=D (4-7- 2 consonants difference)
Rearrange letters using anagram
rearrange letters==== NEJRI
Answer: Erhin = negro
Karoo= [Afrik karo] "A dry tableland of Southern Africa" Webster's 7th Collegiate Dictionary, page 463
See, Reader at 474(Vance changes this to meeting)
same Great Man
(Vance introduces Gerd as a "man of great importance," which I believe is a disguised joke on the derivation of his name, as well as a description of his role in the novel. See Reader at page 357, )
Perhaps a play on the term "Retief" from Piet Reteif, Zulu People of Heaven, Von Kapff 1997 page 6. Retief is used as a place name for areas outside South Africa's borders.
Vance terms "Retent" the place which was "retained."
Seems to me this answer is a stretch.
Names without answers
It seems to me other names may have meanings.
Possibly "Scarlett" from Gone with the Wind?
Not so sure on this one
Possible answer: Good germans
If there is an answer, I could not figure it. Possibly anagram for Shaka, who was the 1st Zulu King.
rearrange letters will bring one to "Reg Chuk" and the first Zulu King was named "Chuku" under certain spellings. He was friendly to the Boer. 8
The Domains of Koryphon tells many tales. Its roots seem based in the philosophical discussion of who owns the land and why, as discussed against the backdrop of South Africa and protests from the civilized land over the whites holding power. The novel's character names seem ciphers to characters and place names central to those issues. I would guess the root names come from a specific set of books or article which Vance read.
The author assumes he is right in these conclusions. However, he has not checked with Jack Vance, and cheerfully admits to usually being right but often being wrong.
Any corrections, additions, or comments should be directed to [email protected] or I may be reached on Facebook's Vance page which I review from time to time.
Jamie R. Schloss, Los Angeles, May 2009
 In deference to Mr. Vance, I shall use the title Koryphon , rather than The Grey Prince as I have known the work for thirty plus years.
1Interview was published on the internet but not relocated.
2 Vance's insights into property rights, democracy, and its uses deserve great credit-especially his observations that all property rights derive from an act of violence more or less remote and that democratic institutions, agreements to agree, are self-arising. See, The Mayflower Compact or The United States Constitution. Some less realistic believe the rights came from God. In 2008, Mike Resnick, introducing the renamed tale, wrote that when the novel was published, he was surprised that it engendered controversy, and was accused of a being racist tract or right wing polemic. The author would d argue the novel just describes various types of human natures and the pragmatic realities of dealings between them; indeed, I would bet a huge amount that Vance correctly anticipated various the polemic-described by Mr. Resnik see JV Reader at 341-342--with the comments of Koryphon's character "Adelys Lam" character.
3 As a college student, I agreed with ending apartheid. Seeing how Zimbabwe has turned out, my current opinion differs from that of 20 years ago.
4It was perhaps not coincidence that Vance, writing in 1975 near the United States 200th anniversary, places Koryphon at the 200 anniversary of the "outkers" taking land from the Uldras. See Reader page 346
5 Spain may have the majority of Orange county citizens without argument from the author, George Bush III being their idea of strong, competent leadership. The US will keep the land, thank you.
6Lumping all lesbians into a character like Lam is incorrect and unfair-but a partly hitting shot. There was and remains vocal political groups, much like Koryphon's Lam or SEE, arguing their supposedly ethical ways.
7 A cipher is often defined as a "method of transforming a text in order to conceal its meaning." Webster's 7th Collegiate dictionary p 150:
8Zulu People of Heaven, Von Kapff 1997