Miskatonic vs. Kimball vs. Bradford

In early, unpublished versions of the short stories which appeared in my first collection, Those Little Bastads, I named the fictional counterpart for my alma mater Miscatonic University [sic]. I’d been told, by more than one Bradford College student, that H.P Lovecraft had, in part, based his Miskatonic University (I didn’t know the correct spelling until fairly recently) after Bradford. And so, my naming the college Miscatonic in my stories was to be something of an homage. At a later date, deciding that, if I ever published my stories with that name intact, I might get sued, I rechristened the fictional Bradford as Kimball College, paying homage to the tavern just down the street from the school which had figured into the college’s early history. Kimball College was the name of the school which appeared in Those Little Bastads and therefore, since I began my novel back in 2003/2004 with the full intent of continuing on in the same universe I’d already established, the name of the college in the novel would also be Kimball.

But things have changed. The continuity established in Those Little Bastads has largely been thrown out (though I suppose I could make a case for how it all fits together, if I really wanted to) and there’s no reason to keep the name Kimball, if I don’t want to. Lately, I’ve been thinking about changing the name back to good old Bradford. Because, really, if I don’t write the name of the school into my story, who will?

Dubus writes about Bradford on occasion, but, in my reading at least, he never names the school. And perhaps that’s a tactic I might employ. But place plays a large role in my work, and I don’t usually use alternate names. Chelmsford is not Chelmsdale in my book, nor is it simply “the town”. It’s Chelmsford. So why should Bradford be Kimball, or even just “the college”?

Well, the reason I wanted an alternate name in the first place is because I wanted the school in my stories not to close, not to blink out of existence. Kimball College didn’t have to go under. It could continue on in the mind of the reader, ad infinitum. Bradford, I thought, even though very few people who read the book would even know of it, or of its demise, could not live on. If I named the college Bradford, it, too, would have to die.

Given the nature of my novel, given the story I’m telling, I’m starting to think that going back to the true name of the place is the way to go. Why hide it? Why not pay tribute?

In the end, it really isn’t all that important, I suppose. The college plays a relatively minor role in the book. Though, as with all small roles that aren’t eventually meant for the cutting room floor, it still feels important. I could call it Kimball, or call it Bradford, or call it Asshat University, and it probably wouldn’t make a difference. The school’s demise doesn’t figure into the plot, anyway.

But changing the name back to Bradford is what feels right for me right now. And I think that’s what I’m going to do.