Neil Armstrong, Chase Armstrong’s namesake

Astronaut ArmstrongGodspeed, Neil Armstrong. Your name will live through history. And it will live in my stories.

When I was searching for a name for the young hero of my Dinosaur Wars stories, I wanted to find a name that would speak of adventure, of quests, and of excellence. Through a long process of experimentation and elimination I ultimately arrived at Chase Armstrong. I’d gotten comfortable with the first name, because Chase certainly evokes the process of seeking and following that the hero undertakes in a quest. But the last name had eluded me. I’d tentatively settled on Chase Anderson, because the name had a good ring to it and seemed like it ought to belong to a fellow out of the heartland of America, a park ranger no less. It had a pretty good, wheat-bread nicety to it that I liked for a good-guy adventurer, but the Anderson part (forgive me all Andersons) didn’t immediately add any of the larger-than-life dimensionality that I was looking for.

While pondering Anderson, Anderson, Chase Anderson, I suddenly heard myself saying Armstrong, Chase Armstrong, and I was immediately certain I’d found the name I sought. I was one of those who sat and listened to Neil’s voice from the moon as he took that one small step, so I instantly knew I’d subconsciously thought of Neil Armstrong. An instant after that, I thought it was a bit cheeky of me to think my humble fiction writings were significant enough to attach to such a famous namesake. But that hesitation only held me for a moment.

Completing the questNo, I thought, that’s exactly it. Neil was known among astronauts for his humbleness and hard work, and for his sharp reflexes under pressure. Neil was exactly the kind of person I had already crafted my hero into. Therefore attaching the famous name was no aberration.

In recent decades, the personalities of story heroes have been trending on a downward arc. They’ve become too complicated, too maladjusted, too negative, and in many cases just too brutal to truly be called heroes. But the hero I had set out to craft was a young man capable of great feats who lives a modest, hard-working lifestyle until events outside his control draft him into an adventure at the limits of human capability. That is the essence of the heroic personality. That was the essence of Neil Armstrong, and now it is the essence of my story hero, Chase Armstrong.

Names, like people, can have more than one dimension, especially in fiction. A few seconds after I’d decided that Armstrong would suit my character well, it occurred to me that the name has deeper meaning. Arm Strong. Strong Arm. There’s a good metaphor in it, the notion that a flight to the moon requires a strong character, and one whose arms have the strength to persevere, as when Neil took control of the lunar lander from its guidance computers to avoid a hazardous field of boulders and landed the craft manually. To do the job he needed, if not strong arms, then at least a steady hand on the controls.

In my stories, Chase is indeed a man of strong arms. Not only does he physically battle with dinosaurs on several occasions, but he uses the other type of arm, a rifle, with deadly skill.

But not everything a man does with strong arms involves conflict. Chase’s last name also suits his other role, that of lover. In his budding relationship with Kit Daniels (the genesis of her name will be told another time) Chase’s arms are called upon again, this time to hold Kit tenderly yet powerfully when the two of them embrace. He’s the kind of man who can literally use his strong arms to sweep a girl off her feet and Kit, female through and through, can’t help but be impressed by his sheer animal power.

Finally, I see there’s some sort of full-circle phenomenon in the outcome of the Dinosaur Wars trilogy in book three, Blood On The Moon. For in the course of tying up all the loose ends of the two preceding novels, I found myself compelled to write Chase Armstrong into the same trek that Neil took. In order to complete the saga, Chase has to trek across that same quarter-million mile distance Neil pioneered, in order to restore peace and happiness here on earth. Chase Armstrong’s hero’s quest therefore leads him on exactly the same odyssey first explored by Neil Armstrong.

So, Chase Armstrong is the right name for my hero. Neil, wherever you are in the vast cosmos, I hope that pleases you.

About Tom Hopp

Thomas P Hopp is a scientist and author living in Seattle. He writes medical thrillers, natural disaster novels, and the Dinosaur Wars science fiction series.
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