Generally, research makes a story better.  Sometimes, however, it destroys a story completely.  For a long time, I’ve wanted to write an epic space opera that takes place in a star system named Molly.  Somewhere between gratuitous space battles, someone asks why it’s called that, and the answer turns out to be that hundreds of years earlier someone paid to name a star after his girlfriend.

We’ve all heard of those star naming services, but according to my research they’re all frauds.  Only the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has the authority to name a star, and they usually assign names based on a star’s position and apparent brightness.  Some stars have names, like Sirius or Betelgeuse, but that’s because they were well known long before the IAU came along.

I don’t believe in facts getting in the way of a good story­—otherwise I would have given up on science fiction a long time ago—but this one bothers me so much I don’t want to use it.  I still think the idea of an epic space opera in the Molly System is funny, but I don’t want to legitimize the star naming scam.

If you want to read more about the IAU and their stance on buying star names, click here.

P.S.: I apologize to Molly.  I’m sure your boyfriend had the best of intentions.

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