For the past few years, I've been thinking that it would be cool to have an online database of pronunciations of sf author names.
Information about author name pronunciation spreads slowly and inaccurately through the sf community and beyond. For example, I've lost count of the number of people I've heard mispronounce Neil Gaiman's name, and I've heard multiple conflicting statements about how to pronounce Vernor Vinge's and Joan Vinge's last names.
It might seem obvious that Wikipedia would be the right place for such information, given that they already include lots of pronunciations. But it's hard to find verifiable published sources of information about name pronunciations. I suspect that an awful lot of Wikipedia pronunciations are added by people who think they know the pronunciation, without any source at all.
So I wanted to build the definitive information source for sf author name pronunciation. And it seemed clear to me that the best way to do that would be to record each author saying their name aloud, and post those recordings online, along with IPA transcriptions.
But doing the recording myself would take a prohibitive amount of work and time, and would likely mean very limited coverage, given that I only go to a couple of cons a year, almost always in the US.
So the next obvious step was to throw the system open to contributions from others. Authors could even record themselves and email me the pronunciations, or upload them directly to the website.
And that's where it's foundered every time I've thought about this. Because once I'm allowing contributions from other people, how do I verify them? How do I know that the recording is actually of the author in question, and that the author is okay with our using it?
At around that point in the thought process, I give up and go think about something else.
But I'm always a little sad about it, because I do think it would be a useful resource.
So I'm hereby giving up on implementing this myself, but tossing the idea out to the crowd. Has anyone done something like this? Would anyone like to take the project on? Does anyone have ideas about how to verify? Does anyone have ideas about better ways to do the whole thing?
It occurs to me that once such a system was in place, it could be usefully expanded in various ways. For example, sf contains many many character and place names with non-obvious pronunciations. (For example, I still think of "Smaug" as being pronounced like "smog," and have to correct myself whenever the name comes up.) If I had a site containing author's pronunciations of their own names, it might as well include authors' pronunciations of some of their character and place names as well.
And, of course, it could be expanded to non-sf authors; plenty of those have names with non-obvious pronunciations. But that becomes a much much bigger project; I would be inclined to limit it to sf authors at first.
(Where by "sf," as usual, I mean "speculative fiction," including fantasy and science fiction and related material. Sure, horror too, why not.)