I get upwards of 250 pieces of spam mail a day, which is enough of a representative sample that I notice certain trends: Which misspellings of Viagra are popular today, the rise of the “Deck of Weasels” playing cards coinciding with the fall of the “Iraqi’s Most Wanted” deck, and of course, whether this week it’s the wild Russian teenagers or the bored suburban housewives who crave my, um, presence more (this week: bored suburban housewives! Good for me. They’re already in the country).
However, the trend I’m noticing today involves the names the spam headers carry. As most of you know, spam often comes with someone’s name attached, to give the impression that it’s a real live person, and not a soulless spambot, who is flooding your e-mail box with offers for porn and miniature digital cameras. It used to be that the spammers would at least attempt to make the name sound reasonable, but at this late point, they’ve abandoned all pretense and are just going with crazy stuff. So now I’m treated with spam from the likes of Conley Haupert, Ignacio Cummings, Santiago Whitaker and (my favorite of the moment) Kermit Bolton. Oh, the terrifying mental images that name conjures up.
This is one area in which I find spam somewhat useful. As you may know, I’m writing a novel at the moment (just finished another chapter less than five minutes ago, actually — many high-powered politicians leveling accusations at each other. Also, sheep). One of my writing secrets is that I’m flat-out awful with giving characters names; usually I just take names of people I know and mix and match first names with last names. Which is why Agent to the Stars features partial names of people I went to sixth grade with, and Old Man’s War features the mixed names of members of the rock band Journey (the main character: John Perry). With spam, I don’t even bother mixing and matching the first and last names. I just cut and paste.
This doesn’t mean I want more spam — really, I’d rather have no spam and go back to using the names of programmers I find in the credits of the video games I play. But as long as I get spam, it’s nice to have some benefit from it. And when my next novel features the hero Ignacio Cummings battling the evil villain Kermit Bolton, you’ll know why.