Happy Easter, if you’re celebrating today!
Do you enjoy Easter eggs? Story ones, not the chocolate sort 😉 .
In this context, an Easter egg is a bonus nugget—an object, action, character, or phrase—that isn’t critical to the story and may be overlooked by many readers or viewers but which is somehow significant and provides an extra hit of geeky pleasure to those who notice it.
Easter eggs may offer a wink and a nod to a sub-genre. Here’s an easy one: I have lost count of the number of romance heroes who say “As you wish,” when being ordered around by the heroine. No explanation is ever asked or offered, but most romance readers would immediately recognize the homage to William Goldman’s 1973 fantasy romance The Princess Bride, or more likely Rob Reiner’s wonderful 1987 movie adaptation. It’s what farm boy Westley says frequently to Princess Buttercup, and it means, of course, “I love you.”
Or they could be a tiny detail within a book or series that adds a little extra zing. In the final book of Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles, when the eponymous hero has finally found his HEA, there’s a quick exchange where his beloved says “You can give me a brooch. A sapphire one.” He answers, “But will you take care of it?” Which harks back to their very first encounter, in the very first book, when she’s a ten-year-old child. Lymond questions her to verify her father’s honesty. It’s frightening and dangerous, and when it’s over he pins a beautiful sapphire brooch to her nightshirt by way of apology. She rips it off, hurls it to the ground and grinds it under her shoe. Yay Philippa! Yay, Dorothy Dunnett!
An Easter egg could also be a reference to pop culture. The heroine of Ilona Andrews’ most recent book, Blood Heir, was an important secondary character in their bestselling Kate Daniels series. In the Kate Daniels books she’s Julie Olsen, but in Blood Heir she returns to Atlanta with a new face, a new name—Aurelia Ryder—and a whole raft of new superpowers. She becomes a temporary member of the chivalric Order of Merciful Aid, which makes her Knight Ryder. I laughed out loud the first time I read this. Because if you’re as old as I am, you might remember Knight Rider as a 1982 TV series starring David Hasselhof, a police detective who’s rescued after a near-fatal shot to the face and returns to town with a new face (thanks to plastic surgery) and a new name to become a hi-tech, modern crimefighter. I guess it was most likely a joke that became a book.
Easter eggs are everywhere. Peter Grant’s car (a Ford Asbo) in Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London/Midnight Riot. Google it if you don’t know what an ASBO is. Ford Prefect’s name in The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Quentin Tarantino’s sneaky cameos in many of his movies. A quick glimpse of John Thaw in a mirror in the Inspector Morse prequel TV series Endeavour.
I think they’re a nice bit of added fun. I enjoy them when I spot them. I don’t mind too much if they sail over my head.
How about you? Are you an Easter Egg fan? Do you have any favorite examples?
What I really hate—so frustrating!—is when I know I’ve just experienced an Easter egg, but I don’t get it. In TV or the movies, you can just about see the actor pause, waiting…while I think…. Or there’s something in a book that maybe fits, but maybe is somehow a little odd, and you think, I should know that from someplace…but where….
Since you mention Tarantino and his cameos, I’ll just mention Alfred Hitchcock and HIS cameos. Some of them were so fleeting, they were hard to find, and often I was so caught up in the film, I wasn’t looking hard enough at the side action. Before the days of Google, I went to one of his films three times just to find him.
I like the thought of those non-edible Easter eggs, but I’m pretty sure I catch only a miniscule fraction of them.
I did not catch that quick glimpse of John Thaw in a mirror in the Inspector Morse prequel TV series Endeavour; I’ll have to keep my eye out for that during my re-watching.
I do like a good Easter egg when I find it . . . but I often miss it, at least on the first time. Like that Ford ASBO joke. I’ve been in Japan for a couple of decades; I really thought there was a Ford Asbo. But later in the story he uses the term ASBO to not mean a car, and I googled it and got it.
David Bowie was famed for including Easter Eggs in his work and the art. There’s a DVD of his videos that include some secret menus where if you hit the right buttons, you get to see a 20-minute movie of Blue Jean, for example. Of course, those are on the internet and a quick Google means you don’t have to fool around for hours with the menu pushing buttons.
I like writing them into my stories, too, but I get a bit confused as to what’s an Easter egg, and what’s a passing cultural reference. Some of those Easter eggs are just personal jokes that I think only I would get.