All the Illuminae Trivia That’s Fit to Print

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[Editor’s Note: If you haven’t read Illuminae yet, I suggest skipping this post for now and picking up the book post-haste! Here’s a synopsis:

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto one of the evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

If you have read the book, authors Amie and Jay have prepared a list of trivia to enhance your Illuminae enjoyment. Go forth, and impress your friends with your newfound knowledge!-Carolyn]

ILLUMINAE was sold to Random House on the strength of a 130 page sample. In order to make it easier for acquiring editors to visualize how the book was supposed to look, Jay mocked up rough designs for each of the pages and packaged them in a PDF (he studied graphic design at university, and used to work as an art director).

The name “ILLUMINAE” means “the radiant ones”, or “those who shed light” in Latin. Jay thought up the name at a Tool concert, not discovering it was actually a real Latin word until over a year later. So hurray for serendipity.

The three WUC civilian vessels that took part in the Battle of Kerenza, Copernicus, Brahe and Hypatia, are all named after famous astronomers.

Nicolaus Copernicus first proposed the idea that the sun, not the earth, was at the center of our solar system.

Tycho Brahe did ground-breaking work on comets and supernovae, and his work inspired Kepler’s Three Laws of Planetary Motion.

Hypatia was head of the neoplatonic school in the ancient city of Alexandria, where she taught philosophy and astronomy.

The battlecarrier Alexander is named for Alexander of Macedon, aka Alexander the Great, the warrior king who created one of the largest empires the world has known.

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The original name for the Alexander was “Hadrian”, named for the Roman Emperor who built Hadrian’s Wall in England. But we thought having two ships starting with H might get confusing. 

The BeiTech assault fleet that attacked Kerenza are all named for famous political leaders. We wanted to play with the idea that everybody thinks they’re the hero in a given story, which means BeiTech (certainly the villains from our characters’ point of view) named their ships after a variety of leaders, some of whom were good guys:

Lincoln, for Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States.

Churchill, for Winston Churchill, the prime Minister of England for most of World War 2.

Kenyatta, for Jomo Kenyatta, the first Prime Minister and “father” of Kenya.

Zhongzheng, another name for Chiang Kai-shek, a member of the Kuomintang who lead China between 1928 and 1975.

Ezra’s AAR on pg 42 was the first scene written for the novel, and originally intended to be its opening “chapter”. In the end, we felt we needed a way for readers to enter the world on a slightly less steep learning curve, and decided on the interviews with the main characters that now open the book.

Ezra’s chum, Jimmy McNulty, is named for James Mcnulty, a character on one of Jay’s favourite TV shows, The Wire. He recommends you watch it.

No, really. WATCH IT.

George RR Martin is listed among the casualties of the Copernicus explosion. We figured he’s killed enough characters in his books, it was time for him to get a taste of his own medicine!

Amie and Jay started writing ILLUMINAE in February 2013, after Amie had a dream they wrote a book together.

The binary at the edges of Kady’s journal pages reads “Death by Giant Slug to the reader of this journal”.

Some of the thumb and fingerprints on pg 110 and 111 belong to Jay. So if you want to frame him for murder, now’s your chance.

 It took Jay 3 hours to design Ezra’s rose on pg 116. He did it at work, when he was supposed to be working. He was not, in fact, working at all. At least not on anything they paid him for. Sorry ex-boss, not sorry.

To get the right level of snootiness when writing Dorian’s dialogue, Jay imagined him being voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch.

The way the ships hail each other over the radio—using their names three times—draws from Amie’s experience growing up sailing. Names are repeated so if there’s a break in transmission that information isn’t missed.

Jay and Amie consulted with a hacker friend to oversee all Kady’s computer shenanigans and make sure they were realistic. This hacker cannot be named in the book for legal reasons.

The arresting officers and murderer described in the arrest report on pg 151 (Randy Blythe, Mark Morton, Chris Adler) are all members of Lamb of God, one of Jay’s favourite bands.

The bloodstains on the medical report on pg 158 were made by Jay spitting mouthfuls of red paint at blank sheets of paper in his kitchen. It did not taste nice.

1st Lieutenant Winifred McCall was originally named Winston, after Winston McCall, lead singer of Parkway Drive, one of Jay’s favourite bands. But after asking himself “why can’t this badass marine be a woman?” and coming up with no good answer, he changed her to Winifred.

Sykes from McNulty’s squad is named for Oliver Sykes, lead singer of Bring Me the Horizon (another of Jay’s fave bands).

 The GO BACK TO SLEEP handwriting on pg 189 belongs to our awesome cover designer, Ray Shappell.

The director of the Super Turbo Awesome Team movie, Jack Burton, is named for the hero of Big Trouble in Little China, one of Jay’s favourite films. The music for the film is by Slayer (another of Jay’s fave bands DO YOU SEE A PATTERN HERE)

All IM scenes between Kady and Ezra in the book were written in real time chat between Amie and Jay. They were completely unscripted – all the jokes, plot ideas and story hooks are ad-libbed.

The words that make up Ezra’s love heart to Kady on pg 256 are from several famous lurve poems:

She Walks in Beauty – Lord Byron

Sonnet 18 – William Shakespeare

A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever – John Keats

I Loved You First – Christina Rossetti

Jay wrote every word of AIDAN’s sequences listening to the same song (“Bleed” by Meshuggah) playing over and over again. He normally never listens to music when writing.

The image in the code on pg 289 is the famous painting “The Scream’ by Norwegian painter Edvard Munch.

The bridge-crew members that General Torrence orders to their deaths on pg 298 are all named for members of Amie’s writing group. At least they died together.

The piece of music that AIDAN plays to Torrence during the attack on Alexander’s bridge, Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor, was the last piece the famous composer ever wrote. While working on it, Mozart reportedly told his wife that he was writing the music that would be played at his own funeral.

He died before completing it.

AIDAN’s assertion that “the human brain has a computational efficiency of 10-26” comes from Ray Kurzweil’s book THE SINGULARITY, a rather complex and quite-possibly-batshit-crazy treatise about the rise of artificial intelligence and the merging of human consciousness with machines.

The fighter pilots flushed into space on pg 354 are all named after friends and author buddies of Amie and Jay. Yes, they pretty much killed everyone they knew in this book!

When Amie put together the list of casualties for the Copernicus, she googled common first and last names from dozens of different countries and cultures. She then put together a list of hundreds of names, some of which were cultural matches, some of which showed that folks from different cultures had merged families. She also ensured that groups that were clearly families had a mum and dad in some cases, and in others two mums, two dads, one mum, one dad… then she remembered that after carefully crafting all these diverse families, she was about to kill them, and then she was sad.

In the sequence on pg 394, AIDAN describes a man’s saliva boiling on his tongue after he ejects himself into space. If you were ever actually ejected into space without a suit, THIS WOULD ACTUALLY HAPPEN TO YOU. This is because a liquid’s boiling point gets lower when the air pressure surrounding it get lower. So in space, where there’s no pressure at all, the liquid on your exposed areas (eyeballs, tongue, etc) would boil simply due to the heat of your body.


Jay and Amie consulted with an astrophysicist friend to ensure the space physics in ILLUMINAE were all legit, since lots of what we assume about space comes from Bad Hollywood and not Science. They were provided with 25 pages of notes on their first draft, covering everything from the actual effects of zero gravity to the way nuclear explosions probably work in vacuum.

Space is hard, basically.

AIDAN’s mannerisms were more emotionless/stilted in the first draft of the novel, but ILLUMINAE’s editor, the awesome Melanie Cecka, seized on a few “jokes” it had made, and requested we write more to make the AI more relatable. This ended up giving Kady and AIDAN’s relationship a whole new dimension.

So listen to your editor is what we’re saying.

The reason the % of Alexander personnel afflicted by Phobos starts to go down after the exodus on pg 449 is because—you guessed it—the afflicted start killing each other. D: This means that Kady, still uninfected, starts to represent a larger proportion of the ship’s population.

Amie kept a series of massive spreadsheets to track the various populations/death tolls aboard the fleet during the book, because her complete inability to Math is matched only by Jay’s. She had to redo them from scratch four times, because she kept realising she’d left something out or made a mistake.

Even though AIDAN’s databases show no record of “Crazytown” on pg 461, there actually was a band called Crazytown in the late 90s, who played a sleazy fusion of porno jazz and nu metal. But in Jay and Amie’s dark future, Crazytown were deemed so terrible, humanity purged all record of their existence sometime in the 22nd century.

ILLUMINAE was acquired by Random House in November 2013, a few days before Jay & Amie’s birthdays. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BITCHES.

When asked who should voice AIDAN in the inevitable ILLUMINAE movie adaptation, Jay was seen to light a cigarette, lean back in his chair and whisper: Fassbender.
This was particularly weird because Jay doesn’t smoke.

The art direction/design process of ILLUMINAE began in June 2014, and wasn’t completed until July the following year. Jay even ended up working on pages while on vacation overseas. His wife was surprisingly understanding, considering the vacation was to celebrate the pair’s wedding anniversary.

Jay’s wife is amazeballs, basically.

ILLUMINAE had four completely different covers created for it before a final design was approved. In the final jacket is a message hidden by Ray Shappell, cover designer extraordinaire. Jay and Amie didn’t know it was there until they got their final copies.

Jay’s MacBook crashed no less than four times when designing the “ATOMS SPLIT” diagram on pg 540 & 541. He said many very bad words in several languages, which have all been redacted from the record.

AIDAN’s monologue about the effects of a nuclear explosion in space is basically educated guesswork on the part of several astrophysicists, since nobody has actually set off a nuke in space. Yet.

The binary sequence on 556 & 557, when AIDAN has “flatlined,reads “I will show you fear in a handful of dust”. This is part of a poem by T.S Elliot entitled “The Waste Land”. The full stanza reads: And I will show you something different from either Your shadow at morning striding behind you Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”

In the original paperback ARCs of ILLUMINAE, pages 568/569 and 570/571 accidently swapped places. We blame the mad computer.

The conversation between Frobisher and Kady at the end of the book changed between ARCs and final copies, due to developments in the ILLUMINAE sequels. Several of Kady’s journal entries have also changed.

The binary at the edges of Kady’s conversation with Frobisher at the end of the book reads “Hello Director”.

The blueprints of the spaceships in Illuminae were originally presented as concept sketches. Amie and Jay worked with the artist to ensure they fitted the descriptions in the book, and then detailed schematics were drawn up. Meinert Hansen, the artist, has also worked on awesome stuff like Batman: Arkham Origins.

Amie’s old jobs include one that required her to write a lot of briefing and informational documents. This was just right for getting that formal tone on some of the information releases in the book.

The collage of photos of those who died on the Copernicus was partly inspired by the scenes in Battlestar Galactica, featuring a corridor full of photos of the dead, where survivors would come to pray, or reflect.

To work out all the timelines for the documents in Illuminae, as well as the countdowns to battle, the authors spent a whole day with a calculator and a spreadsheet, timing out everything that happens, including how long various events would take to transpire. For obvious reasons, they spent this day in the pub.

Amie Kaufman first novel was THESE BROKEN STARS, the first in a trilogy she co-wrote with Megan Sponner. Amie lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband, their rescue dog, and her considerable library. Learn more about Amie Jay Kristoff is the author of STORMDANCER and KINSLAYER, which received starred reviews from PW and Kirkus, and features “a top-notch brassy heroine who rivals Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games” (Huffington Post). Jay is 6’7 and has approximately 13,520 days to live. He abides in Melbourne with his secret agent kung-fu assassin wife, and the world’s laziest Jack Russell. He has a sweet beard. He does not believe in happy endings. Learn more at

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