Friday, August 25, 2006

Pseud O'Nym

I have added a link at the side: a link to a book I wrote and self-published years ago called Paying For Breakages. It's a free download, if you're interested.

It was written under a different name (Scott Berry) and the cover designed under another different name (Bernice Ascot, ha ha). I have also made music - very bad music, which I shan't be posting up any time soon - under the name crumpetboy, a sobriquet I was given after an argument with an American bellydancer about the relative merits of US and UK baked goods (I swear I'm not making this up). Here and now I am writing as Maddox Kent, another assumed name for another sphere of work. The book that I wrote last year, Living Things (I'm still hawking it around agents), was written under this name - the kind of writing I do now is rather different to that of my Scott Berry days and the name was chosen to reflect this. My current book (about a quarter done) is in a completely different genre from LT so it's quite possible I'll conjure up a new pseudonym for it.

My video game Cascade, on the other hand, is a different matter. I will go with Scott Berry again for this, because that is my real name and I can't quite bring myself to use a pseudonym for programming. I'm not really sure why. I suppose it's partly a legal thing - there needs to be a copyright thingy of some sort on it and I don't know how copyright law views pseudonyms - but it's not quite that, I'm sure.

Come to think of it, why do people bother with pseudonyms in the first place? I can understand the practical reasons, like splitting genre work (Iain M Banks/Iain Banks, Michael Marshall Smith/Michael Marshall etc) or writing something dreadfully controversial, but most of the writers I've met who work under a nom de plume are about as controversial as soft cheese. Some people seem to feel a need to drive a wedge between their fiction work and their real lives: this too is understandable given the public's propensity to mix up actors with their characters, writers with their protagonists. But even this seems reactive.

Personally I chose Bernice Ascot as a design pseudonym out of British modesty. If one credits oneself with too many aspects of a single work (Paying For Breakages in that instance) one can be seen to be bigging oneself up, so to speak, and that would never do. Also there was a transvestism episode that I will explain another time...

Maddox Kent was a name I arrived at through a process of conscious thought: I wanted a name with a short monosyllabic surname and a slightly longer forename so that it will look right on book jackets; something uncommon enough to be easily remembered by a bookseller but not so complex as to be too troublesome for a customer; vaguely English-sounding (i.e. Kent); vaguely literary-sounding (i.e. Maddox) and yet still a name I could live with in case I end up being called it by everyone forever, like poor Vin Diesel. It was a lot like establishing a fictional character, funnily enough, and I found shortly after deciding on this name that I was gaining new personal habits and quirks that seemed to fit it better than they did me - drinking bourbon, angrily slagging off Conn Iggulden's Emperor books to bemused friends throughout every visit to Waterstone's (sorry Conn), decrying the poor state of the British novel, that sort of thing. I actively considered buying a pipe, having never smoked in my life: perhaps the old superstition that a name defines rather than describes you is truer than it looks, or maybe us writer types are just dangerously malleable by nature.


The book I'm working on right now is a romantic comedy about a group of people on a creative writing course, in which people fall in love, learn valuable life lessons and definitely don't get raped by radio-controlled slave clones or anything. At least three of the characters either write or live under a name that isn't their real one (therein lies much of the hilarity. Look, trust me on this, it's funnier when you read it) so the question of pseudonyms must necessarily arise at some point. Not sure what I'm going to say yet. As for Cascade, I will post a link to it as soon as there is an it to link to.

Big Brother has ended, and the hours suddenly seem to lie empty and still. Roll on Torchwood...

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