Pseudonyms: Guess You’re Stuck with David Bain for a While…

Posted: September 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

by David Bain

NOTE: You may freely copy and repost or reprint this article as long as all links, the above byline, this note, and all following text remains unchanged.

Dean Wesley Smith’s post on pseudonyms has me thinking.

I write comfortably in many genres, and, to date, I’ve always published everything under my “real” name – which is, actually, a pseudonym.

I did this mostly for two reasons:

1. My main career is teaching English to college students. I’ve been a published writer for something close to 25 years now, but for most of that time I dealt almost exclusively with the small press, writing whatever took my fancy or whatever someone asked (and paid) me to write, with little concern for a bigger picture. My output was almost exclusively short stories, with my only longterm focus being on one novel – GRAY LAKE, which is now available in all sorts of formats. My publication history is scattershot, all over the place, from horror to sword and sorcery to mystery and even straight-up lit’rature as well as both genre and high-falutin’ poetry. While I am indeed professional about my writing, I looked at it more as a craft, an art form, than a career. (And, just to be clear: a craft or art form is much more than a hobby – but that’s another post.) My point is, these days, though I still enjoy the luxury of mostly writing whatever I want, a bigger picture is indeed emerging, and I’m realizing my art form could also be a career…

2. Many, possibly even most of my writing heroes are ostentatious genre-jumpers. From King and Koontz to Joe Lansdale, from Michael Chabon to Joyce Carol Oates, these writers have published a mish-mash of genres under their own names and have done just fine. Writers like Oates who can write well in any form they choose impress the heck out of me, and I’ve always set out to follow in their footsteps. Though all of the above have used pseudonyms of one sort or another, they’ve all returned to their primary names, successfully pushing genre envelopes with them.

So I find myself in a quandary. I’ve published a crime/horror novel. Two of my bestselling ebook short stories are of a historical bent: THE COWBOYS OF CTHULHU, a weird Lovcraftian Western, and WAR WOUNDS, a Civil War ghost story. I’m in the midst of getting my Will Castleton psychic detective series off the ground, and several of the stories have already been published in anthologies and online under my own name. I’ve also already kicked off a series of straight smalltown crime novellas. My Shin and Skulk sword and sorcery stories are also under my name, and I think I have at least one novel featuring these guys in me. And I’ve already announced my more mainstream novel THE CARE AND FEEDING OF MICHAEL ANTHONY ZEE, forthcoming this fall, in too many places to back out now.

So it looks like you’re stuck with David Bain as the author of everything mentioned in the previous paragraph. Hope readers can handle another genre-jumper out there.  Smith’s reasoning for the use of pseudonyms is certainly sound, and I’d love to give it a try and see the results, but it might be a while before you see the names Darren Bainser, Daryl Binnes or Naib Divad on any covers of books featuring my work…

  1. John Barnes says:

    I think Smith’s advice is sound for the reasons he gives, but I doubt I’ll follow it for reasons similar to yours — including simply enjoying the fact that some writers will follow me over genre walls.

    Ray Stevens has had a huge career in gospel music and a huge career in novelty/comedy songs. His concerts are generally about 1/3 well-dressed praise-the-lord types and about 2/3 scruffy never-quite-grew-up-nerds. Ray plays to them both and if the gospel gets a little much for the nerds, they go out in the lobby and drink; if gospel crowd wasn’t really there for numbers like “Shriner’s Convention”, they either endure it patiently or try an exorcism or something.

    Or in short, it might cost some sales but some of us just like being who we are.

    • davidbainaa says:

      Ray’s a good example. I remember seeing one of his videos as a kid and thinking the bounce between the hijinks and “Holy Holy” was jarring, but my grandparents dug it. It made them respect Stevens; they knew they could trust the humor of a religious guy to only go so far. And I know I respect people who can write across genres. There’s nothing wrong with focus, but I like people with bouncy brains!

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