On Contemplating Pseudonyms

Many years ago, when I was a manager for EB Games, I told a friend of mine that I did some writing on the side and that someday I hoped to be published.

"Do you write under your own name? Or do you use a pseudonym?" he asked.

"Under my own name," I said. "I've been using it so long, it's part of my identity, why use a pseudonym?" I like my name, I always have.

My name really is a part of my identity, and I don't want to lose that. Most people, when they get on the Internet, use a pseudonym. I never did; I've always been myself online and I've never hidden that.

The thing is, though…

I have thought about a writing pseudonym.

I thought about it at work about two years ago. On some publications at work, the writers are credited for their contributions. On one particular publication, I wrote six or seven articles a month, sent them to the editor, and they would never come back with corrections, never come back for rewrites and redrafts. This puzzled me for a while, and then one day I actually looked at the publication, and discovered that my work was being heavily rewritten and I, as the writer, hadn't been given the opportunity to do the rewrites myself — or be given indications of what to do and what not to do to prevent this from happening in the future. Naturally, I was incensed; in some cases, I felt that the writing genuinely didn't reflect my work.

I wanted to be credited as David Agnew.

Doctor Who fans will recognize the name right off. It's the in-house BBC pseudonym, the British equivalent of Hollywood's Alan Smithee. Douglas Adams used David Agnew on Doctor Who for "City of Death."

This crisis of credits ultimately fizzled out; the magazine in question ceased publication. The need for David Agnew evaporated.

That said, I have considered a purely professional pseudonym, for some specific reasons.

Ironically, I would not use a pseudonym if I were to ever write a vampire romance novel. Many people think that "Allyn" is a female name anyway.

No, I've thought that if I ever wrote for children or young adults, I would use a pseudonym, largely because I can sometimes be a bit foul-mouthed online. My sister worries that someday my niece will read my blog and find it littered with f-bombs; that's family, now imagine a total stranger under the age of ten stumbling into this corner of the 'net.

What would my writing pseudonym be? I'm torn between two names —

  • Brent O'Rourke
  • Kevin O'Rourke

I've used both of those, though not for writing. There are times when I've gone in a store and they browbeat me for a donation and they hang a little sign on the wall with my name on it. I don't give them my real name. I make up a name, and a long time ago I came up with the O'Rourke "brothers" and they've served my in good stead ever since.

I like me name. It's a rare name; there's maybe four other people in the United States with my name. And you can conjure with my full name; there's a linguistic quirk to my full name that astounds me at times.

Pseudonyms, though. They have their time and their place.

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