Nom de Plume, the Lewis Carroll version.

Like Lewis Carroll I have always feared fame to the point of gifting my credits to other, non-typically credited co-workers when I worked in the film industry.

I have, for several years, been blessed with a fairly successful nature photography “hobby” which I avoid most attribution by selling my photos through a rights managed stock house which works well in that medium. But due to the realities of my main career I do not have the time to spend to fully dedicate for this pursuit so I have been exploring with more artistic forms of photography and portraits. I really do enjoy and I earnestly appreciate others enjoying my work. However I have no desire to be acknowledged for that work.

I only share this work with some of my photographer friends and have to this point have chosen to not exhibit nor sell this work. Unfortunately this is starting to limit the talent that I can work with as I cannot provide a portfolio nor can I promise the exposure this level of talent typically wants.

So my question to the dope is what is your opinion of those whom use a pseudonym?

If you have known anyone who has used a pseudonym do you have any tips on how to respectfully ask that your fellow artists and friends avoid “breaking through a disguise which it is my most earnest wish to maintain.”

Should I just buck up and deal with the “pain” of compliments?

Thank you for any input.

I know a small handful of artists and writers who prefer to labor under a pseudonym, and, to be honest, I’ve never seen the point…with one sole exception, and that’s a guy whose name is really dull! I mean, Bob Fudd kind of dull. I can’t blame him for spicing it up with something like Lars Stirling. If I was named Bob Fudd (or the equivalent) I’d spice my name up too.

The others? Really, no point. I think it’s just an affectation for them. I see it as vaguely pretentious, but not obnoxiously so.

If you have a strong sense of privacy, or other professional needs, then, sure. Cordwainer Smith worked for the CIA; he was not in a position to use his real name.

There will be some minor logistical hurdles, such as cashing checks, filing taxes, and so on. But, hey, it’s your career. Whatever makes you happy!

The Straight Dope seems an appropriate place to ask. Don’t you agree, Unca Cecil?

My opinion of those who use a pseudonym? It’s very intriguing, that’s for sure. It doesn’t have negative connotations for me. I get that some individuals are protective of their privacy, and I can respect that.

I hope it works out for you - and I’ll always be looking at nature photography now wondering if I know the photographer :slight_smile:

My mother kept her fathers surname for profesional use. It never bothered her, or any of her colleagues, that she used my fathers surname in her private life. My sister-in-law was in the phone book under a miss-spelled name. My wife used an Anglicised name for a while. Most of the people I knew in college never new my real name.

Nobody cares.

I know a few authors who use pseudonyms.

One did it to get a “new start.” Megan Lindholm’s early books didn’t sell well, so she switched to a pseudonym. Bookstores thought she was a new author instead of an unsuccessful one. As Robin Hobb, she became a big success.

Others have done it because their real name was confusing. Michael McDowell was published as Michael Kube-McDowell because there already was a Michael McDowell (he hates the pseudonym), Lawrence W. Evans became Lawrence Watt-Evans for the same reason, and Carolyn Cherry became C.J. Cherryh because Don Wollheim said so.

No one in the field cares. In fact, there’s a standard way of indicating your pseudonym on manuscripts while keeping your legal name for tax/payment purposes.

Stephen King invented “Richard Bachman” as an experiment to see if “talent” sells books or “the name” does. Some wank found King’s name on a Bachman Library of Congress (?) registration form (?) and killed the experiment before it could be satisfactorily concluded, however, King believes “Thinner” was about to put “Dickie” over the top. Bachman also had a pseudonym, “George Stark,” but he died of the same malady as Bachman–“cancer of the pen name.”

The main reason for pseudonyms (at least in King’s case) is he wanted to get his work published but his publisher didn’t want his books competing with each other. As if.

At least it didn’t end as badly as it did for Chris Gaines.

From what I’ve heard Gaines is happily retired in Oklahoma, while his alter ego, tours occasionally on the weekends to scrape together a few bucks.

Pseudonyms don’t bother me. Some authors use them so as not to endanger the day job. Some musicians grab one to play on somebody else’s session while sneaking around a contract. Dr. Winston O’Boogie was John Lennon, for example.

When I quote myself, I usually use Oliver Faltz. Oliver is credited with a few words at

To tie Lennon and King together: Paul McCartney wrote one song credited to “Bernard Webb” to see if one of his songs could be successful without the Lennon-McCartney byline.

I thought that might have been a typo for a sec, but apparently not.

I think its fine; so much so that I’ve done it myself. I got into the habit in college when I was submitting a lot of writing various places and just kept it into full adulthood. I do a fair amount of stuff with films set in early America and various things like that. Some turn out fine. Some turn out so seriously sucky that I would rather run for Congress than have my name associated with them. Using aliases just seems best to me.

Robert Galbraith

I have known a couple of local radio personalities who were on the air under a pseudonym; usually their first name and a bland last name like Anderson. Their reason is that there are a lot of cranks out there; sometimes they’d get angry or disturbed listeners that repeatedly called the station, and they didn’t want these people to be able to figure out where they lived.

I personally have used a pseudonym once or twice, and I can relate to the desire to remain anonymous. The first time I did it was because I was trying to publish an amateur science fiction magazine (aka fanzine), and a few people who had promised me articles never followed through. So what I did was I included a couple of things I had written myself. I didn’t want it to look like what it was – a magazine overly dominated by the editor’s own writing. So I made up a couple of pseudonyms and included those articles under the assumed names.

There are other good reasons to use pseudonyms that I’ve heard of. I know that Isaac Asimov used a pseudonym for the novels he wrote that were aimed at a younger audience (the word for that at the time was ‘Juveniles’, and not the more politically correct ‘Young Adult’.) Anne Rice, of course, used a pseudonym for her more sexually explicit writings. And there are cases of women using male pseudonyms so as to avoid inherent prejudices from readers.

Now I have to ask, if anyone actually feels that one should not use a pseudonym, why would you not also go by your real name on the internet? I think that the reasons for using a pseudonym on the internet (privacy, security, etc.) are just as valid when you use them to argue for anonymity in other parts of your life. The IRS might have issue with it, if you aren’t declaring your income properly, or the police, if you are using a fake name to avoid the law. But otherwise, why not?

I wouldn’t dream of using anything other than my real name…