Sunday, July 24, 2011

Just Call Me "Sovereign Ruler"

Scicurious has an interesting post "On the Issue of Pseudonymity," prompted in part by the much-discussed Google+ and its no-pseudonyms policy.

I confess I do not feel strongly about pseudonyms. Use one, don't use one, whatever works best for your particular situation. If you build up a body of work linked to a name, and I'm interested in that work, then I don't much care whether the name is the one on your driver's license, or one you just made up for yourself.

I understand some people do feel strongly about pseudonyms, and I'm aware that it's a complicated issue. Honestly, I'm not even going to get into the virtues and vices of anonymous and pseudonymous writing on the internet.

I'm looking at the last line of Sci's post, which reads, "Why is someone with a name that doesn't sound real less trustworthy, even through years of work, than an unknown person with a real sounding name?"

It made me flash back to about a million years ago when I was a kid and I saw a book in the library by an author named Crescent Dragonwagon. I remember thinking something like "cool name, and that person totally made it up."

Because it just didn't sound like--not that it wasn't a real name, because I would accept a lot of things in a real name (having a randomly placed apostrophe in my own name may have helped), but it wasn't a regular name. (Incidentally, this author still exists, and has a blog on which she has explained the story of the name.)

Did I take that author less seriously as a writer because of an unusual name? Probably not. But fiction writers are allowed to be weird. Artistic types, you know. Eccentric. It's the creative process.

Is it just that we can't deal with people using odd names if they want to write things we assume to be presenting true facts? I want my facts to come from a stolid upstanding citizen with a stern, homely name, thank you!

That lets me right out. It's going to be all lies and elaborate cursing on this site from here on.

I don't know. I guess it's natural to be curious about who other people 'really' are, so we're interested in their 'real' names. Who hasn't felt at least a flicker of interest at a good "match this celebrity with the name they were given at birth" quiz?

But whether or not it really matters, especially when you're just reading people on the internet that you've (presumably!) never met and likely never will meet, is in doubt as far as I'm concerned.

If someone called Scicurious does good science and presents results explained with clear methods and replicable findings and all that good stuff, do we have to care that we don't know how to look the author up in the phone book?

Wait, why are using a phone book, I don't even have a phone book anymore.

Hmph. I'm apparently not really going anywhere with this--I keep thinking I have some point or other, but it escapes me.

I guess I should say that as a cataloger, I want consistent author names above all else, and I'm totally in favor of everyone picking one thing and sticking to it forever and ever, but I do recognize that life is lived mainly outside the OPAC, so in practice you should call yourself whatever.

I'll mutter darkly about it if I have to look up a new authority record or something (mutter mutter grr), but you don't have to pay attention to me. In fact, I wouldn't advise it.


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