Pen names are nothing new, authors have been using them for years and years and years, for a variety of reasons. Some people because they didn't like their real names; maybe they were too bland or too common or too close to someone else's name. At one time women did it because they could not publish as themselves in an unenlightened society, so had to resort to using a male pseudonym. Thank goodness, times have changed.
Or have they?
There is one market in particular that is filled with writers using false names, again for a variety of reasons. I suspect that the rise of epublishing has only exacerbated this situation to a great extent. So why are today's writers not using their real names?
The market I am alluding to is that of the romance novel, most particularly erotic romance - from the mild to the downright smutty. You would think in this day and age, writers wouldn't find it necessary to disguise themselves for writing the stuff, but they do. Society as a whole is still very ignorant and bigoted. Some writers do it because they don't want their families to know, fearing their disapproval. With others, it is their employers, although you shouldn't have to worry about being fired for something that has nothing to do with your employer or what you do for him. But sadly, you do, as I discovered. Of course it wasn't done openly, and I can't prove it, but I know that's why I was suddenly let go after more than thirteen years of satisfactory employment (and by my own brother, no less).
There are even some who do it to separate the different fields in which they write. To not muddy the waters, so to speak. For fun, among other reasons, I took a pen name which I used for my novel Dark Love. My daughter Sarah chose it. I would have gone with Victoria Rose, she picked Reinette, so I went with it. How much I'll end up doing under that name remains to be seen. And while it's a pen name - my pen name, to be precise - it's still a female name, leaving no doubt as to the question of my gender.
Which leads me up to the point of this rather rambling dissertation. My bone of contention is not with those who use pen names as shields, but rather those who take on genders which are not theirs in order to lull their readers into assuming that they are that gender. This irks me to no end.
I think this is more true in the m/m romance field than in any other. There are women who have male pen names. People assume they are men, therefore they must know what they're talking about. Right? Wrong! There are others who choose deliberately ambiguous names for the same reason. Or use initials.
I make no bones about who I am, or who I write as - no excuses or apologies. I don't feel that a writer should be judged on the basis of their gender or sexuality. I've heard some complain that straight women should not write m/m romances. What a load of shit! If a gay man chose to write straight romance, would I complain? Hell no! Straight actors play gay men and vice versa. It's your performance that counts, not who you sleep with when you go home at night.
The same should be true of writing. Some claim a straight woman doesn't know or understand how a gay man feels. Why not? Do we have to be everything we write? Is Tolkien a hobbit or an elf or dwarf, or any of the other myriad creatures/persons that populate his books? Do we deride him because of it? Hell no. In an ideal world, we would read our literature in a gender-blind "taste" test, and take it on its own merit, not for the genitals of its writer.
Especially loathsome do I find those who construct false personae to go with their false gender. Doubly despicable. Some simply leave the assumption to the reader and claim that they make no false assertions. Semantics, I claim. Falsehoods simply concealed in a different way.
There is one consolation that I can take away from this situation - I am able to sit down at a table and sign autographs, to have my actual photo used on the back of my books and to loudly proclaim hey, that's my book when I go out in public, something that those fellows - er, I mean ladies - will never be able to do. I think that counts for a lot, because I'm proud of what I write, and I wouldn't let anyone take that away from me.
What do you think about this subject? Does it irk you when people claim to be what they are not, simply to claim experience that they don't really have? To sucker the readers in on the strength of their non-existent penises? I'd love to hear what you have to say!