Aug 19, 2007
As some of you know, I write both fiction and non-fiction. I try to do as much damage as possible.
To some extent, I lead two separate lives as an author. There are many people who know me only or primarily as a science fiction writer, and many who know me mostly as an author of books on the history, evolution, and social impact of communications media.
I'm sometimes asked why I don't write under two separate names. The logic is that I might be taken more seriously in my non-fiction if I wasn't also known as a science fiction writer.
Actually, this may have once been a problem - long before I started writing. Back in the 1950s, Isaac Asimov claimed he ran into difficulties with colleagues at Boston University - where he taught in the chemistry department - because of his science fiction. But Asimov went on to have fabulous careers as both a science and a science fiction writer, both under the name of Isaac Asimov. (He did publish a few novels under the pen name Paul French.)
Nowadays, I don't know who would really think that being a science fiction author could detract from how seriously readers take your non-fiction. If anything, I think most of the world recognizes that science fiction, though fun, often deals with the most profound issues in the universe - our place in the cosmos, our capacity to create machines that think (which leads us to contemplate what we mean by intelligence, thought, consciousness), etc. You know, those sorts of things...
So I would never write under a pseudonym for that reason - that it might hurt my nonfiction career to be known as a science fiction writer - even if I were so inclined, which I'm not.
Some writers, unhappily, have no choice but to write under a pseudonym - for economic reasons. They have sold so poorly under their real name, that the only way bookstores will stock their books is if they are packaged under a new name. Fortunately, and thank my lucky stars, that hasn't happened to me (yet).
But there is one transcendent reason which will keep me, I'm sure, from ever writing under a pseudonym. It does not have to do with the profundity of science fiction, nor with my level of success as writer.
It has to do with the girl who sat next to me in social studies
7th grade. (And there may have been one in 6th grade, and in 9th grade, too.) She is the reason I would never ever write under a pseudonym, regardless of any good reasons.
She pretty much ignored me back then, and I want to maximize the chances that when she walks into a bookstore somewhere today or tomorrow, she will notice, out of the corner of her eye, my name on a book on a shelf. And at that moment, she will realize all that she could have had back in our junior high school class....
yeah, that's the reason...