East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai



hkuttnerEdward J. Bellin, Paul Edmonds, Noel Gardner, Will Garth, James Hall, Keith Hammond, Hudson Hastings, Peter Horn, Kelvin Kent, Robert O. Kenyon, C. H. Liddell, Hugh Maepenn, Scott Morgan, Lawrence O’Donnell, Lewis Padgett, Woodrow Wilson Smith, Charles Stoddard

They were all Henry Kuttner, alone or together with his wife, C.L. Moore.
I always liked Kuttner’s work. And C.L. Moore’s.
Discovering their arm-long list of aliases was for me the start of a great treasure hunt.

Back in the days, an alias was a good way to sell two stories to the same issue of a pulp magazine – and thus for making a living.
There are legends about single issues of certain pulps that were written cover to cover by a single author, under a number of different names.
Aliases were common – often imposed by the publisher, as house names… like Grant Stockbridge or Kenneth Robeson.

English: Cover of the pulp magazine Weird Tale...

Today an alias is still a good way to differentiate – especially if you are writing in two different fields, and don’t want to confuse the readers.

Even if I don’t think true readers are easily confused.

Another good reason to use an alias is to get away from it all – from your reputation, from your field, from the politics of the genre.
From black lists too – if black lists exist, of course.
Some will denounce aliases as a form of “cheating” – as if publishing one’s writing under a different name somehow made it undeservedly better, in some illicit way1.

I have always liked my name.
It’s serviceable, easy to remember2, easy to pronounce, you can even write it in Japanese without particular problems.
But I have published under an alias3, and will probably do it again.
Mostly to keep genres separated.
But yes, also to be free of expectations.
To be free to play.
To sidestep the “compared to your last story…”
To let the writing do the talking, as it should.

And then, what the heck, if it was all right with Henry Kuttner, for Norvell Page, for Lester Dent and for Walter B. Gibson, and for all the other greats of the pulp, it’s all right with me too.

  1. if this is not a sign of bad faith and prejudice, I don’t know what it is. 
  2. yes, the local press wrote about me calling me “Davide Manna”, “Davide Mannu” and even “Daniele Menna”, but that’s the local press for you. They can only get tractor brands right. 
  3. no, I won’t tell you what it is. 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

4 thoughts on “A.K.A.

  1. “They can only get tractor brands right”: well, my friend, they know what the important matters of life (or of the lives of their readers) are.
    On a more serious note, I sometimes toy with the idea of a pen name myself, with the intent proving if my being a woman negatively impacts the readers or not, in this schizoid market that is Italian publishing. I’m scared to discover that yes, my having boobs scares potential readers away.


  2. I got myself one to use west of the Channel – because my own combination of name and surname is such that no self-respecting Anglophone can ever hope to pronounce it right… If I ever give in and try to publish my few forays in entirely unrelated genre (and who hasn’t one or two in their hard-disks?), I suspect I’ll need another one.


    • User-friendly names are often a good reason for an alias.
      In other cases, you have to “sound right” for the genre – say, a vaguely suggestive name for romance, or an American-sounding name to sell science fiction in Italy…


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