A false name or pseudonym used as a byline for publication or online. These are used by both fans and pros.
In fan use, the distinction between a penname and a nickname is often immaterial, and when it comes to online “handles” and convention badge names, we become hopelessly confused. Suffice to say that for purposes of privacy, efforts to keep their fan and mundane lives separate, or other reasons of their own, some fen like to use “fan names” that differ from those on their government-issued identification.
Pros use pennames for similar reasons, as well as professional ones. When prozines purchased many stories by the same author, editors didn’t like to run more than one by the same writer per issue, so extra stories might be assigned to a penname or house name.
John W. Campbell, infamously, did not like to see obviously Jewish bylines in his magazine, so some of his writers, among them Milt Rothman, took goyische pseudonyms, and others with ethnic or hard-for-white-people-to-spell names have also taken that route. In a few cases, women writers used male pennames or initials to disguise their gender — Lilith Lorraine claimed to have done so — but more famous writers, such as C. L. Moore, had different reasons.
Authors who already have an audience for mainstream works sometimes prefer not to confuse extant readers with their sf output, so they use a different name. Collaborators often take a joint penname. Pros with day jobs in stuffy professions hide behind false monickers, too. And, in recent years, some midlist writers who had trouble finding markets after disappointing sales have tried to get fresh starts under new names.
The king of pennames and nicknames was Forrest J Ackerman. He had so many that we have taken to calling them Forrynyms.
Several guides to SF pennames exist:
- Who's Hugh? An SF Reader's Guide to Pseudonyms.
- Science Fiction and Fantasy Pseudonyms.
A house name or house pseudonym is a pen name owned by a publishing company rather than by an individual author. Frequently, the firm would contract with multiple writers to write books to be published under the house name. As a rule, this doesn't yield many masterpieces.
Some well-known house pseudonyms:
|From Fancyclopedia 2, ca. 1959|
|To give variety where the same writer has several pieces in one issue of a fanzine, to conceal the author's identity, or just because he likes the sound of the name, pen names may be used; the former purpose is a mere borrowing from the proz, which follow it as a policy. Much ink was shed over the question whether they should be used freely, such counter-arguments being presented as: the reader has the right to know who's writing a piece; new fans are likely to get mistaken ideas of the size of fandom (or some sections of it, like the Futurians who used umpteen penames of the Conway family); that it hampers club officials in determining activity credits; ktp. But still they come. Some have been deep mysteries, and much speculation preceded their identification; others have seemed to be separate new fans, but turn out to be hoaxes. Something special is the house name, a device of the proz under which hack-written stuff is tagged with a name belonging to the mag rather'n the author, like "Alexander Blade" in the Ziff Davis pulps. Here, too, we may note that fans have sometimes used interconnected penames, as Lynn Hickman's "Plato Jones" which provoked DAG to take the byline "Socrates Smith" and Mary Wilson, "Pancho Picasso".|
|From Fancyclopedia 1, ca. 1944|
|To give variety where the same writer has several pieces in one issue of a fanzine, or just because he likes the sound of the name, pen names are often used. Much ink has been shed over the question of whether they should be used so freely, it being maintained that the reader has a right to know who's writing a piece, that no fans are likely to get mistaken ideas of the size of fandom or some section of it, and that it hampers the secretary of the FAPA in determining activity credentials and the Laureate Committee in giving honors. But still they come. Certain ones, such as Solitaire, Azygous, Star-Treader, the Professor, and the S-F Cynic, have been made deep mysteries, and much speculation preceded their identification. Others have seemed to be separate new fans but turned out to be hoaxes. The penames whose identity is not concealed are a mutation of the fan's name, and entirely new name thot up, or descriptive of some characteristic real or imaginary. Jack Erman, Lawrence Paschall, Thomas G. Robertson, J. Harry Vincent, Erick Freyor, and Pvt Ack-Ack are of the firstype; Sears Langell, Braxton Wells, Robert Bahr, Weaver Wright, Allen Zweig, Samuel D. Gottesman, F. Stanislaus Prosody, Roy St John Le Claire, and the Conways are the second; and Hoy Ping Pong, Claire Voyant, Erdstelulov, (Himself), Dr Acula, Vermyn Slinko, Satyricus, Sinn-yk-uhss, and Panurge of the third. Many penames are nonce-words and not worth compiling. Others may become indistinguishable from nicknames.|