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QUESTION:

I'm doing research on the use of pseudonyms in journalism and publishing and understand that you have published a few things in the past under assumed names. Most of the people I am studying are dead, and I would love to have the insight of a living author. Could you please share a little with me about what motivated you to publish this way, and what advantages/disadvantages you discovered.

-- Submitted by Don Kauffman

OSC REPLIES: - March 12, 2001

I have only used a pseudonym a few times. The first was when, back in the early 70s, I was asked to write an overview of contemporary Mormon playwrights for the second issue of a new journal, Sunstone. The trouble was that at the time I was one of the most prolific of those Mormon playwrights, and my play "Stone Tables" had been one of the more successful plays. Neither my sense of accuracy nor my vanity would allow me to leave my own work out of the picture, but there was no way to have an article by me that assessed my own work without having to make some apology for mentioning myself. The solution? With the consent of the editor, a pseudonym. I was careful only to point to myself as being very prolific, neither praising nor criticizing (though the very fact of mentioning Card was prolific without saying anything else could easily have been taken as a criticism). The article passed muster with the editor, and was used under the pseudonym of "by Frederick Bliss and P.Q. Gump."

The only other time I recall using a pseudonym was when I was working at the Ensign magazine and we were working on the July 1977 issue, which was devoted to fine arts in the Mormon Church. We wanted to have poems, stories, and even a play. Plus, I was needed to write an article about using drama and other arts in the home. At the editor's request I provided a short play based on Mormon history, called "The Rag Mission," and a short story I wrote, based on the childhood writings and persona of my future sister-in-law, Nancy Allen (now Black), called "Gert Fram," was chosen also. When the poetry editor chose a poem of mine, it began to look like it might be the "Orson Scott Card" issue of the Ensign. So "The Rag Mission" was published under the name Brian Green, and "Gert Fram" under the name Byron Walley.

Oh, wait. One more. In editing the anthologies "Dragons of Light" and "Dragons of Darkness" with Michael Goodwin back in the late 70s, I had two stories of mine that I wanted to include. "A Plague of Butterflies" was being published (obscurely) elsewhere under my name, so I included the very short story - a fable, really - called "Middle Woman" under the name Byron Walley. Both appeared in the "Dragons of Darkness" volume.

Since then, Nancy Allen Black has written her own book version of "Gert Fram," based, not at all on my story, but on her own childhood writings and persona. My story "Middle Woman" was included in "Maps in a Mirror" under my own name. And Sunstone magazine, in violation of all editorial ethics, republished my early-70s assessment of Mormon Theatre at that time, under my own name, without my consent or even a warning, and with no explanation for the way in which I referred to my own work in the essay - a vicious thing to do to someone who has contributed as much as I have to Sunstone over the years.

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