Sunday, June 26, 2011

Tiptree, Gary, Pessoa and the peril of pseudonyms (He blogged pseudonymously)

The Rise and Fall of Pseudonyms:

Illo via NYT

The story of the science-fiction writer James Tiptree Jr., who served as the mask of Alice Sheldon, a former Chicago debutante, had a similarly tragic ending. For Sheldon, the value of an alter ego was beyond measure. At first glance, hers seems a familiar narrative of a woman adopting a pen name so she might succeed in a male-dominated genre. But she wasn’t just battling gender bias. Without Tiptree, her prose style, as she once put it, was no more imaginative or compelling than “Enclosed please find payment.” She passed as Tiptree for a decade, thus allowing an emotionally troubled, sexually confused middle-aged woman to experience life as a charismatic, flirtatious man at the height of his creative powers.

Their relationship was complicated. Despite having considered, in darker moments, “taking him out and drowning him in the Caribbean,” Sheldon felt that without Tiptree, she was crippled creatively. In the late 1970s, after her identity was unmasked, she was bereft. Although her fans and peers in the sci-fi world were largely supportive of her “coming out,” Sheldon’s efforts to keep writing under her own name (and even other pen names) were halfhearted and futile. (“Some inner gate is shut,” she admitted to a friend.) In 1987, she shot her husband in his sleep and then herself.
After all, what's in a nom de plume? That which we call a Doom by any other name would tweet as sweet.

(It's a stretch, I know, but I don't follow anyone whose twitter handle rhymes with plume or guerre and Doctor Doom just leapt to mind and the guy's there doing it ... )
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