What’s in a Name?

Creative Commons: Eric Guiomar

I once, at the earlier end of my writing career, asked an instructor and author if it mattered what my last name was, in terms of positioning on the bookstore shelf. He gave me a look askance and probably thought I was an airhead. But it was in fact a valid question…to some extent. I spent many years ordering books for a SF and fantasy bookstore. The A’s always are near the top and the Z’s are near the bottom of the shelves. But after that, it really depends on how tall and wide the shelves are and whether people arrange the books left to right or top to bottom. So in the long run, yes a person at the bottom of the shelf may sell a little bit less, but in the end it will depend on the story and the popularity of that author.

The other thing I always wondered about was my name in general. It’s a pretty generic name. There are tons of Andersons and several famous speculative Andersons such as Poul and Kevin. So perhaps if I had a unique name it would stand out. But more, if I could design the perfect author name for dark and specultive fiction, what would I choose?

I always said that if I wrote romances I would go by Felicity Meadows. The author names are sometimes stately, sometimes evocative of beauty or nature or virtues. I  have met people with the last names Lethe and Styx, two of the rivers you encounter on your way to the Greek underworld. How great it would be to have such a name and write dark stories of spirits and hidden realms.

Well in the world of speculative fiction, here are a few names. Brian Hades, owner of Edge Publications. I call him Mr. Hell. Then there  is Mort Castle, Gabrielle Faust, Wrath James White, Chad Savage. It’s not like these names will make someone a better writer, editor or publisher but you have to wonder, were they born to it? Was it their destiny to end up in the speculative and dark fiction field? Or did they change their names? I’ll be attending the World Horror Convention at the end of April and I think I’ll ask these people about the unique aspects of their names. I know Brian Hades was born with the name but what about the others?

I’m sure there are other unique names for writers. And not that it will make you write better or sell better but I’d sure like a name like once of those. From the not quite generic Colleen Anderson who sometimes writes under the family name of Calligari, made famous by Edgar Allen Poe.

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