Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A New Novel, A New Name

There is a new book being released today. It is called Up Against It by M. J. Locke. I don't quite know what to make of it yet, but I have read the five sample chapters offered here.

My interest in this book lies mostly with the name on the cover. You see, it turns out that Morgan J. Locke is a pen name for Laura J.Mixon, an author that I have followed for some time. Apparently she felt the need to publish her first novel in nine years under a made up name. Ever since I found out I have been scratching my head wondering why.

Here are some reasons I came up with as to why an author might possibly choose a pen name:

1. There is an issue with his/her name itself. Perhaps the name is hard to remember, spell, or pronounce. Maybe it sounds silly, stupid, or obscene. Or it could be that it is the same as, or similar to, another author or a well known person.

2. He/She is reclusive, fears fame, or fears retribution for the published work.

3. To disguise his/her gender. Perhaps they feel that their books will sell better with a genderless name or a name of the opposite gender.

4. They are publishing a new book in a genre that is different than those works they are already known for.

5. They are trying to distance themselves from their past works.

The first two reasons don't seem to apply here. She is a published author with at least three and a half novels to her name. While I can not confirm that Laura J Mixon is her legal name (her twiter account is LauraJMG), it does appear to be a name that people who know her recognize her by. I do not find it hard to remember, pronounce, etc.

Morgan is certainly a gender neutral name. M. J. Locke even more so. I don't know that male names sell SF books any better than female names, but it is certainly possible that this is what she is going for. Although I do wonder why she didn't just go with L. J. Mixon then. It worked for J. K. Rowling (and she doesn't actually have a middle name).

Her previous novels have all been SF. This novel is not so different in genre from her last. So I don't think that's it.

So, until I get an answer from her, I'm left to assume that she has abandoned her old fans to start fresh. Tor even proudly announces that this is her first book. . .

Edit: I see she has finally provided an answer to my question and it sounds reasonable, if slightly insulting.

Edit #2: I mean of course that her decision to follow the advice of her publisher was reasonable. That publishers think readers need to be manipulated to buy books is insulting, no matter how true.

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