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2013-05-13 4:36 PM
Those Brilliant Debut Authors
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I'm not very familiar with the work of Dean Koontz but Mary has been on a bit of a Koontz kick which convinced me to give him a try. I thoroughly enjoyed The Taking, a very very creepy science fiction with an end-of-the-world scenario.
Koontz must have improved vastly because his early sf, as far as I can remember (I seem to recall something in Fantastic) was barely memorable. Well, aside from Invasion.
I reread Invasion after I read The Taking. It impressed me back in the seventies and it held up pretty well. It's a tautly written account of a family, trapped by a snowstorm in an isolated farmhouse, being menaced by alien invaders. (The situation is either trite or classic -- take your pick) Not only did I enjoy Invasion, but it probably scored extra points for being a Laser book that was actually good. You might recall that Harlequin's attempt to manufacture a line of crank-em-out science titles in the mold of their Romances didn't pan out very well from either a financial or (IMHO) artistic standpoint.
However, when I first read Invasion I thought I was reading a book by a promising new author named Aaron Wolfe.. What else would I have thought, given Laser editor Barry Malzberg's disingenuous introduction:
"This is Aaron Wolfe's first novel. Thirty-four years old and successful in another artistic field he has asked for compelling personal reasons that his real identity not interfere with his fiction and therefore "Aaron Wolfe" is a pseudonym. He is thirty-four years old, married with one child and lives in the midwestern United States.I realize that authors employ pseudonyms with various degrees of transparency for many reasons. As often as not pseudonyms are used to avoid confusing readers when a writer puts out books of different sorts or in different genres. Today it is often necessary to adopt a new literary identity to escape the tyranny of BookScan sales figures in a publishing world where disappointing sales can instantly doom an author to what is, essentially, a blacklist.
But how far should an author go in inventing a whole new persona? It is one thing to label a particular line of one's books with a pseudonym and quite another to invent a fictitious author. Or is it?
Malzberg really stresses the first novel aspect. Sure it was "Wolfe's" first novel but certainly not Koontz's. Truth or lie?
I suspect first novels tend to garner extra attention. Exciting new authors generate excitement. (More so than slowly improving authors who have been around a while) I also suspect that this "first novel" scam is currently rampant. Did you ever notice, browsing Amazon.com or looking through reviews, what a ridiculous percentage of books purport to be rookie efforts? Not to mention how many of them are, as Malzberg describes Invasion "remarkable first novels." Well of course, writers who have been publishing books for years probably can write remarkable "first" novels and reap undeserved plaudits.
Returning to the old introduction to the Dean Koontz book, I wonder about the detailed publishing history Malzberg sets out. Did Koontz actually publish all that work as Aaron Wolf or as Dean Koontz or is it a complete fabrication?
How much of the biographical material is true? Was Koontz really successful in some other artistic field? What was that? Or was that just Aaron Wolfe?
Yes, Malzberg admits that Aaron Wolfe is not the author's real name but what about his explanation for why the author wants it that way? "...compelling personal reasons that his real identity not interfere with his fiction"? Which is to say that his real identity as Dean Koontz -- a fiction writer -- would interfere with Dean Koontz' fiction?
I guess by now someone is saying, but wait, Head of Zeus is bringing out the Byzantine mysteries originally attributed to "Mary Reed and Eric Mayer" under the pseudonym M.E.Mayer. What about that?
Well, it was a big surprise to us. We knew nothing about our pseudonym until we saw the book covers. I suppose I could plead that M.E. stands for Mary and Eric. But honestly, we weren't given any explanation. I think it is because author teams, unless they are already individually famous, are difficult for readers to remember, thus, for example, there are teams identified as Ellery Queen and Charles Todd. Using both our names initially was a marketing mistake. Mary figures it was so the author name could fit on the spine.
However, it is merely a matter of branding. No one ever told us to pretend that there actually was an individual named M.E.Mayer. Head of Zeus' biographical material for M.E.Mayer makes it clear that M.E. is us.
For me it is a complicated problem. I would prefer not to have my real self attached in any way to my writing but I'm uncomfortable with the idea that the biographical information in a novel might be as much of a fiction as the book itself.
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