07 June, 2008

The Story Behind the Name

By way of having a wee bit o' fun before I dive back into the substantive stuff, and because one of our Brians has expressed a desire to know more about me and our most excellent George W. said very sweet things about my pen name, I shall now tell you the story behind it.

I realized early on in my writing career that if I wanted to avoid the urge to thump people on the head with hardcover copies of my book at book signings, I'd have to choose a different name. My legal surname lends itself to a single ridiculous joke that gets repeated ad nauseum. Many poor buggers wouldn't resist the urge, and thus would end up with lumps. This is not a recipe for good public relations.

There was also the small problem of one of my characters filching my first name and refusing to give it back. And just try explaining to people that, although one of your characters shares your first name, she is a) most definitely not you, meant to represent you, or really anything like you and b) this isn't an ego trip or the author playing stupid writer tricks on innocent readers.

So, a pen name it would have to be.

Choosing a pen name is not easy. You can't just snatch the name of your favorite Star Trek character and run with it. You can't use something snarky and pithy if you're writing Serious Speculative Fiction. The damned thing has to have a little gravitas. It has to roll off the tongue, so it's easy for people to remember when they're asking after your latest work of profound genius. It should have a little hidden meaning and symbolism to give it some cachet. It, above all, has to be easy to sign 42,000 times in a row.

I went through pen names like I go through toilet paper. Should I do initials? T.N. Mordecai sounded good, until Mordecai started sounding too religious and silly. And what the fuck did T.N. stand for, anyway? I can't remember most of the others, and I probably haven't got the list anymore. Just know that there were a lot of very ill-conceived names in the running, and a few good ones, and they all got dumped in the recycle bin when I at last achieved the Perfect Pen Name.

"Dana" comes from Celtic mythology. The ridiculous little book on Celtic Magic I was reading in order to understand the character who had pilfered my actual first name claimed that Dana was the Great Goddess, and patron of many things, writing and intellect included. I suspect the author pulled most of the symbolism out of her ass, but it worked for me. Dana had a nice ring to it, belonged to an Irish goddess who shared my interests, and incidentally also belonged to Dana Scully, the World's Greatest Skeptic. What X-Files fan could resist? Dana worked. Dana I would be.

Insert long period of trying to come up with the right surname here. And we won't even go into the great debates I had with myself over whether my pen name should come complete with middle name.

We turn now to C.S. Friedman, and her delightful anti-hero, Gerald Tarrant. Most anti-heroes turn out to be heroes in tarnished armor. Not Tarrant. He started the Coldfire Trilogy as a bastard, and he remained a bastard, despite a few great sacrifices and some revelations that made his bastardry entirely understandable. He was smooth, suave, ruthless, and infuriatingly likable even though you knew he deserved to be brought down like a rabid dog. Friedman did a masterful job with that character: he never changed, not fundamentally, but your perception of him certainly did. I wanted to write an anti-hero that brilliant. I'd finally seen proof it could be done.

And in him, I had the second half of my pen name. You see, Gerald Tarrant is known as The Hunter.

Not bad, eh?

"Crown of Shadows" cover art by Michael Whelan


Efrique said...

The ridiculous little book on Celtic Magic I was reading in order to understand the character who had pilfered my actual first name

Yeah, "Goibniu" is such a mouthful.

Dana Hunter said...

You've got that right! ;-)