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The Viable Zombie
June 27, 2012 9:07 AM   Subscribe

“[...] it took more than a dozen calls to work out the details of her zombie contagion. “After about the 17th time,” says McGuire, “I called and said, ‘If I did this, this, this, this, this, this and this, could I raise the dead?’ And got, ‘Don’t … don’t do that.’ And at that point, I knew I had a viable virus.”
posted by batmonkey (70 comments total) 63 users marked this as a favorite

 
Huh. I pride myself on being conversant in some pretty obscure musical genres, and I've never heard of filk before. My exposure to the SF universe pretty much begins and ends with Harlan Ellison, though, so clearly I have a lot to learn.
posted by mykescipark at 9:22 AM on June 27, 2012


As we speak, someone is working on making McGuire's fictional zombie virus into a not-so-fictional zombie virus.
posted by asnider at 9:23 AM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


A drunk filksing is one of the high points of any sci/fi, comic convention.
posted by Splunge at 9:25 AM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I want to know what the steps are that would make the CDC nervous.
posted by DWRoelands at 9:26 AM on June 27, 2012


People bust on Livejournal, but that's where her blog is. I followed it for a time, though not because of her books - rather, because of a list she posted of 100 surreal things that happened to her.

Let's just say that cheerfully delving into viral pathology just seems like the kind of thing she'd do.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:30 AM on June 27, 2012 [11 favorites]


I have sent this to my Kindle because I an in no doubt that the viral mutation of the zombie apocalypse is ideal bedtime reading.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:30 AM on June 27, 2012


I know some of the people who filk with McGuire and I remember some years ago she was looking for an agent. I had heard she was doing pretty well with her writing but I had no idea she was up for as many awards as the article mentioned.

The interview makes me more interested in reading her books than anything I've ever heard about her. I'm going to have to add her to my (very large) list.
posted by immlass at 9:30 AM on June 27, 2012



95. There is a point achieved between three and six bottles of pear cider wherein everything I say comes out in natural (and actually disturbingly good) iambic pentameter. If you keep giving me pear cider whenever I start to slide back into actual, normal speech, I can be kept there indefinitely, and will recite Shakespeare that was never actually written. This is fun for the whole family, really.


I am so stealing the potion of Iambic Pentameter
posted by The Whelk at 9:38 AM on June 27, 2012 [7 favorites]


Peartameter?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:41 AM on June 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


My exposure to the SF universe pretty much begins and ends with Harlan Ellison, though, so clearly I have a lot to learn.

Yeah, Ellison's in a universe all by himself. :)
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:44 AM on June 27, 2012


81. I dislike avocado. I also dislike dinner parties where I have to wear starched velvet dresses and pretend that everything is all right when everything is all wrong. And that's why I mashed a big bowl of tomato horn worms, mixed it with some salsa, and put it on the table as a dip. And that's why I won't eat guacomole to this day, because no one noticed the difference. Yeah. Ponder that one with me for a little while, and then move on. I recommend moving on quickly, personally, because ew.

Oh. My. God.

There is no way. There is NO WAY.
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:47 AM on June 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


24. My first iguana, Phluphy, developed an addiction to showering with humans. This turned truly surreal when it resulted in his chasing my naked grandfather through the house, trying to figure out why the human had so abruptly abandoned a truly lovely shower. Very good lizard.

i am crying, i am literally crying
posted by The Whelk at 9:48 AM on June 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


I am not surprised that she called the CDC that much- having read the trilogy the depth in which she discusses how the virus works was amazing. These are a great read for anyone who enjoys a good zombie apocalypse yarn.
posted by redheadedstepchild at 9:49 AM on June 27, 2012


I have a new novella coming out on July 11th. It’s called “San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats.”

I have Deadline in my library books stack, and before I get to it I have to go rustle up Feed (I'm going to Worldcon this year so I am by God going to read all the Hugo novel nominees) but I will drop fucking everything to read this novella.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:49 AM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


Depressing to read about the hate mail she got when her publishers accidentally sent out hard copies of one of her books early. Shades of that Jay Smooth post from a day or so ago.
posted by rory at 9:50 AM on June 27, 2012


(Followup: that 100 surreal things list was from one of her TWO LJ blogs. This is the other one, if anyone wants to follow it.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:08 AM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Her ranting about Quarantine procedures is warming my cold ice moon of a heart.
posted by The Whelk at 10:08 AM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


but if you really read them they’re quite good plans explaining how we could shoot several thousand unarmed civilians if necessary. And that is a lot of the motivation for having them. Creating a “zombie defense plan” is an acceptable way of saying, “OK, if we need to clear 3,000 people out of the area in front of the White House, what’s our plan of attack there, guys? How are we going to do it?”
Yup.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:14 AM on June 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


For anyone interested in reading fiction based on engineered virii, I thought The Cobra Event did a really good job of integrating the science. This explanation is sort of making me go "Huh?" though perhaps this aspect is more clear in the book. IHGEVTIMCBNTMZ (I Have Genetically Engineered Viruses To Infect Mammalian Cells But Not To Make Zombies.)
posted by exogenous at 10:19 AM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Dulce de Leche M&M's thing:
I have no idea what they taste like, even though I've eaten them.
Why? Because my ex-wife kept them in the drawer with the gum.
The mint flavor of the gum permeated everything in that drawer.
I am sure that delce de leche is not supposed to taste like blend-o-mints.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 10:21 AM on June 27, 2012


I am also sure that someday I will learn how to spell.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 10:21 AM on June 27, 2012


The Prion explanation from Patient Zero seemed pretty good, even if it didn't get into the hard details of it.
posted by synthetik at 10:27 AM on June 27, 2012


What book would be best to start with by this woman?
posted by Skygazer at 10:36 AM on June 27, 2012


>: The Dulce de Leche M&M's thing:
I have no idea what they taste like, even though I've eaten them.
Why? Because my ex-wife kept them in the drawer with the gum.
The mint flavor of the gum permeated everything in that drawer.
I am sure that delce de leche is not supposed to taste like blend-o-mints.


That is by far the strangest William Carlos Williams poem I have ever read.
posted by komara at 10:47 AM on June 27, 2012 [17 favorites]


anyone interested in reading fiction based on engineered virii, I thought The Cobra Event did a really good job of integrating the science.

My Biology 101 professor made my class read that book the same week that A)I developed a nasty respiratory infection B)the post-9/11 anthrax attacks were happening. I spent the rest of the week hack-coughing in bed and duct-taping my dorm windows shut because WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE FROM AIRBORNE POISON. I was pretty zonked out on NyQuil, though.

Otherwise I remember The Cobra Effect for:
- my introduction to the ungodly horror of Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, always fun for party conversation;
- the memorable section (SPOILER ALERT) in which scientists discover the deadly engineered Lesch-Nyhan-esque supervirus should only be spreading through contact with infected human brain tissue. Big sigh of relief! Then an infected carrier staggers off a subway platform to land headfirst onto the electrified rail, which explodes the skull like a pumpkin and sends aerosolized brain wafting through the crowded train station in a pink mist. THAT'S CHEATING, AUTHOR.
posted by nicebookrack at 10:53 AM on June 27, 2012


I'd never heard of her before this post, and now it looks like I'll be adding to the to-be-read (digital) pile! Sweet. Thanks!
posted by rtha at 10:55 AM on June 27, 2012


It would've been cool to maybe have a sidebar that gets into the science she's talking about. Like, there's a lot she's figured out but I'd have been into maybe a feature about what the characteristics of the zombies in her books are and the contagion's mechanism for raising the dead and such.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:55 AM on June 27, 2012


Oh wow! I read Seanan's list back when it was first published, but I was not really aware that she was gradually becoming a semi-famous person hanging out with Cat Valente and Paul Cornell. Awesome!
posted by jeudi at 10:55 AM on June 27, 2012


This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the weird M&Ms
that were in
the drawer

and which
you probably
thought
were mints

Forgive me
they were confusing
so sweet
and so minty
posted by axiom at 10:57 AM on June 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


I just finished Blackout today. I had some issues with it, and the series as a whole, but in general I really loved them.

The whole incident about the hate mail in regard to the ebooks though! What sort of person do you have to be to think that is okay? I mean, just, sometimes you'd have to wonder.
posted by Fence at 11:02 AM on June 27, 2012


This is just to Say

Stop fucking with this poem
It was cute a hundred lifetimes back
Now go find me some plums
To shove up your ass.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:08 AM on June 27, 2012 [13 favorites]


What sort of person do you have to be to think that is okay?

An anonymous person on the internet? Pretty much anyone who is a) a woman and b) has any profile at all online, from blogger to author to YouTube song writer to Flickr self-portraitist gets it. It can be a weird one-off thing or it can be pretty much relentless. (I'm assuming she left out the other two components of the Holy Trinity of Online Dipshits and we can just take it as read she was also called fat and ugly.)
posted by DarlingBri at 11:14 AM on June 27, 2012


To an internet parodist

manipulating my poem on
the weblog a ton
of them on the thread

It seems fun to him
It seems fun
to him. It seems
fun to him.

You can see it by
the way he scratches himself
and grins while
correcting the markup

Comforted
another fucking version
clogging the internet
It seems fun to him
posted by kenko at 11:17 AM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


rick


rick


rick


rick


there are parodies that could be getting on your nerves even more rick
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:18 AM on June 27, 2012 [11 favorites]


We talked about McGuire previously in the wake of her being nominated for the Hugo in four different categories. Her career trajectory is damned impressive. We're all going to be working for her someday.
posted by Zed at 11:56 AM on June 27, 2012


We talked about McGuire previously in the wake of her being nominated for the Hugo in four different categories.

And somewhat less favourably in this MeTa.
posted by zamboni at 12:12 PM on June 27, 2012


She may be a good writer, and I may get around to reading something of hers someday, but two things are mitigating against my reading this series of hers: 1) that LJ post makes her sound like a full-time professional Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and 2) every time I think that I'm about as sick of zombies as I can be, I run across something that makes me even more sick of zombies.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:12 PM on June 27, 2012 [5 favorites]


So much depends
upon
A clueless
mefite
On the blue
website
About the new
zombies
posted by Night_owl at 12:16 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Most of her books have been urban fantasy. That may provide more or less mitigation for you...
posted by Zed at 12:18 PM on June 27, 2012


Okay, since I wrote a derailing post, let me re-rail. As someone who researches viruses, for me it seems simple to construct a mental-exercise zombi virus (or prion). The rules would be as follows:

1) Infectivity. Don't make it through touch or a drip of sweat like in 28 Days/Weeks. If it somehow does go through skin you need substantial contact and a waiting period, like viruses spreading. Some sort of lipid soluble prion (or chemical that acted like a prion since prions are proteins) could get around this, but it would hard to imagine it would be target specific. Biting is good way to spread infection and limits spread to direct contact. Coughing/sneezing/inhaling is a rapid means and allows quick but indiscriminate transfer - not just to the dead. Ingestion doesn't really work because maintaining a proliferative virus in water supplies or food supplies wouldn't be feasible. Spiking food or water supplies would only work during the spiking process. The idea of keeping a benign timebomb virus in the body to be activated upon death gets around some of these issues, but prevents the zombi bite from initiating zombiism.

2) Targeting. For zombi-like effects it would need to cross into the brain. By rapid process it would need to a lipophilic chemical or if it was an infectant, wait days to get a good foothold. In the brain it would have to target specific centers. Oblation is more straightforward than trying to get continued hyperactivity, although you can oblate suppressive centers. You would need to target with specificity multiple centers involving oblating higher cortical functions and enhancing aggression to outgroups thereby a complex molecular interaction with mutiple receptor sites - I doubt a prion could do this.

3) Don't ask it to do the impossible. The awakened dead person still needs energy and most bodily functions to maintain life. It can not change the rules of thermodynamics. Brains can not be the food, the zombis can not crack open human skulls.

4) I don't respect the zombi genre because in the most part it violates any sense other than they are supernatural beings from when hell spills over. Even then the tropes seem as silly to me as a James Bond film (post Austin Powers lampooning). They also seem to be pro-gun screeds. Guns would not be your primary protection. Avoidance makes more sense.

5) I imagine a Zombi Apocalypse would appear very different from what is presented. The weakest - children and elderly would be preyed on and be the majority of the Dead. Most people could avoid zombis by climbing on their roofs. Swimming pools would become zombi Roach Motels.

6) Most houses are damned difficult to break into if you don't have wits. (In Puerto Rico, virtually every house has metal over its windows.) This would make spread very slow - until people died of starvation or thirst. And then the laws of energy would mean they would be damned weak zombis.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:21 PM on June 27, 2012 [18 favorites]


Those are some good points on metabolism, etc. (though brains are very fatty and would be a good source of energy). I think that the George Romero style zombie is such a creature of fantasy that any attempt to come up with a cogent scientific explanation for their archetypical manifestation is doomed. Doomed, I tell you!
posted by exogenous at 12:39 PM on June 27, 2012


Also, when a vampire turns into a bat or a wolf, where the hell does all the excess mass go?
posted by straight at 12:53 PM on June 27, 2012


Next question: What kind of crazy attempts to cure male pattern baldness would most likely lead to werewolves?
posted by straight at 12:54 PM on June 27, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think the extra mass is converted into photons and radiated away as sparkles.
posted by Drastic at 12:55 PM on June 27, 2012 [2 favorites]


I meant to finish this sentence: "...a waiting period, like viruses spreading through warts."
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:58 PM on June 27, 2012


Huh, I didn't know anything about this person, other than I read Feed.

Feed was excellent, and I've recommended it a bunch. I'll probably have to read the other ones now.
posted by lumpenprole at 1:05 PM on June 27, 2012


a list she posted of 100 surreal things that happened to her.

Her life sounds exhausting. Cool, but exhausting.
posted by bpm140 at 1:21 PM on June 27, 2012


I don't do zombie books, or zombie anything at all.

However, her October Daye books are exceedingly cool urban fantasy/detective mashups where the ground rules get set for you and don't get broken, allowing you to have a mystery with the urban fantasy stuff going on and still have the 'it's magic' thing work... because the magic also has rules, and therefore you can count on its stability.

The first InCryptid book had some howlingly funny bits in it, including the entire concept of the bar the POV character works in and the co-workers, and the plot was solid.

....the fact I almost wrote a full filk about it just means I enjoyed it that much. (I hadn't written one since the one about the oWoD Brujah clan, to the tune of "In The Navy" by the Village People.)
posted by mephron at 1:57 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, when a vampire turns into a bat or a wolf, where the hell does all the excess mass go?

...Canada?
posted by mephron at 1:58 PM on June 27, 2012


Timely! I'm reading Blackout as we speak. I'll admit I don't care for the plot twist much of the plot is premised upon, unfortunately.
posted by Justinian at 2:00 PM on June 27, 2012


I got about 10 pages into Feed, maybe 20, before I just shook my head and admitted to myself I was only still reading because I hate leaving things unfinished.
posted by lodurr at 2:05 PM on June 27, 2012


Oh, yeah? I downloaded the sample and enjoyed it a lot. I'm going to see if I can get it from the library before further commitment, but only because I already have a ridiculous amount of unread things.
posted by rtha at 2:12 PM on June 27, 2012


when a vampire turns into a bat or a wolf, where the hell does all the excess mass go?

There's two main schools of thought that I'm aware of. One is that vampires are sort of half-ghost, in that they're mostly ectoplasmic--they have some properties of mass and weight, but don't show up in mirrors because they're not all there. The other is that they do conserve mass, and turn into a lot of rats (see Bram Stoker's Dracula) or bats (Sally in the Discworld books).
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:44 PM on June 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


What does she have to do with Feed? I thought that was a different author.
posted by ocherdraco at 3:53 PM on June 27, 2012


Mira Grant is McGuire's pseudonym.
posted by Justinian at 3:56 PM on June 27, 2012


the zombis can not crack open human skulls.

Are we doing zombies-without weapons? Can't they get into the brains through the eyes?

What does she have to do with Feed? I thought that was a different author.

Seanan McGuire feels that people would be upset/confused/betrayed if they knew her as a fantasy author and suddenly ran into horror novels, or vice versa (and might not want to read horror books written by a fantasy author or vice versa), so she publishes under two names. (I seem to recall her complaining about this for Connie Willis, who writes books that are either enjoyable light romps or heart-searing depressing tomes and sometimes you guess wrong and end up very invested in characters who all die because you thought you were reading To Say Nothing of the Dog but you are actually reading Doomsday Book. Or it's the Disney/Miramax split, whatever.)

I find it a bit odd from a marketing perspective -- I read the Newsflesh books only because I already liked the Toby books, and can she use NYT bestselling or award-winning for one name if she won for the other? -- but she's not the first author to do it, so presumably it makes sense.
posted by jeather at 4:18 PM on June 27, 2012


What does she have to do with Feed? I thought that was a different author.

The first question in the linked interview:
Wired: You write fiction as both Seanan McGuire and as Mira Grant. Why do you use the two different names?
posted by zamboni at 4:28 PM on June 27, 2012


... but she's not the first author to do it, so presumably it makes sense.

One doesn't follow from the other. Anyway, "makes sense" is a highly subjective concept.

One of the reasons Connie Willis has the reputation that she does is that people know she can play both straight and for laughs. We could all sit here & name lots of examples from different artistic fields. (Plus, I think if you're that far into a Willis story and you haven't figured out whether it's funny or serious, you probably need to read slower.)

Anyway, I see this kind of name-splitting as more a sign of insecurity than anything else. She's not confident of her ability to keep an audience when she's "shocking" some of them by letting them know she publishes outside of the genre they're comfortable with. This is not erotica, people will get over it. As a kid I wouldn't be caught dead reading Andre Norton's fantasy, but I mainlined her SF juveniles by the shelf-full. I didn't let the knowledge that she'd written books deploying magic & swords keep me from reading books with force-fields & blasters.
posted by lodurr at 6:00 PM on June 27, 2012


lodurr: Anyway, I see this kind of name-splitting as more a sign of insecurity than anything else.

I know nothing of Seanan McGuire's individual circumstances, but there's a very good chance this was something suggested/insisted upon by her publisher. This kind of differentiation is not uncommon, and seems, to my anecdotal eye, to be especially prevalent in the SF and Fantasy genres.

Ann Aguirre, for example, writes Urban Fantasy under her own name, Paranormal Romance under another name, and co-writes Apocalyptic Romance under a third. And there's Iain Banks and Iain M. Banks, one of whom writes mainstream and the other SF.

Similarly, authors who write both MG/YA and adult sometimes use different names so that young folks who enjoy their children's novels won't pick up Sexy Adult Novel and expect more of the same. Lilith Saintcrow, for example, writes YA as Lili St. Crow. Similar enough to be recognised, but a teen searching the library or bookstore for Lili St. Crow's books won't accidentally stumble across Lilith's instead.
posted by Georgina at 6:39 PM on June 27, 2012


It's not that uncommon.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:54 PM on June 27, 2012


(Plus, I think if you're that far into a Willis story and you haven't figured out whether it's funny or serious, you probably need to read slower.)

I do not mind this, but if you get attached to characters quickly, there are depressing books of hers where it isn't clear until you are attached that All Will End Badly. (Doomsday Book isn't one of those for obvious reasons. I think Passage might be a good example.)
posted by jeather at 5:04 AM on June 28, 2012


... there's a very good chance this was something suggested/insisted upon by her publisher.

She seems to imply otherwise in the interview. She has a clear marketing-driven rationale for it that sounds like something she thought up herself. I'm pretty familiar with the way marketers talk, and that's what I'm reading/hearing in a lot of this interview.

You're right that it's not uncommon. In SF it's an old and time-honored tradition, dating back to the days when you could actually make a living on what you were paid to write. Silverberg e.g. has had more pen names than god, Catherine Moore did it when she was starting and then she and Kuttner did it their entire partnership.

The whole alias-by-genre thing is actually more common these days in crime fiction, and I think that's not unrelated to the fact that it's easier to make a living writing that than it is writing SF. You need to not dilute your brand in SF; you can afford to dilute it in mystery. Even there, though, the prevailing wisdom came to be that you should just provide some clear & consistent clues to what you were going to give people. Series titles were one way to do that -- e.g., Laurence Sanders & his morality-play titles, John D. McDonald & his color titles, etc.

I said she had a clear rationale -- I still think it's a mistaken rationale, for most people. If she can make it work, great, but it's not going to work for most people. For most writers, working these days, presenting a unified brand is going to be more important than giving people a comfy name to hang their reading preference on, because most writers need to sell themselves at least as much as their books. I've yet to personally meet a writer who could make a living just by selling fiction. All the ones I've known personally who made a living "as a writer" did so by marketing their expertise or celebrity, which requires having an identifiable brand. Seanan seems to have that (though the confusion over names in this thread could be taken as evidence to the contrary), but she's not the norm.
posted by lodurr at 6:54 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


On reflection: I guess I would say that this might be a case of "kids, don't try this at home." Seanan McGuire seems to have some experience in marketing, or at least has internalized a lot of the marketing mindset, and is clearly detail-oriented with regard to her writing career. That's handy for her because publishers do much, much less in that regard than they used to.

But if you are not someone who's going to be on top of your marketing that way, you should probably be taking care to not dilute your brand.

The examples Georgina gave are arguably better examples of brand preservation than brand splitting. It's like kid & adult versions of the same brand.
posted by lodurr at 7:05 AM on June 28, 2012


I have just gone out and bought this book because of the article, and everyone here. Thank you.
posted by piearray at 8:33 AM on June 28, 2012


McGuire writes about the pseudonym choice here. While it's something she and her agent expected and planned for, she describes the publisher of the Feed books as "confirming" she should use a pseudonym. True or not, it's the received wisdom of pretty much everyone in modern publishing that if you write in what's marketed as markedly different genres, you use different names, that that constitutes brand preservation. If she'd wanted to do otherwise, she would have been in for a fight, and not a fight she could gain much by.

It also brings up a point that not many novelists are anywhere near fast enough to face -- that it helps keep her from over-saturating the market with McGuire books. When the third anniversary of her publishing career comes around in September, she'll have 7 books out under the McGuire name and 3 under Grant.
posted by Zed at 9:45 AM on June 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm willing to accept that it's the received wisdom. I just don't think it holds up for most cases. It works when there's a lot of volume to dilute (McGuire's output, Silverberg or Williamson writing entire issues of magazines and needing to cover it up, etc.), but if you have to make your living by trading on your name and reputation, and unless you miss no tricks or beats in connecting the pseudonyms with yourself, then I think the 'brand of self' trumps the 'brand of type.'

The counterarguments are all cases where it's worked. We don't name the cases where it hasn't worked because, guess what, they aren't successful, and that might be one good reason why. I know a guy who writes wonderful stories but to the best of my knowledge rarely uses the same name twice.* He publishes in small local lit mags and online rags. I've talked with other amateur writers who will tell me about all the pseudonyms they use for different types of writing -- they're spending so much effort on pseudonyms one wonders when they have time to write. And magazine editors typically don't really want to know what other names you write under, because most of them don't read cover letters most of the time.

So the 'use different names to keep the "brand" pure' thing can only really work if you're already established, or are making a lot of sales. If you make infrequent sales or are still establishing yourself, in most cases it's going to bite you in the ass.

--
*This extends to his personal life. I don't actually know his real name -- nobody seems to know his real name, and he knows a lot of people. So this particular case is a little extreme. No, he's actually quite sane and probably wouldn't even seem odd if you met him...
posted by lodurr at 1:43 PM on June 28, 2012


We don't name the cases where it hasn't worked because, guess what, they aren't successful

It's possible that this is part of the reason for some people's lack of success, but I am more inclined to suspect that using too many pseudonyms is actually a symptom, not a cause. Publishing, more than most industries, is full of weird misapprehensions and cargo-cult-like beliefs about the chants and rites and sacrifices you have to do to Make It. (And a guy you know who is a chronic pseudonym overuser in his regular life doesn't exactly make your case for you...)
posted by restless_nomad at 2:57 PM on June 28, 2012


I think the open pseudonym is clearly her method of trying to avoid the pitfalls of having two names. If you google Mira Grant, you see a lot of results for Seanan McGuire (not so much vice versa), and both bios refer to the other name. I find the hidden pseudonym thing irritating: if I like your writing, I would like to read all your writing. As I tend to google authors, open pseudonyms don't present a problem, while a hidden pseudonym prevents me from buying some proportion of your books.

(I do not recall whether her books refer to the other name at all in them, I will have to check.)

In any case, I am a huge fan of the October Daye books, and a medium fan of her other books, and I recommend that people check them out (and not just because I want to be sure she gets further contracts).
posted by jeather at 3:14 PM on June 28, 2012


I looooove this author, whatever name she uses. When I get attached to one series by an author, I almost always don't like their second or third or fourth series, for whatever reason. I've never understood why series #2 or #3 falls flat to me. But with Seanan/Mira, this has never freaking happened. The Newsflesh trilogy blew me away, and i am deeply fond of Toby Daye's world, and InCryptid is wacky fun.

And the 100 things list...I have been a chaos/weirdness magnet since about age 18 and she makes me look sane and normal by comparison. HOLY SHIT. (Then again, I haven't had wacky drug interactions or crazy pets, so there you go, less crazy. She actively does nutty things, whereas I am just sitting around and wacky shit comes up and explodes on me.)

Damn, I wish I could be friends with her. It's got to be entertaining as hell. But now she's famous and it can't happen because it'd be considered stalking when the non-famous want to hang with the famous. Darn it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:44 PM on June 28, 2012


It's possible that this is part of the reason for some people's lack of success, but I am more inclined to suspect that using too many pseudonyms is actually a symptom, not a cause.

Not clear on what you mean, here. Are you saying that people who use too many pseudonyms are not likely to succeed? Sure, absolutely: They're amateurs, mostly, and many of the ones I'm thinking of don't write especially well. But then, neither do most pseudonym users in the "real" (read: money-making writers') world, most of which are writing some species of romance/sex ebook.

Publishing, more than most industries, is full of weird misapprehensions and cargo-cult-like beliefs about the chants and rites and sacrifices you have to do to Make It.

Such as using pseudonyms to segment your readership.

If what you're referring to is my argument that you need to market yourself to make a living at it, that's not cargo cult, that's based on observation of writers in the field. It's an observable fact that the vast majority of people who tell you they make their living as a writer do so in significant part by obtaining revenue from other sources that are peripherally related to the sale of their fiction. It's hard to get around the fact that in order to do that while you're writing under multiple pseudonyms -- open or not -- you have to do extra work. Since most writers are not marketing professionals and many are not even particularly well-organized, this is a recipe for failure for most writers. Seanan McGuire seems to make it work. I suspect this is because she has a good head for detail, and my impression from reading this interview is that she has a strong grounding in basic marketing concepts. That means she can do things other writers will not be able to do well.

Thus, as I said: Don't try this at home.

I'll restate this again just so I'm as painfully and belaboredly clear as I can be: I am not claiming that use of multiple pseudonyms is inherently bad. I am claiming that it is an error for most writers because they won't be able to make it work. Doing it because people say you should even though you know you can't do it well enough to succeed is pretty much in cargo-cult territory, in my book.

(And a guy you know who is a chronic pseudonym overuser in his regular life doesn't exactly make your case for you...)

Which is why I acknowledged that. Sometimes in comments on the blue people do this thing called a "humorous aside." There's even a tradition of that outside the blue, believe it or not.*

--
*And sometimes it involves footnotes.
posted by lodurr at 5:58 AM on June 29, 2012


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