Pens Without Men

It seems that James Chartrand of Men with Pens is not, in fact, a man. He is actually a woman with a pen name. Because… wait for it… being a woman writer was making her no money!

Well, I would just like to say I’m SHOCKED!

In that I would like to think these things never happen but I know they do. Every day. So I’m actually totally not shocked.

I learned of this through MediaBistro, where they actually were shocked that a woman writer would not make as much as a man:

But this is 2009, and men still make more than women—double or triple in James’ case?

There are no words.

Which is weird, because the sentence right before it references George Eliot and “even JK Rowling,” who was encouraged to publish with gender-neutral initials rather than her real name Joanne because apparently boys don’t read books (even fantasy) written by women. But, you know, Harry Potter only came out a decade ago, so that seems a bad example.

At any rate, I’m thinking I’ll change my current pen name into something totally awesome. Suggestions?

46 comments for “Pens Without Men

  1. Another Laurie
    December 14, 2009 at 6:36 pm

    Wow. That was an amazing post.

    I have a close friend who publishes novels — the kind of thrillers you read at the airport. She publishes under a male pseudonym because her publisher told her she could double her readership by taking a male name. Men are the default human beings so both sexes will read a book by a man; however, many people assume that a book by a woman is just “chick lit.”

  2. December 14, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    It comes as no surprise. Of course women are only supposed to write drippy romances filled with terrible prose, who would want to read that. So much for that nice and equal post feminist world. It just makes me sick.

  3. Sara
    December 14, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    Manfred Jesus Dong


    Sir Frank Johnson


    Richard Cock

    alternately just

    I. M. A. Dude

  4. Dianne
    December 14, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    I’m thinking I’ll change my current pen name into something totally awesome. Suggestions?

    Herr Sigurd Benz?

    And I’m simply shocked by this finding. It’s so unexpected (/sarcasm)

  5. Marlene
    December 14, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    Herr Ben Z. Salle?

  6. December 14, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    F.N. Benz

  7. December 14, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    I think so far, I’m down with Herr Sigurd Benz (cuz that just sounds so cool and official) and I. M. A. Dude because I. M. A. Dork.

  8. December 14, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    Actually, I really like F.N. Benz too. Geez, this is so difficult!

  9. December 14, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    It would be a real shame for me to change my name – which would look amazing on the cover of a fantasy novel – to a male name. If I did, I might start calling myself Alexander Simone, but I doubt I would.
    Called myself Amanda Sterling for a while until I realised how cool my real name actually was.

  10. Cactus Wren
    December 14, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    Macho Dickerson.

    • December 14, 2009 at 8:16 pm

      Okay if Sally isn’t going to take Macho Dickerson, then I totally am.

  11. preying mantis
    December 14, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    Macho Dickerson is fucking awesome.

  12. Irene M.
    December 14, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    Daddy Smash ;-)

  13. Cyan
    December 14, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    Herr Ira Lee Hoffendingle

  14. December 14, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    @Renee and don’t forget, romance isn’t real writing and can’t be engaging with well developed characters and complex plot lines.

  15. timothynakayama
    December 14, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    I’m Asian, so anytime I submit anything, I tend to “whitefy” my name. I refuse to write on anything Asian just because I’m Asian.

  16. December 14, 2009 at 10:27 pm

    I put this story on Facebook and got some good suggestions. My favorite was Otto Filipovic. You can totally be Otto S. Benz.

  17. Jha
    December 14, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    Herr Saul Benz.

    I was not surprised. I use an English name to get around in North America, but then, I think my last name ruins it.

  18. Felicity
    December 14, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    I can’t recall where I read the statistic, but I believe male fantasy readers are _especially_ unlikely to read books by female authors, even if the cover shows a male protagonist.

  19. December 14, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    Benz Pens – gender neutral (I think!), but because “B-e-n” are the first three letters, the assumption will be that you’re male!

    It rhymes sort of with Men with Pens, so might gain some “male-ification” by association (until now anyway).

    BTW, I have only recently discovered your blog and love it.

    From an old(er), but not old-school, feminist.

  20. DireSloth
    December 14, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    Hank Beefsmash.

  21. Tlönista
    December 15, 2009 at 12:25 am

    Found out about this via meloukhia’s Twitter and was immediately reminded of James Tiptree, Jr. (see the feminist SF thread). And yeah, it makes sense. I’m not surprised.

    I’ve been thinking of doing some writing elsewhere but will need a different name—and there was no question, even if it’s not for money, I want a male pseudonym. But all the ones I came up with were super white and I don’t know how I feel about that. Maybe timothynakayama upthread is right, that otherwise people would just expect you to write about Your Ethnicity stuff.

    Anyway: B. B. Q. Gillette?

  22. Alan
    December 15, 2009 at 1:49 am

    Well, you can’t have “Dirk Manrocket.” That’s mine. I’m saving it for a special occasion.

  23. Lurkin Merkin
    December 15, 2009 at 1:55 am

    Richard J Cockwright

  24. Snowdog
    December 15, 2009 at 6:00 am

    Dirk Diggler

  25. preying mantis
    December 15, 2009 at 6:54 am

    “I can’t recall where I read the statistic, but I believe male fantasy readers are _especially_ unlikely to read books by female authors, even if the cover shows a male protagonist.”

    Huh. I’d have figured male SF readers would have had that dubious distinction.

  26. Seize
    December 15, 2009 at 6:55 am

    ALL OF THE SUGGESTIONS YOU NEED! (Second comic strip).

  27. Seize
    December 15, 2009 at 6:57 am

    But so long as we’re being creative, I’d like to add my nom de plume, BRUNO FALCON!

  28. herong
    December 15, 2009 at 7:36 am

    OMG Hank Beefsmash.

    Torrence Thunderbang?

  29. December 15, 2009 at 7:44 am

    Silence Dogood. It worked well for Benjamin Franklin.

    Actually, Franklin wrote posing as a woman in that regard, which is why my blog’s avatar is that of a female. It’s my homage and my hopefully not over-the-top feminist statement.

  30. MaryC
    December 15, 2009 at 8:27 am
  31. December 15, 2009 at 8:28 am

    Oh damn, did it not work? Try the List of all the names you’ll ever need

    Sorry for my code fail!

  32. Miss Man
    December 15, 2009 at 8:42 am

    I think you really should go the whole hog here:

    Monseigneur Dick von Prickenstern, High Lord of Dickonia

    Or simply: John Smith

    Man Ray?

  33. Kj
    December 15, 2009 at 9:07 am

    I like Jill’s idea that you both start using the first name Otto. It can become a secret code name for all female feminists writing under male pen names.

  34. December 15, 2009 at 10:19 am

    I’d like to thank everyone for making me LAUGH MY ASS OFF this morning. Really, thanks so much.

    Cara, feel free to take Macho Dickerson. Consider it your holiday gift. You are quite welcome. Though I think if you started going by C. Cool Wiki, the internet would be yours forever.

  35. catfood
    December 15, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Jill, I don’t know if this is where your Facebook friend got the name “Otto,” but some people in the mystery field consider noted critic Otto Penzler to be a misogynist. So this is a good one.

  36. December 15, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Manfred Jesus Dong

    Oooh, can I take that one, please?

  37. wiggles
    December 15, 2009 at 12:59 pm


    Of course women are only supposed to write drippy romances filled with terrible prose…

    Actually men write most of that dreck. Same with all those sucky rom-com movies women are so frequently blamed for.

  38. December 15, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    I fret about this a lot – am I going to be taken more seriously academically if I publish with my initials or my full name? *sigh*

  39. December 15, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    Is Baron von Penishaver taken? Because I. AM. BARON VON PENISHAVER.

  40. Thessa Mercury
    December 15, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    S. C. Rotum.

  41. Shinobi
    December 15, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    I think Amanda Hess made an interesting point about this whole thing. James Chartrand did more than change her pen name. She, for all intensive purposes, created an alter ego who was male and blogged as that individual. (

    That’s not like J.K.Rowling, or even Digby, who did as they wanted regardless of their gender. James Chartrand constructed a male alter ego, who was fairly chavinist, and blogged as that alter ego.

  42. December 15, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    Thanks Shinobi, I was just going to link to that. It’s a great piece.

  43. human
    December 15, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    I’ll have Micah Kizsobig.

  44. Bruce
    December 16, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    I think it has to be on the order of Wolfgang Arthur Dangler.

  45. Joe
    December 19, 2009 at 5:21 am

    I think this is also a problem for people with “ethnic” names. There is a reason I am “Joe.”

Comments are closed.