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?

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46 Responses to Pens Without Men

  1. Another Laurie says:

    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. Renee says:

    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 says:

    Manfred Jesus Dong


    Sir Frank Johnson


    Richard Cock

    alternately just

    I. M. A. Dude

  4. Dianne says:

    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 says:

    Herr Ben Z. Salle?

  6. 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.

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

  8. Phyrbyrd says:

    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.

  9. Cactus Wren says:

    Macho Dickerson.

  10. preying mantis says:

    Macho Dickerson is fucking awesome.

  11. Irene M. says:

    Daddy Smash ;-)

  12. Cyan says:

    Herr Ira Lee Hoffendingle

  13. thetroubleis says:

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

  14. timothynakayama says:

    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.

  15. Jill says:

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

  16. Jha says:

    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.

  17. Felicity says:

    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.

  18. ChrisJ says:

    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.

  19. DireSloth says:

    Hank Beefsmash.

  20. Tlönista says:

    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?

  21. Alan says:

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

  22. Lurkin Merkin says:

    Richard J Cockwright

  23. Snowdog says:

    Dirk Diggler

  24. preying mantis says:

    “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.

  25. Seize says:

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

  26. herong says:

    OMG Hank Beefsmash.

    Torrence Thunderbang?

  27. 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.

  28. MaryC says:

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

    Sorry for my code fail!

  29. Miss Man says:

    I think you really should go the whole hog here:

    Monseigneur Dick von Prickenstern, High Lord of Dickonia

    Or simply: John Smith

    Man Ray?

  30. Kj says:

    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.

  31. 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.

  32. catfood says:

    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.

  33. Natalia says:

    Manfred Jesus Dong

    Oooh, can I take that one, please?

  34. wiggles says:


    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.

  35. Anna says:

    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*

  36. Sady says:

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

  37. Thessa Mercury says:

    S. C. Rotum.

  38. Shinobi says:

    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.

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

  40. human says:

    I’ll have Micah Kizsobig.

  41. Bruce says:

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

  42. Joe says:

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

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