I've read a lot of fantasy fiction that plays up the idea of the power of a person's real name. "If they discover your true name," the hero is warned --usually by some old dude in a robe, "they can hold power over you."
I always liked the concept. The idea that somewhere within me is a name that, perhaps, I don't even know but a name which truly defines my character, my heart of hearts. (Think Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle, especially the book Brisingr.) I believe there is some Biblical basis for this concept (something about God having a personal name for you, I think), but I couldn't tell you what it is. (feel free to leave references if you know them....) It's a cool thought, that my "true name" -- your true name -- is out there waiting for us to take ownership of it -- but in the meantime we are stuck with whatever moniker our parents gave us or we were lucky enough (in my case!) to marry into.
On the subject of names, however, I'm struggling today with living up to another Biblical thought: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (Matthew 5:44) You see, a little over a year ago, I was the victim of a major (but anonymous) hack on two social networking sites (one big, one little). The hack went viral thanks to a copy/paste function used in a discussion forum for graphic novel fans, the website of a famous graphic novelist, and some pretty sick puppies who thought ruining someone's name (and attaching her photo to it) was a really sweet time. It wasn't sweet for me. And 15 months later, though I'm sure their momentary entertainment is all but forgotten, the resulting defamation of my name is far from over for me, thanks to the beauty of the Search Engine which has become a Proper Verb.
(for those of you out of the loop: a graphic novel is a novel with art and onomatopoeic inserts. A little like a comic book.)
So I went to a movie over the weekend with my husband, a movie I'd been really looking forward to seeing. But in the opening credits, unfortunately, I recognized a name and my blood ran cold. Seeing that name completely ruined the movie for me. "Based on the graphic novels of---" insert name of the above mentioned author. (Notice I'm not mentioning any names. On purpose.)
I paid to see that movie. I paid him. The one who gathered the crowd to watch the murder of my name.
Disgust washed over me as surely as if I'd just placed the coin into the bony hand at the river Styx. It made me absolutely sick. I had just put money into the pocket of one of the key players of a victimization that, for me as a writer, just will not go away. (No, I don't believe this author to be the author of the hack, just the main carrier of it to the international audience of sickos.)
Now, thanks to this guy, who toured the world in support of the movie, (and the sales of his graphic novels, no doubt) and whose fame is sure to grow, I'm forced to kiss my name goodbye. But, I have to remind myself, as Papa Eric used to say when someone wronged him, "It won't do him any good."
But still. As I'm readying a YA novel for hopeful publication I, who was lucky enough to marry into an AWESOME last name (thanks, honey!) I am forced to ditch it and use a pen name. My name (not the S.R. -- my actual first and last names) is not an option. And let me tell you why:
As a parent (or publisher), if I Googled the author name on the book my daughter was reading (or wanted to read) and read that said author used PCP, engaged in satanic rituals, and had no problem with patricide, I would say: "No freaking way are you reading that book!" even if the title, cover art, and blurb looked completely harmless. If necessary, I would repeat myself (sometimes teens just don't hear you the first time) and said book would end up in le can. Oh, sure, perhaps it might slip my attention that said author was the victim of a vicious internet attack. It might not matter to me that everything that appeared in the #4 spot of my Google search (and beyond) was a vile work of fiction. The fact is, the person portrayed in that #4 link is getting no where NEAR my kid.
But it's me. Well, my name and picture, anyway.
My name, my photographed image, has been defamed worldwide. Defamed. That sounds so... nice. So neatsy. So much more clinical that what it is. I have been violated. Violated. Swish that one around in your mouth and swallow it.
I hate being a victim with no recourse. I've had a guy in a ski-masked point a loaded gun at me. (Prison term, CHECK!) I've had a former boyfriend stalk my apartment and threaten me. (Stopped.) But this victimization beats them all. Because this is my name. My career.
Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you.
What seemed easy on Sunday when the shaking stopped, is a little bit harder today.
Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. Try to pick out a great pen name for YA readership and....
And -- and as much as I love watching that particular action hero-- I hope there's no sequel in the works. if there is, well... my dollars will stay in my pocket.
Maybe the next YA book will feature a cyber crime. Who knows? Fiction so often drips from the pen as a mirror of truth.
And sometimes there's a jagged edge tinged in red.