The Object Lesson: What’s in a name?

I use a pseudonym. I thought about it some before I decided to do it, but not that long–to some degree I’ve been using one for years, a nickname that I kind of adopted and prefer when it comes to my life online, and my pen name grew out of a mixture of that and a name that my father supposedly wanted to give me, though I’m still not sure how much of the latter was a joke.

I’m not alone in this by any means, especially when it comes to those of us who write erotica. I’m in graduate school, I hope very much to publish scholarly work and I felt it was important, if I was going to be publishing erotic fiction as well, to at least draw a kind of line in the sand–I am establishing that there’s this me and then there’s this other me, and they do different things, and in some ways they’re almost different personae. I have no real issue regarding whether or not people in my academic life discover the stuff I write and publish, but it’s important to me that that line in the sand be there regardless, because the differentiation is important to me personally. It’s not about some idea of professionalism, and it’s certainly not about shame–I’m honestly not completely sure of the deeper reasons why. It simply feels right to me.

But erotica isn’t all I write, and it isn’t all I want to write. When I started working on non-erotic pieces in a serious way, I found myself at a kind of crossroads: take on a new pseudonym, revert to my real name, or maintain the pen name I already have?

I chose the latter. A lot of people in my position don’t, so I still wonder if I made the right choice. Erotica is still a section of literature that I think has a lot of stigma attached to it, especially in certain circles, especially erotica that deals with LGBTQ pairings, which makes up the majority of the erotica I tackle. I have that to worry about, whenever I send a piece off to a more mainstream publisher. When I send my family published non-erotic work (I don’t like this term much but I can’t at the moment think of another one), I have to realize that if they go digging using this name, they’ll find a lot of stuff that might make them uncomfortable–the prevention of which I don’t make a priority, but I’m not really invested in doing it, either.

But with my pen name, I almost felt a need to make a kind of stand. Nothing industry-changing, mind, and I don’t even much like the word “stand” because of all the self-righteous baggage that comes with it. What prompted my decision was small and personal: this is the me that makes the worlds. This is the me that, sometimes, is allowed to spin the magic. Sometimes that magic involves fucking, and what of it? Sometimes–often, even, and at the best of times–life involves fucking. Sex is as fundamental as any action in exploring the depths of what does or doesn’t make someone human. Why should it be a shameful thing to write about it? Why should it be stigmatized, or somehow less reputable than any other topic? I know why it might be, and I understand it–but I don’t accept it.

Even if it might be a black mark as far as some people are concerned, I’m staking myself down in the world I prefer.

So Sunny Moraine is the name I use, and I use it for all my fiction.1 Thankfully, I haven’t yet run into any problems with it, at least none of which I’m aware. Possibly–and hopefully–I never will. But if I ever do, I suppose I can take some comfort in the fact that at least it was a choice I considered, and meant to make. I suppose there might be some perverse comfort to be taken in mistakes made consciously.

1 I’m not going to get into the related gender issues here because my feelings there are strong and frankly not terribly well thought-out. Let it be enough to say that I have Opinions.

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