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Kij Johnson's short story "Ponies," a pseudonym for LITTLE PEOPLE BIG GUNS, and the last chance for a 70% discount for FLASHING STEEL, FLASHING FIRE.
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Kij Johnson's Short Story "Ponies" and SF/F/H That Lasts

One of the podcasts I regularly listen to is The Geek's Guide to the Galaxy, which has done episodes on topics like the film Star Trek Beyond and self-publishing phenomenon Hugh Howey.

One of the more recent ones is entitled "Lovecraft and Feminism" and features writer Kij Johnson, who has won Hugo and Nebula awards for her work. Toward the end of the podcast, Johnson discusses her short story "Ponies," which won the Nebula Award in 2010. She talks about how there's a time in a girl's life (generally around 9-10 years old) where they get really cliquey, status, obsessed, etc. That's what the story is about. Here's the synopsis:

Barbara, like all little girls, has a magic talking pony with wings and a horn. She is invited to a ritual "cutting-out party", where she must destroy two of the three things that make her pony special.

I'm obviously male (and thus my experiences with social exclusion, bullying, etc were rather different), but I know some of the women in my life have experienced what I refer to as "mean girls crap" firsthand. If you're interested in learning more about this topic, check out the book Odd Girl Out. "Ponies" is about that same type of social exclusion, conformity, and cruelty, and that's probably why this story will stand the test of time.

Yes, I think it will. There's a lot of science fiction, fantasy, and horror that's ultimately forgettable because it's lacking in substance. It's all monsters, lasers, wizards, etc. without any depth or real heart. "Ponies," on the other hand, explores the human condition using fantasy, just like Alien Nation explored the immigration/minority experience in the United States, Zootopia was about racial and gender prejudice, Godzilla was really about the atomic bomb and the idea that humans' own technology could destroy us, etc.
Little People, Big Guns and Pseudonyms
 
I've blogged extensively about the progress I've been making on my short novel Little People, Big Guns, which I've gotten some serious interest in from representatives of a small press at a conference I've attended. I thought about putting it out under a pseudonym to avoid causing problems with my day job (in particular I feared someone who didn't like the story trying to get me fired, which in these days of #GamerGate, "Social Justice Warriors," etc. is a very real possibility). I figured that fear was unrealistic (after all, my employer isn't on my Facebook page and it's set to "Private" anyway, nor do I mention my current employer anywhere online except LinkedIn) and put my name back on the manuscript.

However, I've been listening to a lot of writing podcasts and I found that a lot of writers have one or more pseudonyms for reasons other than fearing the real-life consequences of writing something potentially offensive. Although a writer who had a book published under their own name fail might be required by future publishers to write under a different name, even indie writers have different pen names for different genres or series. It's not because their actual name is so tarred by a book that didn't make a profit (or enough profit) they can't get work otherwise, but for branding reasons. Someone who's not interested in fantasy but interested in science fiction might not read a science fiction work by a fantasy author, for example.

(In my experience writing fan fiction, many of the readers of the Snape/Lily story "Wrath of the Half Blood Prince" didn't read the Lupin/Tonks story "Lord of the Werewolves" and very, very few followed me from the Harry Potter to Transformers fandoms for "The Revenge of the Fallen Reboot." And I don't recognize any of my longtime readers in the reviews of the Draka alternate timeline "The Dragon and the Bear.")

And it's branding that's pushed me to take "Matthew W. Quinn" off the manuscript and putting "William H. Letz" (my original pseudonym) back on it. Little People, Big Guns, even though it gets into thoughtful territory like respectful treatment of the disabled, the widespread abortion of fetuses with dwarfism, etc. on the surface looks like lowbrow midget-sploitation.

If I want more highbrow projects like Bloody Talons: An Oral History of the Avian War (think World War Z or The Good War crossed with Independence Day) or my planned epic fantasy Wastelands series to be part of my "Matthew W. Quinn" brand, it might be more prudent to have a separate brand for Little People (and possible sequels featuring the character Murphy, who, unable to join the Marine Corps due to the height requirement, overcompensates through aggressive behavior and lechery--he's the most fun to write).

It's not like I'd need to eradicate all of my social media postings about Little People, Big Guns, however. Stephen King is pretty open about the stuff he wrote as Richard Bachman, after all, while Bryan Cohen on the Sell More Books Show podcast discusses how he picked his pseudonym for Cinderella: Dreams of Fire and why he chose to write under a different name.
 
Last Chance for 70% Off Smashwords Discount for Flashing Steel, Flashing Fire

Interested in my short-story collection Flashing Steel Flashing Fire but lacking an e-reader or related app? Smashwords provides you with more options. You can get the collection in a format like .rtf (to be read on a word processor like Microsoft Word) or .pdf to be read on, well, anything. Check it out here.

And I've just reduced the risk you won't like it with a 70% off coupon for you my newsletter subscribers only. That's right, you can get my collection, which is usually $2.99, for only $0.99 from Smashwords. Just use this code: UX54M. The offer lasts until Sept. 5.

Enjoy!
Copyright © 2016 Matthew W. Quinn, All rights reserved.


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