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January 23, 2023

Nom de Plume

By Sand Pilarski

What if you had the opportunity to write a column for a magazine every week? Something funny, perhaps, or at least outrageous? For a writer, who wants a continuing venue, it could be a dream come true.

On the other hand, if you've only ever written one piece of fiction, and only two people in the world have read that ... the prospect of writing stories that could be seen publicly might scare the bejabbers out of you. I mean, what if people point at you on the street and say, "Look, there she is! Can you believe she wrote that crap? And all this time I respected her!"

The only solution: use a pen name. That way if someone says, "Who wrote this dreck?" the pen name gets the blame. At least that's how I viewed writing for the Piker Press back in 2002 when we got started. Sure, I could write weekly for the Press, as long as no one knew it was me. I could hide behind a pen name, and if it didn't pan out, why there was a "delete" button on my keyboard, and none of my acquaintances would be the wiser.

Writing non-fiction wasn't a problem. I'd been writing technical stuff for years. But fiction -- especially fantasy, which I rarely read -- that was pretty daunting. We decided to couch the fiction in something like a silly advice column at first, from the viewpoint of the main character. Senior Editor Alex Queen suggested that the character was a half-crazed hedge shaman and fed me a few starter questions, the first one of which was "How can I tell if I have a big ass?"

After several glasses of wine and a mixing-bowl full of potato chips, I imagined a scruffy traveler sitting at a bar with a mug of beer, ready to shoot the breeze. The traveler would be the character Ase Ur-Jennan, and I would just write down whatever Aser happened to say. And then blame the result on her.

Our readers enjoyed the column. All six of our readers, lo, those many years ago.

The idea of an advice column was left behind after a while, as the characters in Aser's accounts grew more complex and started taking on lives of their own. While each article could stand alone, a longer story arc began to develop. An alternate universe came into being, a world of myth and magic, of wizards and dragons, of lots of taverns with lots of beer, and an occasional orc with a cell phone.

All the stories are still in the Archives, but the illustrations were lost and the data corrupted by some server mishaps. This spring we've decided to present the stories again, in order, with proper titles ... and my name on them instead of Aser's. Of course, its only my name -- I was just writing down what Aser told me.

I truly hope that readers of the Piker Press will enjoy "The Aser Stories."

Article © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-02-05
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