Call me nobody–a blog post of parenthetical asides

Anybody remember that western flick where the main character was named Nobody? Terence Hill plays Nobody and it also stars Henry Fonda and is directed by Sergio Leone. Here’s a link if you want to know more.  It’s a good movie and worth watching, but now I’m going to stop talking about it so that I can talk about me. Or rather, the nobody phenomenon.

I’ve published 5 novels now, and have another out in May, and another out sometime in the fall. When I go into bookstores my books are on the shelves. All good stuff. But I realized today that despite having “fame” in the fantasy field (okay, I can’t help but giggle hysterically at that but I don’t have another word for it at the moment), I still presume that people who read sf/f have no idea who I am. I don’t mean that if they saw me that they couldn’t pick me out of a crowd (which most people couldn’t who haven’t met me–or perhaps have been horribly scarred by me and don’t want to, but let’s not go there). What I mean is that I simply presume that if they chanced to hear my name, it would mean nothing. It wouldn’t bring to mind my books or anything.

I find it odd that I should think that. I find it far more startling when people actually do recognize my name, but I digress (yet again). In particular, I find it odd that I would have this premise as a basic foundational assumption. Ego (or lack thereof) aside, I do happen to have five books in print and one can assume that because I’m still receiving royalties, that people are reading them. Which means that logically, my name should be somewhat recognizable.

I recognize all sorts of names of people I’ve never met. And that’s what brought this into the foreground of my thinking. (I think. My mind works in strange, mysterious ways.) I teach at a university and I also presume that most students on our very small campus don’t know who I am. But yet I’m only one of a handful of English professors and in fact far more students know me than I know. At least they know of me. (and fear me! Muwhahahahahaha!).

I’m trying to decide where this basic assumption in me comes from. Is it a living out of a desire to be relatively anonymous? (If I believe I’m anonymous then they won’t know me?) Is it reflective of reality?(which probably is not accurate, though I know I don’t have name recognition of Stephen King).  Is it a habit that comes with being a woman? (Thanks Virginia Woolf–I need to kill my interior Angel in the House). Or is it just a quirk of my personality? And if it’s the latter, I wonder how much of that sort of self-effacement works in my favor to allow me to step into characters’ shoes and become them?

I wonder if I’m slightly insane. I wonder if perhaps that is why I can write. Or perhaps I’m super-sane.

I don’t know. What do you think? Not so much about me, but about the phenomenon. Anybody else have it going on?

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  1. 1. Kelly McCullough

    Absolutely. I tend to assume people will have no idea who I am and eternally surprised when someone I’ve never met recognizes my name from my books. For that matter if you think about it statistically purely in terms of population vs. books it’s a very reasonable assumption. It’s only when you start thinking about the subsets of population that you as an author are likely to meet that finding people who know who you are becomes anything resembling likely. In my case there’s the compounding factor of living in a small college town where the likelihood that someone I don’t know goes up dramatically because here my extremely low level of absolute fame has a disproportionate impact because the population of even barely famous people here is so small.

Author Information

Diana Pharaoh Francis

Diana Pharaoh Francis has written the fantasy novel trilogy that includes Path of Fate, Path of Honor and Path of Blood. Path of Fate was nominated for the Mary Roberts Rinehart Award. Recently released was The Turning Tide, third in her Crosspointe Chronicles series (look also for The Cipher and The Black Ship). In October 2009, look for Bitter Night, a contemporary fantasy. Diana teaches in the English Department at the University of Montana Western, and is an avid lover of all things chocolate. Visit site.

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