On Paul McAuley

I’ve just been reading a fascinating interview with Paul McAuley over at SF Crowsnest….I met Paul at Easteron last month, and had a very enjoyable dinner with him and Al Reynolds and Kim Newman at the Hilton Hotel, Bradford. (Sounds very posh, but actually we had sandwiches & chips at the bar.) 

Paul writes interestingly on the need for writers to use pseudonyms if they want to write in other genres.  He had some crime novels published under his real name and was warned he now had to stop writing SF as Paul McAuley to avoid confusing crime readers!

Michael Marshall Smith has a cunning strategy to avoid this. He publishes SF under this real double-barrelled name; and crime novels/thrillers as Michael Marshall.  This is clearly unfair, since has has more names than most writers…..

But why can some writers switch genres effortlessly without changing their names, and others aren’t allowed to? Michael Crichton has written contemporary political thrillers like Rising Sun and Disclosure, as well as a Western (The Great Train Robbery), as well as creating ER, all under his own name, whilst also generating imaginative concept-rich SF novels from The Andromeda Strain to Jurassic Park to Prey.  But his readers don’t mind the genre switches; each of his books is still a ‘Michael Crichton novel’.  (Poignantly, Crichton now has two more novels slated for publication, posthumously.)

Cunningly, I’ve contrived things so that my current SF novel Belladonna is also a crime novel, in the classic hardboiled tradition. It’s  written in loving hommage to the greatest detective novel ever written, Dashiell Hammet’s Red Harvest, and features a Cyborg Cop solving crimes in my new creation, the Exodus Universe.  

But if I did ever want to write a non-SF novel, would I need a new identity?  Philip M. Palmer maybe? Or Philip Marshall Palmer Smith?

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