Frequently Asked Questions
TOPICS: My Ego | My Name | My Writing | My Blog
- Where do you get off calling yourself "America's leading writer of speculative fiction"?
Some terms, such as "best" or "greatest" are entirely matters of personal opinion, and therefore meaningless. Other terms, such as "heaviest," are quantifiable by universally accepted standards, and therefore have a great deal of objective meaning.
"Leading" is one of those terms whose meaning is both subjective and quantifiable. In other words, there's no universal definition of what makes one "leading." Therefore, it's important for someone who uses that term to define the criteria by which the assertion of leadership is made.
Well, if you look at where I make the assertion, you'll see that I've defined the criteria. It's based on whose work I'm most excited to see in print. I may not be America's leading writer of speculative fiction by other people's criteria, but as clearly and explicity defined on this website, I am.
- But, by that criteria, wouldn't I also be America's leading writer of speculative fiction?
No. The criteria is whose work I am most excited to see in print. I, frankly, don't get nearly as excited to see your work in print.
However, if you decide to define "leading" as the writer whose work YOU are most excited to see in print (a related, but not identical, definition), then, yes, you may very well be the leading writer of speculative fiction in those circumstances.
Isn't subjectivity fun?
- So, then, why aren't you the WORLD's leading writer of speculative fiction?
Well, there's a certain British writer whose last two fantasy books prompted me to stand in line at Borders at midnight on release night in order to get my hands on them as soon as they were available. The last one I wound up buying two copies of so my husband and I wouldn't have to share, and I then locked myself up in the house incommunicado until I had finished reading it.
Even by my own deliberately biased standard, I have to admit that she's probably currently the world's leading writer of speculative fiction.
Damn Potter kid.
- What is the etymology of Aisteach?
It's Irish Gaelic, and it means "strange."
- How is Aisteach pronounced?
Exactly like it looks. Unfortunately, it looks very different to an Irish Gaelic speaker than it does to an English speaker.
- So which pronunciation is correct?
Either. Or both. It's not my real name, so I don't have ancestors who will be insulted if you simply use the pronunciation that's easiest for you.
- Wait, Kyle Aisteach isn't your real name?
No, it's a pen name.
- Why do you use a pen name?
I believe that an author's name is his or her brand. PepsiCo doesn't sell its root beer as Pepsi. People who want to drink a cola would be disappointed to open a Pepsi and get a root beer, even if they like root beer. So, by calling their root beer "Mug" instead, customers know whether they're buying a cola or a root beer, even though both are soft drinks.
Similarly, a reader should be able to have an idea of what sort of story they're going to get by looking at the byline. For example, if you picked up a novel by Danielle Steel and it turned out to be a low-key military science fiction novel, you'd probably be disappointed, even if you like military SF, because it's not what you expect. And, on the other side of the coin, those who like military SF but don't like tawdry drama-romances would probably never pick up a Danielle Steel book in the first place. If Danielle Steel ever wrote military SF (and for all I know, she may have) she'd be better served using a pen name.
Anything you see written under the name Kyle Aisteach you can trust will be an intelligent piece of speculative fiction. I use a different name when I write nonfiction, still another for my screenplays, yet another when I act, etc. If I ever get around to writing the police procedural that's currently rattling around in my brain, I indend to do it under the name Barnabus Kpliewfski.
- Aren't pen names supposed to be something easy to spell and to pronounce?
Where's the fun in that?
Besides, nothing screams "pen name" like a name that is both unique and simple. In the real world, most people's names are either very unfortunate in the spelling/pronouncing department or they've got millions of namesakes. I wouldn't want anyone suspecting that I write under a pen name, now would I?
- O.K., so why Aisteach?
I like to joke that it's because it puts me halfway between Douglas Adams and Poul Anderson. But that's not actually true.
The obvious answer is that a name that means "strange" is extremely appropriate both to me personally and to my writing. But that's not actually true, either.
The truth is, in Irish Gaelic, the name sounds a little like "Ass Check," and that was just way too funny for me to pass up...
- Is there a novel version of [insert story name here] coming?
Short answer: No.
I tend to write stories that are deliberately only the most important and the most interesting parts of the story. That means there is always more to the universe than I'm putting on the page. But that does not mean that my stories are novel excerpts or that a longer, more boring version is in the works.
- So when are you going to write a novel?
I'm sure it'll happen, but I greatly prefer writng short-form. If anyone out there wants to give me a contract in advance, it would move up my list of priorities significantly.
- Where did you learn to write?
Um, I going to ignore the specific tone of that question and just say that there are a lot of opportunities for a young writer to improve their craft. Formal classes and workshops are a good start, but not right for everyone. Crit groups are, too (and some of the online crit groups are excellent). I have an M.F.A., which is a good choice for anyone interested both in learning to write better and in teaching or editing professionally.
But the most important thing that anyone who wants to write should do is to read. Voraciously. Anything and everything, whether you like it or not. And then think about what you've read and why it works (or doesn't work) for its intended audience. Following my specific path won't do you any good, because every author's path must be unique to them, based on enhancing their natural abilities and identifying and correcting their weaknesses.
- Where do you get off giving advice about writing?
As scary as this sounds, even as a very early-career writer, I'm still a lot farther down the path than a lot of other aspiring writers are. So, even though I freely admit that the advice I give may end up being sophomoric and I may regret my words later on, I still feel like I may as well share what I've learned along the way.
- But you're WRONG about something!
Great! Please chime in with your own opinion. I'm still learning and I love to hear from people with different perspectives and experiences.
- Why should I read your blog when [insert name of bigger-name writer] also has a blog?
By all means, read the blog or blogs that most interest and enlighten you! I follow quite a good number of writers' blogs myself. I don't follow the blogs of others. That's the great thing about the internet. So much content to choose from!
- Why don't you post more? Why is this blog so irregular?
I don't get paid to write this blog. Paying work comes first. Potentially paying work comes second. Various family and social obligations trump writing for free. Really, anything I do post here is probably an indication that I'm avoiding cleaning the litterbox...
- Is that Latin right?
Um, that Latin is complicated. If you get the joke, yes, it's right. If you don't, no, it's not, and don't worry about it. It's only funny to classicists who are intimately familiar with my writing.
- What blogging software do you use?
I've done a custom WordPress installation, hacking one of the default themes so it will (almost) integrate visually with my website. Despite the fact that I used to be a web designer (back when the web was all HTML), I'm flirting with the limits of my coding skills with what you see here, so don't expect perfection.
- How do you make your blog entries appear on Twitter?
That's a plugin for WordPress called WP to Twitter.
- Hey! You've actually said something worthwhile! Can I link / quote / reprint / etc.?
It's a public blog, so hyperlinking to it is always O.K. (Yes, even if you're doing it to point out what an idiot I am.)
Brief excerpts are fine, without prior permission, but I do ask that you either hyperlink to the piece you're quoting or give your readers the URL of the blog so they have the ability to put whatever I said into context should they desire to do so.
For reprints, please ask first. The answer will almost certainly be "yes," since I don't make any money directly off this blog and am therefore pretty easygoing about what becomes of the things I post here. I will insist on being credited as the author of the post, and if first publication credits are normally given in your publication I ask that you list this blog as such.
All aspects of this site, including the blog, remain under copyright, despite being posted free-of-charge on the internet. You may not copy and paste my words and pretend that they're your own.