Saturday, April 13, 2024

Pseudonyms Quiz

Pseudonyms Quiz

As I've mentioned before, I'm in an online trivia league, and I have occasionally written quizzes for that league. My previous quizzes were very Science Fiction-centric, but this year I did one that focuses more generally on pseudonyms -- including, in some cases, names that people chose for themselves and legally adopted. The quiz as presented included the first 12 questions here, but I've added four more questions, rejected during the prep stage in part because they might have played too hard (for a general audience) and in part because I wanted to avoid having too many SF questions.

Most of these questions are about writers, but there are some from the film world, one singer, and one more politically-oriented individual. I'll have answers in a couple of days. If you wish, leave your guess in the comments. [The answers have now been posted here.]

1.  Two 19th century women writers, named Mary Anne Evans and Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, each chose a pseudonym with the same traditionally male first name. Give both full pseudonyms in either order (first and last name.)

2.  Lincoln Perry was the first Black actor to have a featured credit in a Hollywood film, and to make over $1,000,000 in movies. His characters, such as Joe in Show Boat, and Gummy, in Hearts of Dixie, came to be known as "The Laziest Men in the World": arguably a harmful stereotype, though some Black scholars argue that he was more of a trickster figure, and Perry was awarded an NCAAP Image Award. What was the stage name Perry might be said to have walked up and taken?

3.  An important political activist and religious figure was born with the surname Little, and had the surname el-Shabazz at his death, but is more generally known by which name (first and last name please)?

4.  Richard Patrick Russ was a successful writer of boy's stories, appropriate in that his first book, Caesar: The Life Story of a Panda Leopard, appeared when he was 15. But he changed his name in 1945, keeping his middle name as his new first name, and gained great success decades later as the author of a revered set of stories set during the Napoleonic Wars, a couple of which were adapted into the film Master and Commander. Give the new surname under which his later books appeared, and the surnames of the main characters in this series. 

5.  Name the writer who adopted the pseudonym V. Sirin, a reference to a Russian mythological bird, for their early works published in Germany, such as their first novel, Mary. This writer later published under their own name, and was wont to use versions of their name, such as Vivian Darkbloom, as characters in their novels.

6.  One of the most famous pseudonyms in contemporary literature is that of the author of the Neopolitan novels, a four book series beginning with My Brilliant Friend. This author still refuses to reveal her true identity, leading to many speculations, including one that she was actually a man, a claim the author strongly denies. Under what name are the Neopolitan novels published?

7.  Sometimes authors choose a pseudonym when they write in a different genre from their usual. Which renowned mystery writer published such novels as Absent in the Spring and The Rose and the Yew Tree, which were not mysteries but general fiction (with occasional romantic themes), as by "Mary Westmacott"?

8.  Many actors use names that differ from their birth names (think Marion Morrison and Norma Jean Mortenson) but this seems less common for directors. However, one John Martin Feeney became one of the most celebrated directors of all time, winner of four Oscars for Best Director. If his pseudonym was intended to conceal his Irish ancestry, surely he risked exposing that with one of his better known films, The Quiet Man. What was the name John Martin Feeney used professionally?

9.  A woman possibly named Fujiwara no Kaoriko wrote a long novel generally regarded as one of the first novels in history. By what name is this author usually known, a descriptive name, bestowed on her during her service as a lady-in-waiting?

10.  The great French singer born Edith Gassion presumably did not regret adopting this pseudonym, which is usually translated as what bird in English, based on French slang? (Give either the pseudonym or the English word for the bird.)

11.  A common reason for using a pseudonym is to conceal your side hustle from your main employer. P. M. A. Linebarger was a professor in Asiatic Studies at Johns Hopkins, a reserve Army officer, and an expert in psychological warfare (but never a shoemaker nor a metalworker!). He also wrote some of the most individual science fiction of the 20th Century, such as "Scanners Live in Vain", under which pseudonym (first and last name please)?

12.  The woman born Paulette Williams rejected her patriarchal name (Paulette) and slave name (Williams) and took a new name, based on Xhosa and Zulu words meaning "She who comes with her own things" and "She who walks like a lion". Give this new name, under which she wrote novels such as Liliane, poetry, and plays like the 1975 Emmy- and Grammy-nominated "choreopoem" for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf.

13. The science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon, author of More Than Human, was born with a different name. Give his last name at birth -- a name which may have been the inspiration for the title character's name in a certain story by Sturgeon's friend Robert Heinlein -- and Heinlein's character's name became an English word for remote handling devices..

14. Portugal's Fernando Pessoa may have used more pseudonyms than any other writer, though he regarded them as individuals of their own, with different biographies and views, and he called them "heteronyms". One of the most famous of his heteronyms even inspired a novel by another of Portugal's greatest writers, called The Year of the Death of [redacted]. Give either the redacted name of this particular heteronym, or the Nobel Prize winner who wrote the novel.

15. Science fiction and crime writer Stephen Robinett published his first several stories and the serial version of his first novel (Stargate) as by "Tak Hallus", a name derived from a Persian, Urdu, and Hindi word (itself imported from Arabic) which has what appropriate meaning?

16. A Science Fiction Writers of America Grand Master published some stories and a few of her novels as by "Andrew North", presumably because her audience for these books was felt to be boys. Ironically, her first name was also traditionally male -- because she had adopted it at first as a pseudonym for her early novels, but then legally changed her name? What was her full name, either at birth, or after her name change?


  1. Hoo boy. I am shamed by only knowing two of them. Fun, though

  2. 7. Agatha Christie. 10. Piaf. 16. Andre Norton.

  3. 3. Malcom X
    6. Elena Ferrante (unsure of the spelling)
    9. Lady Murasaki (Murasaki is also the name of one of the most important characters in that novel, The Tale of Genji)
    11. Cordwainer Smith
    13. I know that Heinlein's word for remote handling devices is "Waldoes"

  4. 1. George Eliot, Georges Sand
    3. Louis Farrakhan
    4. O’Brian; Aubrey, Maturin
    5. Vladimir Nabokov
    6. Elena Ferrante
    7. Agatha Christie
    9. Murasaki
    10. Piaf
    11. Cordwainer Smith
    13. Waldo
    15. Andre Norton

    1. All those are correct except for 3 -- that was Malcolm X.

  5. 14. Might it be The Year of the Death of Redacted?

    1. You are absolutely right! Thanks for catching me! I'll fix it.

  6. Here's a link to my post with the answers: