(Simulcast at secretdead.blogspot.com.)

"Duane Swierczynski" is quite a handle, isn't it? But hey, don't blame me. I've tried to change it before. Throughout my senior year of high school I submitted short horror stories to whatever markets I could find, including markets way out of my grubby little immature reach. Markets like Weird Tales, probably the oldest and most respected horror and fantasy magazine in the world. But I was a punk kid who noticed they were based in Philly, so I thought: What the hell, right? The story I sent Weird Tales was called "Submission," and I gave it that title because I thought it would be fun to open up a cover letter with the sentence: "Dear Editor, please find my submission, "Submission," enclosed with this letter." (I was 17. This is what passed for wit in my teenaged mind.) I also asked about internships or assistant-type jobs, figuring that maybe I could work my way up from the mailroom or something. And finally, I decided that a "Duane Swierczynski" could never make the pages of Weird Tales. I needed something snappier. So I lopped off my last name and became "Duane Louis."

A while later I received a rejection letter, but it contained a great piece of advice from co-editor George H. Scithers:
Use your full last name. It's real, and people will remember it.
(Click the letter below to read the whole thing.)
So, nearly 18 years later, big thanks to George Scithers. Or blame. Whichever you prefer.

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Comment by Jonathan Santlofer on April 6, 2007 at 12:16pm
Hey, let's do it. Trade everything. Names. Lives.
Hmmm... sounds like a reality show that's already been done.
Comment by Duane Swierczynski on April 3, 2007 at 10:41am
Thanks, Jonathan. But you know, I'd trade you "Swierczynski" for "Santlofer" in a a heartbeat!
Comment by Jonathan Santlofer on April 2, 2007 at 11:20pm
Hey, Duane, I feel your pain. I've been saddled with Jonathan Santlofer my whole life and have wanted to change it many times. I thought there would be an opportunity with my first novel and spent days coming up with polite pseudonyms, JA Sands a favorite. But my publisher nixed them all, said they had to cash in on my art career and so my real name. It get so tiresome having to spell it, doesn't it? Then there's the nickname factor. I'm Jon to old friends, Jonny to really close ones and family, and Jonathan in the formal world. Hey, I have dreams where my name is John Smith, but I'd settle for Duane Swierczynski.
Comment by Shannon Clute on March 27, 2007 at 5:37am
The longer I read, the more convinced I am that Swierczynski is a swell name. "Dweller near a fir tree?" Who can beat that? I lived in Belgium for a year, and apparently in Walloon "Clute" means "dirty little jobs that no one wants to do." Much less regal than a being a fir tree dweller. And at least you can understand why people mispronounce your name. Clute is only five letters, and you'd be amazed at how people mangle that. Yeah, I'd wear Swierczynski with pride.
Comment by Duane Swierczynski on March 26, 2007 at 1:23pm
I have to believe that I'm from Polish peasant stock, too. I mean, who the hell else would hang around fir trees?

(Seriously, I love the historical stuff. Thanks!)
Comment by Naomi Hirahara on March 26, 2007 at 1:20pm
Yes, most Japanese surnames are related to places and horticulture. Not to get all historical on you, but most Japanese peasants didn't get surnames until the Meiji Era (late 1880s), and they usually chose whatever place, tree, or river that was nearby. And yeah, I'm of peasant stock. But a proud peasant.
Comment by Duane Swierczynski on March 26, 2007 at 12:26pm
Hirahara means "flat valley?" That's great. "Swierczynski" is loosely translated as "dweller near a fir tree." Place names rule!

Sandra: It does have a nice ring to it...
Comment by Sandra Ruttan on March 26, 2007 at 12:21pm
I like Swierczywonderboy and I'm sticking with it.
Comment by Naomi Hirahara on March 26, 2007 at 2:45am
NPR reporters' names are pretty weird at times, and that's why I like them so much. I know that they are real. On of the strangest name in the newspapers (at least to me) is Krzyzewski, and I think he's doing okay in the name recognition department.

--Naomi "Flat Valley"

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