Reviewers Using Pseuds

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Reviewing fanworks under a specific pseudonym reserved for that purpose is a practice used by some fans. It is one that has both pros and cons. However, the use of pseuds for reviews was not common in the early days of media fandom and initially received strong opposition. While the acceptance of reviewing under a pseud did track fandom's overall comfort level with pseudonymous participation, the act of reviewing another fan's work under a pseud received special critique by some fans.


In the early days of media fandom, there were a handful of fans who used pseuds to review fan fiction. However, the majority of fandom wrote and gathered under their real names. One example of the intense personal nature of fandom at the time was that letterzines of the 1970s and 1980s included full names and mailing addresses, sometimes even phone numbers, along with each letter.

Two fans in the 1970s who used the pseuds were H.O. Petard and Tigriffin; they often annoyed Star Trek fandom with their sometimes scathing reviews.[1]

As more and more fans gradually shifted into using pseuds to write their fan fiction, reviewing fan fiction under a pseud remained problematic for some.

I remember when I joined fandom in the 1990s, most fans would gather and communicate under their real names. Pseuds were used by fans mainly in writing or vidding. Fans who had sensitive jobs or families that were not fandom-friendly would also use pseuds across the board. Those exceptions aside, it was considered unusual to be interacting under a pseud. And it was even more unusual for a fan to write or post reviews only under a pseud while 'living' in fandom under a real name or another pseud- many felt it was cowardly. The best example of that was "Joanne's" SlashFic Hall of Shame which many found to be offensive partially because the reviews were written under a pseud. That changed, however, when fandom shifted from print to online interactions. And even then, the shift didn't fully 'take' until closed mailing lists were replaced with the WWW, where anyone could find and read fan fiction. From that point forward, you would see fans using pseuds and even having multiple pseuds. The reviewing under a pseud/different pseud suddenly became less of an issue. I personally think because as fandom multiplied exponentially, we became too large know who had a pseud or who had multiple pseuds. It became impossible to worry about whether a fan was using a pseud specifically for reviews. Pseuds were the norm and we took them at face value.[2]

Perhaps a better way to understand the nuances of reviewing fanworks under pseuds is to look deeper into the nuanced distinctions that some fans made. These distinctions shifted over time as fandom became more and more visible to the mundane world. They fall into three general categories:

  • All fannish communications should happen under your real name (unless there as a compelling reasons to use a pseud). Reviewing under a pseud was cowardly.
  • All fannish communications should be made under a single pseud. Reviewing under a second pseud was cowardly.
  • Having multiple pseuds for fan fiction/vids was OK. However, reviewing under a new pseud, apart from those multiple pseuds, was cowardly.

The Pros

  • in the tightly-knit world of fans, it is hard to be objective -- being honest about a fanwork may be impossible and/or undesirable; using a reviewer pseud may be more useful to others
  • other

The Cons

  • reviewing under a pseud created for the sole purpose of reviews may encourage cruelty and/or an irresponsibility to stand behind one's words
  • other

Some Fannish Opinions

  • ... reviewers should be willing to stand by their opinions. To me this means that you should be prepared to sign your name to a review, so that everyone can know who really wrote it. I'm not saying that the name has to be your legal or "mundane" name, and this is not an attack on pseudonyms per so. (My own writing in fandom appears with a pseudonym: the same one, for stories, poems and for reviews). What I am suggesting is that it is not right for reviewers to hide their true identities under a cloak of pseudonymity. A name (mundane or other) that one is known by in fandom should be on the review — rather than some totally different name used for purposes of concealment. [3]

  • I haven't been around long enough to know much about Trader Bill but I don't have a high regard for someone who hides behind a fake name while making loud, acerbic assertions. I fail to understand why you think you need to protect yourself. And don't say it's because you don't want to be "besieged by strange mail." That's a cop-out if there ever was one; if you fail to take responsibility for your own words, then don't expect me to respect them. ' [4]

  • Another thing - seems people hate me. Or have a very strong opinion. This is a good thing. Its why I am here - to make you think, maybe even make you strive to do better just to piss me off. Great! I started doing this because we all got tired of feedback that was "Oh I loved that!" or something like that. I wanted to maybe give more than just praise - 'I loved it (or not) and here's WHY' kind of a thing. I've only ever heard one negative thing about my reviews, someone said once I was annoying. I don't babble much in my journal here - I don't make friends here - I am here to review as objectively as possible and as I see it. If I vid or not, what my job is, what my dog's name is - not important here. Just vids and the reviews of them. Any problems? Good. Let's move on. [5]

  • .. aren't readers entitled in fairness to know who reviewers actually are? Doesn't concealed-identity reviewing leave sort of a bad taste in the mind, like reading a poison-pen letter? When reviews are of unknown origin (whether they are positive or negative), it somehow bothers me. I never know if I can trust the unknown reviewer's critical judgment. If she/he is not willing to be honest about his/her identity, then maybe the sentiments expressed in its/their review are not necessarily very honest, either. [6]

  • I appear to making some people miserable... by my very existence... Who I am is completely unimportant, because no one in fandom knows me anyway. I am one of the great, amorphous mass of zine readers... The name I write under was borrowed -- that's a nicer word than stolen -- from a minor character in a as yet little known fanzine. The author of the zine didn't seem to mind (or if she did, I didn't know about it), until she began getting compliments for my work... There is a need to know [my real name] that I find offensive... If I came out of the closet as Annette Buxbaum or Marie Osmond, would it really make a difference? [7]

  • Did go to the Escapade Vid Review the next morning and it was different... no one was to say anything bad, just what was good and what worked...I liked it. Some grumbled cause they wanted to trash certain vids - someone tried to and was SHOT DOWN mid sentence. Guess they really miss their precious comment sheets. Allow me to be your comment sheet people - happy to oblige. [8]

  • I will disregard any review written by someone using a pseudonym. When I co-edited Universal Translator, I was adamant that If an editor is expected to take the heat from a review, then the reviewer should be expected to sign his or her true name to the review. Hiding behind a pseudonym is often a coward's way of trashing someone else's hard work. [9]

Some Known Reviewing Pseuds


  1. ^ "This reviewer [Tigriffin] was more acerbic and less professional than H.O. Petard of Spectrum. I still have no idea who Tigriffin was. But Tigriffin wrote many reviews, and initially had the irritating habit of referring to himself or herself in the third person" -- from Boldly Writing
  2. ^ Morgan Dawn's personal notes, accessed February 18, 2012.
  3. ^ from On the Double #3 (1987)
  4. ^ in 1986, a fan complains about the reviewer for The Propagator's use of a pseud
  5. ^ Comment from poison pagan, a fan who reviewed vids under a pseud in the mid 2000s, dated May 20, 2005.
  6. ^ from On the Double #3 (1987)
  7. ^ from Universal Translator #4 (1980)
  8. ^ Comment from poison pagan, a fan who reviewed vids under a pseud in the mid 2000s, dated March 4, 2005.
  9. ^ from Psst... Hey Kid, Wanna Buy a Fanzine? #4