Perhaps you have noticed my byline I use for published fiction: A. Merc Rustad.
When you grow up with a name that doesn’t fit, a name that you understand in your developing robot-mind isn’t really yours, but can’t yet articulate why, and before you discover the name that is yours, things can be very confusing. Take bylines, for example.
As a young!Merc, just starting out, I didn’t know what to put before my surname. My non-name that people in my life refered to me by was like a lumpy, awkwardly pointed rock jammed in my mouth. I didn’t like the feel of it, and besides, it was always threatening to get stuck in my teeth or cause a choking hazard.
There was a period of time I gave in and put that wrong-name in my byline. I didn’t like it, but I had no idea what to do about it yet.
Then I found my name–Merc–and it was the most amazing feeling when I got people to verbally call me by my true name for the first time.
I still wasn’t sure what to do about bylines, so I condensed the wrong-name into an initial and started using that. It didn’t feel right. But then I started getting stories published, and suddenly that byline was pretty obviously mine. No one, thankfully, asked what the “A” stood for. I’m not sure I would have had an answer beyond, “Um, I like the letter ‘a’?”
And then, one day while at work, it clicked–one of those epiphany moments where you realize your subconsious is actually on your side and has been putting out hints for years and at last you notice them like a blazing neon sign.
That is me. That is part of my name. I understand now what it is to claim that piece of identity that has haunted me for years.
It’s there in the title of this post. “A” stands for Android. It is a part of who I am, part of my name, and I’m now happy to keep the initial around.