Help:How to record an alternate name

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This page is a help or manual page for the ISFDB database. It describes standards or methods for entering or maintaining data in the ISFDB database, or otherwise working with the database. Other help pages may be found via the category below. To discuss what should go on this page, use the talk page.

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CURRENT HELP PAGE (Beta replacement below)

Recording a New Alternate Name Relationship

There are a few different situations in which you might want to connect two separate author records.

  1. Scenario #1: Suppose there are two or more different Author records in the database, but in reality there is only one person behind them who is using different names. In that case you will first want to determine the "canonical name" of the author, which should typically be the most commonly used name. Sometimes it may not be the same as the author's real name, e.g. "Murray Leinster" was a pseudonym that Will Jenkins used for almost all of his science fiction output, so that's what we use as his canonical name. Note that the ISFDB doesn't support joint names like "Jonathan Wylie" as canonical names. Once you have selected the canonical name, then you will need to display the Summary Bibliography page for each identified alternate name. When the page is displayed, click "Make/Remove Alternate Name" in the navigation bar on the left. You will then be able to enter the "Parent Name" (i.e. the canonical name identified above) in the provided field and submit it for approval. Finally, once the alternate name relationship has been set up, you will need to turn each Title published as by that alternate name into a variant -- see How to record a variant title for details. This is necessary because of ghost writing, uncredited collaborations and other situations when authors publish stories as by other authors.
  2. Scenario #2: Suppose you see a title record for a story by Edward P. Bradbury, and you happen to know that this is one of Michael Moorcock's pseudonyms. If the ISFDB does not show "Edward P. Bradbury" as being an alternate name of Michael Moorcock, you should enter this information. This page tells you how to do this.
  3. Scenario #3: Suppose an author has some records entered incorrectly in the database: for example, some records for "S. P. Somtow" might be entered as "S. Somtow", but the latter is incorrect as the publications in question in fact listed the author as "S. P. Somtow". In this case, you could change each publication record, one by one, but it would be more convenient to simply tell the ISFDB to merge all these records under "S. P. Somtow". To do this, see the merge author help page.

Here is how to turn individual titles into variants:

  1. First be sure that the title you are looking at was really written by the author whose canonical name you are about to use. You need to have a reliable publicly available source for this. The best source is a statement by the author somewhere that "Joe Author" is their pseudonym. You can also use SF encyclopedias and other reference works.
  2. Once you're confident that a title was written by that author, take a look in the ISFDB to see how it is currently recorded. For example, you can look up Heinlein's "We Also Walk Dogs", which was originally published under the alternate name "Anson MacDonald" in Astounding. A title search will return two records; one by Anson MacDonald, the other by Heinlein. If you click on Anson MacDonald's name, you'll see the story listed there. Clicking on the stories, instead, gives you slightly different results depending on which version you click on. If you click on the Heinlein version, you'll see a display of that title, with a note saying that the story has a variant title, and showing that it was published in 1941 as by "Anson MacDonald". If you click on the Heinlein version, the same list of publications is displayed, but the page says that this is a variant title, and provides a link to the Heinlein version. So in this case, the link to the alternate name is made, and you don't need to do anything -- the ISFDB understands that the Anson MacDonald version is a variant of the Heinlein version, and hence understands that "Anson MacDonald" is an alternate name for Heinlein.
  3. If you find that the ISFDB does not know about the alternate name you are considering, then you can go ahead and enter it. To do this, you simply make the version of the title which appeared under an alternate name into a variant of the canonical title. See How to record a variant title for a step-by-step guide on how to do this.


Recording a New Alternate Name Relation

For directions on entering a new work that was published under an alternate name, see Help:How to enter works published under an alternate name. This help page assumes that you have created a new alternate name relation that needs to be recorded, or you have discovered an alternate name relation between authors currently in the system. This section discusses how to establish such a relation, and the next section discusses how to handle a case where an author or book has had an alternate name relationship set up incorrectly, and you want to correct that.

In the following directions, there are several places where you may need to wait for a moderator's approval between one step and the next. Usually, we don't mention that.

There are several situations in which you might want to enter an alternate name:

  1. An author's name is the alternate name of a person not in the database.
    Check the true name carefully to see if it's in the database under some variation. For example, "Michael Williamson" might be entered only as "Michael Z. Williamson". (Suggestion: Go to "Advanced Search," use the Author Search form, and enter the main parts of the first and last names in two different fields of that search form.) If the true name is not in the database, then the author hasn't published any relevant work (that we know of) under that name. In this case, we don't try to add that name to the database. If it is the author's legal name, use "Edit Author Data" and enter that form of the name in the legal name field.
  2. An author's name is the alternate name of a person who is in the database.
    In particular, you've discovered that there are two or more different Author records in the database, but in reality there is only one person behind them who is using different names. So now you need to set up an actual alternate name relationship.
    1. You will first want to determine the "canonical name" of the author, which should be the most commonly used name within the genre. Although in many cases it will be the author's real name, there are times when it is not, e.g. "Murray Leinster" was a pseudonym that Will Jenkins used for almost all of his science fiction output, so that's what we use as his canonical name. For more details, see the help template for Canonical Names.
    2. Now we can set up the alternate name. As an example, let's say that you've discovered that "Toby Duane" is a pseudonym for the writer whose canonical name is "W. Paul Ganley". On the page for "Toby Duane", click on "Make/Remove Alternate Name" in the Editing Tools bar on the left. Enter the name "W. Paul Ganley". (If you make a spelling mistake here, the system will warn you that you're entering a non-existent name, but it's a good idea to copy and paste from Ganley's author page.)
    3. This will set up an "alternate name" relationship, but won't actually have "Toby Duane" send visitors to Paul Ganley, nor will works by Toby appear under Paul's bibliography. So now, open one page for each of the works credited to Toby. For each such work, click on "Make This Title a Variant" in the Editing Tools bar. For each occurrence of "Toby Duane", replace that name with "W. Paul Ganley", then click the "Create New Parent Title" button. (If he did joint work with someone, make sure you only replace Toby's name.)
    4. Although not absolutely necessary, it's a good idea edit the "Toby Duane" record and then the source of this alternate name relationship.
    5. Make a note to yourself to verify this author, wait until your changes have been approved by the moderators, then verify that everything looks right.
  3. A work by a known author was published under a non-standard variation of the author's name, e.g. using/not using a middle name, published using a misspelling of the author's name, etc.
    The author's name can occur in many places within a book: The cover, the copyright page, the table of contents, the title page, etc. Normally, we enter a work using the name that occurs on the title page, and ignore variations that might occur elsewhere. For more details, see the help template for Author Fields. Assuming that this name is different than the canonical name for an author, see the help page on Recording a Variant Title for details on how to proceed. (But it's really the same as setting up the alternate name in the previous item.)
  4. A name in the database is a alternate name for a writing team of 2 (or more) people.
    • If all of the actual authors are in the database, get their canonical names, then proceed much as in option #2, slightly modified:
      1. Click "Make/Remove Alternate Name" once for each author, adding that person's name as the "Parent Name", and submitting once for each author.
      2. For each publication, click "Make This Title a Variant", replace the author's name with one of the authors' names, then "Add Author" for additional members of the writing team, adding their names as well, and submit;
      3. Make a note in the Bibliographic Comments field as to the justification for your changes.
    • If one or more of the writing team does not have their name in the database, then you proceed as above except do step (2) first (so the authors are forced into the database), and then do step (1). You will have to wait for the variant titles to be approved by a moderator before you can make the alternate names, and here it's more important than usual that you leave a note in the Bibliographic Comments as to your documentation for this joint alternate name, and leave a note to yourself (somewhere) that you have to come back here to finish the second step. (Of course if you "discovered" this because you entered a book by such a team, then you will also have to wait for the New Book to be approved before you can begin the steps above.)
  5. The same alternate name has been used by 2 or more authors. We are not referring here to a "team" of authors who collaborated, but a "house pseudonym" that was used to credit works by more than one author writing independently. Here it becomes important to be confident which actual person wrote under that particular name for which works. If you have identified the true author for a book written under that pseudonym, you proceed just as above: For the publication, "Make This Title a Variant", change the alternate name to the true name, and submit. If there is already a link between that alternate name and that name, you're done. Otherwise, add the alternate name relationship as described above.
           With most alternate name relationships, the system should be set so that when you go to the summary page for an author who has been established as the alternate name of another, all you see is a link to the canonical author's summary page. In a situation such as this one, you will see more than one "canonical" author linked to this author. For example, go to the summary page for Victor Appleton, who has several dozen titles in the database. But none of them are displayed on his summary page. To see all the titles published using this house name, you must click the link to "view all titles published under this alternate name." You will also see links to all of the authors who have used this house name. On the list of all titles, there is a column that shows and links either the person who was the true author of the work or "unknown". The latter is used when the identity of the true author has not been established using secondary sources. When adding a work credited to a house name, it is important to make it a variant to the title record crediting the true author, when known, or varianting it to a new title record crediting "unknown" in the author field.

Correcting a pseudonym/variant error

This section how to handle a case where an author or book has had a pseudonym relationship set up incorrectly, and you want to correct that. It assumes that you are already familiar with the steps involved in recording a pseudonym, as described in the previous section.

  1. A work already entered under a known author was actually published under a non-standard variation of that author's name, or under another name.
    Note that in the descriptions below, there will be times when you need to wait between steps for a moderator to approve your changes from the earlier step. As with creating a pseudonym, it can often be useful to annotate what you're doing, e.g. in the "Bibliographic comments" that can detail pseudonym relations. In other cases, you can go to the [[ISFDB:Moderator noticeboard|Moderator noticeboard] and add a note as to what you're doing -- especially if it's non-obvious.
    1. First, make sure that you are using the name as printed on the title page of the work. The author's name on the cover, copyright page, title page, "About the author" blurb, etc. can often be quite different. Whenever we can, we use the name as it appears on the title page. In some cases, an anthology may not have a "story title page", or not have one with the author's name. In these cases, we use the name as it appears in the table of contents. For more details, see the help template on Author Names.
    2. If the work only occurs once, i.e. there was only one edition of the book, and there are no variant titles, then just:
      1. Go to the publication record for this work and "Clone this pub";
      2. With the cloned publication, change the author's name to the variant;
      3. When the cloned submission is approved, it will have its own Title Record. Go to that title record and "Make This Title a Variant Title" of the original title. (This connects this book with the canonical name of the author.)
      4. If this is a previously unrecorded variant of their name, you will also need to go to the Author record for this variant name and "Make/Remove a Pseudonym" to make the name variation a pseudonym of the canonical name.


    3. If this work is one of several editions, printings, or variants of the orginal title, you cannot assume that all of the editions used this name variation! Fixing this is going to take some more work.
      Let's imagine that you are verifying a book in the ISFDB that was written by Ursula K. Le Guin, and the title page says it is by "Ursula LeGuin". (Or to a pseudonym such as "Starbear", etc.) Then we want to list this edition under that name variation, and have it be a pseudonym for the canonical variation of her name. But it is very unlikely that other editions (or, at least, not very many other editions) will have the book credited that way. So we proceed as follows:
      1. If you think there might be other editions with the same variant name / pseudonym attribution, you can attempt to identify other such editions. Approaches that might work here are to contact primary verifiers of other editions, see if Amazon has a "Look Inside" option for those editions, or see if Google Books will let you look at the title page. But if you cannot be sure of the "correct" name to use, leave it unchanged.
      2. Unmerge all of the publications from that title that should be attributed to the other name. (At the title record, click "Unmerge", then check those which should be extracted.)
      3. If there are more than two such publications for this title, merge those publications together into a single title record. The system should ask you which date to use, and you usually select the earliest date.
      4. Now correct the new title record by changing the author from the old name to the new name, and change the publication date (if necessary) to the earliest date of all editions of that book (not just the earliest edition published under this name). Changing the name in the title record will force each of the publications connected to it to change their names as well. UNTESTED. I'm pretty sure this is true; can some expert verify this claim for me?
      5. Make this title record a "Variant Title" of the original title record.
      6. Finally, if this is a previously unrecorded variant of their name, you will also need to go to the Author record for this variant name and "Make/Remove a Pseudonym" to make the name variation a pseudonym of the canonical name.

  2. A work attributed as a pseudonym to one author is actually by 2 or more authors
    1. Go to the title record for the work. This should be listed as by the true name of the author (only the variant it's connected to will list the pseudonym). So edit the title record and add the second author (or more, if necessary). Remember, when there are multiple authors, they should be listed in alphabetical order (by last name), which may mean that you have to re-arrange the original author's name.
    2. Go to the pseudonym author's page and "Make a pseudonym" to connect this to the additional author(s). If those authors weren't already in the ISFDB, you'll have to wait for step 1 to be approved by a moderator.

  3. A work already entered as a pseudonym (or name variation) was entered incorrectly in another way.
    For example, maybe an author's pseudonym has been incorrectly identified. Or maybe all of the works under a relatively common name were assigned to a correct pseudonym, but only some of those works fit there, and other works belong to someone who really has that name, or to a different pseudonym relation. First we need to break the existing connections.
    1. If an entire name variation was in error, Click "Make/Remove a Pseudonym". Near the top of the screen, the existing pseudonym is shown, with a "Remove" button by it, which you should click.
    2. Whether step one was necessary or not, you should now click each title that was entered in error, and for each one click the "Make This Title a Variant Title or Pseudonymous Work" selection, enter "0" for the Parent Number, then click "Link to Existing Parent". The "0" entry is a special tag to break the link to the existing parent.
    3. Once these submissions have been approved, go to the original person to whom these titles were linked. The title should still be listed in this author's bibliography. You should click those titles, click the "Delete This Title" link, explaining what you're doing in the appropriate field.
    4. If you are separating works done by one person under a pseudonym from another done by someone under their true name, you are finished. Otherwise, go to the appropriate step in the Setting up a pseudonym above to create the correct pseudonym.