Nearly six years ago that I came across a thread on a NanoWriMo forum board for Macintosh software. Some guy named Keith wanted to create an application for writers that would approach things from a different angle than the existing software at the time. It piqued my interest and in a matter of months found myself embroiled in the world of Scrivener, a version that would eventually be named Gold and then set aside for a completely new rewrite.
When Keith and I got in touch back then, I was logged into the NanoWriMo system under my pseudonym, and due to that it just kind of carried over into the early Scrivener forum, and then here—more a matter of self-generating inertia than anything else. As time has gone by, I’ve become more and more uncomfortable with the fact that nearly everyone knows me on this forum, yet all know me by my persona (I’ll resist the word avatar!), Amber. This uneasiness has increased in direct proportion to the level of trust that people have placed in the advice that I give out on a daily basis here. I think the final straw was when some of my writings were mentioned by Merlin Mann in a recent podcast as being written by “that AmberV woman”!
So this is perhaps long over-due: my real name is Ioa Petra’ka, and I do in fact hail from Portland, but I am a not a woman (though I have been known to haul around a “man purse”). I’ll be keeping my forum nickname intact, because otherwise that would invalidate thousands of posts all referring to some non-existent entity, however as you’ve probably noticed, I’ve changed my signature.
Everything else I’ve said about myself is true. While I’ve been living under a nickname for all of these years, I’m no different than anything I’ve ever shared with any of you, and going forward nothing in that regard will change.
Anyway, since - so I hope - you are still you, all things are as they were.
Where did you get that ’ in Petra’ka?
Funny, your real name sounds more nickname-ish as AmberV ever did; probably because of that ’
And don’t you worry about “living under a nickname”, Ioa. We all do. At this forum or in our daily businesses. It’s this “commonly agreed upon” thing, upon which nobody really did agree and which therefore never gets talked about.
Oh how absolutely delicious! Ioa / Amber: I wonder how many times your real name will be Googled, now that you have unveiled yourself
This has blown me away, mostly because it’s revealed to me my own tendency to judge based on assumptions I have made. At least, that’s the only thing I can think of to explain my initial reaction to your post, which was:
“No way! Now I’m going to have to go back and re-read every AmberV post in a different light, and look for clues”
Does this mean I am not as gender-blind as I thought? Does this mean I feel differently about you, (a person I do not know), knowing now that you are not a woman? Interesting toys to play with in my writing sandpit - thank you!
(no excitement here I’m afraid, I really am called Sarah and I really am a student. How dull.)
Hmm … nothing’s changed, but everything’s changed. I have to say that I always relished the fact that the forum guru — who at times seems to know even more about Scrivener than Keith himself! — was a woman. And now that’s only “apparently a woman”.
But no, it doesn’t really signify. Your input will remain as intelligent, to the point, balanced and crucial as ever.
As for me, I am Xiamenese on every forum I join — it’s basically a tribute to this place where I am which has given me so much — though I generally sign my real name, Mark, to my posts. I have only changed on this forum since Jaysen started referring to me as “Mr X”, which gave me the idea for my signature line.
I need to apologize to KB now. We had a few exchanges where you where Keith referred to you as “he” and “him”. I was assured that KB was beginning to lose his mind. All this time it was me who had committed the unpardonable sin of forgetting rule number 1: Nothing on the net should be taken for truth until you confirm it. Sorry KB.
Much as with Mr X*, I have always been “proud” of the female hero of scrivener. I will not pretend that this is anything more than a natural reaction to the heavy male dominance of the tech industry in which I seem to be embedded. I am not sure how I feel about myself after your revelation though. On one hand I feel guilty for making the assumption that you were a woman. On the other I feel slightly cheated in a few of our debates as I went out of my way to find examples that were not so male specific as to be unrelateable to a female (but in the end this really helped me so thank you). Mostly I feel embarrassed that my approach to things still remains so highly determined by gender.
That said, you are one of the most intelligent people I have come across. Male or female. As Mr X* said, “nothing’s changed”.
[size=75] I can’t spell xiamenese reliably. Heck, I can’t even PRONOUNCE IT after trying to learn Cantonese for 6 years. That and I am to lazy to type more than an initial. Sorry if I guilted you into changing your habits.[/size]
Not a problem; no guilt attached. I had been thinking for some time that I should have a signature line … and your use of Mr X gave me the idea of this one, which I rather like. I think it suits me. So I should be thanking you really.
Edited to add: Oh, and it’s pronounced rather like /hsia-men/. In “The Chinese Bell Murders”, Robert van Gulik has a shopkeeper describe the inhabitants of a local mansion to one of Judge Dee’s assistants as “… a bunch of foreigners. They came from Canton and can hardly understand their own language.” If you struggled with Cantonese, my advice is just don’t think about trying to learn “Min-nan”, the local dialect here!
That is funny! In fact I was just thinking of that a few days ago while I was mulling over what would eventually become this post. I look like I come from a badly named planet where everyone wears silver spandex and has radio beams emanating from their heads.
You, and several others who have stated similar, are absolutely right in that the culture of handles and avatars that is the Internet—this really isn’t that bizarre of a thing. Like I said, the main factor in causing me to step out from behind the handle is the extraordinary level of trust that everyone has for me here, and that what I have to say is now percolating beyond the forum and into other arenas. I suppose I’ve come to see a bit of a transition in the 'net since I started out in it many years ago. The culture of handles is dying, frankly, and largely thanks to social sites (which, as anyone who has Googled me, knows I have no interest in). Oh, I’m sure it will always be there, but in the past five years it has become more and more unremarkable to see an actual name on the Web.
At risk of piling on too many layers of obfuscation, I had my name legally changed when I became an atheist, years ago. Coming from the intensely religious background that I came from, it was a bit of a milestone. My name is an intentional hodge-podge of mysticism and cultural beliefs, both a tip of the hat to my childhood, and my American heritage. The name Ioa itself is Tahitian for “the power of naming a thing” which struck me as a lovely preface and cognitive declaration.
And just for the record, the ‘a’ is silent. “Eye-oh”.
The silence is deafening, and disturbing.
Update: Druid has weighed in on the blue, but the human sacrifices were mysteriously and profoundly not addressed!
This is also something I have given considerable thought to, as you can imagine! I (except save for maybe one or two occasions) never said anything to reinforce any gender notions intentionally. It is indeed extremely fascinating that a stack of largely neutral-gender writings can be given a feminine “quality” merely via the attachment of a suitably feminine name. You’ve probably deduced that the topic is of some interest to me, otherwise I wouldn’t have chosen a female pseudonym for some of my NanoWriMo experiences.
Psychologically, I’m a fairly “gender neutral” individual, by that I mean I don’t exhibit strong stereotypical qualities in either direction, and no doubt that became a complicit factor in fostering an illusion here. But the interesting thing, and this is probably no shock to a group of writers who know what it’s like to “live with” characters, over time I’ve come to identify my writings here as being “written by a female”. So, even in knowing, I found myself thinking in the same manner you did, Sarah. If even I who knew the truth was “suckered”, then you really shouldn’t be surprised at all. Keep in mind this persona has existed for close to seven years now (just a bit before Scrivener came into existence). Who knows what level of subconscious writer-bias psychological effect was going on in my head after seven years of that?
It is that contradiction of stereotype which, when applied to the above, was of bemused interest to me. As stated at the top, this was never intended to be a social experiment or anything like that, it really was just a tidal thing—but I would be untruthful if I did not admit the fascinating social-experiment type results did not fester in my ever restless mind.
I would also be in denial if I did not admit that, as both you and Mark put, I had become a bit “attached” to the fictitious notion as well, and that such is probably a contributing factor in why I never said anything up until now. My own psychology on the matter, clearly, has been as much of interest to me as anyone’s—but I suppose that comes with the introvert territory.
Ah, I see! So when I beat you in our debates, it was the handicap of having to select contorted examples that tipped the scales in my favour!
Oh! I’ve been doing it terribly wrong all these years—more a bit like “siamese” with an extra syllabic inflection.
Please don’t infer that! while we may argue on my being “beaten” I do not feel i was handicapped. You exposed a major flaw in my ability to explain my position. If anything tips the scales in your favor it is the breadth of, and rapid access to a vast wealth of information. My use of “cheated” is strictly emotional.
Worry not, I was just kidding! My little emoticon was meant to convey that—and honestly I don’t think anyone “won” those debates. They were all terribly fascinating and I learned a great deal from them.