‘Tell me, what is your name?’
‘My name? My name is…’
Miriam’s mind searched for a while and then she took a deep breath and sighed the words of her imagined truth.
‘My name is Elk Vilianni.’
Those closing lines of the story I recently wrote for the Wicked Wednesday meme, inspired by the prompt, ‘Imagination’, appear to have pre-empted this prompt which invites me to write about my pen name.
Some might read that story as a fictionalised account of how a middle-aged widow by the name of Miriam, at the start of a journey to find a reconnection with her sexual-self, uncovered a new persona and alighted on the name of ‘Elk Vilianni’ to assign to it. Yes, you might read it with that interpretation; I couldn’t deny the possibility of this as another ‘imagined truth’.
But it is a cold hard fact that ‘Elk Vilianni’ is not just a made-up name; it is the made-up name of a made-up person, every bit as fictional as ‘Miriam’.
I specifically invented the character of Elk to be the author of a story – ‘Shani’ – written from an autobiographical perspective, which was the first story I submitted for Wicked Wednesday. At the time, I think I imagined that I might write other stories as Elk, so she became a character who is consistent with the character in ‘Shani’. I even played with writing a brief biog of Elk Vilianni, written in the future (I don’t remember why!):
Elk Vilianni (b. 12 February 1992) is a Canadian novelist and academic best known for ‘The Jung Ones: Fiction as Self Control’ (2027), a controversial work of literary theory, and the novel ‘Shani’ (2025).Born to a Swedish mother and Italian father, Vilianni grew up in a repressive religious community near Nanaimo, Vancouver Island. Her adolescent years are depicted in ‘Shani’ which was originally marketed as an autobiography. After the book became a bestseller, notorious for its sexual explicitness and, seemingly, exposing the dark underbelly of the…
That was as far as I got.
Some people responded to ‘Shani’ as though the story was a true autobiographical account. There was no reason for them not to, as none had ever heard of Elk Vilianni before. (I guess, this is a trick you can only pull with a first story… or by repeatedly inventing new pseudonyms…). I was intrigued, and somewhat concerned, by this; something I wrote about in a follow-up piece for the next Wicked Wednesday prompt.
Since then, Elk has become more straightforwardly a writer of stories in which she does not appear, until her recent reappearance as a (possibly imaginary?) character in the story of Miriam (which Elk has promised to continue).
She has even set up a Twitter profile, @ElkVilianni. Or rather, I have set up a Twitter profile, for I am Elk Vilianni! As of this moment, I have 15 followers. I have a keen urge to want to let them know, ‘I’m not really Elk Vilianni!’ But, at the same time, I don’t feel ready to give her up. I’ve found that I rather like being Elk Vilianni.