Way OT: The “Who Am I This Time?” Challenge

Cidu Bill on Mar 10th 2017

Many of you are, I’m sure, familiar with Kurt Vonnegut’s story “Who Am I This Time?”

This was not the story’s original title, although every single online reference I can find insists that it was. Orwell would be proud of how completely every trace of fact of the name change has been erased.

So I’m wondering… can anybody find evidence that it was originally published under a different title, let alone what it was?

(Without looking at the December 16, 1961 issue of the Saturday Evening Post)

Filed in Bill Bickel, Kurt Vonnegut | 37 responses so far

37 Responses to “Way OT: The “Who Am I This Time?” Challenge”

  1. Boise Ed Mar 10th 2017 at 06:54 pm 1

    Yes. See this article.

  2. James Pollock Mar 10th 2017 at 07:13 pm 2

    Your link points to a “nothing here” stub, Ed.

  3. Mike Mar 10th 2017 at 07:16 pm 3

    The wiki cited in #1 doesn’t even come close to providing an answer. I eagerly await further responses.

  4. James Pollock Mar 10th 2017 at 07:23 pm 4

    Magazine editors used to change titles of stories freely and routinely, sometimes for the better, and sometimes over the author’s wishes. This becomes clear if the author subsequently becomes famous enough to demand their preferred titles in later publication.

    Asimov most notable case is “Pilgrimage”, retitled for initial publication as “Black Friar of the Flame”. Heinlein’s most famous rant about editorial interference is the original ending of “Podkayne of Mars”

  5. Organic Marble Mar 10th 2017 at 07:25 pm 5

    The ever-reliable Internet Science Fiction Database says the original name was “My Name Is Everyone”

    http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?666997

  6. Winter Wallaby Mar 10th 2017 at 07:40 pm 6

    http://blogs.cofc.edu/vonnegut/vonneguts-works/ has the original title as well.

  7. Boise Ed Mar 10th 2017 at 07:49 pm 7

    Well, that’s curious! Maybe I saw it because I’m a registered Wikipedia editor. Anyhow, try this one instead: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_Am_I_This_Time%3F_(film)

  8. Boise Ed Mar 10th 2017 at 07:50 pm 8

    Make sure the “_(film)” part is on the URL. I see that it’s not part of the link in #7.

  9. larK Mar 10th 2017 at 07:55 pm 9

    The Wikipedia article somehow has an extra space at the end of it:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_Am_I_This_Time%3F

    Also, at least when I checked it, it referenced the original title… [whistles innocently…]

  10. Cidu Bill Mar 10th 2017 at 08:01 pm 10

    I was discussing this with my cousin this afternoon and I told her I’m going to pose this question to the cleverest people I know, and I’m sure I’ll have responses from several different sources by dinner time.

    I’ve had titles of my own stories changed three times: once it was presented to me as a suggestion (it was a good one), one it was presented to me as a fait accompli that was un-accomplied when I insisted on it (yes, I know that’s not even close to a word), and once I was completely blindsided and it showed me that the editor hadn’t actually understood the story.

    I imagine this is what happened to the Vonnegut story: they insisted on a name change — because when you’re the Saturday Evening Post in those days I suppose you could –and the following day he changed it back forever and always. I was just surprised by the fact that so many “authorities” claimed “Who” had been the original title.

    As always, thanks!

  11. Winter Wallaby Mar 10th 2017 at 08:10 pm 11

    Cidu Bill #10: Well, if you’re going to count wikipedia articles, larK can “get” you 20 sources by dinner time. :)

  12. Cidu Bill Mar 10th 2017 at 08:15 pm 12

    Well, now that it’s mentioned in Wikipedia, probably the first place most people would check, it is officially no longer “an obscure fact” (and the information will eventually spread to other articles, which take their information from Wikipedia).

    LarK has made a significant contribution to Vonnegutalia.

  13. Boise Ed Mar 10th 2017 at 08:19 pm 13

    Bill [10]: Define “original title.” Perhaps the original published title was “Who Am I This Time?” and the original submitted title was “My Name is Everyone,” and the first draft’s title was something else entirely.

  14. Cidu Bill Mar 10th 2017 at 09:42 pm 14

    I think generally “original title” would mean the title it was published as.

  15. James Pollock Mar 10th 2017 at 10:35 pm 15

    “I think generally ‘original title’ would mean the title it was published as.”

    If the “original title” is the title after it has been changed by the editor, then “original” has a new meaning I was previously unaware of.

    An “original” title would be the one it originated with… meaning when created, not when published. Otherwise, unpublished works lack an “original title”, which seems… off. A work may have more than one title before it’s published… the first one the author put on it is the “original” one, and any titles after that, whether applied by author, editor, or publisher, or translator, is not the “original” one.

    Thus, to use specific examples, the original title of “Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope” was “Journal of the Whills”, a title that would never have survived, but IS the “original”. The original title of “Star Wars Episode VI Return of the Jedi” was “Star Wars Episode VI Revenge of the Jedi”

  16. Cidu Bill Mar 10th 2017 at 11:52 pm 16

    I stand by my definition of “original” title as the title it was first published under — otherwise I’d be hard-pressed to tell you the “original title” of most things I’ve written.

  17. Mark in Boston Mar 10th 2017 at 11:56 pm 17

    It’s not only short stories that get their titles changed. Comic strips do.

    “Peanuts” was not Charles Schulz’ choice for a title.

  18. Winter Wallaby Mar 11th 2017 at 12:38 am 18

    Bill #12: Actually, it was already in Wikipedia before today, just in a different article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_Vonnegut_bibliography

  19. James Pollock Mar 11th 2017 at 01:08 am 19

    “I stand by my definition of “original” title as the title it was first published under”

    So the titles before then are “preoriginal”?

    There’s some support for this:
    http://www.dictionary.com/browse/original?s=t

    Although there is a “related form” of preoriginal as adjective, it doesn’t offer any definitions for this form.

    This one sort-of does:
    https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/preoriginal

    but in the snippet I get, it refers to an unfinished work.

    I’m sticking with “original” meaning “first” in an absolute sense, unless modified. If you want to refer to the original published title, you have to qualify it as such, “original title” without further qualification means the first title attached to the work, regardless of whether or not it’s published, or how.

    Still open, however, is the boundary of “working title” and “original title”… a working title is not the intended title of the finished work. Is it “original”? But… sometimes, the working title IS the final title, eventually.

  20. Minor Annoyance Mar 11th 2017 at 02:37 am 20

    “My Name is Everyone” is an odd choice. It sounds a bit portentous, invoking “My Name is Legion”. Perhaps it’s meant to imply that the amateur actor who has no identity away from his script IS everyone, although the story soft-pedals that. “Who Am I This Time?” actually says something about the character, and it has a bit of comedy that suits the tone of the story.

    Gratuitous note: In “The Seven Year Itch”, Tom Ewell’s character works for a paperback publisher. “Little Women” is rebranded as “Secrets of a Girls’ Dormitory”.

  21. Kilby Mar 11th 2017 at 02:40 am 21

    @ MiB (17) - Which is why Schulz included the words “…featuring good ol’ Charlie Brown” (drawn unnecessarily large) in the title panel of his Sunday pages for many years.

    JP’s nitpicking @19 is utterly irrelevant to the information available to normal readers. The first title in published form is the only “original” title known and verifiable to the vast majority of readers and researchers.

  22. James Pollock Mar 11th 2017 at 12:20 pm 22

    “JP’s nitpicking @19 is utterly irrelevant to the information available to normal readers. The first title in published form is the only “original” title known and verifiable to the vast majority of readers and researchers.”

    How does that change anything? To people who are illiterate, the first published title isn’t known and verifiable, either. Does the fact that “Catch-22″ isn’t the original title for “Catch-22″ alter it’s significance or value as a literary work? Does the fact that nobody knows what the original title of “the Odyssey” affect you unduly? Does the fact that the Who’s “Teenage Wasteland” isn’t actually titled “Teenage Wasteland”, but “Baba O’Reilly”, change a single note?

    Sometimes an editor changes a title, and the new title is better. Sometimes, an editor changes a title and the author objects. The only way to know a title has been changed is if the author is sufficiently famous, and changes it back for subsequent publications. I cited Asimov’s “Black Friar of the Flame” as an example… it’s famous enough to use as an example because Asimov bitched about it in print. On the other hand, I have no idea how many times John W. Campbell changed one of Asimov’s titles, and Asimov was quiet about it either because the change was better, because he respected Campbell, or because he just wanted to be able to sell to Campbell again. The fact that I don’t know what those original titles were doesn’t change the fact that those works had original titles that were not published.

    It’s not just titles. In the original published version of Ringworld, Larry Niven had the Earth revolving the wrong way. I have no idea how many mistakes there were in previous drafts that Niven or his editor(s) caught and fixed between the original draft and the published draft. In the original draft of the Alien script, Ripley is a man and the alien survives. In the original scene shot for Star Wars, Jabba the Hutt isn’t a giant space slug, but is much more human-like. In the original script for Star Wars, Luke’s name is “Starkiller” and he’s 60 years old. The original script for Star Wars was much more derivative of Kurosawa.

    In approximately zero percent of these cases is it relevant what “average people” or even “researchers” are aware of or can verify.

    WAY too much kerfuffle over simple English.

  23. B.A. Mar 11th 2017 at 01:49 pm 23

    Is my “original name” what my father wanted to call me before my mother said “Yeah, that’ll happen when YOU give birth to her”?

  24. James Pollock Mar 11th 2017 at 03:03 pm 24

    “Is my “original name” what my father wanted to call me before my mother said “Yeah, that’ll happen when YOU give birth to her”?”

    This is an example of a title without a book, not a book with two titles.
    See Also: the boy’s name they’d picked out when they weren’t sure if they’d be getting one of those.

    But sticking with the name theme… is Marilyn Monroe’s original name “Marilyn Monroe” because that’s the name that was attached to her when she first appeared in a movie?

    Or… Micheal Crichton’s first novel, “A Case of Need”, was first published identifying the author as “Jeffery Hudson”. Does that make “Jeffery Hudson” the “original” name of Micheal Crichton?

    (Clearly, I have too much time available at present.)

    Here’s one. Many of the native peoples of North America lacked written forms of their language. Does this mean that the white folks are the “original” inhabitants, since they’re the first ones who wrote it down?

  25. lihtox Mar 11th 2017 at 04:44 pm 25

    “My Name is Everyone” has been in this article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_Vonnegut_bibliography since at least December 2014.

  26. Mark in Boston Mar 11th 2017 at 09:16 pm 26

    In musicology, the problem of original versions can be intractable, especially as record companies like to issue an “original version” recording to increase sales (much like the “director’s cut” of movies).

    The different versions can be:

    1. Sketches the composer worked on (which are sometimes all we have for any version, as with the third movement of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony).
    2. Original short score.
    3. Original manuscript full score.
    4. Original manuscript parts for first performance.
    5. Fair copy score sent to engraver (may have been copied by the composer’s assistant).
    6. First published edition, first printing.
    7. First published edition, second printing, with mistakes corrected.
    8. Score as first performed, which may have been before printing.

    Some composers change their minds often, so there can be many differences between versions. Bruckner extensively revised several of his symphonies. Operas underwent revisions during rehearsals and the first few weeks of performances.

    Beethoven’s original title for his third symphony was “Napoleon Symphony”, but that is a trivial detail of very little musicological interest compared to the difficulty of arriving at a definitive version of the Hammerklavier Sonata, for which the manuscript is lost and the first edition is full of mistakes.

  27. jajizi Mar 12th 2017 at 04:31 pm 27

    Arthur C. Clarke wrote a short story called “The Star”. He told of his horror when an early publisher changed the title to one that revealed the story’s surprise ending. (He didn’t say what the changed title was, but after you read the story, it is easy to guess.)

    larK @9: “The Wikipedia article somehow has an extra space at the end of it”
    %3F is a question mark, which is part of the title. It has to be encoded because a question mark has a special meaning in a URL.

  28. Powers Mar 13th 2017 at 09:24 am 28

    I fixed the original question-mark-less link to redirect to the story’s article.

  29. larK Mar 13th 2017 at 11:37 am 29

    D’oh, that makes perfect sense! I was too lazy to look up the url encoded code (but I should’ve known it wasn’t a space) but duh, the title ends in a question mark — duh!

  30. Wendy Mar 13th 2017 at 04:31 pm 30

    James, maybe the term you are looking for is “working title”. That’s what a title is called while an author is working on a novel, before publication. The working title may or may not be what he submits as his original title for the book, and as discussed, sometimes the editors change the titles (with or without approval) to what I’d call the official title. I wouldn’t really consider that working title to be the original title, though that argument could be made.

  31. James Pollock Mar 13th 2017 at 05:02 pm 31

    “James, maybe the term you are looking for is ‘working title’.”

    Nope. I discussed working titles above (19). A working title is not intended to be the final title. For example, a couple of recent television projects became widely known by their working titles: “That ’70’s Show” and “The Mindy Project” were originally working titles, which later became the actual titles because nothing better was suggested.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Working_title

    This is a different mechanism than when an author settles on a title, and then changes it, or when a publisher or editor changes it for them.

  32. Meryl A Mar 15th 2017 at 12:39 am 32

    Mark in Boston - When the original run of Peanuts ended our local paper started carrying (and still does carry) the rerun version. (Some strips do seem to have been updated, I believe by Paige Braddock author of “Jane’s World”.) The original name was “Lil Folks”.

    James Pollock - as opposed to the TV show about short women called “Little Women of ” I will be changing channels. see the title and start to think it is one of the good versions of Little Women or one of the others and then I swear at myself for falling for the title.

    Much worse than a title change is when the magazine rewrites one’s article to say the opposite of what one was saying. My one article which was published for payment (as oppose to for free) was on the difference between Jacobean design and crewel embroidery (short version - one is the design which is Jacobean work no matter the thread used to stitch it and the other is a wool yarn used for embroidery and nothing stitched with any other type of thread should be called crewel work even if it is a Jacobean design. - I will give a longer explanation if there are requests or else I will avoid boring you.)

  33. Mark in Boston Mar 15th 2017 at 09:16 pm 33

    Meryl A - Some kindly old editor at the embroidery magazine changed the article because it implied that his own work was actually crewel.

  34. Cidu Bill Mar 15th 2017 at 10:57 pm 34

    Does plagiarism count, Meryl A (32)? A radio network once did an on-air editorial that lifted 90% of an article I’d written, adding an opening that gave what I’d written a completely different context. They never asked permission or even notified me. I found out about it a year or two later.

    They did credit me, though of course mispronounced my name.

  35. James Pollock Mar 15th 2017 at 11:07 pm 35

    “They did credit me, though of course mispronounced my name.”

    They called some real-estate guy in Seattle, and he said it was OK.

  36. Meryl A Mar 20th 2017 at 03:11 am 36

    Bill - sorry that happened to you.

    The article I wrote was a pain from the beginning. Robert had written an article for them to go with an miniature (Russian) punch needle design he had made for the magazine. They suddenly decided that the article was no good as a decade or more before they had an article on the same subject. They needed a different article to go with the project. Back then they would not have an article without a project to go with it - or vice versa.

    The design he came up with a Jacobean style flower. So I ended up writing an article on the difference between Jacobean work - which is a style of design (”see it can even be used for miniature punch needle) and crewel work which is embroidery done with crewel wool yarn (one would figure the use of the name of the yarn would explain that the yarn is needed for the work named for it). He told me that my 3 line article was too short (I was not happy about doing a researched article and pointed out that it could be explained to needleworkers in 3 sentences) and I ended up finding out that I had more books on the subject than the Nassau County library system. The article as editted barely mentioned the difference and they eliminated all the photos except those which were crewelwork and Jacobean work both.

  37. Meryl A Mar 20th 2017 at 03:15 am 37

    I just mentioned the movie to Robert as he was a Vonnegut fan and I was not sure he knew it was by him. (Then again, I was not even sure he would remember the show.)

    He mentioned out to me that the actor in the lead was “the one in the AARP magazine”. After we established that it was not Morgan Freeman who was in the latest issue - I found out that he meant Christopher Walken (him - “you know, the one you like in ‘Pennies from Heaven’”)

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