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posted by [personal profile] mina_de_malfois at 08:43pm on 05/05/2006 under
09 May 2009: Without the help of Clive [personal profile] flyingcarpet, who placed references within the text, re-organized the footnotes, and generally helped get this post-ready, this would not be posted right now. Many, many thanks to her for her work and patience.

Disclaimer: These stories and characters are the sole property of the author. This is a work of fiction. No resemblance is intended to any person or persons living, dead, or online. No BNFs were harmed in the making of this fic.



I’d been online friends with Arc since her fanfiction archive agreed to host my stories (as well it might: I’m ferociously well-known, and it must have been quite a boost for them, acquiring me). But our friendship took a significant leap forward when some of my fans started chattering about celebrating my upcoming birthday by sending me cards and gifts. I was pretty chuffed about this, but there was one difficulty. Arc only has about twenty people friended on livejournal, so she hadn’t even heard about the proposed present-giving until I’d brought her up to speed.

That’s the problem with Arc, you know: she refuses to cultivate people properly, or brighten herself up at all. I mean, if she just had more of a sense of style, she could probably make it to MNF status--particularly with my help, since, as I don’t mind telling you, I am easily the Big Name Fan of at least two fandoms. But she just has no aptitude, I suppose, for putting herself out there. Even her screen-name, Archivist12, is forgettable. You’d never guess she runs ‘Penn’d Passion’1 from that, would you? But she’s sensible, even if she’s a trifle dull, and I always turn to her for advice.

‘The thing is,’ I typed, ‘I don’t want to give out my mailing address to a bunch of fangirls.’ I paused, trying to figure out how best to put this. I didn’t have a P. O. Box, and the fact was, right now I couldn’t afford to go get a P. O. Box. But I didn’t want to give out my home address, either. The thing was, when you got right down to it, I may have given some of my fans the impression that I lived at--well--rather a better address than my current digs. They might, when you read between the lines, have been expecting a house, not an apartment. A largish house. I tried to find a way to get this across, but as usual, Arc didn’t need a whole lot of explanation. It’s one of her nicest qualities, really.

‘For security purposes,’ her message said, ‘it’s probably best that you keep quiet about your location.’

‘Yes, exacty,’ I responded, leaving out an l in my relief. ‘What I need is someone who could lend me their address and forward my mail.’

‘Someone close to you, whom you trust,’ she replied, ‘and someone, moreover, who the fangirls would accept as a reliable, credible person who would pass on their mail to you.’

It was as though she were reading my mind. Once more I found myself marvelling at her ability to catch on to what I needed.

‘Yes, quite,’ I agreed.

‘A close, personal friend within fandom,’ she went on. I hesitated, fingers paused over the keyboard for a moment. That was a difficulty, really. I mean, for obvious reasons, I’d found it politic not to get too close with any one BNF. Associate too closely with one of them, you see, and the others are apt to turn on you, out of pure jealousy and spite. It’s dreadful the way some of these people behave; you’ve no idea. And then, of course, I didn’t want my well-known name propelling some other fanfic author to the top of the lists.

‘Hey, you wouldn’t like to do it, would you?’ I asked. I was trying to sound spontaneous there, but I’d thought it out beforehand. I could trust Arc, you see. She didn’t even write fanfiction, so the competition angle didn’t apply, and really, she stood to benefit from this, if I could just make her see it. ‘It would make people more aware of the archive, I bet,’ I typed.

‘It would do that,’ she agreed. ‘But you realize, you’d have to give me your mailing address.’

I frowned at the monitor. Sometimes I had the slight feeling Arc guessed more than she let on, but she never really came out and said anything directly.

‘I’m staying at a friend’s apartment right now,’ I wrote finally. ‘I’ll send you the address here--the friend’s address, I mean. They won’t mind.’

‘Sounds fine,’ came the answer.

‘I say, Arc,’ I wrote--I’m prone to these little Britishisms; really, it’s almost as if I were British, and more than a few fans have speculated that I must have been educated in England, a notion I’ve done nothing to disabuse them of--‘this is safe for you, is it? I mean, I don’t want you giving your address out online if you’re not comfortable with that.’ She was so reticent about her personal information that for all I knew Arc lived alone, and I really wouldn’t have wanted to put her in any danger. I’m awfully fond of her, when you come right down to it.

‘Oh, no,’ she assured me. ‘Don’t worry. It’s perfectly safe.’

So that seemed neatly concluded. She posted the announcement on the archive’s bulletin board, letting everyone know that she could forward mail to me, and listing a P. O. Box as her address. I dropped a few discreet hints here and there around the web so everyone would know I was onboard with this scheme, and that Archivist12 had my fullest confidence, and I returned to check the boards later that night, to see how my readership was reacting.

Imagine the horror I felt when I logged on and found a pack of fangirls debating not Arc’s reliability, but my very existence!

‘For all we know Mina could be a middle-aged man,’ one had written.

Another of the little fiends had chimed in with, ‘She could have given Archivist12 a fake address. I don’t want to see Archivist12 wasting money on postage if the stuff’s only going to be returned to her.’

I had loyal defenders, of course--the ones vowing to send presents for me to Arc’s P.O. Box far outweighed the sceptics, I’m pleased to say, and many of them were roundly telling off the others for doubting me--but still, it gave me a nasty feeling to see them debating the point. And a couple had already suggested channelling their money into donations to keep ‘Penn’d Passion’ running instead. I suppose the site does take a lot of funding, but still, it’s a bit of a letdown to be promised gifts in the mail, and then find out people are doing something else instead.

And if you think that was bad, is was as nothing compared to what happened next, because just as I went to reassure them of my continued existence and love for presents, my internet connection failed. I spent a jolly uncomfortable night, let me tell you. I tried logging on several times, but no go. I couldn’t settle down to anything else; just couldn’t concentrate, if you see what I mean. Without me there to guide the conversation, who knew what the fangirl rumours would come up with. I don’t mind telling you, I’d put in a lot of time and effort creating my online image, and it gave me the cold chills to contemplate its being ripped to shreds while I was helpless to defend myself.

I rushed home from work the next day and headed straight for the computer, not even stopping to take off my uniform. I held my breath until I was signed in, and for a moment I stared blankly at the screen, too blinded by panic to read the messages properly. Then it finally penetrated: they were all positive again. Most confided that they were sending me something, or expressed their regret that they couldn’t afford to participate this time, poor dears. Not a single one accused me of being a man or faking my address.

It took several minutes of scrolling backwards to find out why the tenor had changed so completely. It was a note from Arc early the previous night that had done it, I saw.

‘Not to worry, everyone,’ she’d written. ‘I’ve had the great good fortune to be a guest at the Malfois Estate, and I can assure you that Mina is real, that she is female, and that I know her address.’ And immediately thereafter my fans had fallen into line and stopped expressing rude doubts. A handful had breathlessly pestered her for details about my home and lifestyle, but Arc had tactfully declined to comment. When I checked my email she’d sent me a short personal message, expressing her hope that I wouldn’t mind her having played a bit fast and loose with the truth. ‘I felt the most important thing was to head off the scepticism,’ she’d said, and I had to agree.

I boggled a bit. She’d certainly saved my reputation, that was for sure--possibly even enhanced it--but it was damned unexpected. My relief was almost outweighed by my astonishment at her dashing in to save the day like that. I peeled off my clothes thoughtfully and mulled it over in the shower, but couldn’t come to any conclusions as to her possible motive.

I’ll say one thing for her, though, she was as good as her word. About a week and a half later the first box arrived in the mail, full of unopened cards and letters and gifts from my readers. She’d used her home address on the box, I noticed, not the P.O. Box, which I think showed a pleasant degree of trust in me. And judging by the address, she lives in a pretty high-toned neighbourhood, does Arc. Funny: she’d never said a word about it.



Presuppositions:

1. Mina and Arc are meant to resemble Bertie and Jeeves, with two obvious deviations: they are female, and Mina cannot be as inarticulate as Bertie, since she’s supposed to have achieved BNFdom through her writing. She is, however, oblivious to her own flaws and inconsistencies, as [personal profile] mofic described so well in fanthropology.

2. Mina is, as the Clives have noted, a fast-food worker. She lives in a grotty little apartment, alone.

3. Mina has convinced her fans she is a member of the aristocracy and lives at the Malfois Estate. She also aspires to Britishness. Arc, who actually is both wealthy and wellborn, knows better, but tolerates and supports Mina’s falsehoods for...reasons of her own.

4. Because this is about fandom, and not about the things-we're-fans-of, there are very few direct references to specific fandoms (other than made-up versions), and most action is about the fans, not the stars/writers/etc. This will be more obvious later, I hope.

Footnotes

1. The archive is named Penn’d Passion as a subtle sneer back at the people who sneer at female fanfic authors for writing out of pent-up lust.


[personal profile] temaris has created a podcast of the Snailmail Affair.
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