mina_de_malfois: (Talent)
posted by [personal profile] mina_de_malfois at 08:47am on 01/05/2009 under
Warning: [personal profile] mina_de_malfois is an affectionate satirical examination of online fandom. Some readers may not share this sense of humour; reader discretion is advised. [personal profile] mina_de_malfois is for entertainment purposes only; [personal profile] mina_de_malfois neither attempts nor achieves any notable degree of accuracy, and should therefore not be used as a source of information. Do not attempt to operate heavy equipment or motor vehicles while consuming [personal profile] mina_de_malfois. Refrigerate [personal profile] mina_de_malfois after opening. If you notice changes in colour, texture, or odour, or separation of ingredients, please discard any remaining [personal profile] mina_de_malfois and buy a new jar.



He'd been right in suggesting our paths would cross again, because Josh and I did frequently encounter one another, though he never once failed to annoy me by vanishing without warning or explanation every time I'd begun to enjoy his presence. He'd pop up somewhere just long enough and helpfully enough for me to feel slightly obliged, then disappear, leaving me uncomfortably aware of the fully-charged obligation.

Take that time he massively increased my fanbase by making a judicious display of my temporary embarrassment of working-class cred. Annoying, in some ways. Still, as I said at the time, Josh, or Jen, or whatever name he might be making current use of, had done a very good deed in triumphing over that outbreak of raging online communists. Yes, Arc said then--as, indeed, she still says now when the topic arises, as it sometimes does, usually over a glass of good and reminiscence-producing brandy--yes, she said and says, s/he did indeed.

When it came to Josh, somehow it always took many bad deeds to build his reputation, but only one to redeem it.2 He was woefully easy to forgive. Probably that's why he never seems to run out of second chances to gain access to fandom's surplus cash.

Back when the events in question began eventing, I'd been watching that really creepy episode of Occult, that one where things come creeping out of mirrors3 and as a result you're afraid to use your own real life bathroom unless you have your eyes shut. When my computer chimed I leaped to my feet, disgruntling Adage terribly. Adage was a temporary guest in my room while Arc was away that week, and was enhancing my Occult experience by such cat-like activities as staring fixedly at walls as though seeing something I couldn't. Naturally enough I was afraid to go read my new email, because I was at that point of irrationality when everything--the computer, the closet door, the space beneath your bed--seems a portal to certain death.

But I read it the next morning, when I'd mostly recovered. It was an email from a complete stranger, and the contents made me regret for several bitter minutes that I hadn't followed Joshen's recent advice and example after all, and vanished from the bloody internet.

I stood accused of being a traitor to a class I hadn't ever even admitted belonging to. How unfair, I ask you, is that? Some creepy little person with too much time on his hands had evidently devoted hours to accumulating every scrap of information I'd ever let slip about my personal life and was now, he informed me, poised to write an exposé, exposing me to the wrath of the downtrodden masses. My callous disrespect for society's labourers was, he promised, about to be brought to an end, and my disdain for their sufferings fully exposed. Fandom at large would be persuaded of my unspeakable snobbery.

I wouldn't have actually minded if it had stopped at that, in point of fact. I can cope quite beautifully with accusations of snobbery and elitism. But this incipient pain in the arse intended to go one step further and prove that I should be showing class solidarity, being that I was one of the world's workers myself and therefore ought, he insisted, to be uniting, not escaping. The gist of his screed was that he doubted my membership in the manor-owning class, and was ready to convict me of being a fraud, and of despising my own origins. He meant to prove once and for all that it was self-hatred that had thus far prevented me from ever fangirling the right characters. He mentioned Doctor Who fandom in a pointed way.4 And somehow, reading his threats, I was filled with a sense that I might cope altogether less gracefully with having my plebeian roots laid out for all to sneer at.

The nerve of the proletariat, insisting I admit I belong to it. I seethed, and seethed heartily.

When I'd calmed down enough for rational analysis, I began to doubt the sincerity of his claims to represent the oppressed. I couldn't help but notice that my pridefully common accuser had taken as his soapbox an email address based out of a pretty posh university campus. To the suspicious mind that suggested he was rather upper-classish himself, and so somewhat less than fully qualified to speak for the working class. I mean to say, hardly an uneducated millworker's offspring, what?5

If there's one thing I cannot stand, it's Gucci socialists. Tiresome and with more spending money than me: what's not to loathe?

A quick Google search turned up his blog, and my suspicions were confirmed. He was clearly much better-heeled than self. He had that teeth-grating combination of the right background and a deliberately declassé present. There wasn't enough eyeroll in the world to react to his strategy of under-deploying his top-drawer education and earning just enough to qualify for various perks and respites intended to ease the burden on the least-well-ranked of the rank and file. For a moment there he really did succeed in provoking a little class solidarity from somewhere deep within me: I felt a pang of almost Marxist rage on behalf of those who, like my mother, had had to compete with oiks like this one for finite services that she'd really needed.6

Lacking Arc's virtual presence, I turned to my stalwart defender, PrinceC. He was as indignant as could be hoped, though rather less helpful. 'I'm being attacked by a Communist,' I told him, preparatory to launching into the full explanation of my supposed class treachery.

'You mean that stuff in the FanRecordwiki?'7

'I do not mean that stuff in the FanRecordwiki,' I said firmly, and then paused in confusion, realizing I'd missed a step. 'Wait. What stuff in the FanRecordwiki?'

'Some pest with a grudge has been editing your page,' he explained warmly, 'denouncing you for being elitist, over-educated, and out of touch.'

For a moment I preened slightly, as who wouldn't. Then I headed over to check out my wiki bio page, and was a bit disheartened to see a longish list of links under the 'controversy' category, all leading to essays and rants about my being too well bred, lacking the common touch, in bed with the acafen, and a host of other accusations that one felt almost tempted to read as compliments. They certainly held a certain cachet missing from the 'how dare you betray your socioeconomic roots' line.

It was mildly gratifying to see that this second version of the attack was the one that had caught on. I suppose my masses of fans are so used to seeing me as the embodiment of a higher class that they only wanted a little winding up. Now someone had stepped up to do the winding. The Internationale had united them in a world of wrong,8 and they were hating me for being amongst their betters--which hatred, I should add, was a bit unnerving, causing the temporary gratification to dissolve fairly rapidly. After all, we BNFs rely to a shocking extent on the widespread support of our fandom brothers and sisters. It wouldn't do at all to have my popularity under threat from this Red Sockpuppet Army. They must be made to step off the collective soapbox, and fast.

The problem, revealed by a glance at the wiki's edit history, was that some dedicated revolutionary was making it his life's work to rouse them, presumably with an eye to having them hang me from a lamp-post9 and install some trumped-up populist fanfic author in my place. One couldn't quite avoid wondering if he was callously manipulating the masses so he could usurp my place within fandom. He certainly sounded as if he hated me personally, and in my experience, that's often born of sheer jealousy.

But I'm not one to leap to conclusions, and I'm not entirely heartless. I well know that nobody gets this upset about something unless they have some deep-seated trauma of their own, and judging by the passion with which this specimen was carrying on, his must have been something especially painful. Perhaps he was a redhead,10 or a barista.11 It's hard to say.

Possibly, I reasoned, he was a good person deep down, and hadn't realized the damage he was doing. I emailed him, carefully explaining that a BNF's name is her most valuable asset, and he ought to stop dragging mine mudward.

He emailed back swiftly, so swiftly I began to despise him a little as being one of those people with no lives who hang around online all day. Sadly, his time served on the internet meant he was as suspicious as I, and every bit as capable of off-the-cuff IP analysis. His email explained to me, in condescending tones, that I couldn't possibly be offended, because my IP address indicated I was at an acclaimed eastern campus, and the fees schedule for St. Schol's made it obvious I was a privileged undergrad with nothing in life to complain about, and no right to be offended by anything.12 The world at large could take his word for this, he concluded, because he himself was a member in good standing of the downtrodden masses.

I almost wanted to dig out one of my polyester uniforms of old and go head-to-head with him. Luckily common sense rebooted before I could do something so potentially humiliating.

In the morning Warr1or caught me online, and I explained the problem to him. I'd expected something a bit stalwart by way of reaction from him as well, seeing as how he seemed to be hanging around with PrinceC of late, but he was sadly uncooperative. 'I don't know, I think the man has a point,' he IM'd coldly. 'Fandom has far too many silk-clad spoiled brats living off their parents' money, and too few truly manly men who put their shoulders to the wheel and earn an honest living through the sweat of their own brows.'

I say coldly, but that had ended up sounding a bit heated, actually. Perhaps it was just some kneejerk reaction born of his redneck tendencies, with no real intention to wound. People can't help what they are, after all. Doubtless PrinceC would sort him out.

It obviously wasn't me he was upset at anyway, because he followed up by saying he had something to look into, and then he'd like to meet me for coffee. 'Oh, are you near here?' I asked, not unpleased but not entirely free from apprehension either. Warr1or, bless him, is a bit intense to have around. I wasn't sure I was chuffed to know he was lurking around the campus.

'Looking for an apartment,' he explained. 'I've just accepted a contract to manage a coffeeshop near you for the summer.'

I was astounded, and said so. Somehow I'd always thought these cowboy types brewed their coffee over open fires. When we met late that evening I couldn't help but ask about it.

'It's what I've always done,' he said, as if amazed I didn't know that. 'I've been a java jockey for years. This will be my last contract for a while, though. I've been accepted to go back to school in the fall. Finally have enough saved up, too--because of course I'm paying my own way.' Of course he was. That at least was entirely unsurprising. What would Jab have thought of him otherwise?

He'd inflated his already impressive chest by several manful degrees as he spoke. One couldn't help noticing. Thank heavens Liz had never seen him in the flesh; she'd probably spontaneously combust.

'Business school?' I guessed, I thought shrewdly. 'Grabbing a degree and starting up your own chain of caffeine dens?'

He looked almost embarrassed. 'No. Med school.' As if sensing he'd betrayed the cause, he added quickly, 'Of course I'll choose a hospital that serves the rural poor, Mina. Not some silly clinic for pampered urban metrosexuals.'

'Of course you will,' I agreed. He probably would, too, poor noble goof. Still, even country doctors probably live relatively well. The best brands of cowboy hats and all that. I wisely said nothing about that, of course.

The conversation had driven my own problems entirely from my mind, but Warr1or brought us back to the problem at hand. He had news for me, of the strategically useful sort. My detractors, both the 'Mina is too posh' and 'Mina isn't really posh at all' ones, had been posting at his freshly restored archive, and he'd noticed they were both posting from the self-same IP address. I hadn't two bolshie enemies at all, just one energetic one, trying to work both angles.

Armed with this knowledge, I still found myself stymied. What exactly could I do? I could relieve the mental anguish of watching him in action by killfiling him, but I could not stop him posting. No force on earth, apparently, could do that. All well and good to shield myself from the sight of his vile speculations about my income, but he'd still be out there, commenting and stirring up the rabble like nobody's business. It seemed inevitable that my cover was about to be blown: my years of careful class obfuscation, my cultivated vocabulary, my refusal to take a stance on cake toppings, had all been for nothing.13 I shuddered, went home, and stroked Adage moodily.

It was beginning to get me down. The whole class thing was bound to hit me particularly hard just then, and I'll tell you why. The economy being what it was, St. Schol's had tightened its belts considerably for the summer, and as a result the library was shedding staff like an improperly stored coat shedding fur.

Oh, I don't mean to say the actual librarians were in any danger--I rather had the impression they were beyond the reach of mere budgets and bursars--but the ground was beginning to be littered with a thickish layer of the corpses of discarded graduate assistants and part-timers like myself.
Like so many of my fallen comrades, I'd sobbed into the pink slip for a bit, swallowed my pride, and applied for a summer job in the cafeteria. Hardly a glamorous gig, but it would keep body and soul more or less together for the off-season.

And even with all the willingness in the world to stoop to such appalling depths, I was a touch anxious, as competition for even the most menial campus jobs had become discouragingly thick. I fancied my former employment history gave me a bit of an edge, not that my employment history is such that one wants to mention it often or in good company. Still, I was awaiting the reply from the campus employment office with bated, or possibly even baited, breath. I didn't need the additional stress of this incipient fandom uprising.

After a bit of unrewarding thought, I decided to sleep on the class problem. I did remember to check under the bed, though, because I vaguely recall being told that's where one traditionally goes to look for communists. Under beds in general, I mean, not under mine in particular, although come to think of it, why should they be under beds at all? There doesn't seem much scope for activity down there amongst the dust bunnies, unless perhaps they grab you by the ankles and harangue you about socialized medicine.

In the morning I still hadn't been visited by any sort of cunning plan. I did bang off a moody email to the crimson nuisance, letting him know I was on to him, and that I knew he was faking his back-street cred. That might, I hoped, intimidate him into shutting up.

Of course it didn't. He whipped off a reply insisting that he was the absolutely legitimate voice of the common fan. His trust fund, he gave me to understand, had been small, indeed so small that in order to live in the kind of style to which your better class of undergraduates are accustomed he'd had to supplement his income by working in a strip club. And so there was nothing, he assured me, absolutely nothing he did not know about the exploitation of the worker, and in fact he was uniquely placed to emphasize with the peculiar discriminations faced by women and by sex trade workers. All of which, he concluded, left him fully qualified to school the rest of us, starting with me.

And then, abruptly, I was saved from fandom's induced wrath. The day before I got the letter offering me the slightly sordid but much-needed posish, Josh popped up online just long enough to redirect the masses' attention. I wasn't, he told them brusquely, the opulent target they'd been led to believe, and they were unfairly targeting one of their own. In addition to tossing off brilliant works of fanfiction, he explained, I spent hours labouring to earn my daily crust, just as they did. I can't say his post lacked for eloquence, and it was even more conspicuously awash with proof. He'd scanned and uploaded evidence in the form of signed and dated documentation, nicely embossed with St. Scholastica's seal.

It was the letter confirming I had the summer job.

'The thing I still don't get,' I later confided in Warr1or and PrinceC over a dashedly well-perked coffee, the product no doubt of Warr1or's competent oversight, 'is how Josh managed to get hold of that letter before it had even been delivered to me. He knew before I did. How is that even possible?'
Warr1or looked properly affronted on my behalf. PrinceC, still to all appearances comfortably fronted, just shrugged. 'He said something to me once about his father running a message and flower delivery service,' he said offhandedly. 'Perhaps it was something to do with that.'14

Warr1or looked even more affronted. 'But that's an outrageous abuse of Mina's privacy!' he burst out. It was, too, and I was still smarting a bit re: having the world know I was up to my elbows in honest grease-cutting lather for the summer months. Still, there was no denying it had won me the admiration and support of the red set, hundreds of whom were promising to buy my forthcoming novel the instant it forthcame.

'It just goes to show you,' Warr1or was saying, 'you can't trust anyone who inherits their position, not even just a place in a family business. They just don't have the rigid, firm, upright-straining morals of those of us who strive manfully to make our own way.'

PrinceC stood up, kissing me cheerfully on the cheek before heading off to pay our bill. 'Just as well I'm starting my own publishing business from scratch, then. This way I won't compromise either of you.' He winked, and with a flashback to that night with Lord de Gravina I wondered what sort of compromising he'd had in mind. I mean, it would be a pity to rule it out entirely, really.




3.11 Mina de Malfois and the Class War1

I'm sure this doesn't need saying, but please: do not harass or irritate anyone whose journal gets linked in these comments. Ever, but particularly not with respect to some of these links, because what went on in many cases was painful and not at all funny.

1. Happy May 1st. In the interest of making this, if not relevant, at least topical, here: have some headlines:
Pound Falls for Second Day on 1930s-Style Depression Concern
Tax rise as UK debt hits record
Rudd to target middle-class welfare
etc.
Streets should be running with blood any minute, what?


2. Benjamin Franklin: 'It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.'

3. I'm told by reliable sources that if you stand in front of a mirror and say Will Shetterly's name out loud three times, the ghost of Jessica Mitford appears and gives you a thorough shaking.
Naturally I haven't the raw nerve required to try this experiment myself, but if any of you do, please report back (always assuming you survive the experience).

4. Which probably sounds too silly a thing to have ever happened outside the Minaverse, and yet [personal profile] lizbee was once taken to task in just such fashion for under-appreciating Rose. N.B. for future reference: if you work in a shop, you must be a Rosefan, otherwise you clearly lack self-esteem.

5. Lest you doubt the presence within fandom of aspirational descendents of millworkers: But, well, if that's what you think, then I accept that as I am both "superficially educated" and an "aspiring daughter of the urban millworker classes" I have to bow to your superior knowledge in such matters. One moral of this story: we descendants of millworkers (more or less literally, in my case, though unlike Mina I'm not a particularly aspirant sample) are right here among you, reading your journals.

6. This is another of those things that sounds completely impossible in the real world, doesn't it? And yet.

7. To the best of my knowledge, there is no FanRecordwiki, though there is a FanHistorywiki.

8. Now I have Billy Bragg's version of the Internationale stuck in my head (not that that's a bad thing; I love him). What, you don't know the Internationale?
Stand up, all victims of oppression,
For the tyrants fear your might!
Don't cling so hard to your possessions,
For you have nothing if you have no rights!
Let racist ignorance be ended,
For respect makes the empires fall!
Freedom is merely privilege extended,
Unless enjoyed by one and all.
So come brothers and sisters,
For the struggle carries on.
The Internationale,
Unites the world in song.


9. All this talk of Communists, soap-boxes, and lamp-post hangings was, fairly obviously, inspired by P.G. Wodehouse.

10. I blame the BBC News for introducing this meme into fandom: Is gingerism as bad as racism?.

11. This wank report doesn't do it justice, but to recap: classism is one of the many, many, many things that can be used to derail discussions of racism.

12. Mina and her accuser are both making some pretty stupid assumptions about class.

13. Cake toppings are more loaded than you'd think. Really.

14. Josh's father, in case you haven't been following this saga, isn't human.

15. Of course, this whole poke at online classism arguments has an extremely unfunny underpinning, of which I'm sure you're probably all aware; during RaceFail09, class was repeatedly used as a derailing tactic. In case you aren't familiar with what I mean by 'derailing,' this guide to Derailing for Dummies spells it out.

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