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[I love you all. Am exhausted--not from this, from other stuff. Peel me a grape, someone, please.]

There was a faint sound of sobbing permeating Malfois Manor these days. Stasia was, as she'd tearfully inform anyone who stood still long enough, in pain. Her tragically unrequited affections for Rabbit, and Rabbit's recent refusal to categorically state that she no longer cared for 'Jen,' had, I'd been repeatedly told, 'broken' Stasia's soul. I empathized with this rather more than one might expect, recent events on the Josh/Jen horizon having pretty much broken, if not my soul, several sections of my brain.

The whole topic made me deeply uncomfortable, though, and Stasia's being a constant reminder of it was functioning as yet one more factor driving me away from Sanguinity fandom. Arc, I'd decided, had been as usual quite right; I needed to spend some time in another corner of fandom, far from my usual haunts. Mrs.Sev's coffeeshop meetup would be just the thing. Although, weirdly, I'd had an email from Mrs.Sev letting me know that she'd changed her username. No longer content to be 'Lily,' now she was going by 'Lilybella' for some reason. I'd have to try to remember that.

When I reached the coffeeshop Mrs.Sev--er, Lilybella--and co. had already staked out one corner. I headed over to join them. Lilybella looked well, and also kind of sparkling--she'd evidently gotten into the glitter makeup in a big way, as her skin and hair glinted and gleamed and generally twinkled in the light. Darla was the only other person there I recognized, and I was mildly surprised to see her there, as I'd never heard her claim to be a particular fan of the Dark Schoolmaster, and heaven knows his fans aren't usually reluctant to proclaim their devotion. Perhaps she was a recent convert. Or maybe, like me, she was just bored with her current interests and was seeking something new.

'Now that Mina's here,' Mrs.--oops, Lilybella said--'I have an announcement to make. As you know, there are two major items on our agenda today.' I hadn't known, actually, but I nodded intelligently anyway. 'This isn't in regards to either of those; it's just something personal that I wanted to share with those of you who are my particular friends.' I cringed inwardly. I was rapidly reaching a state of mind in which other fans' personal lives were high up on my list of abhorrent things I wished to avoid. Honestly, I'd be hard put to name a 'personal revelation' in recent months that I wouldn't have been far happier seeing shrouded in continued mystery. People need, in my estimation, to stop revealing things. Either that, or some sort of spoiler warning system regarding people's private lives needs to be instituted, so those of us who'd rather not know needn't.

Lilybella--aha!--was looking solemn. 'I know this will be deeply shocking and upsetting for most of you,' she said, and I swear I nearly jumped to my feet and bolted from the building. I could feel the tension and embarrassment-squick building in the air, like an electrical charge. 'It's about the Dark Schoolmaster and I,' she went on sadly. 'We...we've decided to try conducting our relationship in a new way.' You could, I swear, hear the ellipses. 'We've talked it over, and we've realized that perhaps...perhaps an open relationship would be the best way for each of us to heal from the negative messages about intimacy that society has inflicted on us. We...we've decided to see other people.' Everyone else gasped in shock, and I concentrated hard on not smiling. I mean, I try to be sympathetic and all, but that only goes so far, and I'm not quite sure open relationships on the Astral Plane are anything I actually care about, when all is said and done. Still, I reminded myself sternly, this was obviously meaningful to her, so I had some sort of duty to refrain from smirkage, and to be, well, supportive and all that.

After what looked to be a gratifying few minutes bravely, and with trembling lower lip, reassuring her supporters that this was all for the best, really, Lily called the meeting to order, and reminded us that we were there to discuss two items of importance to fans of 'our Beloved Dark Schoolmaster': the upcoming publication of Unlocking the Tortured Tutor, and the major new theory sweeping the fandom, which had implications, she assured us, for the proposed interfandom merger. None of this made much sense to me, so I sat back and let myself be carried along by the conversational currents.

And very currenty they were, too. Beginning with the second item first, Lilybella kindly recapped said theory. I was delighted to learn, in the sense of being amused and entertained by a fresh piece of fannish lunacy, that the Dark Schoolmaster's devotees had decided to set aside canon entirely, and were refusing to believe the whole 'death' thing that had happened in book seven. They'd drawn up a list of evidence from the entire series to support their newfound yet deeply held belief that their beloved DSM had been a vampire all along--why the author had chosen never to state this, either within the text or in any number of interviews, was a minor quibble they didn't deign to waste time pondering. No, the evidence was clear: their b. DSM wore a cloak, was frequently depicted at night, and had the whole 'dark' thing going on adjectivally, so obviously he was vampiric, and it followed logically (according to their definition of logic) that therefore he couldn't be dead. Obviously he was undead. My head spun slightly, as one might well imagine it would.

'And therefore,' Darla said, when Lilybella had given her the nod, 'we in the Greater Vampiric fandom wish to take this opportunity to welcome the fans of the Tortured Tutor, and to extend a formal invitation to you to join us as an officially listed Vampiric group.' There was applause, which I joined in gleefully, and then there was a vote by show of hands. The group achieved near-unanimity on joining the vampire people; two stubborn holdouts, who clung to a kind of angelic heterodoxy, politely abstained. Lilybella made a brief speech.

'You are witnessing the birth of an entirely new, blended fandom,' she said importantly, 'drawing on the best elements of several sources, and providing us all with new opportunities for fannish activity and personal growth.' Was I imagining it, or was she blushing slightly? I mean, by any standard that speech was worth blushing over, and I personally would have sooner died a thousand slow deaths than to have uttered a single word of such solemn lunacy, but I'd not have thought those in the throes of the thing were capable of being embarrassed by it, really. 'It's a sort of metafandom, bringing forth the common threads that bind us.' Everyone made appreciative noises, so I tried to as well.

There'd been a lot of people coming and going in the background--it was a coffeeshop, after all, however much it might be beginning to feel like a private ward in a particularly creative asylum--but honestly, I'd been too absorbed in the conversation to pay attention. It, not exactly pains me to admit, but certainly causes me to flinch a tad whilst admitting, that I was having fun. I totally get why social anthropologists must love their jobs. Figuring out a group's norms and specialized language is enormous fun, and unlike the s. anthropologists, I didn't have to pretend to distance. On the contrary, fandom groups are best enjoyed whilst fully immersed and carried along merrily by the prevailing drift. So I didn't immediately notice the stranger that entered the room until she was right at our table, standing behind an empty chair. She shook her obviously-dyed brown hair--why, I wondered briefly, would anyone dye their hair a shade of Uninteresting Brown?--and a shower of white and transparent-ish glitter cascaded to the floor and all over the rest of her. My immediate impression was that she'd been getting up close and intimate with the craft supplies, though I couldn't begin to guess why. 'Hi, everyone,' she said, showily brushing the heaps of glitter from her shoulders. Before anyone else had a chance to answer, Lily had lept to her feet, teeth bared in an actual snarl.

'You bitch,' she spat, and I blinked in perplexity at the venom in her voice. 'How dare you?' And to my utter astonishment and partial glee, she threw half a cup of lukewarm coffee straight into the other woman's face, no doubt made bold by the knowledge that refills were free. The stranger glared back drippily.

'And how are things at home, Mrs.Sev?' she sneered. 'No problems between the devoted, I'm sure.' She eyed Lily's own glitter meaningfully, and Lily hesitated, looking caught out.

I took advantage of the general confusion to lean close to Darla. 'What, exactly, is going on?' I whispered pleadingly, and she hissed back that she'd tell me later. The strange woman stomped off to the bathroom to mop up, muttering imprecations to the effect that we'd better not vote on the Guide before she got back, and a babble of embarrassed smalltalk flooded in to carry us past the moment.

When all were present once again, and more or less dry, Lily calmly regained control of the group and moved swiftly on to the second item on the agenda. As we all knew, she reminded us, and once again I seemed to be the only one there who didn't, Evan Darkerest's definitive online guide to the Tortured Tutor series, Unlocking the Tortured Tutor, was being published in print format. I sat up, interested. I hadn't known that, although of course I was familiar with the website, and had even archived my own Tortured Tutor essay there. 'I didn't know that,' I exclaimed. 'How wonderful for him.' Lily beamed at me, and agreed that yes, it was quite wonderful. The opening chapter, she mentioned in an aside, was available online for free download, and she urged me to check it out at the earliest possible opportunity.

'But is he allowed to publish it?' I mused out loud, and the rest of the table fell silent, giving me looks ranging from startled to appalled. This was, I saw at once, a social faux pas amongst their set. 'I mean, you know...does the author support him?' I asked, trying to amend my stance.

'That doesn't matter,' the glittery stranger pointed out, and they all agreed with her, though Lily did so with a slightly mutinous expression on her face. 'All that matters is that his book is sufficiently transformative of the original series.' I nodded, seeing how that probably made sense.

'So what we want to do,' Lily said, firmly wrestling control back into her own hands, 'is to hold a vote now on pledging our support to Evan, so that we can assure him that no matter what some unsympathetic fans are saying, we stand behind his right to publish his book one hundred percent.'

It made sense that the Tortured Tutor fans would come out strongly in favour of the right to publish transformative works, I supposed, since even a casual observer can't help but notice that the entire Tortured Tutor series itself is, let's face it, heavily and obviously based on that Other Fantasy Series. Still, I wanted a bit more certainty about what I was being asked to support, here. After all, I hadn't had a chance to personally assess the thing.

'Are you sure it's, you know, transformed enough?' I asked Lily quietly.

'Oh, yes,' she assured me. 'It's very transformed. If you download his first chapter, and compare it to the first chapter of Book One, you'll see what I mean immediately.'

'Definitely a transformative work,' someone else chimed in, and everyone nodded.

'And it's a serious work, with scholarly merit,' the glittery stranger told me helpfully. 'He's only completed one book so far, but I've heard he intends to do seven in all.'

'How original,' I said wryly, but my wryth went unnoticed.

'All in favour of our coming out in support of Evan?' Lily asked, and everyone, myself included, raised their hands. I felt a slight sense of trepidation as I watched my name and aye being recorded in the official minutes, but after all, they had sounded sure about the transformed part, so it was bound to be all right, wasn't it?
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