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09 May 2009: Without the help of [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.

[personal profile] temaris has a podcast of Mina de Malfois and the Young Blood here.

You know, I’ve managed to avoid most anime fandoms, because what with the endless manga series and the imported DVDs and the re-released subtitled DVDs and so forth, I simply can’t aff--I mean, I can’t be bothered. Not to mention, there’s no part of my anatomy I’d care to squeeze into any kind of sailor suit or schoolgirl uniform and display for public amusement. The public, I put it to you, is under enough varied and sundry stress without that.

My only regret in this direction is that a lot of the young fans seem drawn to anime. I’m not sure what the attraction is based on. Possibly the pictures cut down on the endless arguments that text-only fandoms are so sadly prone to over whether or not Character A is pretty. Or maybe the endless dub vs. sub wars are a natural outlet for all that pent-up youthful aggression that doesn’t always find a convenient battlefield to release itself on. I couldn’t say. What I can say, though, is that I’ve felt more than one passing pang of regret that I’m missing out on this obvious opportunity to converse meaningfully with younger fans, displaying my wit and experience to natural advantage while they hover round collecting the pearls of wisdom that drop from my keyboard. It seemed a wasted opportunity.

And then several of my relatives had suddenly shown a hitherto unrevealed depth of affection for me, and near my birthday (unable, apparently, to remember the exact date, but we’ll pass over that in stony silence) had given me a gaming system and a couple of new releases. It was a bit the equivalent of having ye old family pony up and treat me to some crack, and for a while there, on about my second or third sleepless night, I wondered whether maybe what the gaming industry needed were stricter regulations and to be forced to fund a few twelve-step programs for us hapless users, but it was definitely a youthful kind of crack, if you follow me. I felt plugged in to the ethos of the era.

At about this juncture, Arc mentioned that the archive was going to expand.

I put it to her now that the proposed expansion ought to include a Sanguinity wing.

‘What’s Sanguinity?’ she asked.1

Sanguinity,’ I informed her, concealing my amazement that she had never heard of it, ‘is a multi-layered non-narrative text containing and yet questioning all the tropes of vampire, and incidentally angel, literature, in a smooth, coy retelling which demonstrates conclusively the death of the author by allowing the reader, or ‘player,’ to re-enact the demise repeatedly.’2

‘Player?’ she shot back, I fancy a trifle suspiciously. It’s a little disconcerting, the way Arc manages to seize on the one thing you’re trying to talk her around, no matter how carefully you bury the evidence in a flood of information. ‘Is this a video game?’

‘Yes,’ I admitted, although really, I thought that was doing it a disservice. Kind of dismissive, just calling it a videogame, but I let it slide. I suppose Arc can’t help showing her age and her generally hidebound approach to life.

‘Penn’d Passion doesn’t host video game fiction,’ she said.

She needed, I could see, convincing. I rallied round with the arguments. ‘Then it’s about time it did,’ I typed scathingly. ‘We need a shot of new blood. Including Sanguinity fanfiction will attract a different fandom demographic, and shake us up a bit.’

There was a bit of a pause. I imagine she was pondering the brilliance of my arguments, and finding them thoroughly of the shiny. ‘I’ll look into it,’ she said.

A couple of days later she got back to me. ‘If you’re interested in encouraging the younger element of fandom,’ she wrote, ‘perhaps you’d consider taking a position on the editorial board of the newly created ‘Dread Lane’ section at the archive.’

I sat up straighter in my chair. ‘Dread Lane’ is one of the locations in Sanguinity, so clearly she’d been swayed by my description. I didn’t rub it in, though. And these editorial boards, they’re the thing, what?

You see, every area of Arc’s fanfiction archive, ‘Penn’d Passions,’ has its own board of six volunteers--three canon editors, and three straight-up grammar-and-spelling editors of the editor type, for a total, as I’ve said, of six. In point of fact, most standing armies are a bit lax from an organizational standpoint compared to this archive. Most armies are probably a sight easier to get into, too.

Before a fic can be uploaded to the archive it gets fine-toothed by one canon editor and then by one rigid grammarian with an aptitude for spelling, and, as you can imagine, the vast majority of submitted fanfiction gets shot back to its author before she’s even finished her Celebratory Dance of Accomplishment. If they send you a list of corrections and suggestions twice the length of the fic you submitted, it’s a sign they like you and wish you to resubmit. If they send you a tersely worded, ‘We do not think your fanfiction is suitable for Penn’d Passion,’ then you might as well get on with flinging yourself out a high window if having the thing hosted at PP was one of your particular goals in life.

But for some unfathomable reason, the volunteers filling these editorial positions are highly thought of in fandom. You’d think, wouldn’t you, that any group of people known far and wide to spend their spare time dealing crushing blows to the egos of the populace would be vigorously and routinely denounced, but it seems not to happen all that often. I don’t claim that somewhere in the ether there mightn’t be a few scorned authors constructing Editorial Board Voodoo Dolls, but if they do, they do so in a cloistered silence, because having it get out that you wailed and gnashed your teeth over a PP rejection muddens your name far worse than the rejection itself.

There is, in short, something statesmanlike about these editorial boards. Taking my place firmly in amongst them would put the seal on the thing: it would be the equivalent of a banner ad proclaiming that I was not merely a creative force, but a steady, respectable, serious-minded fan.

‘I love to shape young minds,’ I shot back eagerly. ‘In fact, I have quite firm ideas of my own about the Sanguinity canon...’

‘The canon editor positions are filled,’ she responded brusquely, ‘but there’s one place left for a good text editor, and your structure and spelling are very sound.’

It was a slight blow--I mean, the canon editor gig contained more real scope for guiding the fandom--but still, this got me in on the ground floor of a newish fandom, dispensing wisdom to and fro, basking in the innocent wide-eyed admiration of the young. I accepted.

Naturally once my appointment had been confirmed I made a discreet, tasteful announcement in my livejournal, knowing as I did so that the buzzing hive of internet fandom would disperse the good news far and wide, enabling all true Sanguinity fans to find me. I awaited a warm welcome.

‘You have three hundred new messages,’ my computer informed me chirpily when I got home from my next shift, which almost made up for being grease-spattered and downtrodden. I took a longish shower, lingered for a while over my choice of scent--I needed something that suggested wisdom and strict adherence to conventional English, but also approachability, kindness, and, in accordance with Sanguinity canon, the base notes had to be vampiric--and rolled the chair up to the keyboard.

I know fandom sometimes seems to think as with a single mind; I’ve seen the unkind remark that it thinks but with a single brain cell, and while I wouldn’t go that far, there is a certain sheeplike collectivity about them on occasion. Fads sweep through them like viral outbreaks of yore. But even, as I’ve said, knowing this in advance, it was disconcerting to find that two hundred and ninety-nine people had shown fit to ask me, in the space of a day, the same question. It was as if nothing could proceed until the entrails had been consulted and this vital issue put to rest. The madding crowd crowded maddeningly and awaited my answer to that eternal question, ‘Do you ship PB/P or PB/J?’3

I suppose a word or two of explanation is in order here, for those of you who, like Arc, have missed out on the breathless excitement that is Sanguinity. Perhaps you too were raised in the wilds of Canada, and having spent your youth locked in combat with a variety of toothed and antlered wildlife are now left desirous of a calm, restful life, free from the excitement afforded by this best of videogames. Perhaps you simply haven’t heard of it. At any rate, the facts are these. Sanguinity players who wish to play for the light, or heroic, side, as the game manufacturers seem to have assumed most folk will want to do, have an immediate choice of three main characters: PrincessB, an unconvincingly well-muscled representative of the deposed ruling class; Pierce, her handsome and athletic third cousin twice removed; and Jab, his best friend from university or something. (I admit to having skimmed through the Pierce and Jab backstory at a brisk pace.)

Players who, wishing to subvert the imposed morality of the game, prefer to play one of the hierarchy of vampires, must shell out for upgrades and add-ons. I don’t mind telling you that my own newfound devotion4 to Lord Henri Antoine Silvestre de Gravina made it touch-and-go whether I’d be able to meet next month’s rent, but such are the sacrifices the devout shoulder willingly.

A dispute, or perhaps a schism, had, I gathered from the messages, arisen within the newly hatched fandom before its wings had even dried. Some of those commenting had helpfully left links to other sites where the factions had gathered to succour their wounds with like-minded comrades whilst heaping abuse on the opposite ship. When I tell you that communities had been formed, blacklists assembled, and friendships dissolved, all within the fortnight since the game’s release, you’ll understand the degree to which the fever had gripped these youngsters.

This, as I said, took up two hundred and ninety-nine of my messages. The three hundredth was from someone calling himself Warr1or, and it ran thusly: ‘If you turn out to be one of those cocksuckers who ship P/J, you’ll regret it. I oppose all who dare besmirch noble military men such as Pierce and Jab with their disgusting slash. Malfois Estate will burn if you oppose me! I’ll track you down!’5

All in all, I felt, a slightly disquieting turn of events.

1. Sanguinity stands for every game, ever, and also for all vampire fantasy. Weirdly, when I added "sanguinity" to [personal profile] mina_de_malfois’s interests list, I saw she wasn’t the only person who listed it, so sanguinity must be a real thing. I have no idea what, though. A book? A game?

2. The "death of the author" defence for writing wildly OOC Harry Potter fic makes the rounds periodically. In a larger sense, the use of bullshit, couched in litcrit terminology, to defend idiocy seems to be a cross-fandom thing.

3. The PB/J and PB/P shippers stand for all shippers, everywhere.

4. As fans sometimes do, Mina has focussed on the "villain" of the game instead of its protagonists, because he is aristocratic and she envies wealth.

5. Warr1or is your typical rabid anti-slasher, though like many rabid anti-slashers, Warr1or secretly likes slash A LOT, and this is a source of deep personal shame and inner conflict.
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