Vox Madly Popular

August 4, 2007

Mina de Malfois and the Charitable Impulse

Filed under: fandom — minademalfois @ 7:40 pm

Disclaimer: Mina de Malfois is an original fictional creation. These stories and characters are the sole property of the author, but she lends them out for fanfic and fanart. A list of Mina de Malfois/Sanguinity things by other people can be found here. 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. The hopelessly confused may wish to consult the footnotes; the hopelessly addicted may have recourse to fanon.

There are occasions, you know, when even the most beloved of fanfiction authors is forced to admit that the world, and more particularly, fandom, can be a cold, cruel place. Take, for instance, the initial response to my recent brilliant plan to use my online popularity to raise a few funds for a charitable cause. I’d long thought that, really, it was time I did something in that line. I mean, charity begins at one’s homepage, after all, and besides, a pack of the Mean Girls of fandom were on my tail, and a well-publicized kindness on my part should bloody well put a cork in them.

I picked a literacy foundation as my target charity, because really, who doesn’t need more readers. And now that the world at large could reach me, care of old Arc’s P.O. Box, the thing was perfectly simple. I made a few posts hither and yon, explaining the scheme, and urging each member of my devoted readership to send one dollar in cash. In a month’s time, I promised, I’d write a fic, the contents to be determined from the letters of the donors.

I’ll tell you one thing: devotion isn’t what it used to be. Three weeks later, I’d only raised…well, I don’t even want to write it down, honestly. A damned paltry amount, though. I couldn’t, quite frankly, afford to top up the donation, funds being rather tight right that instant. But I couldn’t very well admit publicly that so few fans had sent in their dollars, could I? It’d be like inviting fandom at large to mock me as a has-been, unable to motivate the masses any longer. If I couldn’t even raise a triple-digit donation, I was over. I was in a real bind, and to make matters worse, I couldn’t see my way just then to asking Archivist12 for her advice.

Things were a bit cool between us at that juncture. The friend I’d thought firmly in my bosom had crept round to slip the old stiletto in my back. I’d posted a somewhat controversial piece of fanfiction, you see, and online opinion was pretty firmly divided between those who recognized my stylistic brilliance and subtle evocation of a lush, decadent atmosphere, and those who felt I ought to be locked up for the public good. And right at the height of the thing I’d had a message from Arc, suggesting maybe my fic was a bit too much the thing for her archive. It stung more than a little bit, that. Sharper than a serpent’s tooth is an ungrateful archivist, what?

‘My fic is causing people to question their pre-conceived notions of familial intimacy and power imbalances,’ I’d explained, but Arc had seemingly stoppeth her ears to reason.

‘Your fic is causing people to question whether you should be in psychiatric care or police custody,’ she’d written.

I’d been maintaining a chill silence since that remark, so I couldn’t very well go running to her for advice now. We fanfiction authors have our dignity to uphold. If she was going to be like that, well then, so was I.

But Arc isn’t the only one in our immediate circle capable of cleverness, after all. I pride myself on being able to handle online public opinion pretty damned deftly when required. I mulled it over all through my next shift at work–believe me, my current post is not one that requires or deserves my full attention–and hit on the perfect solution.

There’s nothing fandom appreciates more than a bit of real-life drama. What I’d give them would keep them buzzing for months. I’d tell them I’d been robbed, you see, and the box containing all their envelopes had been stolen.

And you can wipe that shocked look off your face right this instant, because of course I was still going to donate the actual funds that had already been raised to the charity–I’d just say it was from me personally. The size of the thing wouldn’t matter as much, then; a double-digit sum looked slightly more generous if it was from a single donor, although I did momentarily regret having played up my reputation as the offspring of the crème of the upper class, as it might have misled a few people into thinking I was pretty well-off. Still, I reasoned, a lot of the aristocracy are hard up in these degenerate times, and for all anyone knew, all my available cash went into maintaining the Malfois Estate, right? So that was okay.

You wouldn’t believe the level of cynical self-interest that permeates fandom these days. It rocked me to the core, the sheer cheek of the response I got to my tale of robbery and woe. You see, when I posted the story online, I made sure to tell them that I’d dig deep into my own pockets and make a donation, equal to what had been stolen, in the interest of preserving the good name of our fandom and my reputation in their eyes; I wouldn’t, I told them, have wanted a single fangirl to regret having sent in her cash. When I said that everyone who’d made a donation could comment, ‘just to make sure my donation covers the amount that was stolen,’ I expected most of them wouldn’t bother, but would just trust me to come up with some largish sum. I mean, the point of charity is to help other people, not to look for thanks or recognition, and I expected the fangirls to acknowledge that, which just goes to show that in some ways my sweetly trusting nature isn’t suited to the vulgarity of online fandom.

When I got home from work the next day–first having peeled off my hated uniform, dropping it in a heap just inside the door, and then having had a good long soak in the tub–I checked my messages, and do you know, there were over a thousand comments from people claiming to have sent in a dollar because they loved my work. What a pack of little liars! It’s enough to destroy your faith in humanity, I swear. A lot of my readers are mere teenage girls, and I have to say, if people that young are capable of that level of deceit and self-interest, the world looks to be turning into a pretty sordid place.

But what could I do? I couldn’t call them out, though my fingers itched to type something absolutely scathing about the base sort of people who’d lie just to make themselves look good in the comments section of my livejournal. After all, if the box of envelopes had really been stolen, I couldn’t be expected to know who had sent what, and if I accidentally accused someone who had donated, this whole mess would just escalate further.

There was nothing for it: I was going to have to call Arc. She’s got a knack for sorting out these sorts of tangles. Thing was, I hadn’t heard from her since our disagreement, but then, Arc was never wildly communicative. I couldn’t quite tell if she was not speaking to me, or just not speaking to me, if you see what I mean. I decided to test the waters with a spot of casual conversation.

I’d noticed before now that Arc stuck pretty consistently to British spelling–always kept the u in colour, and all that–so I seized on that now as a way of opening up the old channels of communication.

‘Your spelling always stands up to Britpicking,’ I told her. ‘Maybe you could beta my next piece.’ You couldn’t do much fairer than that when it comes to warm overtures, could you? I mean, that’s pretty damned high praise coming from me, a person fandom often speculates is British.

‘That’s because I grew up in Canada,’ came back her reply. I mean to say, what? I don’t mind admitting my heart throbbed with sympathy. Talk about having a provincial background–good gods, poor Arc. No wonder she’d never made it to BNF status. And here I’d been practically snubbing her; I felt awful about it. I vowed privately not only to make it up with her, but to positively take her under my wing from here on in. I regarded it as a sort of ‘White Man’s Burden,’ really, to help her navigate the rocky shoals of online fandom. I would be all gracious condescension from here on in, you could count on that.

So anyway, I worked my way round to explaining to Arc what had happened. I had to start at the beginning, and take her right through, because the thing with Arc is, she doesn’t really seem to follow fandom gossip much. It’s shocking, really, that the owner and maintainer of ‘Penn’d Passion’ could be so far out of the loop, but there you are. So I explained and explained and explained, typing until my wrists ached, and it was a bit like messaging a black hole, really, because she wasn’t making any response. I couldn’t tell if she’d wandered away from her computer or been eaten by a grizzly or what, and I was bracing myself to be really direct and come right out and ask for help, when finally she responded.

‘Do nothing,’ she wrote. ‘Go offline until next week. Will clear this up in your absence.’

It was beyond difficult, staying offline all that time. I wouldn’t have done it for anyone else but Arc, and it pained me to do it even for her, but I trusted her down to the core, and really, she’d been awfully good offering to help when we hadn’t spoken for three weeks. It was ghastly, though. The thing is, I go online to escape from my real life, which, just between you and me, isn’t as thoroughly satisfactory as you might expect. I know it’s hard to believe, but my mundane life is…well, depressingly mundane. And as the days crept by, I got more and more worried about what might be going on in my absence.

When the week was up I logged in breathlessly and there, right there on the main page of ‘Penn’d Passion,’ was a scanned copy of a receipt from the literacy people, acknowledging a donation from Mina de Malfois of two thousand dollars.

Well. I nearly fell off my chair. I reeled around for a while in pure astonishment, and then pulled it together long enough to look up the number in the phone book and call the literacy group. The woman who answered politely confirmed that yes, the donation really had been made. Well.

There weren’t words enough for my gratitude, really. Some sort of large gesture seemed indicated, you know?

‘Arc,’ I messaged her, ‘I’ve been thinking it over, and it seems to me you should just delete that story–you know, the really controversial one?–from the archive.’

‘I already have,’ she wrote. ‘Might I suggest that your thanks-for-the-donations fic should be some nice, light, all-ages-suitable genfic. I think it’s what your donors would prefer.’

I don’t usually go for writing fluff, you know, but just this once I saw her point.

May 1, 2007

Mina de Malfois and the Snailmail Affair

Filed under: fandom — minademalfois @ 5:59 pm

Disclaimer: Mina de Malfois is an original fictional creation, most often found here. These stories and characters are the sole property of the author, but she lends them out for fanfic and fanart. A list of Mina de Malfois/Sanguinity things by other people can be found here. 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.
The hopelessly confused may wish to consult the footnotes; the hopelessly addicted may enjoy the podcast by Temaris.

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’ 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, it 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.

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