The MsScribe Story: An Unauthorized Fandom Biography
|Title:||The MsScribe Story: An Unauthorized Fandom Biography|
|Date(s):||June 15, 2006|
|External Links:||table of contents|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
The MsScribe Story is a multi-chaptered exposé of the fan Msscribe's behavior during her tenure in the Harry Potter fandom, where she lied in several ways to become a Big Name Fan (BNF). The work was written by the pseudonymous Charlotte Lennox and originally posted to the bad penny community on JournalFen in chapters over the course of several days starting June 15, 2006. The exposé was thoroughly researched and incorporated evidence collected by many fans, not just the author of the work.
The document reveals that Msscribe, an HP fan previously in good standing, used sockpuppets and was a habitual liar. Through her many pseudonyms, she was a direct instigator of or key participant in a significant percentage of the drama within HP fandom during the period 2003-2004, especially among het shipper communities. Charlotte Lennox speculates that she was motivated by a desire to become friends with HP BNFs (a goal she achieved), "But I think the real driver for her was her love for verbal combat, her zest for blood in the online water." The BNFs in question were a group of friends in 2002-2003 sometimes referred to as the "inner circle" and included Cassandra Claire, Ivy Blossom, Heidi8, and Aja.
Charlotte Lennox drew on many different types of evidence to tell her story: IP addresses; screencaps of websites, posts, and comment threads; inconsistencies in the fangirl socks' backstories; the timing of various posts and account creation; and an analysis of probable motives.
Soon after Msscribe started posting fanfic to Fiction Alley in December 2002, she started creating sockpuppets:
- Fangirl socks included Clarabella21, Sarahkjames, and Davis_517, who all doted on Msscribe. Clarabella was later retconned as Msscribe's live-in nanny and could therefore "confirm" statements Msscribe made about her offline life.
- Troll socks (usually Christian) included Fermatojam, Killiganhashope, Pottersginny, Watchful_Entity, Fandom_Scruples, Danitoba47, and various anonymous commenters.
- Other socks included Sporkify; karma_bitch; and HGempress, the creator of the parody community gt_hidden_room.
- March 2003: Fermatojam's Big Name Sinners list
- August 2003: Watchful_entity
- January 2004: Fandom_Scruples probably got the most widespread attention.
To my astonishment, no one in Msscribe's circle seems to have found this particularly shocking or unbelievable. They seemed to think that it was perfectly conceivable that a frothing racist religious nut of Pottersginny's ilk might fit in perfectly well in a Harry Potter fanfiction community. Apparently the GTers had isolated themselves from the fandom so well that people would believe anything of them.
Charlotte Lennox details how many HP fans were affected by Msscribe's activities. Individual fans who were involved in Msscribe-generated wanks didn't always enjoy them as much as Msscribe did. Of particular note is Gryffindor Tower, which had its reputation dragged through the mud because everyone believed that they supported Fermatojam and Pottersginny. In March 2005, Charitywank, escalated by Msscribe and her suspected anonymous troll sock, descended into vicious attacks on a scale never before seen on Fandom Wank. Charitywank lives on in infamy.
Msscribe also made false claims about herself that generated sympathy among her friends and sometimes provided her with an alibi:
- She was hospitalized for an acute condition in March 2003.
- Fermatojam hacked into her computer, and she reported him to the police and got him arrested. (The "arrested" bit was apparently added later.)
- She lost her job because of fandom (blamed on GT mods).
Meanwhile, Angua9 and Dianora (mods at the Sugar Quill archive) and the Gryffindor Tower mods gathered IP addresses and figured out that Msscribe was a puppeteer. Initially, GT accepted Msscribe's claim that both Clarabella and Fermatojam were real, that Clarabella was the sockpuppeteer and had later "hacked" into Fermatojam's account, and that the IPs matched because Clarabella lived with Msscribe; further investigation disproved this version of events. But GT was not believed when they posted their discoveries in June 2003. In March/April 2004, Angua sent a long email to Heidi with detailed evidence, but she wasn't believed either. Charlotte notes that when GT closed later in the year for unrelated reasons, the IP evidence from the GT site was lost.
The MsScribe Story was read and linked widely in LiveJournal fan communities during June and July of 2006. It spread beyond HP fandom and was even noticed by non-fannish sites. The story was so long, included so many pieces of evidence, and referenced so many different HP events and fans (not just the sockpuppets) that many fans remarked that they were hopelessly confused. However, as a narrative, The MsScribe Story was well written and made for an entertaining read. People who were not personally affected by the revelations were astonished and fascinated by the antics of Msscribe. Joking comments were made about the ratio of sockpuppets to real people in the Harry Potter fandom.
The MsScribe Story is now almost universally considered highly credible, but initially there were some skeptics. At the time, Msscribe still had many friends in fandom, and some people pointed to inaccuracies or lack of definitive evidence for some of Charlotte's claims. Furthermore, Msscribe had been accused of sockpuppetry before, but the accusers had not been believed, so it was thought that someone was simply rehashing old wank. However, the wide dissemination of the story allowed various individuals to come forward with further evidence, and many readers reported back that they had been able to independently verify many of the claims.
Msscribe's actions, the fanwork itself, the identity of the author (still unknown), and related issues were discussed all over Livejournal. For examples, see oulangi's Link Spam (posted June 18th, 2006) and metafandom's June 21, 2006 links.
Four addendums were posted, detailing additional information that had surfaced and the reactions of the key players in the drama. Meanwhile, Msscribe confessed to nothing publicly and maintained radio silence until the following year, when she posted and then deleted a defense and finally an apology. Msscribe still maintained that Clarabella was a real person even in her final apology, but by this time she had admitted to a few of the other sockpuppets.
Many people who had been friends with Msscribe were very upset. The revelations about Msscribe also seemed to create a domino effect, as the behavior and motives of other people were called into question. Meanwhile, many apologized to the much maligned Gryffindor Tower crew.
With The Cassandra Claire Plagiarism Debacle , posted in August to bad penny, added to the mix, many readers outside of the fandom concluded that HP fandom was ridiculously wanky. However, some HP fans noted that their corners of the fandom had been unaffected by Msscribe's antics. Victoria P wrote:
- It's really easy to talk about how batshit insane HP fandom is - and again, in some segments it is - but I've been in the fandom - if it can be called *one* fandom - for three years now, and while I've seen some nastiness and some wank directly, it's no more so than any of the other fandoms I've been in, and considering XMM, BtVS, and SV, I'd say it's been considerably less at this end of the fandom.
Even fans reading the most affected ships didn't necessarily notice the people involved, because of HP's huge size:
- [...] before last week I had no idea who MsScribe was nor recognized the pseud, and I have been in HP fandom for years now. I mean, I noticed some of the wanks mentioned peripherally, e.g. that Gryffindor Tower disappeared because I sometimes read Harry/Ginny, but I don't follow f_w and most of the time not even metafandom, so I'm not usually aware of the kerfuffle of the day. Which might not be a bad thing to make my fandom experience more pleasant, but sometimes makes me feel like I'm in some other fandom entirely.
These pages include brief descriptions and links to each chapter and their comments.
- The Background
- Msscribe Enters the Fandom
- Msscribe Conquers All
- Msscribe Suffers a Setback
- Msscribe Battles Gryffindor Tower
- Msscribe in the Aftermath
- Msscribe Settles In for the Long Haul
- Msscribe Survives Challenges
- Msscribe Leaves the Fandom
- Msscribe Returns
- The Afterwords
- Timeline of Events posted by Charlotte Lennox
- The Ms. Scribe Story summarized on the Fandom Wank wiki
- The 10 best tales of online drama from 10 years of Fandom_Wank by Aja Romano at The Daily Dot, posted March 11, 2013; WebCite
- From Chapter Ten - Msscribe Returns: "The first draft was a mere narrative, much shorter than this, without links, quotes, or screencaps. When I showed it to people, the response was flattering, and many urged me to make it public. The more people I showed it to, the more information I got in return (just as has happened on the Bad_Penny community), and I ended up with a much fuller and more complete account than I had any idea of when I started." -- main text: The Ms.Scribe Story: An Unauthorized Fandom Biography: Msscribe Returns; WebCite backup; WayBack Machine backup
- Charlotte Lennox, Chapter Ten - Msscribe Returns; WebCite backup; WayBack Machine backup
- The_Inner_Circle, Fandom Wank Wiki; archived at the WayBack Machine.
- Charlotte Lennox. Chapter Three - Msscribe Conquers All; WebCite backup; WayBack Machine backup
- Charlotte Lennox. Chapter Five - Msscribe Battles Gryffindor Tower
- Charlotte Lennox. Chapter Eight - Msscribe Survives Challenges
- Angua9. More Msscribe Stuff, Jun. 22nd, 2006.
- Charlotte Lennox. Chapter Seven - Msscribe Settles In for the Long Hall
- Annalee Newitz, Microconspiracies, Metroactive.com, July 19-25, 2006 (accessed 20 June 2010)
- The Curious Affair of the Sock Puppet, thread on MetaFilter, June 30, 2006. (accessed 1 August 2010)
- Actually, joking comments are still made. See this Tumblr screencap of a 16 September 2013 Fail Fandomanon comment thread.
- Bunny. Harry Potter Wank: The Comeback, posted in Fandom Wank, 16 August 2007. No one on Fandom Wank believed her. 
- comment thread started by Heidi, 2006-06-21.
- musesfool, that is, i think i disagree, June 22, 2006
- ratcreature in a comment, 24 Jun 2006