November 20th, 2007

International Kittens of Mystery

Say It Ain't So, PO

It would appear that the International Reply Coupon, after one hundred years of service to overseas authors everywhere, is no more. It has pined for the fjords and posted itself - without an enclosed SASE - into the great PO Box in the sky.

And no one told me!

I only found our last month when I went to our local post office in Normandy to send a short story to F&SF. I asked for a coupon international de reponse and was met with a glazed expression. And, for once, it was not because of my pronunciation.

"Je suis baffled," she said - I translate approximately. She knew what an IRC was. She'd sold them. In the past. But ... it had been such a long time ago and Mr. Verne hadn't been in for a while...

So, off she went and searched the shelves, the back room, her coat pockets. Then checked her computer and asked a colleague. Gallic shrugs all round. "Nous sommes tres baffled."

Perhaps Alencon might have one? Or Paris?

I drove home and toured the net, checking the web sites of the French Post Office, the Royal Mail, USPS. No mention of IRCs anywhere. And then I found someone's blog. Apparently IRCs were discontinued a year or so back as they were costly to administer and only used by authors submitting work overseas.

And yet they're still mentioned in magazine submission guidelines. I know, I looked.

Never one to give up until a hospital is involved, I tried option two: buying US stamps online. This looked a winner. For a while. There were several companies offering 'print your own US stamps' services at reasonable prices. But half an hour of screens and fine print later I found the only way I could subscribe was by pretending I lived in the US. Which is undoubtedly illegal. Of course, being extradited to the US for mail fraud would be a good opportunity to buy US stamps but...

Option three also looked a winner for a while. I could buy stamps online from USPS. If I bought at least 20. All I wanted was one 90 cent stamp! And the postage and packing for twenty 90 cent stamps was $6. So one SASE was going to cost me $24.

Now, if I intended to make a habit of sending stories to the US, fine. But I'm not. So, I plumped for option four. I emailed my nephew at Yale and explained the situation. Extradition on mail fraud imminent - send 90 cent stamp immediately.

It worked.