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.

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There are 5 comments. Get the RSS feed for comments on this entry.

  1. 1. Simon Haynes

    I still have a few IRCs knocking about – I’d better use them up!

    I also have 16 US stamps left over from the time I bought 20 of them in 2001. They were for short story subs too.

  2. 2. Simon Haynes

    (And the US Postal Service sent me a big glossy catalogue every two months for about 5 years after that!)

  3. 3. Chris Dolley

    I forgot to mention option 5 – one I used successfully back in 2000 – and that’s sell a short story to a US market and ask to be paid in stamps.

  4. 4. Steve Buchheit

    Wow, we’re back to having “business agents” in another country as a matter of course for business purposes. If only there were some way to transmit data across international borders relatively cheaply and quickly while saving money on hard copy and archaic postal delivery systems. Something like a network of some kind. And if only those people who might receive such transmissions would accept them and process them instead of insisting on technology and a business process that even the Amish find quaint these days. Oh, what brave new world that would be, and such people that would live there.

  5. 5. Alma Alexander

    If you need actual stamps, I could always buy some for you and send them along – let me know if you think the idea has merit. At least we could come to some mutually acceptable compromise as to remuneration, since I as an individual am considerably less restrained by red tape than is a Government agency of any stripe.

Author Information

Chris Dolley

Chris Dolley is an English author of SF mysteries and fun urban fantasies, a pioneer computer games designer, and the man who convinced the UK media that Cornwall had risen up and declared independence. His novel Resonance (2005, Baen) was the first book to be plucked from Baen’s electronic slush pile. He now lives in France with his wife, a dolmen, and a frightening collection of animals. His memoir French Fried (2010, BVC) has just been released. Visit site.

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