Double Agent
DA FAQ III - Erin Mehlos

Disclaimer: Former Double Agent Chris Jones was a tough act to follow. His letters columns were, among other impressive C-words with distinctly positive connotations within the writing world, comprehensive and coherent. His FAQs were no different -- and for the longest time I simply saw no point in even attempting to write my own. Yet, the old queries persist, and I tire of repeating myself even more frequently than my premature senility permits. Thus, one more tradition falls to me.

But before this introductory blurb gives way to classic Q & A, allow me to get to the promised "disclaimer" itself:

The seemingly arbitrary whims with which I govern DA are mine alone -- my "rules" do not apply to Cozy Cosner or anyone who might guest host in my frequent, zany absences. Morever, they don't always necessarily apply to me, either. Like Chris before me, I have my own criteria for choosing letters, but under certain circumstances, such as unusually lean reader response or intoxication on my part, I will disregard some or all of them.

Which isn't to say I'm inviting you to ignore all the guidelines implied below -- if they had no relevance whatsoever, I wouldn't have wasted valuable time writing this damn thing and you could all go back to e-mailing me your trite questions about how I operate.

Let's go.

Q: Who are you?

A: Erin Mehlos, weekday DA; 21 yr-old slacker maintaining the pretense of beleaguered ViComm student at Madison Area Technical College, Madison, Wisconsin.

Q: If you do the weekday columns, who does the weekend columns?

A: My weekend counterpart is veteran DA Drew "Cozy" Cosner.

Q: So does it really matter who I send a letter to?

A: If it didn't, we wouldn't have separate e-mail addresses. I field whatever gets sent to, and Drew, fittingly, receives his mail at Hence, I don't get Drew's letters, and he doesn't get mine, which works out well because it spares each of us half the total CrushLinks. If you're responding to a set topic, be sure to send it to the right address, because I can't print agent@ letters until Monday, and Drew can't print drew@ letters if you mail him during the week, and chances are if you miss the topic, your letter won't be printed at all. More on that later.

Q: Do you have a personal, non-Agent e-mail address?

You can reach me personally at Strictly speaking, DA-mail should never be sent here if you want it printed, but should I spacily provide an e-mail link to erin@ instead of agent@ (which is not unheard of under my regime) I can hardly begrudge you your 30 seconds of fame.

Q: Do you personally reply to letters?

A: Not often, but it's not unheard of. If you ask a question but I deem it unworthy of print because it's not on-topic or some such, I might get back to you personally. Nonetheless, don't get all dejected if your letter spirals off into seeming nothingness, never to be heard from again.

Q: When does the column usually go up?

A: With my present schedule, new columns are in the habit of appearing in the vicinity of 8-10PM. This varies depending on my workload. The column can take me anywhere from two to four hours to write, and I have a preternatural fondness for formulating some semblance of continuity, so if your letter arrives late on the day in question and doesn't miraculously fit into the logical flow of my present arrangement, chances are it won't get printed.

Q: What do I have to do to get my letters printed?

A: At the very least, make it look like you read the following submission guidelines:

Length: There is no explicit word limit, but if at all possible, keep it under 500 words. If you actually have something to contribute to a given discussion and need more, however, by all means, take it. I'm a sucker for a well-written letter, length be damned.

Language: Frequent readers know of my undying love for obscenity -- it's a much-maligned art form, and one I have no reservations about practicing under the benevolent gaze of the obligatory DA disclaimer. Bear in mind, I said art-form, and when I say "art," I don't mean Jackson Pollack -- I'm not fond of vulgarity strewn around willy-nilly. Obscenity should instead be like an Escher line drawing, wrought with control and precision.

Questions: DA may have evolved away from its Q & A roots, but if you have a question relating to games or game trivia, send it in. Chances are it won't get printed unless its somehow on-topic, but I'll try to get back to you with an answer, provided you obviously haven't made no attempt whatsoever at finding your answer somewhere like

On topic vs. off: In a lot of ways I'm one of the most laid-back DAs to date, but this is the one arena in which I can be an anal-retentive hardass to be reckoned with. There is virtually no chance of an off-topic letter being printed unless A) reader response is at a low and I'm desperate for printage, or B) you're writing in to propose a topic for the next day and I choose to go with it.

Signed names: I don't especially care if you sign your name or not, but for the most part, I like to treat DA as the public forum it is, and without names -- or pseudonyms, at least -- it's difficult to maintain the personal, conversational atmosphere.

Sigs: I don't print contributors' e-mail addresses for various reasons, so if you tack it on to the end of your letter, don't expect me to pass it along. I may print homepage addresses if similarly appended, so make sure if you've written in to flame the living hell out of, say, the DQ fans, that your e-mail address is nowhere to be found on the site linked to unless you want to field the subsequent backlash. Sig quotes and other such nonsense makes little difference to your letter being printed, either way.

Praise and other feedback: Nothing says luvin' like sending me an e-mail asking if you could please bear my children because you're smitten with my verbal mad skillz, but nevertheless, if you must, send it separately from your contributions to the discussion at hand. Same goes for criticism, which is equally appreciated.

Chances of getting your letter posted: It never rains but it pours here at DA -- I either get 5 e-mails or 50+. Usually the latter winds up being true, and if you write in on such a day, you've put yourself in direct competition with a crew of veterans who've polished their writing and debate skills bitching about the industry here at DA for -- in some cases -- years. A well-crafted letter making a necessary point that someone took the time to punctuate and spellcheck will 98% of the time beat out the competition, but I'll let spelling and grammar slide on occasion when a less-than-shiny letter represents an important but otherwise overlooked angle on a discussion. Even if your letter doesn't get printed, take heart; even the old regs average 1 out of 3.

Q: Why does the GIA not cover [insert random non-RPG, non-puzzle, non-adventure, or non-rhythm game here] for Xbox? You guys are biased against Microsoft!

A: Individual opinions aside, the GIA does not, contrary to popular opinion, have some kind of vendetta against the Microsoft console. There simply haven't been many Xbox games to date that have fallen within the realm of our coverage.

Q: Your reviewer's opinion of Game X sucked!

A: We're sorry -- would you like your money back?

More questions will follow, I'm sure, as I'm painfully reminded of their persistence....

Closing Comments:

Thanks to Chris for his original FAQs which I have so shamelessly ripped-off in the creation of mine. Thanks for reading, and thanks for contributing to Double Agent.

- Erin Mehlos, 03/18/2002

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