If fictional characters answer the mail, that's Fourth-Wall Mail Slot.
Notable Magazine/Newspaper Examples
- Marvel UK commonly has the letters answered by a character.
- Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells.
- Yes, Virginia was a response to an actual letter to the editor from an 8-year-old girl.
- 2000 AD has always had its letters answered by Tharg The Mighty, except for one time in the The '90s where characters from Vector 13 took it over while Tharg took a leave of absence.
- In MAD's "Letters and Tomatoes Dept", letters were typically answered in a snide and insulting manner. They also published many letters that mocked the magazine creatively.
- Stirring Science Stories: Because the magazine was so new, Chief Editor Donald A Wollheim would write and reply to the first few issues, using Pen Names to pretend they were from actual fans.
- Analog: In April 1930, the magazine began publishing letters that had been sent in by fans. Fans such as, Isaac Asimov, Lester del Rey, Damon Knight, and Donald A Wollheim. They were often used as a way to correspond with people you had never met and included your address so that private correspondences could occur as well. This culture of communication in magazines like Astounding Stories were the source of mailing lists.
Examples In Other Media
- 1963 would have a fictional Letters to the Editor page, parodying the columns Stan Lee would put out for Marvel in the The '60s.
- Letters to the The Sensational She-Hulk were answered by the titular character or one of her supporting cast.
- Ambush Bug answered his own letters, and in his first issue was puzzled that he had to wait months for feedback from the reader who had just finished the book.
- Most American comic books had letter columns until the late '80s. A few independent comics still feature them.
- When Marvel re-launched Tales of Suspense in 2017, they used legacy numbering, picking up at #100. It had a fake letter column with the conceit that the letters had been moldering in the Bullpen since 1968, when #99 was published. Highlights included complaints about the steep cost of comics (12 cents an issue!) and a proposal that Captain America team up with President-elect Richard Nixon.
- The direct-to-video special The Secrets of the Back to the Future Trilogy, hosted by Kirk Cameron, answered some questions that fans of the trilogy had sent.
- Parodied by the National Lampoon. Its Letters section had funny made-up letters, often supposedly from celebrities.
- P. G. Wodehouse dealt with this in the "A Letter to the Editor" chapter of Louder and Funnier, in which he includes his poem, "Dear Sir: I take issue with Walter S. Swisher."
- In The Truth, William is baffled by the amount of insane (and badly spelled) mail he receives, much of it from Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells types. He eventually decides to print them all to take up space. Especially when his dwarf business partner tells him to put in one complaining about dwarfs because it will attract letters complaining about that one, and fill even more space.
- Famously, pornographic magazines like Penthouse had letters pages where people wrote about their sexual experiences; most were made-up by the magazine's writers. It's probably safe to say that most of the ones that weren't were from Unreliable Narrators as well.
- Good Omens: R.P. Tyler, self-appointed Moral Guardian, frequently writes editorial letters to the local newspaper condemning the moral decline of the nation's youth, as evidenced by [insert The New Rock & Roll subject here]. He writes so many, in fact, that the newspaper can't print them all, leading him to write letters complaining that some of his letters aren't published.
- All in the Family: The basis of plot in the eighth-season episode "Archie and the KKK" starts with Mike's letter to a local newspaper giving his thoughts on looting, arson, vandalism, etc. during a recent citywide blackout; his opinion takes the typical liberal attitude: It's not the criminal, but the black man's response to perceived injustice and frustration with an economic system geared toward affluent whites and against already impoverished African Americans and other minorities, and that when the government engages in the same activity as the criminals did, it's "free enterprise." Unusual in that letters to the editor were rarely a topic even mentioned in a situation comedy.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus regularly parodies this (and Points of View) with letters written to newspapers that read as if the writers were on drugs or crazy. One letter complains about the letters, as they "clearly not written by the general public and are merely included for a cheap laugh. Yours sincerely etc., William Knickers."
- In the A Bit of Fry and Laurie sketch "Slightly Mad", the only way Arthur Meddlycott can convince his psychiatrist that he's insane is by revealing that he writes letters to newspapers and apparently has them all memorized.
- The UK show Points of View consists largely of such letters. It's one of the most mocked shows on British TV.
- Del Amitri's "Nothing Ever Happens": "Angry from Manchester writes to complain about all the repeats on TV."
- John Holmes's spot on The Now Show used to include people writing to him about topical events, heralded by "Let's take a listen to a letter." The letters would often point out that they were obviously fictional and an excuse for whatever he wanted to talk about. On at least one occasion, it was a reaction to the thing he'd just said.
- Oh! Calcutta! has a song about them.
- In Yokoka's Quest, the author has taken questions from the readers for two anniversary events. The answers to these were made into Q&A strips, with either the characters or the Author Avatar giving the answers.
- Famicom Dojo had The Dojo Mailbag. Not long after, the segment was renamed to Famicom Denshimail and became it's own sub-series.