Oblique Publications

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Name: Oblique Publications
Contact: (email addy on website)
Type: fanfic zines
Fandoms: Blake's 7, Professionals, X-Files, Phantom Menace, Due South, Smallville, multi-media
Status: inactive fanzine publisher
Other: slash-only; almost all zines available online in PDF format.
URL: http://www.oblique-publications.net/
Obliquebiglogo.gif
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Oblique Publications began publishing zines in 1988, and for the next 15 years or so put out a steady stream of high-quality slash zines that earned a reputation for solid writing, clean editing, attractive design, and a darker edge than was common at the time, including BDSM and endings that weren't guaranteed to be happy.

The most prolific writer for the press was M. Fae Glasgow, with multiple stories in almost every zine (barring one, where she wrote one of the three novellas that made up the zine). In several cases, she was the sole author in a zine.

The Press Zine Series

Dark, Dark, Dark

In 2003, a fan commented on Oblique's fiction: "Many of them are darkfics, and overall the tone is so relentlessly "Can this marriage be saved?" that at the very first hint of Spuffy I was reminded of Oblaque--where "Well, I do beat him up a lot. For Avon, that's like third base" would fit in perfectly." [1]

From a 2015 interview with one of its editors:
...for a period of time, from 1988 to somewhere then, we put out a lot of material for reading, in the form of fanzines. And they were all slash. We were known as Oblique Publications, because an oblique mark is a slash mark....

We never did art. We made a decision early on that we wanted quality. And we had certain tastes, but we didn't think we could fill them. So we just decided we wouldn't do art. And there were only a few things we ever did, that we added a little sort of incidental art, but it wasn't full-fledged... We just stuck to the words....

I don't think we appealed to everybody, because we had a dark tone to a lot of our material. It was very dark. And it went places that people really hadn't explored much, up to that point. Things have changed drastically. [Laughter] Drastically. But we were doing things that upset people; people didn't like the dark, the dark tones, the unhappy endings that we had a lot of the time.

You know, looking back on it now, there's lot of things I would do differently. But that's just hindsight. At the time, you do what you do. So, yeah... What would I do differently. I would edit further, I would cut further, I would reject more from M. Fae. [laughter]. [2]

Some Technical Anecdotes

From a 2015 interview with one of its editors:
Well, since I had a background in design – I was actually an architect at one point - and I wanted to do something better than I'd been seeing in zines, which looked to me more like a manuscript. A lot of people – they were doing nice work, but it was like working with a word processing program. So I, my goal was always to make it look, following better design rules. Let's put it that way. But it was self-taught. I got better as I went along. It didn't take long. But what it involved was, receiving material, either from M. Fae or from other people. And my goodness, when we started out, we were receiving stuff sometimes in hard copy form that had to be retyped. Can you imagine? [Laughs] You had to input it all over again. We didn't scan it, and I don't think the OCR stuff was available...Early, but I don't really think so. So sometimes, if we were lucky, somebody actually had something available on a floppy disk... They could give it to us, but most likely, someone would send us hard copy, and we would have to input it. Once it was inputted, we could then print it out, and we could go and edit it, we could send that back for comments, you know, okay, this is fine, make these edits. Then, when it was all ready to go, I would import it in to Pagemaker. Pagemaker is a precursor to InDesign. It was not the only piece of software available but it was by, well, they're now Adobe, but they were Aldus at the time. And, yes, anyhoo - I think they really started out on Macintoshes. Of course, those early days, PCs didn't do anything. I mean, they were fine computers, but you couldn't visually see what you were doing, like on a Mac. And I was visually oriented, so, and that's what we were doing. Anyway, you put it into Pagemaker, and then you started to design the whole thing. And that's what I would do.

When we were ready to produce the zine, and put it out in hard copy – because that was the only option – I would take the floppy disk to UCLA, where they had a center where you could go and pay to output things on a laser printer. Now, this was an amazing device.... At three hundred dpi!... It was amazing. And it was a dollar a page. And if you had made a mistake, or if something didn't happen, you still had to pay for that page that was wrong. So we would pay to output in hard copy. And then we would take our pages to a print shop. And we tended to go to the ones that worked with engineering drawings, and architectural drawings and stuff, 'cause I was used to that. We negotiated a reasonable per-page output price, and they would print off copies of our zine for us. And we would order fifty copies, or a hundred copies, or whatever we thought we eventually needed. And then they would give it to us, with covers, and then we would take it home.

And we had purchased one of those machines that you use for binding. It's called comb binding. It's plastic, black plastic, and we would sit there, and stick in pages of paper, and punch holes in it. And put the whole thing together by hand. So it's a classic zine form, if you've ever seen one. They'd be ready to take to cons, or send out notices and people would order them, and they would send you money, and then you'd send them the zine. And that's what we did. And that's how a lot of people got their material...

I don't think people were really doing spiral binding; they were still doing forms of stapling, because that really predates a lot of that, you know, the stapled zines. You still find those. We did comb binding partly because we could control it, and it was something you could open up flat. It was easy to hold in bed when you were reading, that kind of thing. So that's what we went with. [3]

Challenges With Customs

From a 2015 interview with one of its editors:
I'm kind of amazed that we actually got our zines out as fast as we did. We always had to be planning on what you were going to be doing, what you were looking for. And then shifting, shipping this off to all parts of the world. You know, wherever there were English-speaking fans, and they found out about it, they would connect in somehow. You'd get requests or orders for something, and you'd be shipping it off to someplace, who knows where... New Zealand. Occasionally, places like Japan. I think I sent one to South Africa once. Different parts of Europe where somebody spoke English, or knew English, or of course the UK. All over the US and Canada. I don't think I ever sent anything to Latin America, though. Certain parts of the world, never.

And you had to be careful about how you shipped things. First of all, you're sending them abroad, they go through Customs. And people receiving zines would sometimes have these things opened, and they would be rejected. Especially if there was explicit art in there. That was a problem for people mailing zines with explicit art. We never had quite that problem.

But I remember sending a zine off to Ireland, and we wrote a personal note in there, just about to make it seem like it wasn't an order of something that somebody was buying. It was like a personal letter, talking about this, that, and the other. And of course the person at the other end had no idea what this was. But we were doing it so that if it got held up in Customs they would think, “Oh, it's just somebody sending a book, just a friend.” And I don't think anything ever happened with her zines, but I do know people who had to pay duty, you know, import duties and stuff, and sometimes their zines just didn't go through. So that's kind of sad... Yes! Long live the Internet! [4]

Anecdote: Hoisting His Own Petard...

From a 2015 interview with one of its editors:
[NB]: Ok, now let me tell you the story about Lewis Collins, who played, um, Bodie [laughter] in The Professionals. Lewis used to come out to Los Angeles a lot, and he actually got a green card, and lived out here for a long time, looking for work, and so forth. I'm sure other fans could tell you their stories about him. I have several. One was the time that he came to the airport with a friend we had in common, and he was dropping her off, for some reason. She was taking was taking the same flight we were, to go to a slash con somewhere back east. We had boxes of slash zines - .... that had his character in there. And he so very kindly lifted them, and moved them out of the car, so we could check them in. I've always thanked him for that.

[FD]: “Oh, how kind of you to carry this large heavy box. Please don't open it.” [laughter] I believe the recipient of the ride has also told me of this entertaining incident, yes.

[NB]: Well, it actually happened, right here at LAX. And he never knew. [laughter] [5]

Print to PDF

In 2000, the publishers began converting every zine they'd published to date to PDF and uploading them to the web for free downloading by anyone who wanted them. They continued to add zines to the site until March 2002.

Only two zines never made it onto the site: "Bene Dictum VI: Due Cut", a third-season Due South zine by M. Fae Glasgow, and "The Big Girls' Book of Smallville Big Boys", a Clark/Lex Smallville zine.

From a 2015 interview with one of its editors:
Anyway, and, of course, zines were it, or paper things passed around, but by the early two-thousands, I recall coming to the first Escapade that came, or happened, after Phantom Menace came out. [laughter] And Phantom Menace, of course, generated amazing stories, and so forth. And we had written a zine, and I thought, “Oh, this is just gonna be fabulous. It's gonna fly off the tables. People are hungry for this material.” And something interesting happened. Some people were interested, but it just wasn't the thing. And that's when I realized zines really were not going to last any more. They were already disappearing. This was about, what, 2000, I think, maybe 2001. I'm not quite sure of the year, but right around there.

And so after that I thought, well, we'll continue as long as we feel like we want to, and I think we produced several more zines after that, but I never have any expectations that people will be hot for material. It was not the usual case of people lining up in front of the dealer's room doors, waiting for it to open, so they could go in to all the dealers and start buying reading material....

Yes! [waving money and screaming] just disappeared. And so then we sort of drifted away, and said, “You know, we've written a lot, we’ve produced a lot. We're gonna sort of fade away.” By that point, because I think I acquired my website about 2000, 1999 or 2000, somewhere in, we finally decided to just put the stuff up online so if anybody wanted it, there it was. And we didn't have to worry about it, we didn't have to keep it in print. [6]
A fan in 2003 wrote:
Oblique Publications published paperzines in many fandoms (including, recently, Smallville) and has generously made its archives available on the Web. Of course there's always a catch--the files are posted as two-column PDFs, which looks pretty nifty if you print them out but is a right bastard to read on screen. (Bittersweet is 46 pages long, so either you use a lot of paper and toner or squint a lot.) There's a whole series of "Oblaque" single-fandom zines, and there are B7 stories in other Oblique publications as well. [7]

Some Flyers

Reviews and Comments

1993

I recommend with enthusiasm anything from Oblique Publications--their series of "Oblaque" zines are challenging, provocative, and intensely well written! The characters are consistent with *my* viewing, although I have heard conflicting opinions on this issue... What attracted me to the series in the first place was the complexity of the characters and relationships, and these zines definitely work from those complexities! They are also a bargain in terms of content for price--no luscious visual art, but lots and lots of words for a very reasonable $15 each![8]

1994

The B7 zines I would recommend most highly to anyone also happen to be slash zines--yet I recommend them not solely for their erotic beauty, but for the exceptional quality of the writing and editing found therein. Would that all B7 fanfic--slash, het adult, and gen--was half as well-written as the zines published by Oblique Press. The sex scenes are blisteringly hot, the explorations of character knife-sharp in their perceptions, and the portrayals of the B7 universe richer and more convincing than any I have encountered elsewhere. The OBLAQUE zines (and the PAEAN TO PRIAPUS zines--multimedia slash zines that include B7 stories--published by the same press) are, IMO, the best slash zines--and the best B7 zines--in existence, bar none. [9]

1995

You mentioned Oblique slash. I do read it, but it usually seems to have a certain hothouse isolation from reality. Even when the characters engage in political and moral debate, there's no real sense of a universe out there that might distract them from their tangled relationships with each other. Does anyone else have the same reaction? [10]
By all means let's talk about the Oblique stories. Blake does tend to be crazy or evil in a lot of them, but I've noticed that M. Fae, unlike some writers, does usually give him an excuse for behaving badly. I remember one story— I can't remember the title— in which he deliberately broke up a happy relationship between Avon and Vila, but it was explained that this was because his own brain had been fried by the Feds.[11]
Re Oblique slash, I have problems with it too. One story I read had some late 2nd series interaction between Blake-Avon. Imagine my shock to reading a reference to Gan still very much alive and kicking. Sometimes the pair of them would rather talk than fuck. Whatever happened to the reticent Brits on the show? Sometimes they talk just before they fuck Several pages worth. Please shut the hell up, I'm begging them, I'm trying to sustain a mood here. To be fair, when the stories work, steam rises from the pages. I mentioned "Night Watch" last time and praised its integration into the realistic universe. Others I like are "Glass House", "Flow Gently, Sweet Afton," anything by Jane Baron ("Witness", "Fugue") and there's damn near something in every issue I go bonkers for.[12]
[B] mentioned Oblique slash, and the fact that the characters have a 'hothouse isolation1 from reality. I love M. Fae's writing, but I do see what you mean. 1 think it's the style she adopts, which can be suitable for the subject, but isn't always. [13]
You made a comment to [D] about Oblique slash sometimes having a "certain hothouse isolation from reality." Lovely may or putting how I feel about it as well. I too have that same reaction to it, sometimes a very strong reaction in fact! There are times when I don't see anything of the characters I watched at all. Of course, it's common knowledge that there were several versions of the show that were shown. There's no way we all saw the same one![14]
I've read some OBLAQUES, and have been unimpressed overall. The chief failure is not capturing the characters in any reconizable form, having nothing to do with B7 as I know it. [15]

2000

Another favorite set of zines, is anything by Oblique Press. They rarely have any art bigger than a dingbat, but they did some very cool and imaginative things with layout and whitespace, and I loved them. [16]

2017

It’s significant that Oblique Publications are (with the notable exception of Judith Proctor, who did something a bit different) the only Blake’s 7 publishing house that made everything they ever did available online for nothing. This happened around 2000-2002, and still host that content to this day. As much as you and I may dislike what they published, they were hugely generous in doing this. They also understood, very early on, the power of the internet. I think that’s something else you can say about the pervasiveness of the style – Oblique fic was available when relatively little B/A fic was, and is still today almost the only older A/V stuff freely available on the web. No wonder the style has lasted. [17]

Meta/Further Reading

  • Oblique Reviews by Erin Horáková, A Review of the Press and Its Influence (2017)
  • Oblique Reviews #6 – Charmed Life, Archived version by Erin Horáková ("So what we can say about Oblique as representational is thus limited: it was perhaps more important stylistically than a lot of people not interested in the trajectory out of zine era realise, and gives us some of the current skillsets we use when we encounter and begin to 'fanfictionalise' a text (for better and for worse), but it is simultaneously a drop in this wide-reaching, varied ocean.") (2017)

References

  1. from Crack Van, executrix, October 8, 2003
  2. from Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Nancy B.
  3. from Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Nancy B.
  4. from Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Nancy B.
  5. from Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Nancy B.
  6. from Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Nancy B.
  7. from Crack Van, executrix, October 8, 2003
  8. Subject: Zines by Agnes T. on Lysator dated Nov 9, 1993.
  9. Lysator, Erszebet B, dated August 26, 1994.
  10. from a fan in Rallying Call #14 (1995)
  11. from a fan in Rallying Call #14 (1995)
  12. from a fan in Rallying Call #15 (1995)
  13. from a fan in Rallying Call #15 (1995)
  14. from a fan in Rallying Call #15 (1995)
  15. from a fan in Rallying Call #15 (1995)
  16. September 7, 2000 post to Prospect-L by Sandy Hereld, reposted with permission
  17. Aralias' comment to reviews by Erin Horáková as part of a series: see Oblique Reviews -- Oblique Reviews #5, Archived version, January 17, 2017