(Re)Making Space for Women

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Title: (Re)Making Space for Women: A guide to f/f slash in Blake's 7 fanzines
Creator: Nova
Date(s): 2002
Medium: print
Fandom: Blake's 7
Topic: femslash
External Links:
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(Re)Making Space for Women: A guide to f/f slash in Blake's 7 fanzines is an essay by Nova published in Sleer as Folk (2002), the first all-femslash Blake's 7 zine. It discusses femslash published in printzines between the first f/f story of 1985 and 2001, based on bibliographic data compiled by Sarah Thompson. This bibliographic data was presented at the end of the essay under the title "F/f Bibliography in Chronological Order (with more thanks to Sarah Thompson)".

Some Findings

Author's conclusions:

  • Blake's 7 femslash is rare compared with m/m slash, with a total of 30 stories in 22 zines
  • The first f/f story was 'Changing' by Jane Carnall, published in 1985, only two years after the first m/m story; there has been at least one f/f story in most subsequent years
  • Jenna Stannis is the main femslashed character
  • The f/f element is central in 12, an important subplot in 5 (usually to contextualise or comment on the main narrative[1]), and peripheral in 13/30 stories
  • Only 12/30 stories contain any description of f/f sex, and in 3 of these it is limited to a paragraph or less; techniques described include finger fucking (9), breast stimulation (7), cunnilingus (5), frottage (3) & dildos (2)
  • Most stories don't establish specific sexual orientations for the femslashed characters and only a couple of stories discuss homophobia or gay politics; however, there are also only a couple of explicitly homophobic or heterocentric stories
  • Most Blake's 7 f/f stories approach relationships between female characters in a casual rather than romantic manner

Other conclusions that can be drawn from the essay:

The Stories Discussed

In the order of being mentioned in the essay:

'A Touch of Love' by Geoff Tilley in The Other Side #4 | 'Echoes of Love' by J.R. and it's sequel 'Coming Out of the Dark' by the same author (both in Southern Comfort #8.5) | 'Silent Night Holy (?) Night' by Jane Carnall in "touched" #6 | 'Kindred Souls' by Aislinn in Southern Lights Special #3.5 and "touched" #8 | 'May King' by Susan Cutter | 'Matchmaker' by Nova in Bend Me, Shape Me | 'Fifteenth of Boozious' by Predatrix in Erogenous Zine | 'Everybody Gets In in the End' by Kerrvert in Southern Comfort #5.5 | 'You're Kidding, Right?' by Jane Carnall in Southern Comfort #6.5 | 'The Great Orac' by Leah S. in Southern Comfort #8.5 | 'Blake's Seven Go Camping' by Linda Norman in Tales from Space City #1 | 'Obituaries: Roj Blake' by Ika in TTBA, 'Sisyphus' by Bryn Lantry in The Other Side #3 | 'Sisters of the Moon' by Madelyn Darring in Vila, Please! | 'If There Were Dreams to Sell, What Would You Buy?' by Misha in Southern Lights #11.5 | 'Metaphorically Speaking' by Nova in Bend Me, Shape Me | 'Hombres, Sailors, Comrades' by Ika in TTBA | 'Then and Now' by Coral Court in Southern Comfort #5.5 | 'Command Performance' by M.J. Dolan in Southern Comfort #6.5 | 'Poison Ring' by Susan Douglass in No Holds Barred #12 | 'Asphodel' by Misha in Deadlier Than the Male | Window Shopping by Helen Patrick in Fire and Ice #6 | 'Changing' by Jane Carnall in "touched" #4 | 'Revenge for What?' by Jane Carnall in Southern Lights #4.5 | 'A Different Path' by Bryn Lantry in The Unique Touch #2 | 'Customs' by Barbara T in The Unique Touch #2 | 'A Friendly Drink' by J.D. Reese in Southern Comfort #5.5 | 'Tangents' by Bryn Lantry in The Other Side #8 | 'To Shoot the Moon' by Jane Mailander in No Holds Barred #3

See F/f Bibliography in Chronological Order for more information about pairings, the year of publication and the country of publication of each story.

Excerpts

Surprisingly (to me, at any rate), Jenna Stannis is the culture heroine of B7 f/f, featuring in all the stories that explore lesbian relationships in depth or detail. Twenty of the thirty f/f stories pair her with Cally and another story adds Servalan to the menage, three stories pair Jenna with an invented woman character, two pair her with Servalan and one with Avalon. In contrast, only five stories pair Dayna and Soolin, while the rest are one-offs - Cally with Dayna, Tyce Sarkoff or her clone sister Zelda; Dayna with her foster sister Lauren; Servalan with an invented women character.

In thirteen of the thirty stories, the f/f element is fairly peripheral - or extremely peripheral <...> [see reactions to 'A Touch of Love', 'Echoes of Love' and 'Coming Out of the Dark'].

While these two writers view lesbianism through a prism of heterosexuality, the other stories in this bracket don't privilege m/f or m/m relationships over f/f relationships, even though the f/f content isn't the main focus of their narratives. <...> [see reactions to 'Silent Night Holy (?) Night', 'Kindred Souls', 'May King, 'Matchmaker', 'Fifteenth of Boozious'].

Within this bracket, a subset of five stories offers comic variations on the theme of pairing absolutely all the characters, including f/f pairings. <...> [see reactions to 'Everybody Gets In in the End', 'You're Kidding, Right?', 'The Great Orac', 'Blake's Seven Go Camping', 'Obituaries: Roj Blake'].

Another group of five stories occupies a place midway between the thirteen stories where the f/f is a sideline and the twelve stories where the f/f is central. In general, the stories in this bracket use an f/f subplot to contextualize or comment on the main narrative. <...> [see reactions to 'Sisyphus'] The next two stories follow a different agenda. <...> [see reactions to 'Sisters of the Moon', 'If There Were Dreams to Sell, What Would You Buy?', 'Metaphorically Speaking', 'Hombres, Sailors, Comrades'].

If the stories with peripheral lesbian content or lesbian subplots are the topsoil of B7 f/f, where a range of possibilities can grow, the twelve stories that centre lesbian relatiionship are the bedrock. Some of these stories follow patterns already laid down by m/m slash. <...> [see reactions to 'Then and Now', 'Command Performance', 'Poison Ring', 'Asphodel', 'Window Shopping'].

While all of these stories have their parallels in m/m slash, the remaining seven stories more closely resemble the sub-genre of B7 gen stories that focuses on developments in the emotional relationships between the male characters - for example, Susan Lovett's 'The Road to Hell' (A-B) or Lillian Shepherd's 'The Haunting of Haderon' (A-V). Jane Carnall's 'Changing' and its sequel 'Revenge for What?' establish the basic paradigm. <...> [see reactions to 'Changing', 'Revenge for What?', 'A Different Path', 'Customs', 'A Friendly Drink', 'Tangents', 'To Shoot the Moon'].

While none of the other f/f relationship are as explicitly non-monogamous as Mailander's Jenna and Cally, the women are generally presented as sensible, rather than romantic, in their approach to sex. The received wisdom that positions gay women as primarily concerned with love and gay men as primarily concerned with sex isn't reflected in B7 f/f.

On the other hand, sex itself doesn't feature very highly. In all but twelve of the 30 stories, the sex is implied, rather than described. Of those stories, three confine the description to a few sentences or at most a paragraph and 'Command Performance' settles for generalized descriptions like 'Jenna lay helpless under the incessant and relentless probing'. Three more stories separate sex and emotion, giving detailed accountes of sexual activity but withholding the characters' emotional reactions or reserving them until later in the narrative - a technique that works well for the unsouciant erotica of 'Window Shopping' but less well in 'If There Were Dreams To Sell' and 'Asphodel', where the descriptions of rape and sexual violence require more contextualizing.

The other five stories could serve as illustrations of the moment in Bryn Lantry's 'Tangents' where 'Jenna could no longer tell emotional and carnal sensation apart'. The lush descriptions of 'Poison Ring' convey the feelings evoked by eroticized pain and bondage, while 'Then and Now', 'A Friendly Drink', 'Tangents' and 'Metaphorically Speaking' all use sex as a way of indicating different shifts in the relationship between Jenna and Cally.

If it's difficult to generalize about the construction of lesbian sexuality in this sample, it's even harder to generalize about the overall construction of lesbianism. In most stories, I'd find it impossible to guess whether the writers would categorize their characters' overall sexual preference as lesbian, bisexual or irrelevant. Only one story - perhaps not coincidentally the first B7 f/f, jane Carnall's 'Changing' - explicitly raises the issue of sexual preference <...> However, while there is not acknowledgement of gay oppression or gay politics, outside of 'Changing' and 'Obituaries', there is also no missionary zeal about heterosexuality and no aggressive homophobia - with one exception, 'Sisters of the Moon' <...> Apart from that, the heterocentric end of the spectrum is represented by 'Then and Now' <...> [see reactions to 'Then and Now' and 'Command Performance'].

The majority of the stories simply take f/f for granted, whether for comic or erotic purposes. Then, at the opposite end of the spectrum, there are the stories ... where f/f communicativeness is seen as the sensible alternative to m/m angst, along with the implicit feminism of the Girls Own Adventure stories, where lesbianism is one of the strategies used by the writers to position the B7 women, rather than the men, as heroes and leaders.

The Girls Own Adventure stories are the nearest thing to a definable tradition in B7 f/f slash so far. Jane Carnall's initial interventions have, either directly or indirectly, influenced Bryn Lantry's 'Tangents', Jane Mailander's 'To Shoot the Moon' and my 'Metaphorically Speaking'. A certain amount of fanon has also developed – a more hardbitten and piratical Jenna than the series allowed; an assumption that Cally's telepathy helps to overcome Jenna's resistance; a lot of drinking and the ongoing parallels between A/B and f/f. ...

However, since these thirty stories are scattered across twenty-two zines and, consequently, hard to find, f/f slash writers have had to spend a lot of time re-inventing the wheel, rather than drawing on the kind of established traditions available to m/m slash writers. So a zine like Sleer as Folk is an important innovation, giving writers and readers a chance to consider a range of f/f possibilities, consolidate the B7 f/f tradition by learning from each other's experiments with language or plot devices or the positioning of f/f within canon and, perhaps most interestingly of all, contemplate future directions.[1]

Reviews

Nova's, nonfiction survey of the B7 f/f field to date is an invaluable aid to those looking for more of the same and a fascinating critical analysis for those of us who've already read the stories.(Sarah Thompson)[2]

This essay (surveying the history of published Blake's 7 f/f writing from its first appearance in 1985 to the present day) was one of the chief lures of the zine for me. Interestingly what we learn almost immediately is that there is almost nothing to be said on the subject, as at the time that this zine was published (2002) there were only 30 stories that featured femslash at all, and of those 30 there were 13 that don't really count because they just feature a line that implies Jenna and Cally are shagging off screen. that means there are really on 17 femslash fics! (+ 13 in Sleer as Folk, and some presumably on Space City by this time.) And Nova does try and talk about trends, but it's difficult to do that when there's so little material, and as she herself notes (this is the conclusion):

However, since these thirty stories are scattered across twenty-two zines and, consequently, hard to find, f/f/ slash writers have had to spend a lot of time re-inventing the wheel, rather than drawing on the kind of established traditions available to m/m slash writers. So a zine like 'Sleer as Folk' is an important innovation, giving writers and readers a chance to consider a range of f/f possibilities, consolidate the B7 f/f tradition by learning from each other's experiments with language or plot devices or the positioning of f/f within canon and perhaps most interesting of all contemplate future directions.

For me, most strikingly, the lack of (what I will loosely and incorrectly summarise as) ANY femslash seems to be the fault of the internet not existing yet, which is basically what Nova is saying when she says people can't build on what other people are writing, but it's more than that too. Writing styles and the kind of thing people were interested in writing being dominated by what would sell/what other people were writing/what you really really wanted to write because you had to write about it for long enough to get yourself a trib copy and wait a year for it to be published. Space City is already so different - people are obsessed with Og, and there are hundreds of weird little fics about weird characters. As there should be! If B7 were a modern fandom, femslash would still be rare, but it would have more than 17 fics just because it almost couldn't help it. I wrote 4 this year almost by accident. But it's harder to write short things in a zine era - Space City really really does make a massive difference by allowing fic to be short and disposable rather than sale-able, and by bringing people together to say 'where is this? why don't we have this? hey - I'll write it' and STILL the fandom doesn't work the same way as modern fandom where one person who really shipped it could write more than 17 fics in a year for Dayna/Soolin, which isn't that implausible, and they're both really hot, which makes one want it to be more plausible than it is. I mean, that's part of the problem, obviously - that nobody really ships it, but it's also the no internet thing, I think. For example - Nova really ships B/A and has probably "only" written about 27(ish?) B/A stories in her whole career (which is a lot/it's more than almost anyone else, but it's less than she might have done if she were on LJ and AO3.) It's only when we get to the internet that people like Willa Shakespeare have written something like 17 a year (or more). [3]

References

  1. ^ a b Nova (2002) 'Re(Making) Space for Women: A guide to f/f slash in Blake's 7 fanzines' Sleer as Folk 308–322
  2. ^ "Hermit.org: Sleer As Folk: Review by Sarah Thompson". Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  3. ^ comments by Aralias, zine reviews! - Procrastination Central, Archived version, December 27, 2015