Blake's 7 RPF

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Name(s): Blake's 7 RPF
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Blake's 7 RPF for the show Blake's 7 very much mirrors Star Trek RPF.

Most of the RPF were humorous fics describing the actors and characters switching places.

Fans being fans, there certainly was RPS before the internet, but it was almost entirely underground and in the form of drawerfic.

RPF took the stage during the Blake's 7 War, but its public prevalence, and even very existence, was hotly debated.

Earth, Liberator Switcharoos

Like much Star Trek RPF, the vast, vast majority of the small amount of Blake's 7 RPF had the set-up of "the actors and the characters end up switching places, and have to find their way back to their own reality."[citation needed]

The only known public example of Blake's RPF that includes a spouse is the very tame fic, "Episodes," by Judith Seaman in the zine 1982 Episodes. It was written with the "approval and permission of Paul and Janet Darrow." This zine was reprinted in 1988, right at the cusp of The Blake's 7 Wars.

Examples of Differing Memories and Explanations: The Supposed Story That Set Off "The Blake's 7 War"

In 1989, several fans wrote in The Federation Archives that they have never seen the RPF explicit story that was rumored to have been sent to Paul and Janet Darrow:
As to the "Paul and Janet" naughty story...I've never heard of anyone outside of the Darrows who has actually seen it. It certainly hasn't ever appeared in any zine I've ever seen." [1]

A fan's explanation in 2005, one that begins innocuously enough, but then drifts into a version of the repeated urban myth:

Back in the media fandoms, there continued a small fan base in that community that wrote fan fiction based on the actors of their shows. The Blake's 7 community during the 1980s was one of the *media fandoms that engaged in the writing and publishing of ActorFic. According to members of the fan community like Celeste, Langley and Sidewinder, the material of this nature was generally rare but it still circulated either published in fanzines or as drawerfic. The material circulating generally had three flavors: humor, canon exploration or sexually explicit. The more sexually explicit material tended to circulate as drawerfic but, according to Celeste and Langley, some of this material made itself into the hands of Paul Darrow. He was apparently not happy to have received a sexually explicit story featuring himself and his wife from a well meaning fan, though he took no action and did not attempt to actively and publicly crack down on this material. [2] [3]

In 2006, another fan explained:

I started off in Blakes 7 fandom, where possibly-not-even-ever-really-written RPF was a small part of a huge kerfuffle which devastated the whole fandom. So the concept of RPF was complete anathema there. There were a couple of completely innocuous 'the actor goes into the show world' stories, and even they were regarded as a bit iffy. I don't think I've ever seen even a shadow of any RPS. [4]
An exchange in 2007 illustrates the unreliability of memory:
[jamethiel_bane]: Oooh! I have information on WHY RPS is forbidden in Blakes 7.

Way back when, there was a conference in Australia. There were 'zines available at the conference, and one of the zines contained RPS. Paul Darrow read it (I am not sure whether he was browsing and found it or had it presented to him) and was NOT IMPRESSED. Neither was his wife, who was with him at the time.

(Nothing to do with anything. I just heard this from someone who was there, and thought you might like to know).
[nopseud]: I've heard roughly the same story (and another version where the story was sent to him by post and he subsequently turned up to a con with it, breathing fire). However, I don't know of anyone who has actually *read* this RPS story, or can produce a copy of it, or can even say who wrote it or what it was about or what zine it was. So I'm always a bit hesitant to actually say it existed. Because, well. Given the turmoil in B7 fandom at the time, I wouldn't trust Paul Darrow not to embellish the truth on something like that. [5]

See much more at The Blake's 7 War.

Increased Visibility

It was the internet that pushed all RPF, not just that for Blake's 7, into greater visibility. From Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Henry and Cynthia Jenkins (2012):

[Cynthia Jenkins]: You dumped [a fandom] into the Internet and a year later, it was a hundred times bigger, and a year after that, it was hundred times bigger, and a year after that, it was a hundred times bigger. The growth was so exponential that the culture that had been transmitted was swamped by the newbies. And everybody felt like they had just lost control of their culture. Because in the past, you'd brought people into fandoms and cons a few at a time, so if you had a con with a hundred people, and you had ten new people, this was fabulous, but the ten new people didn't get to define what the con was. As opposed to having a con with a hundred people and having a hundred thousand people suddenly show up. You can't control that. And I think that there was a sense that everything was out of control, and that none of the assumptions that had come to be central to the culture could be taken for granted anymore. One key example here would be Real Person Fic. Because for a long time, I guess growing out of conversations like those with the actors in the mid '80s, there was a very clear sense amongst the fandom, "We're writing about the characters, we're not writing about the actors." RPF existed, but it was underground and it was acknowledged as a little transgressive, because you were really crossing a line there. And people enjoyed crossing that line maybe, but they still would pass the stories to their friends, they didn't publish them in zines. There was an assumption that there was a line. When everything slam-dunked the Internet, that assumption went out the window. And suddenly, people were writing stories about real actors as if they were characters with no sense that there could be a line. And I think, say, the old members of the community were looking in horror and thinking, you know, "Oh my God, they don't understand."

[Henry Jenkins]: Because I think the actors who flipped out in Blake's 7 flipped out in part because they were anxious about how people perceived their sexuality as human beings, and were they showing too much of who they really were, I think there may have been some closet cases among some of those actors, it's hard to know. But the freakout was a very personal thing for them. And the fans had kept saying, "We're not writing stories about you at all. We're writing about our version of your character." And that line was very, very clear. And when writing Textual Poachers, people would slip me a Real Person Slash story every now and again, but I was absolutely told, "Don't write about this. This is the secret of the community." And I respected those secrets. There was no reason to reveal those secrets. And the taboo was there for reasons. I'd lived through the Blake's 7 blowup. I understood why people were so — why that was a very sensitive area. Then, suddenly, a decade later, this is all over the Internet, and people are starting to write about it, and other academics have published about it, and it's just like—the side of me that lived through that history, I cringe. And more and more, when this stuff comes out, and I still have this kind of reaction.

Some Fan Comments

1993

From a 1993 discussion on a slash mailing list:

Let me preface this by saying I've never read any, and I doubt if I ever would. My big question is, Why bother?

I'm going to use B7 as an example here, since I know a little about the actors. First, Paul Darrow is not Avon, and Michael Keating is not Vila. Avon and Vila, however, are the people who interest me. They're the characters I enjoy reading more about, and enjoy fantasizing about. Fantasizing about middle-aged, graying, pudgy actors does not hold a lot of interest for me. While it takes only a little Suspension of Disbelief for me to buy an A/V story, I highly doubt I would ever find a PD/MK story remotely believable; in fact, the idea is so far removed from reality as to be laughable. I mean, Paul Darrow is a Ronald Reagan-and Margaret Thatcher-loving conservative with a fondness for yellow pants and golf. Never in a million years would I consider him suitable fantasy material. So I can only assume that any PD/MK stories out there are so unrealistic that I could just as easily substitute anybody else's names throughout and the story would have the same meaning for me--i.e., zilch.

So, again, my question is, why bother? For all fandoms, I either don't know or don't care enough about the actors to want to fantasize about them. The actors are simply NOT the people who interest me when it comes to slash reading. Yeah, I can see where one would want to believe the guys are at least friends, but going beyond that sounds too weird to me. (Or maybe you can believe they're doing it in a parallel universe, but hey, I'm telling you, they ain't doing it in this one.) [6]

I've always pooh-poohed the upset of the actors who find out about slash because I could in good conscience say that we are slashing the characters. These same actors have been telling us for years that they are actors playing roles. Slash fandom follows that same argument. Slashing the characters is no different than a script-writer wanting the character to "go undercover at a gay bar..." The same argument can be used with fan art when the actor wants their cut. The pictures aren't of William Shatner, they are of Kirk (WS could only WISH to be so drop dead gorgeous!)

To have slash fans then turn around and start writing slash based on the actors' lives pushes slash fandom off the moral high ground (and believe me, we don't get many high altitude nosebleeds as it is). This also plays into the actors' worst nightmare -- those stories aren't about Kirk, they're really about ME!!! [7]
Paul Darrow really needs a girdle, good makeup, careful camera angles, kind lighting, and a better wardrobe than he's worn to any con to be confused with Avon by even the most myopic fan. However, it seems Meegats abound... I'm even not nuts about the "Visit To a Weird Planet" type of story. See also "Totally Imaginary Cheeseboard", where Avon beams down to a Scorpio. (If those were supposed to be the B7 actors, they must've been on tranquilizers, in a dry state.) What makes an author think she can realistically depict what's giong on in an actor's head, from an on-screen performance, a couple of talk shows, and maybe a con? Reality check: Even at cons and on talk shows, the actors are STILL ACTING. You think Joe Drama is going to tell Arsenio that he goes home, beats his wife, kicks the dog, and defenestrates the cat, and by the way he has this terrible foot odor and jock itch problem? There are very few actors who admit to being boringly mundane at home, either. To me, this type of story smacks of "star obsession". [8]

Concerning actor slash and fandom.

I remember a few years ago, in the B7 fandom, when Paul Darrow learned about the slash stuff being written about him and other B7 characters. Note: The stories he learned about were about the B7 characters and had nothing what so ever to do with the actors themselves. But that didn't stop Mr. Darrow from getting on his soap box, and demanding that anyone who read/wrote/bought/had anything to do with this were no longer friends of his. He even attempted to get restraining orders against a few of the big names in fandom. Anyone remember the flak going on for over a year about [Ann W]/ [Leah R] and Mr. Darrow. He even told his fellow actors, that if they didn't listen to his point of view and not attend certain conventions, because they were being run by people who were friends of friends of a slash writer, that he would not be their friend. So, that year, conventions were rather thin with people, making it nice to be able to sit and talk to the guests that DID show up! At one point, I asked Terry Nation (creator of B7) what his opinion of slash. He thought it funny, because he couldn't picture Avon or any of the others doing anything like that. But he did agree that we were dealing with the characters, NOT THE ACTORS. A point for Mr. Darrow to ponder, would he be as upset, if Avon wasn't so popular or if someone else had gotten the role and we slashed that person instead.

It was thatflak that finally drove me out of B7 fandom. Enough was enough, I retreated to my other fandom - PRos.

But I think that we have to remember that an actor thinks that no other person could've done that role better. That THEY are the character, with a private life thrown in. They do tend to get antsy over these things. [9]
Well, I keep hearing about Actor Slash--but I've never seen any. I have to agree with the folks who commented that Paul Darrow seems an unlikely candidate for such--in spite of the fact that he seems to love to play characters in provocative ways, nothing I've seen or heard about the man himself lends itself to a slash interpretation! He certainly did over-react in a major way to the discovery that people he had trusted (GASP!) had had the effrontery to depict HIS character (GASP!) as queer (GASP!), but aside from the potential of speculating as to the source of this massive over-reaction (perhaps the lady doth protest TOO much? Hmmm..), the characters have MUCH more potential!! Plus, of course, we know much more about them... makes the speculation more context-based... Someone told me (could it have been you, Sandy?) about a story in which a script called for Bodie and Doyle to go undercover as gay lovers, and Collins and Shaw started speculating over beers as to whether or not they could play it convincingly, and one thing led to another...I was told it was a good story (and, she admitted guiltily, I'd love to read it, even tho' I don't really hold with that sort of thing as a rule...) but from what I've heard, most of the stuff that purports to be about the actors is really about characters, just with different names. Yes--what do we know about the actors, anyway? And, more to the point, do we really care? As long as they keep doing their jobs (provididng us with more grist for the slash-mills in the roles they play so endearingly and provocatively!!), we should just let them get on with it! I don't find supermarket tabloids or "personality" magazines all that interesting--and frankly, when I've met "famous" actors, I haven't found them all that interesting either--but if I were to ever become close friends with one of them, enough to have a real knowledge base from which to work, I doubt I'd want to make that person a character in slash, any more than I'd want to write fiction about any of my friends right now. I do feel there's a qualitative difference between the slavering obsessive hero-worship accorded "Stars", and character-based fan fiction--I'm sure that statement won't get any argument from you all! And somehow, "actor slash" seems to be attempting to blurr that distinction. [10]

This is an old topic, but I've never seen it championed this way -- that slash fans have some kind of constitutional right to write and circulate this stuff. I was floored. God, I think I'm getting old....

As women, we have a very big stake in the right to privacy. I am genuinely amazed that a fandom made up of women can really truly-ully believe that their right to write actor slash is more important than an actor's right to privacy.

Also, let's quit calling this "actor" slash. That'a as dishonest "anti-life" rhetoric. We are talking about "person" slash. Martin Shaw is a person employed as an actor. When a story is written about Martin Shaw getting fucked by Lewis Collins, it is Martin Shaw getting it, not his profession.

Even the legal system makes the distinction between the character and the actor who portrays the character. And fandom certainly has. "Some people" have the right to decry slash, but they don't and didn't have the right to stop it. Believe me, if they could have taken the matter to the Supreme Court they would have. Now, slash fans can sit around and call EVERY person who objects to/ doesn't like slash for WHATEVER reason a homophobe. I think it's time for the slash community to quit casting ourselves int he role of victims.

Fantasies are the private property of the individual. So, the constitutional right to privacy gives you the "right" to write about real people by denying the that same right to privacy to your subjects. Hmmm... You sound like a likely candidate for Clinton's Supreme Court. The rights and needs of the one out weigh the rights and needs of anyone else (excerpted from Spock's evil twin's comments to the judiciary committee).

Obviously fantasies CAN NOT be censored. Just ask John Hinkley. Shooting the president was not a fantasy; it was a fantasy inspired crime. For that matter, just ask me, I'd be doing 20 years to life for some of the situations and people (yes, plural in the same fantasy) I've had on top... er... with Martin Shaw. But, I don't claim some kind of right to write the story.

[snipped]

Let's get rid of the "gay" issue which is clouding the libel issue. Would stories about LC abusing his elderly father (if that was your fantasy) be as deserving of this "right" to invade someone's privacy as LC's boinking Martin? It's not the activity that is the ethical problem, it is using real names and attaching events to those names.

It's bad enough that some fans go around with the "I made you , I can break you" or the "you owe us" attitudes. Yes an argument can be made that we can interrupt their dinner for an autograph, photograph them against their wishes, etc., but trying to claim the right to their inner lives, as if these actors were nothing more than Ken dolls is completely unjustified.

While I'm sure I'd kill to get a full-on pic of LC laying one on MS, I know of no better way to cut off the glimpses we get of the actor behind the character at cons, etc. than to start circulating person slash. It would make them afraid to scratch their butt in public without an person slash fan interpreting it as sign language to the other one to "Put it here". As slash fans, we are predisposed to interpreting EVERYthing characters do in a slash light. Making those same assumptions about real people is out of bounds.

I think we need to use the term heterophobe for people unwilling to respect the rights of heterosexuals to express affection in public. Not that I'm implying anything about the sexualities of anyone on Blake's 7.

[snipped]

The actors are a side issue. The ethical implications for our fandom is the real question. These guys have dealt with a lot worse than a few dozen crazed women writing stories. Forget them. What will this blythe self-indulgence cost US?

Also, what is "published" in these days of work processors and xerox machines? If it reproduced and sent to people, it is published. "Circulated" is the operant word.

[snipped]

I do not want to see person slash and i certainly don't want to afford it the same ethical status as character slash because i think ultimately it will only damage the character slash community. [11]

Okay, so many people agree that they have no interest in actor (or real person) slash, in Paul Darrow, or whatever. But who says that's reason enough to deny its right to exist? Why doesn't that then extend to character slash, since some people think that shouldn't exist either? Who gets to censor my fantasies, and why?

[S] made a much more cogent argument concerning this in her last TNU sub, and with her permission, I'll run it tomorrow. She and [Meg G] also did a panel on it at Escapade. Did anyone attend?

But here are a couple of other points:

1. I don't think that fantasizing about a person being gay in any way implies that that person must be gay, any more than fantasizing about Starsky and Hutch fucking each other implies that they really would, even if they were real people. Is it okay to imagine me sleeping with Robert Plant, even though he "would never do something like that"? I am, after all, 29 and overweight, not 16 and a sex goddess.

2. On the Paul Darrow front, there are several pictures of him kissing Michael Keating on the mouth, which are the delight of many Avon/Vila fans I know (who are also friends with Paul Darrow, btw).

3. There's the whole separate category of fantasizing about guys that aren't even actors at all (athletes, rock musicians, and politicians, to name a few). I don't really think that Bill and Al are fucking either, but that doesn't stop people from mentioning it, or George/Dan for that matter. (talk about disgusting pairs...)

So, basically, if no one sends it to the actors, and if it's not published, then what's the harm?

And, if it were published with appropriate disclaimers, would that be all right?

My biggest question is, WHY NOT? [12]

It's really quite short and simple: publishing a slash story using the names of real people is libelous.

Yep.

While we're counting, though, publishing stories using other people's characters is copyright violation and theft of intellectual property, for which one can also be sued.

I think we're all pretty much in agreement that doing the latter is less "bad" than doing the former, however. With character fanfic we're causing potential harm only to a large institution (the studio) and in fact we're probably helping them by promoting interest in their products, whereas with the other we stand a chance of doing some real harm to someone's reputation.

I agree that "real name" slash should never be published.

As you could tell from my previous posting, I'm more torn about reality-based slash such as the Tris/Alex universe where the names have been changed. [13]
I agree with [J] that anyone has the right to fantasize in any way she wants--and to put it in writing if needed (Freedom of Speech is one of the most important fundamental freedoms!)--but Betsy's comment begs the question--I'm sure we've all encountered one or two folks whose grip on reality is floppy at best, and who may have difficulty distinguishing...(vide the response of many in the national forefront who responded to Murphy Brown's pregnancy, etc.--I loved the way they were able to use so much direct from the newsreels in their first program of the season showing various national politicos commentting about "Murphy Brown's behavior"--and if the Pres. and Vice Pres. can't separate fiction from reality, what hope is there that fandom will do consistently better?) I still aver, however, that the characters tend to be more interesting than the actors, to the best of my knowledge. I guess I don't see the point of fictionalizing "real" people. I do see the point in creating fictional characters based on real people (yes, [J], I will read the Tris/Alex stuff!), but I still balk at presenting fictionalizations of real people called by the same names as the real people who have been fictionalized (does that make any sense to anyone, or did I just get lost in a sea of verbiage?); the fact that there are folks out there inclined to try to make points (or whatever they think they're doing) by presenting such material to the people concerned merely adds a reason to give a bit of extra consideration to the potential gains of writing the stuff... [14]

If "real name" slash is written, it shouldn't be circulated. That is, it should remain private to the person who wrote it. If she wants to show it to a few of her closest friends, fine, but making copies in any form is a bad idea just because it is *so* easy today to propogate any written text.

Slash fandom has won some hard fought legitimacy over the years, particularly because we're slashing only the characters. The majority of mundanes think we're sick to do even that.

Referring specifically to actor slash, I don't want to see any, either. I have little or no interest in the real life doings of any of the actors that played the characters that I love, and have even less interest in speculating about their love lives. But that's just me--I know many other fans who are very much interested in these very things. [15]

Some Examples

Fic Without a Sexual Element

  • "Episodes," a story by Judith Seaman in the zine Episodes. It was written with the "approval and permission of Paul and Janet Darrow." In the story, Paul Darrow is knocked unconscious, ends up on the Liberator, minds his way home, and then has a conversation with Michael Keating and Janet Darrow. (1982, reprinted in 1988)

Fic With a Sexual Element

Blake's 7 Characters Writing RPF

  • Willa Shakespeare's "The Inkplot Thickens" in Tales from Space City #7 (2003 or 2004) has Vila writing RPF about his crewmates. "He and Avon see money to be made; Blake sees it as propaganda for the revolution. The money-making side goes awry, but Vila is not defeated and at the end is branching out into a new fictional field...." [16]

References

  1. The Federation Archives, Second Addendum, March 1989
  2. Well. This is only partly true -- see The Blake's 7 Wars.
  3. from Our Community, Our History: A History of RPF/RPS by Laura Hale (October 2005).
  4. comment by nopseud at On RPF/RPS, and Why Real People Are Just Better (2006)
  5. both are comments at RPS and privacy (April 29, 2007)
  6. comments at Virgule-L, quoted anonymously with permission (March 23, 1993)
  7. comments at Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (March 23, 1993)
  8. comments at Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (March 23, 1993)
  9. comments at Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (March 23, 1993)
  10. comments at Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (March 23, 1993)
  11. comments at Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (March 25, 1993)
  12. comments at Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (March 25, 1993)
  13. comments at Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (March 25, 1993)
  14. comments at Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (March 25, 1993)
  15. comments at Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (March 25, 1993)
  16. by Hafren at Blake's 7 - Tales from Space City #7,