Horizon's Summary of "The Controversy in Blake's Seven Fandom"

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Open Letter
Title: Horizon's Summary of "The Controversy in Blake's Seven Fandom"
From:
Addressed To: fans
Date(s): June 1989
Medium: print
Fandom: Blake's 7
Topic:
External Links:
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Horizon's Summary of "The Controversy in Blake's Seven Fandom" was published in Horizon Newsletter #22 in June 1989.

It was written as an introduction to a lengthy section of letters of comment. The entire section was "numbered" A-H, and was sectioned intentionally like this for two reasons:

Please note, we have specifically put these pages in the centre of your N/L and not numbered the pages so that a) those of you who are sick to death of the whole business can just rip the pages out (also those who don't want to be reminded of it all can pull the pages after reading it!) and b) because some of the Controversy is about the issue of Slash fiction, and we have a few VERY young members, we are sending these bits separately to their parents, for them to do as they wish with it.

A similar open letter is A Statement Written by Diane Gies on Behalf of the Horizon Committee.

Both letters were written in response to The Blake's 7 War.

Excerpts

Many of you already know of the very unpleasant Controversy raging through B7 fandom these last few months. Our last N/L (21) was actually on its way to the 
printers when we first heard about it, and had hoped it would have all blown over by the time this one was being prepared, but in fairness to everyone who has 
written to us on the subject, and to four of our Honorary Members who are at the centre of the controversy, and to those of you who don't know anything about 
it, we have decided to publish a brief summary of The Actual Facts as we know them, followed by a selection of your letters. We couldn't publish everything we
 received as it would take up half the newsletter, but we have tried to print a cross-selection of opinions, giving precedence to letters on the subject that have not 
been duplicated in other Clubs newsletters.

[...]

THE FACTS: The first public statement in the current controversy was an anonymous article which appeared in the USA late in 1988. It soon became generally known that it had been written by [Ann W]. The article contained several references to a 'well-known B7 actor'. He is not named, but from the context, and from a statement attributed to him, it appears that the actor in question is Paul Darrow. I am not aware of any suggestion that anyone else could have been the subject.

SUMMARY OF [Ann W] ARTICLE: There are two types of conventions - fan-run and professional (such as Creation Cons.) Pro cons are run solely to make a profit. They offer fewer facilities to fans than the fan-run cons. Guests do little work and get paid a fee. Following the advent of pro-cons, many actors invited to fan cons began to demand fees, expenses, and business-class or first-class air-fares. 'The actors no longer want to mingle with the fans. They just want to make a buck.' At a recent Creation Con, one B7 actor was heard to say that he was doing as little work as necessary. This actor, with other people, intends to run a series of Pro cons in competition with Creation, and with the stated aims to 'put the fan cons out of business' and 'control fannish literature'. Venues being considered are cities where fan-run cons are already held. Only approved artists would be allowed to exhibit work at the cons, and they would be charged a 50% commission to do so. Only approved writers would be allowed to sell zines. The actor concerned would not go to any other cons.

The writer states that she will not "be controlled' or' allow the fans to be ripped off 'or line a greedy actor's pockets'. She considers the plans as a 'hostile Federation takeover' and suggests a return to fan-oriented cons which don't need guests. She states her sources of information as 'the actor involved; some of the people involved in backing the proposed conventions; some of the people who have been approached to run the conventions'.

The above article was distributed privately and with zine fliers and other B7 material, then appeared in the American letterzine, 'Federation Archives'. The editor of FA, [Linda T], wrote supportive comments on the accusations made.

A reply to the [Ann W] article was written by Paul Darrow, sent out to B7 clubs and individual fans, and published in the 'Avon' club newsletter.

SUMMARY OF DARROW REPLY:

[Ann W] is a liar. She and some others who are involved with American cons consider that they have a 'special place' with the guests. They would lose this exclusivity if the new con tour is a success, and the present attack has arisen out of resentment. 'Hell hath no fury like a selfish fan scorned.'

[Ann W] has made a number of false statements, which are answered individually. Paul Darrow does accept a fee for attending pro cons, but makes himself available to all fans who want to spend time with him. From US fan cons he has accepted expenses only twice - details are given. He has twice been offered business class air fare, and once asked for it at the insistence of the management of the show he was committed to at the time. He regards most fans as his friends, although [Ann W] does not now appear to be one of them. A statement he was said to have made at a Creation Con is a misquotation. What he actually said had the opposite meaning to that conveyed by [Ann W], who was not present at the event. The reason Paul Darrow and Terry Nation had considered arranging their own cons was to avoid the power-plays and acrimony caused by some so-called 'Big Name Fans'. They want to set up cons that would be equally for the benefit of guests and fans. No attempt will be made to 'control' fan literature, and the statements about 'approved artists' and '50% commission' are untrue. The con tour is not being aimed at cities with existing fan cons & venues for the tour have not yet been determined. Anyone who has ever met Paul Darrow at a con should form their own opinion about whether he would rip them off or control them, On the subject of 'ripping off the fans', he asks if people have examined the accounts of cons which [Ann W] supports. He intends to avoid any events with which she is connected. Have made his statement, he asks readers to make their own decision about whom they support.

The same 'Avon' n/l which published the above article also included a statement by Janet Darrow on 'slash' B7 fiction. She had previously been aware of its existence, and seen some, but discussions with fans during recent visits to Australia and New Zealand had revealed both the volume which is produced and a more detailed indication of the content. Paul and Janet Darrow have now made public the fact that they find this type of material extremely distasteful. They will not knowingly autograph it, and do not want it sent to them (as has been done in the past). Some people whom Janet Darrow had known for some time were talked about as authors of 'slash'. She was surprised that they had never mentioned this to her, as part of their general B7 discussions, and in the course of normal correspondence asked the people concerned, including [Linda T], if it was true that they wrote 'slash'. [Linda T] did not answer the question, but stated in letters to the Darrows and others, and in publications, that the Darrows were trying to control fan fiction.

In January, a press release was written by Terry Nation and issued jointly by him and Paul Darrow, and distributed by Laurie Cohen, who had been asked by them to organise the planned con tour. This emphasises that the object of running their own con tour was to set up events which could be enjoyed by all concerned. By paying the guests a fee, to make the con a professional commitment, the fans will be guaranteed their presence. Attendees will pay about the same as for a fan con. The shortcomings of some existing professional cons are known, and will be avoided. The intention is to offer all the amenities of the best fan-run cons. Paul Darrow and Terry Nation will attend all the cons, and other guests will also be booked. The guests will be available to spend time with fans, and suggestions are made for a number of interesting and novel events. There is no restriction on who may sell artwork or zines, and the commission on art sales will be 10%, not 50% as claimed by [Ann W]. It is also untrue to claim that any attempt is being made to 'control' fanzine writing or publishing. There is no intention to compete with fan cons; no decisions have been made about locations, and the guests may well attend other fan cons in the future. Although plans for the pro tour are still in the preliminary stage, it has been felt necessary to issue this statement to counter the 'irresponsible rumours and outright lies' which have been circulated.

A supplementary edition of 'Federation Archives' contained a statement by [Ann W], maintaining the truth of her first article. She suggests that the original plans for the convention tour have been changed because of public outrage. This FA contained a number of letters of comment, both pro-[Ann W] and pro-Darrow and reproduced the above-mentioned statements by Paul and Janet Darrow. [Linda T's] editorial comment is strongly anti-Darrow, and more concerned with the parallel debate on 'slash' fan fiction than about the convention tour. She also speaks against fans who support the Darrows on this issue, using terms like 'traitors', 'informants' and 'sucking up'.

A statement in legal form was issued by Paul Darrow and Michael Keating on 30th January. They withdrew consent for their likenesses, whether as photographs, portraits, cartoons or otherwise, to be used for any material produced for distribution by [Ann W], [Leah R] or [Linda T].

A statement by Paul Darrow was read out at the Gambit convention by Terry Nation, and copies were made available. This re-stated the Darrow position, and asked for support from the fans.

Those are the actual 'facts' as we know them. The controversy seems to have split into 3 specific areas - the actual Pro-Convention Tour itself, the BNFs (Big Name Fans) and the Slash issue. Most LOC writers have centred on a particular aspect, so we have tried to separate the issues as much as possible. But first, comments from Terry Nation and Michael Keating, who specifically asked us to say the following on their behalf:

TERRY NATION: "I would like, if this is within the kind of editorial limits of Horizon, to have maybe a summation of what has been going on in American fandom. And I think what I would really like to say is that seeing 1989: Horizon Newsletter|the response today (Ed- this discussion was at the Gambit Convention) was very heartwarming. When I said I want to see this rift ended it was wonderful to hear that audience respond. God knows, we would put on a con that will be a smash. But we are not trying to take them away from the fans! If they want to do their cons we'll still come if they invite us. We wouldn't put them near another fan con, we wouldn't put them in the same month as another con. We will do ours and we will really stay away from everybody. I'm angry at what has been said about Paul. We shared the idea, and they haven't had the guts to come after me. they've gone after him totally. They've really not said a bad word about me, and they should, if they have the guts. But I can get back, you see, I'm here. He's there. He's - well, we're all agreed he's a terrific guy, and he's been undefended initially.

MICHAEL KEATING: It's sad that B7 fandom has become involved in such unpleasantness and I'm very sorry that friends of mine have been hurt. But time is a great healer and life is not a dress rehearsal, it's for living. (Semi-dictated outside the Richmond Theatre in June 89 - as exact as I can remember it without a pen handy at the time!)

AND NOW SOME LOCs RECEIVED ON THE VARIOUS CONTROVERSIAL ITEMS [See Issue 22: Letters from the "Controversy in Blake's Seven Fandom" Section]

References