I, Mutoid

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Zine
Title: I, Mutoid
Publisher: Mutoid Publications
Editor(s): Emma Peel
Date(s): 2001
Series?:
Medium: print, zine
Size:
Genre:
Fandom: Blake’s 7
Language: English
External Links:
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I, Mutoid is a gen and an adult het Blake's 7 90-page anthology published in the UK.

The cover was made of black neoprene that has the feel of suede. "But me, I like to be able to stroke my zines" writes the editor.

the black neoprene cover
title page

Contents

Reactions and Reviews

[Memory is But an Encumbrance]: (AKA 'the mutoid story'.) Emma's 'zine I, Mutoid, (complete with pervy neoprene cover), did not contain my own story Strict Protein Diet, despite the fact that it had been written for that 'zine in response to the question 'how the hell can I write a sexually-explicit A/B romantic comedy with a mutoid', because I share the late Douglas Adams' response to deadlines, whistling noise and all. (It eventually found a much more suitable home in Kathy Resch's 'zine Fire and Ice).

However, I, Mutoid did contain Julia Stamford's Memory is an Encumbrance. All the conversations I had with her about the subject of what a mutoid might be like, how human they are/not, could you get the original human back & so on, got her rather interested in a completely different story. So she wrote it. Because she's a much more serious writer than I am (well, sometimes), it's a chilling little look at what you might get back if you un-modified a mutoid. Slight warnings for her being a darker, angstier writer than me.

She would also like to point out that she does know how to spell 'encumbrance', despite the typo that crept in during the weblishing process.

Posted: 08/03/2004 (Stamford was bitching at me about not updating this page to reflect the fact that she, determined dead-tree-format devotee that she is, has finally given in to the modern world and weblished some stuff) [1]
[zine]: First, some general comments. This is a very minimalist zine, in that it contains no artwork, no fancy layout or creative use of fonts or anything like that. Emma, in her editorial, suggests that this "clean, sparse" look seems rather appropriate for a zine with mutoids as its theme, and I find that I have to agree with her. The bare-bones style definitely works. The zine does, however, have one utterly inspired stylistic touch: the black neoprene cover. Not only does it somehow capture the essence of mutoidness (mutoidity?), it's also tremendous fun. It's hard to resist touching, bending, smooshing, and otherwise playfully fiddling with the thing! Still on the editorial front, I did spot a number of typos (damned things get *everywhere*), but I'm given to understand that the only really serious problem (in which a sentence from one story accidentally appeared in the middle of another) was to be corrected before the first batch of non-trib zines goes out. So, no biggie.

Do note, by the way, that while this is not an "adult" zine in the usual sense -- anyone looking for smut is bound to be disappointed -- it does feature violence, bad language, and frank depictions of sex. So if that sort of thing bothers you, you have been warned!

On to the stories.

"Awakening" by Nickey Barnard: This story (like a few others in this volume and at least one excellent story that's appeared elsewhere) latches onto a simple casting coincidence -- the appearance of Glynis Barber as a mutoid in "Project Avalon" -- and extrapolates from it the possibility that Soolin might have been a mutoid. To me, this idea does seem like a bit of a stretch, but Nickey Barnard handles it very, very well as she explores Soolin's emotions, her secrets, and her relationship with Avon. And that last line is a killer.

"Relative Programming" by Ika features Ika's wonderful original character Space Commander Siv Holland, who will be familiar to anyone who's read her story "With/Out Blake" in "Trooper Orac's Fantastic Plastic Army," though it's most definitely not necessary to have read that one to appreciate this one. The story follows Siv and her Federation soldier buddies on a night out on the town, as they sit around drinking and discussing mutoids, Space Command, their careers, and a host of other topics. It's a wonderful look at the Federation from the inside, and I'm very much impressed by the way Ika manages to endow the conversation with all sorts of implications that the reader will find chilling even while the characters themselves are utterly oblivious to them.

"The Best Laid Plans" by Jackie: It's a bit hard to discuss this one without giving away the plot, but it involves an elaborate plan set by Travis before "Star One." It's an interesting and creative idea, though I don't find this particular re-interpretation of canon works nearly as well for me as the Soolin-as-mutoid one, if only because I found at least one of the major plot elements a little too implausible. The writing's not quite as smooth as in the other stories, either; it relies too much on long chunks of exposition presented as internal monologue for my taste. I, do, however, very much like the scene of Travis dealing with the shipboard disaster mentioned in "Gambit," in which he comes across as very three-dimensional and rather surprisingly sympathetic.

"An Eye for an Eye" by Executrix: A very nasty and *far* too plausible answer to the question of just who Kiera, the mutoid from "Duel," used to be. Short and punchy.

"His Brother's Keeper" by Betty Ragan: I wrote this one, so I can hardly review it objectively... I'd certainly be interested in any comments, positive or negative, that anyone else might have, though.

"Unmodified Needs" by Delmonica: A mutoid's-eye view of "Moloch," featuring a well-written look at a mutoid who remembers a bit more than she's supposed to, with a nice twist at the end. Just goes to show that you can get decent fanfic out of even the most mediocre episodes.

"Interview with a Mutoid" by Steve Rogerson: A disturbingly familiar mutoid gives us an in-depth explanation of what it's like to have been Modified, what she can and can't still remember, and what she's still capable of feeling about it. Very good mutoid POV, nice angst, and a kicker of an ending.

"Memory is an Encumbrance" by Julia Stamford: I'm not sure, but this may be my favorite story in the zine. When the Liberator crew captures a mutoid, they have to decide what to do with him... Leading to an examination of some very hard and provocative questions, like "Is there anything *worse* than being a mutoid?"

"Kie-Eyre or Et Tu, Bronte?" by Executrix: Yes, it's B7 meets _Jane Eyre_, as we meet Space Captain Travis' new governess, and discover what deep, dark family secrets he's hiding... This probably would have worked better for me if I'd been familiar with the original, but the weird juxtaposition of genres is interesting in itself, in a bizarre sort of way...

"The Mutoid's Tale" by Firerose: Mutoids are soulless, nearly mindless, and utterly lacking in free will or emotion, right? Well, maybe not... and pity the ones that aren't. I certainly felt deep sympathy for Firerose's mutoid protagonist, who has to constantly hide the scraps of humanity she's supposed to be lacking. There's probably a nice metaphor in here for the lot of the average Federation citizen, too, now that I think about it...

"Relations" by Penny Dreadful answers the question of where mutoids come from, and it's an extremely well-thought out, well-presented, and disturbing answer. It also provides yet another answer to the question of Kiera's original identity, and a wonderfully fitting and ironic one, IMHO. And the characterization of pre-mutoid Kiera herself is wonderful; she strikes me as an ordinary and very sympathetic person, yet simultaneously as soulless and empty of compassion any mutoid. (There's a scene in here that may well qualify as the most chilling thing I've read recently, and all the more so because, from Kiera's viewpoint, it's viewed so utterly matter-of-factly.) Being a Penny Dreadful story, of course, it also features a great deal of Travis.

"Chronicles" by Emma: Now here's a really nifty idea... Mutoids are colloquially referred to as "vampires" for obvious reasons, but what if it's more than a metaphor? This is one of those terribly clever story premises that always leave me wishing I'd though it of myself, though I'm not at all sure I could have done nearly as good a job with it as Emma has!

The zine also includes four drabbles (100-word stories) by Oliver Klosov, each of them as tight and punchy as only the short-short format can be.

So, in sum: Lots of good stories here, with a very high quality of writing, and while all of them take the concept of mutoids as a springboard, they nevertheless end up covering a great deal of highly varied ground. Definitely recommended! [2]
[zine]: Emma said there had been no reviews of "I, Mutoid" so far, so I decided to write one, and hope it'll attract more customers than it repels. There may be spoilers herein (though not deliberate), so if you are planning on buying or reading this anyhow and don't like spoilers, then delete this review. Read the 'zine instead. Trust me, it'll be much more entertaining.

Anyhow. As you are all probably painfully aware, I have long had an unhealthy fascination with mutoids. Perhaps it's the fact that they are manufactured vampires, thus allowing me to indulge my inner goth without neglecting my outer nerd. Or perhaps it's just that they're such snappy dressers, and get to hang out with Travis and Servalan and shoot stuff. Well, whatever the case, I've been anxiously awaiting the arrival of "I, Mutoid" for ages. And now here it is! Yay! And now I've read the whole thing.

I won't discuss the specifics of individual stories, because while every one of the stories is well-written and worth reading in its own right, I think they become even more interesting when considered as a whole. It's fascinating to see a wide range of writing styles all focused on this specific and presumably relatively exotic topic.

There are 85 pages of stories, by twelve different authors, ranging in length from Oliver Klosov's concise 100-word "drabbles" to 15 pages (that'd be windy ol' me), with most being around five to 12 pages long, and use a variety of voices, tenses, plots, characters... There are mutoids, ex-mutoids, mutoids-to-be. In some cases the mutoid is the narrator and/or main character, centre stage, while in others he/she/it barely (or never) appears onstage at all.

There is nothing overtly humorous (I don't think--let's just say no overt humour of the sort I am able to comprehend). A few uneasy laughs, but overall the mood is pretty darn grim. And there's swearing and violence and sex, and you're supposed to be over 21 if you're going to buy it.

Appearance-wise, it's about as minimal and utilitarian as possible. Plain font, no art, very few italics. But any lack of slick production values is more than made up for by the groovy black neoprene cover (sadly only available on the first...forty, Emma?...so get 'em while you can), which feels like a patch of the pelt of a cold-water surfer, and is, exactly as advertised, "warm and bendy". I'd definitely like to see more rubber-clad literature in future. [3]
[zine]: This zine was a happy surprise. I was afraid that the theme might make for too much sameness among the stories, but in fact there is far more variety than in many an allegedly wide-open zine.

I'd describe I, Mutoid as a no-frills zine, except for the delightfully sensuous sueded cover of the first edition. That's definitely a frill, but in my opinion well worth it. The actual contents of the zine include no art and no poetry, just stories-- and they are very good stories indeed. They do tend toward the dark and tragic, hardly surprising given the theme; but since I'm a big fan of angst, that's fine with me.

The zine could almost be gen. There is heterosexual sex, but it's not very explicit, except for one of Oliver Klosov's drabbles. I suspect that the adult classification was mainly because of all the "strong language," i.e. realistic military conversation, in Ika's story, "Relative Programming." So, for Fan Q purposes I guess this is a gen zine; but the editors call it adult, so I'll go with their classification.

My top favorite story is Steve Rogerson's "Interview with a Mutoid." It's a PGP consisting of exactly what the title says. In a way, it's a Tarrant story (though he's not the mutoid); but I can't think of anything else to say that doesn't give away too much. An excellent story-- IMO a strong contender for this year's best.

My next favorite is Nickey Barnard's "Awakening," an Avon/Soolin story that sticks very close to the events of the fourth series. I enjoy stories that fit neatly into the aired canon; in this one, I especially like the dialogue between Avon and Soolin from the time frame of "Warlord," regarding the offscreen Tarrant/Zeeona romance. The group dynamics of the crew are well handled as a backdrop to the Avon/Soolin relationship.

One of Oliver Klosov's four drabbles uses some of the same ideas as "Awakening," but with a zinger of a twist. Oliver is amazingly good at packing lots of story into a small, tightly constructed text.

Like every story of hers that I've ever read, Penny Dreadful's PWB Travis story, "Relations," is a knockout. That's Relations as in Public Relations; some people can put a good spin on practically anything and even be perfectly sincere about it. Chilling.

Jackie's "Best Laid Plans" also features Travis, whose plans for Blake continue beyond Travis's own death, but with results not quite as he might have anticipated. Again, this is a story that fits closely to the aired canon and twists it cleverly, with one section taking place before Star One and another after Gauda Prime.

Ika's story, from her series about Federation officer Siv Holland, takes place early on, while Siv is still in the good graces of the Federation. As readers of Trooper Orac's Fantastic Plastic Army know, however, she will eventually fall from grace, be tortured, escape, and be consoled by an affair with Tarrant.

Betty Ragan, "His Brother's Keeper," and Julia Stamford, "Memory Is an Encumbrance," both deal with attempts to undo the mutoid process and restore the memories of captured mutoids. Both end tragically, but for completely different reasons. And in both cases, the horrific nature of the very idea of turning people into machines brings up bad memories for various members of the crew. Very well done stories.

Executrix has two stories in the zine, one serious and one silly, and both Travis stories. In "An Eye for an Eye," Travis demands from Servalan-- and gets-- a particularly nasty form of revenge on Blake. "Kie-Eyre or Et Tu, Bronte?" is an amusing parody generated by the peculiar spelling of the name of Travis's mutoid that appears in the Programme Guide.

"The Mutoid's Tale," by Firerose, and "Unmodified Needs," by Delmonica, take a look at goings-on behind the scenes, when mutoids are on their own. Mutoids, we learn, have definite needs-- some inhuman, some all too human.

Emma's "Chronicles," the final story, is an unusual take on the origins of mutoids; perhaps their nickname is more significant than we may have thought.

The no-frills layout is nice and clear, and the zine has been especially well edited and proof-read; I didn't spot any typos. An outstanding job, especially for a first-time editor! Hope she'll do more zines in the future. Highly recommended. [4]

References

  1. 2004 comments by Predatrix
  2. from Betty Ragan at Judith Proctor's Blake's 7 site
  3. from Penny Dreadful at Judith Proctor's Blake's 7 site
  4. from Sarah Thompson at Judith Proctor's Blake's 7 site