Oblique Reviews

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Title: Oblique Reviews
Creator: Erin Horáková
Date(s): January 11, 2017
Medium: online
Fandom: Blake's 7
Topic:
External Links: Oblique Reviews, Archived version
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Oblique Reviews is a series of essays by Erin Horáková.

Accompanying the essays are reviews of the Avon/Blake Blake's 7 fics published by Oblique Publications between 1988 until about 2003.

The essays are posted at site, which has the subtitle: "Genre and Literature Reviews :: Part of a PhD project on the Aesthetics, Mechanics, and History of Charm."

Some Topics Discussed

  • the expenses and troubles that publishing, and purchasing, print zines in the past entailed
  • the changing culture of feedback and concrit: the culture of nice vs the desire by fans to have honest opinions expressed so that they could make informed decisions regarding the fic they purchased
  • the house style of fiction in Oblique Press and how it casts a long shadow over the fandom
  • differing views on whether these story's reputation is deserved

Excerpts

What I’m about to do may make some people in fandom raise their eyebrows, and strike them as a violation of fandom etiquette. As I hope I’ve demonstrated, it is however well within established reception traditions, specifically those which prevailed for zine fandom (a category which the texts under discussion fall into). Also, the fics in question are around two decades old, now. The ‘fannish lives’ of the people involved have for the most part gone different directions by now or ended. I don’t believe I’ll be doing harm or even hurting feelings, really. And I’m involved: how fandom works, how B/A works, affects me, and Oblique is still exerting an influence. As such, I would like to speak to it, and feel justified in doing so.
For me, (media) fandom is an art community and art practice producing art works, all of which are both active and historical. As such I feel the art produce of these dedicated amateurs can indeed be critiqued in the way you might analyse other, non-fandom independent zines, and in fact that it is disrespectful not to engage with the material thus. When you make fandom into a pathologized phenomenon rather than a subject fit for discussion under the auspices of English, History and Media Studies, you do violence to the creators and their work—violence that upholds canonicity in gendered, heterosexist and classed ways.
I feel Oblique’s reputation for dark, serious and admirable writing is frankly often unearned. The house’s influence on Blake/Avon has been both significant and ultimately destructive, encouraging relentlessly bad and unproductive characterisations and a view of the story-universe that’s limiting, dull, and insufficiently responsive to canon. These fics are acclaimed for their grit when they’ve the texture of canned custard. It’s a Game of Thrones effect: bad shit is happening; it must be literary. In fact, Oblique generates rather pulpy affects, which would be dandy if these were any fun. They are not.

The Parts

The Accompanying Reviews

Against the Wall | Ante Mortem | Appetite | Bittersweet | The Blink of an Eye | Bucolic Bliss | Cat's Cradle 1 and 2 | Caveat Emptor | Clean Slate | Come as You Are | The Compass of His Desires | Cream | Cream and Sugar | Destiny | E-Male | The Field of Human Conflict | Flow Gently, Sweet Afton | For A' That | Fugue | Glass House | Hauf Fun, Hale Earnest | Head in Hands | Heatstroke | Hell | If Only I Could | Incipit | In Medias Res | In Vino Veritas | Light's Out | Mist | Motif | The Night Watch | Oh L’Amour | Open All Hours | Promises, Promises... | Rapture, Raptus, Raptor series | Ravelment | Revolution | Rise... | Romancing the Stone | The Room | Rosetta Stone | Should Auld Acquaintance | Something to Live For | A Spanking Good Time! | Terminus | Terms of Surrender | The Things We Do for Love | The Truth Will Out | Unravelment | Virtual Reality | The Warm Patch | Witness | You're It

Reactions and Reviews

[embedded in the reviews for issue #3]:

It’s all well and good for me to say Oblique influenced how Blake/Avon came to be written, but here’s a word from Aralias on the conditions of production and reception that ensured this:

"If you look at Nova’s A/B slash listing, you’ll see that Oblaque is one of the earliest Blake’s 7 slash zines. Resistance is a year earlier (1987), but isn’t as influential partly because it doesn’t have a strong in-house-style. It hosts either fluff (mostly written by a Natasha Solten psued) or things that could have been in Oblaque – most notably Sylvia Knight’s ‘Descending Horizon’ series, which begins in Resistance 2 (1988) – the same year that Oblaque starts.
Oblaque is into its fourth issue by the time Fire and Ice starts in 1990. It is this latter zine (from issues 3 onwards, 1995) that you start to see a more middle way between what Fanlore describes as ‘Floods of Tears vs Oblaque‘. By this time Oblaque is in its sixth and final issue; Paean to Priapus (same publishing house, same style, but multifandom content printed) has also finished after 3 issues. Resistance is also finishing, and zines like ‘Magnificent Tales’ 1 &2 (which is also rape and angst filled) are in the past.
This means that before 1995, if you wanted to read B/A you had very little choice beyond Floods of Tears or Oblaque. The Space City rec list is full of terrible fics from both these schools – but it was written in 1995/96. The prose in Oblaque is generally less Americanised, and more superficially well-written than the Floods of Tears stuff. Plus, it’s ‘cooler’.
It makes sense that people would prefer this to most of the fluff. What’s interesting is, as we’ve discussed before, Suzan Lovett was clearly enjoyed (she makes the rec list), but has relatively little influence. Perhaps because Judith only republished all her fics together in 1996?"
It’s also important to note that Oblique is a multifandom publishing house, and Paen and some other zines were themselves multi-fandom. Glaswow [sic], for example, wrote for a variety of fandoms. These stylistic trends weren’t necessarily developing in isolation. [1]

References

  1. Oblique Reviews #3, Archived version