Rosetta Stone

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Fanfiction
Title: Rosetta Stone
Author(s): M. Fae Glasgow
Date(s): January 1993
Length:
Genre: slash
Fandom: Blake's 7
External Links:

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Rosetta Stone is a Blake's 7 Avon/Blake story by M. Fae Glasgow.

It was first published in Oblaque #6 and has been archived online.

Reactions and Reviews

Wrenching. Possibly the only story ever to imagine what might happen if Blake was a paedophile and a good man, utterly determined never to touch a child. No paedophilia in the story, although it's from a paedophile's point of view. Try not to denounce the premise before you've read it: it's dark and disturbing, but it is in fact a very moral story. [1]

Why this must be read: The set-up for the series is that Blake is exiled to a prison colony on charges of child molesting. Canon implies that the charges were fabricated, to prevent Blake from being seen as the political martyr he really is.

But...but...what if? In this story, Blake is horrified to find himself aroused when a rebel leader's hero-worshipping six-year-old son sneaks into his bed at night. On one level, Blake just wants to comfort the tiny, innocent child. And, on another level, he doesn't.

As a significant complicating factor, before this incident Blake was extremely attracted to Avon; afterward, he ceases to be aroused by Avon's adult persona, or his displays of masculinity...but is extremely responsive to the repertoire of Daddy/Boy games that Avon eagerly initiates as a means to...

Well, what? Be able to blackmail Blake? To get Blake to knock him around just the way he likes? To express love that he won't admit to under other circumstances? Show that he's willing to do absolutely anything for Blake?

Avon's formulation (You know you can have what you need without harming anyone, and I can have what I want with the fewest possible complications) obviously isn't the whole truth. But what about Blake's: Untangling the skeins of Avon's intended powerplay that was supposed to be disguised as sex-play, but was, Blake was sure, more love disguised as sex-play within power play. [2]

*DIRE TRIGGER WARNING: DISCUSSIONS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT, UNDER AGE*

MUSE OF FIRE RESPONSIBLE: M. Fae Glasgow

HAS POOR VILA BEEN DRAGOONED INTO THIS SHITSHOW? —

WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? Maybe not, but even if they are, the reasons are fairly fucking convincing. More below. Because this is a good story, this can’t be summed up easily.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Strange triangle. A kerning error briefly made me believe women would in some way be important in this story. As ever in this zine: no. Alas, it was ‘two men’, but smushy. Story of my Oblique life.

PROSE: very acceptable

OVERALL: I almost find it hard to believe this is by the same Glasgow who wrote all the others. It feels more like a Sebastian fic (or Jane Barron? Vanessa Mullen?). Seriously, either this is someone else subbing covertly under Glasgow’s popular pen-name, possibly because of quite how controversial the material is, or Glasgow is capable of writing very, very well at times. She has some decently-crafted, mid-tier fics in with all the A/V/B, so it’s not out of the realm?

Right, so this story is very good for several reasons. Essentially, via a sympathetic but unsparing close Blake POV, we learn along with him that he actually does desire children (which of course picks up on the first episode’s accusations along those lines). He works out that, logistically, he can’t actually have hurt the children he was accused of hurting, but he still doesn’t really know whether his desires were created artificially, whether they’re the result of some trauma or whether they derive from something innate in him. It ultimately doesn’t really matter: Blake is stuck dealing with this sexuality (and it is an entire, consuming sexuality rather than an isolated, controllable interest) regardless, left trying to retain his sanity, lead a moral life and take steps to protect any children they run across from himself.

I might have appreciated a couple lines where Blake thought about and dismissed his in-universe options for psychological intervention, but in general this is a really compelling treatment of his problem that lets you inhabit his discomfort and intense desire without working to sexualise and render acceptable the unmediated acts under consideration. It’s at times very hard to read because of this: pedophilia is generally disturbing and a vast personal squick for me, and I had to go through the story twice to be sure I was giving it a fair hearing.

The other risk of fic that foregrounds kink, making it the locus of a character’s or the story’s sexuality, is that the people involved and peculiarity of their relationship will be subsumed, and the story will become ‘any two guys, spanking’, etc. Not so here. This–and here we hit on the ‘why they are doomed this week’ stuff–feels intensely personal to these people, and if I don’t quite share the author’s characterisations (or at least the characterisations she employed to make the fic work), I nevertheless understand them as valid readings of the text. Despite the Blake-focus of the pov, this story nonetheless provides an unusual and convincing Avon who displays qualities I don’t normally associate with him, yet which are familiar. It’s charged and tense: Rosetta Stone doesn’t lose the frisson of this relationship within the altered structure of the kink dynamic. This is a story about the fulfilment or devastation these people might be able to bring one another, not just these sexual practices.

I love that I have no idea quite what Avon wants, here. Initially he presents himself to Blake as interested in BDSM, so willing to make a sort of ‘unusual sex’ tit-for-tat trade. He pressures Blake into it in this interesting, manipulative, topping from the bottom way. I’m not sure that claim was ever quite true, though, given that their later sex doesn’t fall into that pattern. Is Avon just interested in subbing? Was Avon abused as a child, sexually or otherwise, and is this a safe or accessible way of coping with/managing the desires those experiences left him with? Is it instead a remarkably compatible kink he happens to want or need independent of such a history? Does Avon simply desire/love Blake, and see this as a means of getting in there, of making himself indispensable and privy to the secret and giving Blake what he needs? A way of experiencing love while retaining control?To what extent is it a power thing? A way, as Blake hypothesises, of experiencing a love not easily compatible with who he thinks of himself as and presents himself as in the world? I can’t definitively say, but in a really productive way, I think.

So, will this accommodation, when they finally reach it, prove stable? Neither of them really know. Everything is complicated by the fact that they do love each other (the conclusion feels a bit like the end of the Sebastian fic with the virtual reality bdsm, there). Outside the fic, I wonder what happens as Avon ages or becomes harder, as per canon–the fic alludes a little to changes in him over time, but can’t nod to what it can’t yet see. I’m interested in how this plays out, in what can become of them in this universe, in whether they can find some way of sustaining both the theatre (and it is well-done, mutualistic performance) and their interpersonal dynamics outside of the bedroom (which are influenced by and connected to this kink-play, but not wholly reducible to or explained by it).

Essentially, this fic needed written at some point, by someone. There was a spectre haunting fandom: what if the Federation had had some starting point for their allegations? A few fics teased and abandoned this as one of a host of accusations tossed about in fights between Blake and his opponents, principally Avon, but none of them ever worked with and through the idea fully. I don’t want many more fics like this at all, but I think the idea deserved one principled exegesis, and this is it. It’s handled with remarkable sensitivity and skill. It doesn’t engage in either easy moralistic condemnation or even a shred of exculpation for the violation the acts Blake contemplates would be for their victims.

If this is Glasgow’s (and not to be a bitch, but I do question it because it’s such a tier above many of her fics, and I could see why you’d want not only to deny authorship but to actively deflect suspicion thereof in this case), then it’s not ‘so good it justifies all the badfic’, but I think it might well be far and away her best. It also almost makes sense of Oblique, in and of itself. All the camp Hot Topic pretend darknessss and edgelording here has a point: this is a story few other zines would or could have run. It answers a lingering question skilfully, and builds something powerful out of it. If more Oblique worked this well I wouldn’t begrudge the house-standard harshness and muck–but then I think the harshness of this story is expertly balanced by the feeling and vulnerability herein, and that it wouldn’t work half so well as a hit piece. THIS HAS BEEN THE MORAL OF ALL MY MOANING ABOUT CHARACTER-ASSASSINATION IN FAVOUR OF UPLIFTING YOUR WOOBIE, BTW. IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: SYMPATHY GETS YOU THERE BETTER.

All the background plot stuff also works well. (Except VILA is supposedly really coming on to Blake, as well as Jenna? ??? Also, a bit of crap Jealous Jenna in this.) [3]

References

  1. 2002 comments by Preditrix
  2. from Crack Van, recced by Exectrix, December 8, 2003
  3. review by Erin Horáková as part of a series: see Oblique Reviews -- Oblique Reviews #9, Archived version (January 23, 2017)