Sleer as Folk
|Title:||Sleer as Folk|
|External Links:||Listing on Hermit.org website (deceased)|
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It contains photomontages by Pat Fenech.
Its Place in Fandom and Fan History
The zine is the first entirely f/f zine in the B7 fandom; the editors write "someone had to be the first to combine the feminist ambitions of a zine like Deadlier than the Male with the queer electricity of slash." In an overview of earlier Blake's 7 f/f, Nova writes:
[S]ince these thirty stories are scattered across twenty-two zines and, consequently, hard to find, f/f slash writers have had to spend a lot of time re-inventing the wheel, rather than drawing on the kind of established traditions available to m/m slash writers. So a zine like Sleer as Folk is an important innovation, giving writers and readers a chance to consider a range of f/f possibilities, consolidate the B7 f/f tradition by learning from each other's experiments with language or plot devices or the positioning of f/f within canon and, perhaps most interestingly of all, contemplate future directions.
The Zines Warnings
Some stories contains explicit sex and some do not.
Some fit snugly into canon, some go off tangentially.
Some are arty, some are plotty, some are funny.
Some have happy endings, others (we hope) will make you miserable.There are familiar characters, those characters acting in unfamiliar ways, and other, original characters.
Excerpts from Editorial
Even the fictional are not safe from this enemy who has not ceased to be victorious. We have to undo all the crimes of Jarvik and every degenerate that ever wimped a B7 woman.
I know it's quite late to be bring in in new ideas, but maybe we should scrap the whole A5 zine idea and do a massive great big fuck off wall chart!!! Or something like the millennium dome, gigantic with a different story on every panel! You know, so we can do away with this whole bourgeois goddamn linear running order notion!
Slash is a minority interest: it's bizarre to write stories in which dead men off the telly are living, gay and in love. You don't make money from it and only a handful of folk are remotely interested. If mainstream slash is a bit pointless, they f/f B7 slash really is an extreme waste of time. Only a fingertip of folk are remotely interested.
People fight and lost the battle, and the thing they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and then it turns out not to be what they meant, and the other people have to fight for what they meant under another name.
Slash has long been theorized as a queer-friendly, woman-friendly force and Blake's 7 has long been a slash-friendly fandom; someone had to be the first to combine the feminist ambitions of a zine like Deadlier than the Male with the queer electricity of slash.
Summaries by the publisher.
- The Queer Electricity of Slash, editorial by Fran & Ika (2)
- Lady Lazarus, fiction by Una McCormack ("Taught by the Resistance and the FSA, Cadet Anna Grant learns all there is to learn about love and treason.") (4)
- Future Perfect, fiction by Ika ("Wherever she works, wherever she lives, Della smokes a lot and worships Major Vinanna, Vis-heroine of Space Force Five. Then a cigarette break with Blake changes Della's life.") (22)
- A Private Sanction, fiction by Pseudnik ("In a revolution, there are only shades of grey. Jenna has some hard choices to make - but does she have enough information to make the right ones, in a universe where politics outweighs morality?") (54)
- Premeditation, fiction by Matilda B. Jones ("This moody vignette explores one of the series' most enigmatic characters: how well does Soolin really understand herself?") (64)
- The Hard Way, fiction by Steve Rogerson ("Being left to operate the teleport has some advantages. While the lads face danger and disease on an isolated mining colony, Cally and Jenna enjoy a little girl time...") (66)
- A Star Is Born, by Fran ("The eccentric Colonel Kasabi - soldier, invert, mother - is having a hard enough time continuing to serve a Federation she finds herself less and less committed to. That's even before she discovers she is at the centre of the machinations of two of her cadets: the beautiful young newcomer Servalan and the bemused and besotted Don, son of ruthless Commissioner Garr Keller.") (98)
- Once, I had a secret love, fiction by Executrix ("In the homophobic world of the Federation elite, survival is a matter of sacrifice and compromise for one woman. Will anything change once she finds herself on the Liberator? And how well did Blake really know his crew?") (160)
- Duet for Rebel and Youth, fiction by Calle Dybedahl ("Dayna, last of the Scorpio crew, will kill Sleer, whatever the cost. She has no time to take on an apprentice rebel: can Tey, a thief and would-be freedom fighter, change Dayna's mind?") (174)
- Kasabi's Child, fiction by Cathra Blen ("Half-truths, omissions and a wedding dress all feature in the tale that Servalan tells Veron, a tale she's never told before...") (218)
- Morning/Night, fiction by Devia ("Ika says: A shameless, but very short, PWP (Servalan/OFC) Fran says: A bijou slice of life at the Presidential palace.") (230)
- you touched me, once upon a time, fiction by Pat Fenech ("On a distant outpost, Avalon's negotiations are going badly even before she receives the report which provokes this bitterly emotive meditation on the (im)possibility of love for a revolutionary.") (234)
- Ika, "The Impossibility of J/C, fiction of Ika ("After Star One, the Liberator's drifting, going anywhere, piloted by Avon's guilt. Jenna left and she couldn't take Cally with her.") (250)
- Songs of Innocence and Experience, fiction by Nova ("A jaded Soolin learns that, for all her experience with Dorian, in some ways she is the biggest innocent on Xenon base. Meanwhile, lines are being traced through the pattern of infinity...") (262)
- (Re)Making Space for Women, article by Nova ("An article surveying the history of published Blake's 7 f/f writing from its first appearance in 1985 to the present day, with bibliography.") (308)
- About the Authors (323)
Reactions and Reviews
[Once, I Had A Secret Love]: 8. Usually I get too embarrassed before actual smut, rather than a Smut Coloring Book, occurs--especially for f/f.9. But I felt better about Jenna-as-victim-of-Federation-homophobia than Jenna-as-Sunnydale!Cordelia-sorority girl. 
[The Impossibility of J/C]: Hooray, it's Blake's 7 f/f! Ika writes the characters in her own inimitable style and hits you with words, actions, thoughts that are just *them*. This is a lovely little piece going through Cally's and Jenna's thoughts throughout their journey in the series, and beyond. All the actual J/C bits are told in flashbacks--there's a melancholy about the whole story (the title is indication enough), a yearning for happiness and stability that can't last, at least not in the B7 universe. Ika is a great writer and uses the most *delicious* word images and phrases, I highly recommend all of her stuff (don't let the modern-style narration in some of them throw you off, the stories are *very* B7-y despite that). But for now, here's The Impossibility of J/C [link to the story]. 
[zine]: I'm happy to report that this is an outstanding zine, a suitable honor for the women of B7. Every single story is well written, and the photo montage illos are lovely, carefully crafted to fit the stories. The small size and flat binding mean that you can hold it in your hands like a book-- very satisfying.
My personal favorite story is Calle's "Duet for Rebel and Youth," a tragic PGP starring an older, harder Dayna, her young admirer, and a very scary Jenna. I especially like the clever use of Dayna's canonical weapon-design expertise in the plot, and the interweaving of action and emotion.
Second favorite, I think (although it's difficult to decide because all the stories are so good), is Fran's "A Star Is Born," which chronicles the beginning of ruthless young Servalan's rise to power, through the eyes of two people besotted with her, Kasabi and Don Keller. And for Best Supporting Role, I nominate little Veron's foster mother Sleeya, a most intriguing character.
The relationship between Kasabi and young Servalan also features in two other stories, "Kasabi's Child" by Cathra Blen and "Lady Lazarus" by Una McCormack. "Kasabi's Child" suggests a novel reason for Servalan's hatred of Kasabi, very different from the scenario of "A Star Is Born." "Lady Lazarus" appealed greatly to me because my own favorite character appears briefly at the end, in a foreshadowing of canonical events.
Una, I have a question about "Lady Lazarus." It's a stunning story-- extremely intense-- but not at all explicit, so that I wasn't quite sure which pairings were being implied. I more or less assumed that Anna and Kasabi were lovers, which would give an interesting resonance to Anna's later involvement with Avon; and that Anna and Servalan were not sexually involved, although in a twisted way they were very close. Did I guess right?
Pat Fenech's writing reminds me a bit of Una's-- very lyrical, very oblique. I'm assuming that the Cally/Avalon relationship so exquisitely described in "You Touched Me, Once Upon a Time" was unconsummated, but did I guess right about that? Or is it perhaps deliberately ambiguous?
I would never have thought that I would enjoy a PWB story about two original characters, but Ika surprised me pleasantly with "Future Perfect." I do hope her oc rebel couple survived to carry on the fight after Blake's arrest-- perhaps they will turn up later, in some future story, and meet the Liberator or Scorpio crews, hint hint? Blethyn and Della remind me a little of Dome Cycle Avon and Vila, with the lower grade having to look after the clueless partner, only not so much so.
Ika's second story, "The Impossibility of J/C," contrasts the lost love of Jenna and Cally to the never-consummated (?) love of Avon and Blake. Which pair are more tragic? Come to think of it, this story could be a prequel to Calle's, if we assume some not-implausible changes in Jenna's character over the intervening years.
For variety, there are two short vignettes: "Premeditation" by Matilda B. Jones, in which Soolin contemplates her new shipmates, along lines somewhat similar to those developed at greater length in Nova's story, but rather darker in feel; and Devia's "Morning/Night," a PWP featuring a hot, explicit encounter between Servalan and an original character. I don't recognize the name of the author; does anyone here happen to know who the ocf Uria is, and when this story takes place?
Pseudnik's "A Private Sanction" is a short, sharp, cleverly plotted thriller, very noir. It's great fun to read something like this with female characters.
"The Hard Way" by Steve Rogerson seemed to me to consist of two different stories, the Cally/Jenna affair and the episode-like adventure plot, which although they were both interesting didn't have much to do with each other. Maybe the two plot lines could have been more integrated; for example, perhaps Cally's new relationship with Jenna might somehow help her to cope with the trauma she suffers toward the end of the story. It would be nice to see more exploration of the emotional ramifications of the sex. And the adventure plot with its political ramifications and well-drawn ocs could have been developed at much greater length, perhaps even on its own as a gen story.
Executrix's "Once, I Had A Secret Love" is a very plausible account of a one night stand between two characters who never met canonically, cunningly positioned during the time when neither of them was seen in the canon, with interesting details of Jenna's past and a neat explanation of why Dorian was later to become so interested in Avon's hapless little gang.
For a cheery finish, Nova's story pairs off all the Scorpio crew in romantic happy endings, with the help of an appealing original character whose identity I have my suspicions about. She's a middle-aged woman with wavy gray hair who runs a gay bookstore and who at one point addresses an audience with "G'day." ;) Bel's, er I mean Nova's, nonfiction survey of the B7 f/f field to date is an invaluable aid to those looking for more of the same and a fascinating critical analysis for those of us who've already read the stories.Very highly recommended. 
[zine]: I never thought I'd see this one! So excited. Once again, I want to draw your attention to the computer artwork of the cover - I think it's ace. Very funny, lovely stuff. Also, the zine does feel and look very nice (good size) - I kind of like the photomanips (which work better in black and white anyway), even as I think they are a bit awful early computer graphics.
A general note on the below - many of them (the best ones) are about queerness in a political context/queerness being illegal or anyway something to hide. This is not unrealistic, and is certainly interesting, but I also think that Nova's essay makes it clear that there's a lot of ground to cover in F/F which has almost no representation in this fandom. People who like F/F pairings have got so little, and here a lot of what they have is about fear first, and the problems of a relationship second. It's better than Blake's bizarre homophobia which appears in so many B/A fics, but it's still odd that it's so much what people have focused on, even as plenty of them (one assumes) are gays themselves. (I say this, as a gay myself)(well - bi). Not much porn, either - it's mostly the male writers, Nova, and then a few other little bits here and there. I say more about this below/I say the same thing but for longer when I reach the essay.
Una McCormack, "Lady Lazarus"
I like this a lot - interesting evil!school story narrative (I like Anna's interpretation of what Kasabi has been teaching them/I like what Kasabi has been teaching them - it's a very clever idea about how that 'treason' was carried out), and crushing sense of inevitability. I assume that, because it's in this zine, Anna must be sleeping with Kasabi, though it's not really clear/would have been more interesting I think if it was clearer.
Ika, "Future Perfect"
This has a lot in common with With/Out Blake in the way that it's told, and the kind of people it focuses on. I like it very much too for much the same reasons, though there's more Blake in this one (so I like it more). I've complained about it before, but here I enjoy how his queerness does inform at least one of his major decisions re the revolution, and how others react to that. It's well done.
Pseudnik, "A Private Sanction"
This is a completely bizarre story about Jenna and Avalon. I don't think either of their choices make sense.
Matilda B. Jones, "Premeditation"
One page about Soolin looking at the rest of the crew (Soolin/Dayna).
Steve Rogerson, "The Hard Way"
This fic is at least two fics - the Jenna/Cally relaxation time (which is not bad) should have been snipped out for this fic, and the Blake, Avon and Vila die slowly on a planet should have been put in another zine. I find the whole thing generally a bit depressing, because it's all about failure, and I also think (though I know this author now and I'm not surprised) that it should not have been necessary to tell us about Avon's poo!
Fran, "A Star Is Born"
This is the best fic in the zine, and a very good Servalan/Kasabi. Again - interesting and lush description of the corrupt Federation, and a soldier coming to term with that not being what she wants. Really good minor characters in Sleeya, Garr Keller, and Don Keller (though I think we have to bend canon significantly to make this interpretation work). Plenty of cracking dialogue, and an interesting painting of Servalan as Kerr Avon but prettier. I think Kasabi herself is a bit passive maybe, but overall still excellent.
Executrix, "Once, I Had A Secret Love"
Jenna backstory - which I quite enjoy. And then she talks Blake with and has sex with Soolin. Pretty fun.
Calle Dybedahl, "Duet for Rebel and Youth"
This is also really good, although I find the end unsatisfying because it relies on characterisation I don't believe. PGP and Dayna is the only one alive and is trying to kill Servalan with some classic Dayna tactics. The scenes on the boat are particularly good.
Cathra Blen, "Kasabi's Child"
This is not really a F/F story, as the gay relationship (never shown on screen, OFC) is only a catalyst for Servalan losing her real (male) love - Don Keller. I found this story confused, mostly. With that title, in this zine, it should have been about Servalan trying to replace Kasabi by seducing her daughter...
And this I found confusing. The summary (Ika says: A shameless, but very short, PWP (Servalan/OFC) Fran says: A bijou slice of life at the Presidential palace) makes it a bit more obvious what it's about, but I didn't have the summary in the zine! So I just had no idea. It also contains the phrase "pushing three fingers into Servalan's arse and then three more into her cunt and rubbing her to a brutal orgasm straight away" - now, this is possible if she a) has six fingers on her right hand - someone was looking for her or b) those are two hands, but if it was two I'd expect it to be phrased differently and for the position to be very clear. Anyway - it's a fantasy, I guess, so it doesn't matter.
Pat Fenech, "You Touched Me, Once Upon a Time"
Too floaty, not for me.
Ika, "The Impossibility of J/C"
I feel like I'd like this one more if the title was different, because I really expect it to convince me of why it's not possible (because they're too different! because Cally's an alien! because Blake and Avon have too many problems! <-- this is sort of maybe in the fic, but I think it's more that they have different problems; more Doylistly, maybe, it is impossible because they don't spend enough time together/neither are as interesting as B and A) and I don't get that from this at all, or at least, not in a way I don't heavily have to infer (I think it's that... Jenna felt Blake needed her more? Although later she thought he needed Avon and she'd made a mistake). That said - I really like the title and the promise of that idea (The Impossibility of B/A would be quite easy to write, even as many other fics have shown it to be quite possible), so I'd be loathe to lose it. All that said - I like the structure of this one, which has J sections, C sections, and J/C sections, and it's nicely written.
Nova, "Songs of Innocence and Experience"
This fic is both one of my greatest inspirations as far as writing the Scorpio crew goes (bratty family who love each other and are incredibly loyal; taking the piss out of Avon re his age - I love 'Uncle Avon'), a really amazingly good depiction of Avon (as per always), and really embarrassing. Blake's poetry is AWFUL, and if it's supposed to be awful then that's weird because he and Avon are supposed to be creating each other inside their work, and Avon's work is not rubbish. Meanwhile the Dayna and Soolin sex scene doesn't understand that it's porn or it wouldn't use phrases like "vagina's swampy hollow" (just one of many bits that make it unsexy, alas).
The ending with Soolin spinning is lovely (but slightly out of nowhere/too much really about B/A rather than D/S), Avon dropping the cup is LOVELY, but in general authors need to put a lot more work in Dayna/Soolin [obviously I didn't] and why it matters because they don't talk enough in canon to sell it. Meanwhile here, Soolin just decides one day that she likes Dayna - it's OK, but it's contrasted with a much more involved and complex depiction of B/A, which helps show its flaws. This is a good Nova (and as I said - it's important to the way I write, which is important to me, if not to anyone else), but not my favourite.
[see this fan's comments on (Re)Making Space for Women on its page]
Aside from Nova's story, which is genuinely shippy (even if it favours another pairing), Sleer and Folk feels to me not like a zine of 'what I'd call' femslash really. It's more driven by the questions that interested the writers of Pressure Point and Trooper Orac (that fin de siecle period of the late 1990s/early 2000s), more political GEN really is what I am trying to say, than by a desire to think about two women actually doing the same sorts of things as Blake and Avon would do with each other in Fire and Ice (where it is ALL about sex. Every fic has sex, as well as feelings and wacky situations and people saying they love each other etc, and if Blake is homophobic then he's forced to get through it with sex as part of a larger narrative). It's interesting, it's very interesting, but for me it's more proof of how femslash is not a thing in this fandom, rather than a building block.Ho hum. I do definitely recommend this zine. 
My first fandom was Blake's 7. Yes, there wasn't a lot of f/f in B7, but it wasn't non-existent. You had to look in the right places, mostly photocopied and stapled together zines with a lot of Avon/Vila, but it was there. Some zine publishers were actively hostile to it, but others were quite political, and it got through. Eventually there was an f/f only zine, and - well, it was symptomatic of what is wrong with the f/f discussion right now. There were exceptions, but a lot of the fic in that zine (I didn't submit anything, for the record, so no sour grapes here) read like it was written by straight women who were m/m fans and were wrting f/f To Make a Point, and it read condescendingly and in a forced way. Some of the others had a teensy bit of f/f shoved hastily into a story that really didn't want to be about f/f at all, and probably wasn't in the original draft. Again, there were exceptions, there were good stories, but most of it was pretty dire. Well-meaning, but too proud of itself and not written out of the gleeful desire that is fandom. It's hard to write well when your hands are fully occupied in patting yourself on the back.
In short, it read like it was written mostly by people who were all "Why is there no f/f?" instead of by f/f writers.B7 did have a problem with f/f. There was genuine discrimination against f/f writers, and it was much harder to get f/f published in zines. But then the explosion of online fandom happened, and you didn't need to get past fandom gatekeepers any more. Well, you sort of did in B7 fandom with its cliquey restricted membership lists (heaven knows how I made it onto them, I was an argumentative brat) but you could always make your own list. Many of us did. And the fen found us. 
[zine]: Excellent. 
- Screwz: 2003 Winners (accessed 23 September 2015)
- Sleer As Folk (Hermit) (accessed 3 February 2011)
- Fran & Ika, "The Queer Electricity of Slash" (Editorial) Sleer as Folk 2–3
- Nova (2002) 'Re(Making) Space for Women: A guide to f/f slash in Blake's 7 fanzines' Sleer as Folk 308–322
- author's comment at My Stories, May 17, 2003
- recced by Snowgrouse at Crack Van, December 24, 2004
- from Sarah Thompson at Judith Proctor's Blake's 7 site
- comments by Aralias, zine reviews! - Procrastination Central, Archived version, December 27, 2015
- So why are we still having this conversation? by kannaophelia, October 17, 2011
- Espresso Recommendations: Blake's 7 (accessed 19 January 2014)