Sorry, but I've been pondering

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Title: Sorry, but I've been pondering
Creator: Neil Faulkner
Date(s): 2011
Medium: online
Fandom: Blake's 7
Topic: "new wave" of Blake's 7 fanfiction
External Links: on livejournal, Wayback link
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Sorry, but I've been pondering is a meta essay by Neil Faulkner. It posits that a "new wave" of fanfiction distinct from the more "traditional" approach to B7 fic appeared in Blake's 7 fandom in the latter half of the 1990s and the early 2000s.

Some Topics Discussed

  • Recurring features of new waves
  • Characteristics of the new wave in Blake's 7 fandom
  • New wave authors and zines


Now, as for a B7 new wave, how might it be defined (bearing in mind that any definition is bound to be loose)? It seems to me - and I know my perspective is limited - that some time in the 1990s there was a growing trend among B7 fanfic writers, especially newcomers to fandom, to move away from traditional B7 fanfic (what I'll call 'tradfic'). The way they did this included the following (though not all writers did all of these, let alone all at once):

1: Higher levels of social, political and (to a lesser extent) scientific realism.

2: More overt politicisation and polemicisation, largely leaning to the left.

3: Using B7 as a resource for writing, rather than taking up writing as a means of celebrating B7.

4: Looking outwards, applying B7 to externalities (other media, popular culture, social and political changes, etc). Tradfic, by contrast, tended to import such externalities and apply them to B7. (This isn't easy to describe. I just know the difference when I see it. It might be regarded as the difference between, say, writing B7 as a western, and writing a western as B7. The former would more likely be trad, the latter more likely new wave.)

5: Higher levels (or at least aspiration to such) of literary sophistication, such as conscious experiments in style and/or content.

6: A cavalier attitude to canon.

7: A conscious avoidance of (often openly tinged with disdain for) the established tropes of tradfic.

So, who were this 'new wave'? espresso_addict suggested some possible contenders, and listed all the ones I'd thought of as well as a few more. I've since had time to consider some additional names. The sheer number of people who might qualify suggests that there really was something in the air at the time and a lot of people were more than happy to breathe it in. So, some names, and some of the stories that I think particularly deserve to be considered as new wave. This does not, I hasten to add, even pretend to be an exhaustive list, it's just a sample, and inevitably reflects the limits of my own zine collection (such as there is left of it).

espresso_addict also suggested Hafren, with whose writing I'm unfamiliar, and doubtless there are others.

The new wave may have reached its apogee with the appearance of two particular zines, ttba and Sleer as Folk. (I say 'may have' because they appeared just as I was exiting fandom, and I don't really know what happened afterwards.) The editorial for ttba can almost be regarded as a (quite unintentional) new wave manifesto. If I neglect to include I, Mutoid, it's because I'd never heard of it until yesterday. I suspect Varia Lectio might also qualify. espresso_addict kindly cited my own zines, but although they may have had some new wave content (some of it in the list above), they also contained a lot of tradfic, and some of it by me.


kerravonsen: A remark in the previous post about the centrality of the Lyst and of Space City/Freedom City mailing lists - I think that is a good point, considering that you mark this trend as something that started in the mid-90s, and that's about when the Lyst started, if I recall correctly.

I wonder whether there has been a similar "new wave" in Doctor Who fandom. The reason I mention Doctor Who is that both B7 and DW are old fandoms which straddle the divide between print fandoms and online fandoms, they've both been around a long time. I hypothesize that longevity in a fandom is more likely to produce a "new wave" as fans get their fill of tradfic and want to experiment. Whereas fans who flit from fandom to fandom like butterflies are less likely to want to experiment, as they simply make more tradfic in new fandoms, often leaving a fandom as soon as the canon closes, instead of sticking around.

On the other hand, maybe I'm the classic counterexample, because I keep on writing tradfic though I'm an old fan. Or because I'm an old fan? The only things I've done which could be considered vaguely "new wave" is experimentations of style, which I did in my "Butterfly Effect" stories. And I think that "Staked Blake", which was started via the Lyst, is full of tradfic rather than new wave fic.

sallymn: I'm not sure if Bryn Lantry would also count as a precurser? She definitely seemed to me to be experimenting with style and language - too much so for some readers, methinks, she could be very lush and mannered, but definitely went her own way...

I know I don't count, I was there on the side scribbling about domesticity and what freedom fighters did in their spare time (some things never change... :)

espresso_addict: Speaking personally, Pressure Point & Stadler Link were definitely precursors to ttba; all of ttba, Sleer as Folk & I, Mutoid contained a fair proportion of tradfic (good coinage, btw). And I'm not sure the ttba editorial was unintentional in its manifesto qualities...

I'd add 8: Use of realistic original characters (with a 'bugger the Mary-Sue haters' subtext)

Additional key works for me:

  • 'Between Life and Death', Loulou Harris -- much more so than 'Cold Revolution'
  • 'The Seven Deadly Virtuals', Penny Dreadful
  • 'Radioheads', Alison Page
  • 'Purple Haze', Executrix
  • 'The Wit and Wisdom of the Dead', Neil Faulkner
  • 'Fanfic' sequence, Sheenagh Pugh -- though this was pro-poetry

julesjones: The thing with 8 was another significant factor in tipping me into writing profic. As in, I wanted to write a story about an original character, and a) thought a majority of fanfic readers wouldn't read it because it was about an OC with the main cast completely off-stage, b) I really didn't want to deal with the people who thought that any OC was by definition a Mary-Sue because no fanfic writer could conceive an OC that wasn't just themselves in disguise. We had at least one person explicitly state that on the Lyst around about then, with particular reference to one of Ika's pieces I'd admired for what I will now call its new wave sensibilities.

Neil's "Wit and Wisdom" is an interesting example, because although it technically uses canonical characters, I think that in practice it is an example of 8 for one of the lead characters. As for 6, I think it would be wrong to say that "Wit and Wisdom" has a cavalier attitude to canon -- what it does is neatly subvert canon, by giving you a story that is perfectly compatible with what we see on screen, but casts a completely different light on a character's actions. Which is also a trait of the new wave.

watervole: Another element might also be a willingness to write fic around very minor characters - almost ignoring the leads altogether.

That links into the aspect of writing about the culture and the social aspects, which is much easier to do when your main character is a mutoid/whatever.

dolores_crane: I wrote a fair bit of trad slash in addition to the 'new wave' stuff, but I don't think any of it got zined (it'll all be on the Hermit site). To me, your (4) and (5) (looking outward, higher standards) are the defining characteristics of 'new wave', with the other characteristics being descriptive of what the new wave produced rather than defining of what it was (if that makes sense). But oh dear, (4) and (5) are precisely what has been making me like fanfic less since it made the leap to LJ...

I'm wondering about Nova, for obvious reasons but also because the very first post I ever received on FC was executrix's review of her all-A/B zine 'Bend Me, Shape Me'. Her stories are highly political (eg 'The Political Education of Kerr Avon'), leftist and queer, and her writing is obviously of a high literary standard (though arguably not 'experimental'), but I think she worked with more traditional tropes, and might end up as tradfic? An interesting limit case, maybe, though.

espresso_addict: I'd agree that 4 & 5 are primary, and the rest consequent.

Re Nova, as I wrote in my journal, I had always personally thought of her as firmly rooted in the tradfic tradition. I'm not sure, though, that I've read all of her B7 writing, and certainly not for ages (as it wasn't online when I did the bulk of my B7 recommending), so I might well be missing some later work that more clearly fits within the new wave. (Is 'The Political Education of Kerr Avon' online anywhere? [Has horrible thought] That wasn't the story Nova sent me for the doomed ttba2, was it? Aie!)

Her stories are highly political (eg 'The Political Education of Kerr Avon'), leftist and queer, and her writing is obviously of a high literary standard (though arguably not 'experimental'), but I think she worked with more traditional tropes, and might end up as tradfic? An interesting limit case, maybe, though.

Her writing is always very fluent (I recall I commented on Bend Me, Shape Me that the author was obviously a pro-writer) but I wouldn't call the bulk of it 'experimental', and I think it did tend to use traditional tropes, though sometimes subtly undermining them.