Star Trek, Blake's 7, and Pros AUs
|Title:||Star Trek, Blake's 7, and Pros AUs (1994 essay)|
|Date(s):||June 7, 1994|
|Medium:||online, mailing list|
|Fandom:||Star Trek, Blake's 7, and Pros|
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Star Trek, Blake's 7, and Pros AUs is a 1994 essay by Lynn C.
It was originally part of a longer essay (not online).
It was posted to Virgule-L and quoted here on Fanlore with permission from the author.
Introduction to the Posting on Virgule-L
Delurking again for a moment... this seems an opportune time to post the last half of a paper I wrote on AUs... It's fannish and might be of interest to some people. I looked at AUs in K/S, B7, and Pros, comparing the fandoms and the role of AUs in each. This led to speculation about why there are few AUs in B7 and so many in Pros; I mentioned the fact that a story feels like an AU if the characterization is off, and tied that to the function of AUs historically in K/S.
[I wrote this paper in March, and didn't quote anyone on the list except Sue who gave me permission.]In the rest of this paper, I will concentrate on alternate universe slash stories, which are stories in which the setting is different from the source show's setting: for example, a Professionals AU might use Regency England instead of Thatcher's England. AU stories are particularly interesting since they are profuse in some fandoms and not in others; and they beg the question of what they give the readers and writers that the original universe in the source show doesn't offer.
- Those Who Dare
- The Prize
- A Question of Balance
- Though This Be Madness
- The Weight
- Sea Thief
- Dancing On the Edge
- Variations on a Theme
- Looking Glass World
- Professional Dreamer
- Descent to Humanity
- Bird in a Gilded Cage
- Bodie's Luck
- Arabian Nights
- Whisper of a Kill
- Night Moves
- Rainbow Chasers
- Last Stand at the Edge of the Universe
- Reaching for Death by Natasha Solten (Resistance 2)
- Absolution by Dovya Blaque (Resistance 1)
- Mind of a Man trilogy by Susan Matthews
Excerpts from the Essay
The Mirror universe and the Mirror Kirk and Spock [in Star Trek: TOS] have provided a lot of slash fuel. Mirror AUs either show the original Kirk and Spock interacting with the Mirror ones, or deal solely with the Mirror ones. Frequently Mirror stories are very violent and feature rapes and enslavement; one fan complained in the K/S letterzine (On the Double) that they are "harsh, rough, and deal a lot with mayhem" (OTD 10, p.26). Alexis Fegan Black's story "Though This Be Madness" (Naked Times #2) features the Mirror Spock breaking through to the source universe and raping Kirkin his cabin. Kirk, who is in love with his first officer but hasn't approached him about it, notices things about this Spock that are different, but does not realize for several pages who is attacking him. [snipped] The theme here is clearly that the Mirror universe allows fulfillment of dark desires that cannot be expressed comfortably in the source show's universe.
Interestingly, in Professionals fanfic there is a takeoff on the "Mirror, Mirror idea in K/S, a story called "Looking Glass World," by Ellis Ward. Amusingly, in this story Doyle recognizes that their excursion into the parallel world is like an episode of Star Trek! Rather than making the Mirror universe simply nastier than the source universe, Ward presents a set of characters with a slightly harder edge, reminiscent of their characterization in other Professionals fanfic.
In the Mirror world, Bodie and Doyle are gay, while in the real world they are not. Furthermore, the Mirror Bodie explains that he sleeps with Cowley to keep Cowley on his good side; this is a reference to other fan literature that pairs Bodie with their supervisor. In the course of the story, the Mirror Bodie takes sexual advantage of the real Doyle who has been kidnappedand brainwashed into becoming a hustler (Doyle as prostitute is another fannish cliche). The Mirror Bodie ultimately redeems himself by helping the real Bodie recover Doyle and escape from the Mirror universe. The function of the interaction with the Mirror universe characters again seems to be to make the characters in the real (i.e., source) universe recognize their attraction and the possibility of a relationship between them.
In contrast with Professionals and K/S, Blake's 7 lacks AUs for the most part. There are several possible explanations for this. To even get the characters in bed together requires a lot of work within the source universe, given the unhappy conclusion to the series (in which Avon kills Blake, and Avon and his crew are gunned down by Federation guards). Hence, many Blake's 7 stories revolve around the "fixing" premise, or reinterpreting the source show, usually by invalidating the aired events in some way. For example, fans of Avon/Vila must cope with the fact that Avon tried to throw Vila out of the airlock over Malodaar when the shuttle couldn't escape the planet's gravity.
So why are AUs so prevalent in some fanfic? What do AUs offer readers that the original settings don't? Penley (1992) references Laplanche and Pontalis (1968) on "Fantasy and the Origins of Sexuality," noting that setting is integral to fantasy. An AU may offer an alternate setting, giving the writer a chance to try role playing with the characters. For some fans, the setting of the original show is not intriguing enough for the erotic fantasy to work; one fan says she doesn't like Professionals stories set in the CI5 universe because spy stories bore her, but she happily reads the AUs. Others propose that AUs offer more plot options than the original setting alone provides. As Penley notes, the subject may identify with a number of different positions in the fantasy, and even in a "de-subjectivized form, that is, 'in the very syntax' of the fantasy sequence." AUs clearly allow a greater variety of possible syntaxes than the source universe does.
Other functions of AUs are the option for scenarios like rape, which can be excused if committed by evil Mirror characters,but not so easily excused if committed by characters fans know and love. In "Variations on a Theme" (Valerie Piacentini and Sheila Clark) we are presented with an AU Kirk who has been raped and abused by an evil AU Spock; Kirk has been rescued and rehabilitated by the good Spock, but we are given reminder after reminder of the treatment Kirk endured, which clearly serves an erotic purpose, while simultaneously being rejected as inappropriate: in fact the evil Spock was killed by the good Spock for his behavior. The sheer number of AUs (and even non-AUs) with rape and s&m and dominance games between the characters leads me to dismiss Penley's (1992) and Lamb and Vieth's (1985) argument that slash is feminist retelling of relationships as equal, balanced, androgynous romances. This is not a fiction that is utopian, it is a fiction that expresses erotic needs, as Russ (1985) points out. AUs allow fulfillment of some of those needs, and in K/S certainly the AUs are dark and violent.
So why are there few explicit AUs in Blake's 7 fanfic? I propose that there isn't need for the Mirror style of AUs because the source universe is already a dark one. Furthermore, since the characters in the source universe aren't acting on their attractionin any obvious way in the TV show, reinterpreting their universe as a lighter one provides the characters with some room for romance. For some fans, in fact, the revisionist versions of the show (with Blake and Avon living happily ever after) feel like AUs. This is probably because the happy ending stories are fulfilling a similar purpose as the Mirror ones do in KS: that of allowing the characters to escape the constraints of their source universe and explore their attraction for one another.
But not all AUs are about Mirror characters; why aren't there any AUs for Blake's 7 that simply transport them to another historical time period, for instance? One possibility is that since the show is a serial that builds towards a tragic end, the characters cannot be easily separated from their universe and the events that define their personalities. Susan Clerc remarks (p.c.) that AU settings usually provide a new source of tension between the characters via new plot devices, and that there is no reason to move Blake and Avon into another universe for tension. In a different political climate, they would be very different people, and they would have a different sort of relationship.
Professionals has relatively few Mirror type AUs---the Ellis Ward stories are the only ones I know of. I suspect that the Professionals universe is simply flexible enough to allow Mirror style characterization of the source characters if the writer wants: the "Consequences" rape stories are a fine example of Mirror type nastiness withinthe setting of the source show. "Consequences," is rumored to have been written as an anti-slash story. It proposes that Bodie, the ex-mercenary character, rapes his partner Doyle, and Doyle likes it. The fan who wrote this apparently believed any romantic relationship between the two macho, insensitive characters was impossible and wrote it to "prove" it. The story has sparked more fannish debate and sequels than any other in Professionals fandom.
In sum: AUs allow alternate characterizations, notably exploration of the dark side of the characters; they also offer new settings which provide new sources of conflict between the characters or added interest for the reader. Blake's 7 doesn'thave explicit Mirror universes because the characters are relatively dark and tension-ridden in the original universe. Characterization of the Professionals is loose enough that the characters may be portrayed as dark and violent or as romantic and sweet. The Professionals characters are also detachable enough from their source setting for complete AU settings to work, unlike the characters in B7.
However, AUs that depart entirely from the source universe (i.e., in historical settings, or parallel universes with no contact with the source universe) are interesting to the readers only as long as the characters presented retain enough traits of the original characters to be recognizable. So while there is expected difference due to the different settings, there is a concomitant tension in the need to be related interestingly to the source characters. Ideally, the reader should be reading about personality aspects of the characters in the source show, as seen through a different universe's filter. Hence, the AU writer must work hard to create plausible interpretations of the characters within that setting. This work is ultimately a community activity, since the the community negotiates over what is plausible, through criticism and by writing stories in response to stories.