Stripping the Scales
|Title:||Stripping the Scales|
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It was published in Fire and Ice #5.
Reactions and Reviews
Try Stripping the Scales in Fire & Ice V, for a really unusual premise which she makes entirely convincing. Suppose Blake was made into an obediently homophobic little robot by his time with the Federation? The more obvious way to go with this idea is to make Blake gay, but she's taken the idea in another direction.
There's a hell of a lot of carefully worked-out social background in this story, as well as plenty of hot sex (and some excellent h/c). And the characters are intelligent; this writer actually likes the characters for brains as well as prettiness, and it shows.
Avon's emotions are splendidly-drawn: this really is an area where less is more, and the emotions pack more of a punch for being inaccessible.
There is also an A/J scene: well, nearly. Unlike many A/B writers, Julia Stamford can write Jenna very sympathetically, and show there's an interesting not-quite or might-have-been relationship between this pairing as well, which also works very well as Het-that-might-almost-be-Slash.The sequel, Toolkit (in the same 'zine), is also excellent, but more an exercise in pure smut, the situation having been established in the previous story. 
"Stripping the Scales" deals seriously and skilfully with some themes that are common in B7 fan fiction but often handled clumsily. This universe postulates a homophobic Federation, but the real struggle takes place inside Blake's head, as he tries to understand his reactions to Avon's overtures and sort out true feelings from false, conditioned ones. I especially like the handling of the A/B/J triangle, and the characterization of Jenna, who is far more unflappable about sexual matters than either of the men-- as is only logical, given her more adventurous life history! Here the bitchy, randy one is Avon-- not my own favorite characterization of him, but presented in a believable and touching way in this story. 
Stripping the Scales (A/B) -- Julia Stamford: I love this pair of stories. Wonderful characterisation, sex, humour--and a happy relationship!... For the purposes of these stories, Blake is straight and Avon is bi--how they manage to get it together despite this little obstacle is the theme of the first story. Imagine if Blake, sublimely unaware, orders Avon to get laid and improve his temper, with "anyone on the ship, if she's willing." From his time as a guest of the Federation, Blake has a double helping of homophobia layered on top of his basic straight orientation, and barely realises consensual homosexuality can exist (what he has seen in prison doesn't help). The social background is unusually good in this story: too often in fanfic there isn't any attempt to imagine what it might be, but since canon gives us a stratified repressive society, why *wouldn't* they stoop to this sort of thing? Avon thinks that Blake needs to be whacked over the head by a clue-by-four, and provides the necessary education. From this outline, it sounds almost like a comedy story, but it's got angst as well. Highly recommended, and not just because it was written for me. 
Right. Right. So, if you knew what was coming, you may have seen me gearing up for this fic (and the initial run of fics from F&I6) with my objections to F&I 4. I just don't know why Roj Blake, a man who spends his life doing things he doesn't want to do for the good of other people, can't bring himself to even consider giving Avon a blowjob. It makes me want to scream and throw things. It's not just something I don't want the entire fic to be about (oh noes, am I gay?), this time I find the way it's depicted to be in active opposition to how I see the character. I really like the way Stamford writes them both usually, and indeed there's lots of niceness and good dialogue in this one, but, like Blake and his fear of giving blowjobs, I can't get past the fact that this fic is obsessed with things I'm not interested in and don't think are relevant: helping Blake get past the fact he is not gay/that he's been brainwashed into being homophobic, and then experimentation with casual D/s play. Bondage and power struggles are things I'm interested in, but I am not interested in it if it's a game and they're putting on an act, and it's not lulzy/doesn't reveal anything about them as characters. We escape the fic-space and get into 'this could be anyone'. This is a long fic, and I was disappointed not to spend the time I was reading it with Blake and Avon. However - there is a nice bit where Jenna gropes Avon. I enjoyed that part.