The Blake's 7 Wars

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"Everyone lost in this Gauda Prime of B7 fandom." -- from a fan in Rallying Call #16 (1996)

The Blake's 7 Wars were a series of events taking place in the late 1980s in the Blake's 7 fandom community. It goes by many names, including "The Fannish Controversies," "The Controversy," "The Feud," and "The Blake's 7 Slash Wars."

The events disrupted and divided the fandom community, leading to what some believe was the mass migration of fans away from Blake's 7 fandom. It also created ripple effects of fear and uncertainty that eventually transformed into fandom urban legends.

Also see Timeline of the Blake's 7 Wars.

What Happened?

The Blake's 7 Wars were fueled by misunderstandings, bruised egos, power plays, and poor communication among all the parties.

The events began in 1988 when fans learned that some of the actors and writers of the Blake's 7 show were planning for profit conventions in the US. Objections were raised by these fans, first in an anonymous letter, then in more public forums such as newsletters and letterzines.

In the midst of the discussions about the role of profit in fandom and the involvement of TPTB, slash fanfiction was drawn into the fray by a fan who revealed to the Darrows the pseuds of three well-known slash fic writers. This forced the actors and producer to take a public stand of their own regarding slash fanworks, something that had been a live-and-let-live topic until then. In 1988, Paul Darrow got a solicitor to send a formal letter to three Blake's 7 fans - a zine editor, an artist, and a writer - ordering them to stop publishing, drawing, and writing, anything involving "his" character or his likeness, plus those of two other actors. [1]

Other letters, press packets and public statements were released by the actors and writers, some of which were directed personally at and against individual fans. Fandom was divided between those who supported their fellow fans, those who supported the actors, and those who wanted to stay neutral. A fan in Rallying Call #15 wrote: "Some fans began loudly taking sides, generally divided by what they thought of slash and/or the actor. My favourite button that it spawned was 'I'm NOT on Your Side Either!' or 'Just Shut UP about it!'"

Pseudo legal threats were issued against fans.

Some mitigating factors:

Some fans believe that Paul Darrow knew about slash (and RPF) early on, but did not take action until the events of 1988, making the topic of slash a scapegoat.

Academic Camille Bacon-Smith saw the events as a clash between the new and old guard. Many of the core Blake's 7 fans had been attracted to the fandom because, unlike Star Trek, it had not developed a slash presence. The newcomers threatened to change this status quo:
"When the [Blake's 7] program aired on public television stations in major metropolitan markets, it attracted many fans from the Star Trek community, and other from among the Doctor Who enthusiasts more accustomed to club activities than widespread fanzining. Early Blake's 7 fans experienced distress that the interest group had grown beyond their comfort level for "knowing everybody." Incoming fans from these Trek circles brought with them reputations that threatened the infra group status of original members. Many of these newcomers shared an aesthetic preference for more sexual material and a more romantic, sentimental style that threatened the aesthetic norms of the core group. The situation was further complicated by the relationships between the newcomers and the original Blake's 7 fans in the wider community. In some cases, new and old members shared an interest and friendship in a different interest group; in other cases, early fans of Blake's 7 participated in that interest group to avoid the attitudes and artistic forms that now followed them into their new neighborhood. Few of us like to see our neighborhood change, and fewer still like to see the very things we wished to leave behind follow us into our new homes. The effect on the Blake's 7 interest group has been predictably disturbing to its members, and in 1988 the group did fission under the stress, in part along genre lines and in part based on personalities. Thus far [in 1992] social equilibrium has not been completely reestablished, but it appears that most participants who remain will establish residency in one group or the other, while some members will continue to participate in both groups."[2]
Another factor that played a role in the “Feud” (as Camille Bacon Smith called it) was the unusual blurring of lines between fans and Paul Darrow, one of the actors from the show:
"Darrow.....”had tipped a delicate balance when he involved himself with the community at its own level. Darrow visited widely on the convention circuit, dined with fans who traveled to see him, and joined with them in speculating about the psychology of his character [Kerr Avon]. Surrounded by fiction writers, Darrow himself wrote a book about the early life of his character, Avon. He had become too much a fan to be accepted as an entrepreneur. He called the early fans "family," and to many of them his actions [participating in the proposed for profit conventions] smacked a bit of using the family reunion to make a profit. At the same time, to newer fans who hadn't known him "when," he remained a performer entitled to the same pay any other performer received for working a convention. When he obscured the line between performer and audience, Darrow unwittingly added to the schism already taking place between the pre-telecast and post-telecast fans. More importantly, he contributed to this split along [slash, gen, and het] genre lines when he discovered that some fans within his "inner circle" were writing explicitly sexual material involving his character with other male characters on Blake's 7. Distressed at what he viewed as a breach of friendship, Darrow banished the offenders from his circle, and he further demanded that those who would remain close to him likewise sever all ties with the writers of the erotic material. The Blake's 7 fan group fragmented; even members of clubs who were not involved with fanzining or the controversy found themselves affected by the dispute as their friends took sides. Some fans supported Darrow's position, some supported the fanziners who were working in a small but well-established subgenre, and the vast majority backed away, simply disgusted at what has become known as "The Feud."[3]

The Slash Topic

As with other large media fandoms such as Star Trek and Star Wars, slash fandom was not universally accepted and many fans raised religious and moral objections to the genre.

Still, slash and gen writers and readers in the Blake's 7 fandom had co-existed for many years with large number of slash fanzines being published during the 1980s.

A fan in 2009 commented on Blake's 7 fiction: "Certainly, most Blake's Seven fan fiction written in 1978-1981 was circulated on set. Oddly, the porn usually rose to the top, or so we were informed by David Jackson." [4]

Another fan's reply: "I'm not at all surprised the porn rose to the top and I'm happy to hear David Jackson admitted it. Of course, Mr. Darrow ordered it immediately delivered to his dressing room. (Oooh, sorry, that was evil)." [5]

And the response: "Read it! Hell, David wrote (or, to be more precise, taped) his own satiric R-rated fic, though I felt very privileged to hear the tape, as there were only a couple of copies, the original being made for the fan (Anne Harding) who he later married. "The reason there was no B7 slash published in the UK until after the show finished was, in part, due to Pat Thomas promising Gareth Thomas that she wouldn't allow that kind of thing. You didn't cross Pat!" [6]

This delicate balance changed in 1989 when one of the Blake's 7 actors and a segment of the fan community raised objections to the slash community and attempted to force it back underground. Many believe that slash had little do with with the real issues and that it was used as a pretext by fans battling over access to the actors and the ability to run for-profit conventions.

By most accounts, slash was peripheral to the main debate of fan run vs. professional conventions and actor vs fannish bruised egos. Certainly in many of the contemporary LOCs at the time[7], fans focused on the 'for profit' conventions and whether the actors should be paid first, and only then moved on to the topic of slash.

That being said, negative attitudes about slash did play a role in the Blake's 7 wars. Given that the genre has always been a major flashpoint for media fandom, it is not surprising that years later the Blake's 7 wars are now known as the "Blake'7 Slash Wars."

So what were fans saying about slash in Blake's 7 fandom at the time? Some argued that because slash offended a few of the actors, slash fans should not be a visible presence at Blake's 7 conventions. Another goal was to make certain that slash zines and fanart not be allowed to be sold at these events. At least one, if not more, actors from the show weighed in and announced their opposition to both slash fiction and slash fans. There was much focus on publicly identifying who was a slash fan, who was a secret slash fan, and who could be outed as a slash fan to the actors.

Very Brief Timeline

See Timeline of the Blake's 7 Wars for a much more detailed overview.

The Paper Trail

A series of open letters, press releases, and locs were published in the Blake's 7 fan community. Some of the content and writers of these letters remains elusive, while some is well documented. There was at least one "Name Withheld By Request" open letter circulated and then later published in an issue of the Federation Archives and two other open letters written by the actor Paul Darrow and his wife.

The following are the known public discussions of the topic. There may be more.

Fan Comments

The story of the Blake's 7 Wars were passed down orally through successive waves of fans until they took on a mythic quality, obscuring what some argued were the original reasons behind the wars (namely access to the actors and for profit conventions). And like a game of "Telephone," the information often mutated.

Below are multiple versions of events; where possible they are offered here unedited. Keep in mind that different fans had access to different information, they often had opposing goals, and all had much to protect. This means that each statement or comment needs to be read in context and with awareness of each fan's filters.

1988: General Remarks

flyer for "The Killing Grounds" by Suzan Lovett, printed in 5th Season #5 in 1988, a zine was abandoned due to the controversy

The Killing Grounds was a zine by Suzan Lovett that was never completed because of this controversy.

1989: Remarks in "Horizon Newsletter"

Comments from Horizon Newsletter:

On the way out to Gambit, I really didn't know what to expect. Duels to the Death in the Dealer's room? Mass burnings of Paul's book, a la 'Satanic Verses'? (...Ed. - hardly, we sold around 150 copies!) As it turned out, the only public manifestations of the Controversy that I was aware of at Gambit were these: A note slipped into the Gambit program book, stating that the views held by individuals were not representative of the convention or committee as a whole. There was a paragraph in to the pocket program reminding everybody that '...people have come a long way and waited a long lime to enjoy this event. Don't spoil it for them...if you find you can not agree with someone, at least be polite'.

At the opening ceremony, Terry read out a statement from Paul, and then circulated copies of it to anybody who wanted one. He also told us his views 'on-the-record' during the interview we did with him. At the first panel, when asked the usual question of what his ambition was, Terry replied: "To see the rift in B7 fandom healed." - and the audience reaction was unanimous - a huge roar of approval and several minutes of applause.

Similarly, Gareth stood up and said: "There are rumours of a rift between myself and Paul. I can assure you that this isn't true - and that there's nothing I would like better than to have Paul here beside me now!"

Naturally there was much whispering in corners, and huddled and heated arguments, but these were properly kept private. I have a feeling that many of the attendees at the convention were unaware of what had been going on, especially those who are new to fandom. After all, not everybody reads 'Federation Archives'! It would have been a shame to spoil it for them, the 'small-name-fans' who only want to enjoy themselves and the convention. Anyway, despite everything, the Gambit convention was wonderful, and the shadow cast over it by the Controversy served only to make it seem brighter, like the sunshine after a storm. [9]

1989: General Remarks

The LoCs: An editorial prelude. I, like many other fans, have my own opinion on the current controversy, but my main opinion is that this extremely acrimonious argument is tearing fandom apart, straining friendships, and decreasing everyone's enjoyment of the program. In other word, my friends, this fight stinks and I'm only allowing letters on the subject now in the name of fairness. Any further communications I receive about it will promptly and unceremoniously hit the rubbish heap. [10]

1990: General Remarks

[ Pat Nussman shelves a Blake's 7 novel she had been working on]: ... my magnum opus went on ice with the Controversy. Pity, since it had (I think) some great Tarrant scenes. [11]
[by Ann Wortham, "News from Ashton Press May 1990"]:

Here we are at the second of my generic letters, designed to, hopefully, answer all your questions and keep you up-to-date on the happenings around here. If none of this interests you then for Pete's sake don't torture yourself by reading it!

first page of May 1990's "News from Ashton Press"
second page of May 1990's "News from Ashton Press"

Response to the first letter I sent out has been terrific and I've received quite a few orders, contents, and the like generated by it. Unfortunately, it also generated more questions! So, here is all the news and the answers to as many of your questions as I can remember.

Several people asked about the STARLOG situation I mentioned in last month's letter. I'll be brief. In light of Paul Darrow's anger at me last year (due to public criticisms I trade of him), he demanded that Leah forsake her friendship with me. She refused. In retaliation, he told people she no longer had his "permission" to draw Avon. (Please be aware that the law does not require his "permission" for an artist to render a fictional character played by a public figure into an original piece of artwork.) STARLOG magazine, prior to all this, had contracted with Leah to have her illustrate (with serious style art) a B7 Episode Guide which was written by Jean Airey. Mr. Darrow, with the help of Jean Airey and possibly others (STARLOG mentioned an "American lawyer") contacted STARLOG and attempted to have Leah summarily blacklisted. STARLOG withdrew their offer to Leah and made a blanket policy of allowing no B7 artwork, by any artist, in their magazine. So you can thank Mr. Darrow for the lack of B7 material in STARLOG. The good news is, however, that STARLOG did pay Leah a standard kill fee, honoring their agreement with her in that manner. So, you see, she got paid for doing nothing. Thank you, Mr. Actor! [see more at News from Ashton Press].

1991: General Remarks

[A long-time zine ed's farewell]: Not only learning about other people, but about myself. I had corresponded with a person in the fandom and we discussed Nazi Germany and how each of us would have behaved. I can now answer for both of us because immediately after, the great "Controversy" broke, and there in a microcosm, was a harmless fantasy world in which to witness behavior, and I know how he acted, and I know how he acted. I learned the boundaries between being a fan and and obsession where people have a life and where they only claim one; where self-gratification exceeds ethics and morals; how far one would go to stay on safe terms with a power-base; how evil can be condoned even for the best intentions; how one can be physically mature but not spiritually or emotionally; and where reality and fantasy meet and cross. I've seen fans turn on idols because they weren't given enough attention or recognition by their idols, and that was sad; I've seen fans rally for truth and justice, and that was beautiful. I've seen betrayal in this fandom. I've met some wonderful, balanced people. I've met some "celebrities" one could actually talk to and be with. I've confronted fans who thought that THEY were the celebrities...

With this last issue of Magnificent Seven there are a LOT of people I would like to thank for various reasons [much, much snipped about this list of fans and celebrities]...

[I'd like to thank some fans for] your written or vocal support during the hard times, the so-called Controversy and whatever, and who knew the difference between Right and Wrong. [Doris L, Celeste H, Jean A, Kathy H, Mary M, Karlene H, Judith K, K Rae T, Carolyn B, Helen P, Pearl S, Anna S, Gail B, Dotty B, Marie P, Ann B, Judith S], and everyone who stood up for Right. [12]

1995: Remarks in "Rallying Call"

Comments in the Blake's 7 apa, Rallying Call:

Meanwhile, I'm reading about past cons and zine reviews in "Federation Archives" and "Pressure Point" but more and more people were talking about slash v. anti-slash and everything seemed to be erupting at once.

At first I reassured myself, the K/S crowd paved the way for the rest of us, right? Now we're enlightened and no longer mired in '50's prudery about sexuality. Slash isn't a good thing or a bad thing, it simply is. Well, as it happened, some people and certain actors believed slash was a bad thing and sought to have it purged.

But when the dust settled, it wasn't slash that was purged, it was the fans, it was the conventions, it was the love and energy and excitement. That was purged, that's what happened, everyone bailed and everything STOPPED.

The effects were long-lasting. I began to feel like Indiana Jones, picking through the ruins of an ex-fan's collection, so many times hearing the same dismal litany. "Well, I was a fan until it all went to hell", "Well, I used to love B7 but then the actors started telling us what to think." "Well, the conventions stopped being fun because everybody wanted to argue" and on and on and their negativity toward B7 managed to live on while they bed-hopped into the next fandom of the week and re-attached their love to one more worthy of it.

And what do we do? With the wealth of detail in the B7 universe to pick apart (and I'm guilty for doing the same thing), all we can do is bicker about slash. Look at what, this has cost us, people! The B7 fandom is so burned out it will never again support the golden conventions of the past, the guests, the costumes, "Vila-Delphia", "The Paul and Michael Show" and "Liar's Panel", all of it gone forever. Corn won't grow on this scorched earth, people. The rest of us must huddle together for warmth. Because it's a cold universe out there and slash or non-slash, if we keep tearing ourselves apart over this issue, there won't be any of us left to care.

The ones of you who've been in B7 long enough to see it all happen, treasure your good memories, remember how wonderful it used to be and the fun you had. And preserve your tapes. Not all of us have memories. [13]
Don't talk about slash -
Don't talk about sex -
There's someone out there
Who's bound to be vexed.
Darrow isn't coming to town.
We're making a list of things to avoid,
The things to be missed.
Lest Paul be annoyed.
Darrow isn't coming to town.
Forbidden Zone's forbidden.
Resistance will not do
Such stories must be hidden from
We all of us know who.
He isn't alone.
Our own little lot
Holds those who condone
His 'Certainly not!'
(Darrow isn't coming to town).
Ho, another historian! We should get together and compare notes, [J]: When I started to vacuum up any and all references to Blake's 7, I stumbled into the center letter section of a couple of old Horizon zines that puzzled me mightily. At the time I knew nothing about the Controversy, although I was aware that one local fan con organizer had had some kind of falling out with one of the actors who had appeared at a con here, and would no longer have anything to do with B7, or B7 fandom. I naively asked around on the Internet, and either got an earful or nothing. So I started my own research project, and have pretty much fleshed out events and motivations to my satisfaction. And collected about 4 inches of paper. It's still a very touchy issue with many people who were around at that time, but I'd be willing to discuss it further, either privately or in the apa. I too, was very saddened by the realization that I would never get to participate in conventions like the Scorpios. For all their flaws, I treasure the fanfic stories The Totally Imaginary Cheeseboard, and The Other Side of the Coin because they are as close as I'll ever get. For the time being, I think that the whole affair initially seemed to have far more to do with egos and convention control than slash. ([S]: What 'was' the name of the woman who was discussing this with us in the bar at Who's 7? I remember you, [L], [S], and [C], and a tall dark haired woman, whose name I never got.)
Oh well, I suppose [J] and I should prepare to get flamed for being critical, (Note to the Controversy Historians: Did you know some of it had its root in fans daring to criticize Mr, Actor, remarking that his range was rather limited, and that his singing—he was playing Elvis at the time—was a little less than spectacular?) The plain fact is though, it can't be good for his career, and it sure isn't good for his health.
About that fan Controversy that you were researching, this was the starting point: it blew up in late 1989 when a New Zealand fan who put out DOWN & UNDER broke confidences and told the Darrows the real names of some of the B7 slash writers -among them [A W], [L R] & [L T]. As the Darrows knew these three writers they didn't hesitate to tell the writers what they thought of them for writing that "obscene slash". Increasingly rude & litigious letters flew back and forth. Some fans began loudly taking sides, generally divided by what they thought of slash and/or the actor. My favorite button that it spawned was "I'm NOT on Your Side Either!" or "Just Shut UP About It!"

1995: Remarks in "Late for Breakfast"

Comments in the multimedia apa, Late for Breakfast:

As to your comments re Gareth Thomas and Paul Darrow - there is a very long story behind all of that, and I don't have all the details, but I can tell you a little bit of it. When Paul came to Australia, someone gave him a slash zine to autograph (there are some totally brain dead morons in fandom!). His wife and himself were both mortally horrified by this (someone said it even had a Gareth/Paul story in it), and he took some action. This basically meant that he took the American publishers of this zine to court. He lost his case on both of his action points. One, because he didn't have the rights to Blake's 7, and the people who do, don't care. His other point, that they couldn't use his face, failed, as it's not possible at this stage to copyright a face (if they were going to write about him, he didn't want himself to be drawn). Losing the case pretty much destroyed most of his faith in fandom, which he had previously enjoyed. He asked Michael Keating and Gareth to support him. As, at the time, Michael worked for him, he agreed. Gareth didn't, and stuck with fandom and making money from conventions. [3] For a long time, Paul did not attend conventions (I don't know if he does now, think he does), and it's taken a long time for him to regain his faith in fandom. I think the zine was given to him at Zencon, in about 1988, I won't mention the zine publisher's names. In light of the above, it is not surprising that he would NOT want to propagate any sense of friendship between Avon and Blake. I have no idea if Paul and Gareth are friends again at this time. This would also explain why Paul has said that under no circumstances would he reprise the Avon character (I'm sure a lot of money could persuade him though, if anyone offered). Even though I support slash as a freedom of expression, I think that thrusting it into the faces of the stars is a pretty stupid thing to do. Woah, that was all very long winded wasn't it? [14]
Gareth Thomas and Paul Darrow were firm friends during the making of Blake's 7. Any interviews dating from this period will probably emphasise the strong relationship between Blake and Avon. About six years ago they fell out, and this lasted for a long time. However, they are now friends again, and I, for one, am exceedingly cheered by this. [15]
The Paul Darrow story was interesting. I had not heard this story at all before. I was already in Japan when the B7 blowup happened and have been hearing rumours and bits for years. I am glad to know that he lost the case, however. [16]
You're totally right about Paul Darrow hating slash, although these days I think he tends to ignore it, and just requests people not to send it to him or to ask him to autograph it. (I think the Paul/Gareth story was probably apocryphal - everyone's heard of it, no-one's ever read it.) I can understand his objections to pictures though. It must be quite a shock to open a zine and find explicit artwork of yourself with another man. The situation with Gareth and Paul wasn't quite as simple a you describe. But then nothing ever is. I only know parts of the story, but I've heard them from several different angles. There was right and wrong on both sides, and it wasn't all to do with slash. I'm just glad it's all long over. I think both Paul and Gareth are wonderful. Paul does do conventions now - he'd have been at Britannicon if work commitments hadn't cropped up at the last minute and he did Visions last year. Gareth did one in Australia earlier this year, which apparently went well. They are friends again now - they did some radio work together earlier this year. [17]
A couple of footnotes to your comments about Paul Darrow and Gareth Thomas, and the slash story. I understood that the convention where Paul was given (or saw, it depends on whom you talk to) a slash story was in America, though I may have misunderstood. I'd also heard that the zine had a Paul/Gareth story in it - though to my knowledge, and again I'm willing to be corrected, no such story has ever been published. In fact, the whole rumour for the existence of this story seems to have originated from Paul and Janet Darrow themselves, certainly I've heard the tale from those who knew only about the fan wars' from their side, and was told this tale then. I do know that Gareth does not normally take a fee from British conventions, though he may do from foreign ones, because the time he has to take from work to attend them is so much longer, and he has to be reimbursed for the time he can't work. I think the same is true of Paul also. Paul and Gareth are friends again at the moment, though how long that will last has yet to be seen. Totally agree with you that thrusting slash in the faces of the stars is pretty stupid, though one or two have been known to express an unhealthy interest! [18]

1995: General Remarks

The Horizon LZ, and other Horizon output, is quality stuff, but it's all rather staid. It's very flock wallpapery, very tasteful, terrified of treading on toes ... I would like to see something a little wilder, slightly tasteless, willing to take the odd risk and take the piss out of itself whilst doing so. Basically, a zine prepared to loosen up a bit and have a good laugh. If Horizon is a wine bar, welcome to the pub. [19]
[Name redacted] remembers fandom and Blake's 7 and was thrilled to get two get-well cards from the Darrows. She doesn't remember anything at all about the "war." Ironic as that seems, perhaps it's for the best. I'd rather forget it myself. [20]
[KA] overlooks the element that makes many B7 fans very touchy about the slash issue, dating back to the height of the Controversy a few years back.

In the midst of everything going on, it evidently became part of the Darrow's strategy to cite the fact that some of the fans they had their dispute with were either writing or publishing slash. They chose to publicize this fact by acting shocked at its existence, pretending that some of it had been written about themselves and not the characters on the show (!!!) and deploring the few that they perceived as guilty of this phenomenon. They presumed that the sheer horror of the rest of fandom would crush these individuals out of fandom in a torch-bearing wave of public censure. Alas, the Darrows were unaware that many of the same fans who supported them not only avidly read the stuff, but a lot of them wrote it. They were also unaware that many slash zines have much higher readerships than B7 genzines. In short, the slash conspiracy attack turned into a massive tactical error which the Darrows abandoned very hastily. The obvious irony is that the Darrows had been very much aware of the existence of B7 slash for years; they had simply chosen to use it as what they regarded a sure-fire way to get some "undesirables" thrown out of fandom, presumably by outraged fannish fundamentalists.

I really had no desire to bring this up, but it needs to be said that a lot of fans on both sides of the issue find their perceptions and opinions on the topic of B7 slash and its existence to be colored by the lingering ugliness of these events. Much like the French Revolution, several loyal fans of the actor chose to demonstrate their fealty and continue to receive the favor of the Darrows by "exposing" those horrible slash authors by revealing the true identities of those writing under pseudonyms. One of the funniest aspects of all of this, for me, was the knowledge that these very same individuals had purchased and enthusiastically read these "horrible zines", and there are copious records in the files of zine editors that they've ordered every single issue of the slash zines, and sometimes contributed material.[21]

1996: General Remarks

The Controversy was sort of inevitable, as there had been a lot growing unrest in the fandom, the bootlegging stuff and just a generally hostile atmosphere. The actor was irrelevant as far as I was concerned, it was the way my 'friends' used me that annoyed the hell out of me. It was so much 'fun' being caught between a rock and a hard place, with friends on both sides. When the New Zealander threatened physical violence, and a Californian informed me I was on a list, I was not a happy fan. Siding with the Gang of Three [22] in Florida wasn't a hard choice after that. Now, though, I can look at STAR ONE, where the New Zealander had her name removed from the credits, as it were, because she found out the editor was chummy with Wortham and Rosenthal, and chuckle. And feel a little sorry for her, too. Alas, she'd just threaten to punch me out again if she knew that. They were interesting times... [23]
As I understand it, the BFTAKB7 (Big Feud That Almost Killed B7) was a gigantic mess that escalated into an incomprehensible nova because a bunch of "egos" got hurt. My source said all sides were wrong in some way, and that no one really understood what was going on, much less what the "truth" was. Slash was just a part of it, but became the scapegoat. Everyone lost in this Gauda Prime of B7 fandom. I just wish all the participants, both stars and fans, would forgive their "enemies" and allow fandom to be free of personality problems and sides. I realize that's not very realistic. However, I came in after the feud, so I refuse to be bothered by it. I think random should be fun, a relief from reality. AND if Visions 1995 was any "proof," haven't the stars decided to forget about the feud and other problems??[24]

1998: Remarks in "Lysator"

Comments at the mailing list, Lysator -- Still too hot, ten years later:

Hello to everyone. Oh God, this may be more trouble than it's worth to ask this question, and I'm genuinely sorry if I end up stirring something that might better have lain buried in the past. Maybe I shouldn't be asking. But I would like to know if someone feels like telling me...as impartially as is humanly possible, preferably.

I've been downloading several months worth of the archives, but I'm still only up to 1993. One posting in the second half of the year refers to "fannish controversies". Now, this reference appeared during a debate on that perennial source of disagreement, slash fiction, and alongside what must have been Kathryn Andersen's original declaration to the list of her position. So that's obviously one of these controversies, but what would be others?

Indeed, the reference made me think of an interview with Sheelagh Wells in "TV Zone", where she said, more or less, that she hadn't seen one member of the cast for some time because she refused to take sides in some disagreement that seemed to have started amongst a small group of American fans. (Please, please, please, do not allow your hackles to go up at this point, as I am only referring from memory to something printed years ago.) What, may I ask, happened there?

You can, of course, tell me to go to hell now. You may say it happened too long ago to matter. But then this dweller on fandom's fringes (and I'm not referring to being Australian) doesn't know much about the past history of Blake's 7 fandom, apart from the compressed details in the Programme Guide by Attwood, and she's curious. So, privately or publicly, tell me (and anyone else who might feel the need to know - for future reference, as a way of knowing what topics of conversation to avoid, whatever). I'm giving you the chance to educate a relative newcomer <smile> [25]
I know I'm new on the list so I probably don't have a right to ask this, but, if an explanation is offered to Joanne, could it please be done privately? That was a very sad time in B7 fandom and a discussion of it can only open old wounds. Please don't be offended, Joanne, I understand your curiosity and I believe you have every right to ask the question. It's just that I fear an open discussion of it will lead to some very bad feelings. I was only fifteen at the time but I remember how painful the whole thing was. [26]
So far as I'm concerned, Suzanne, you have every right to ask that this be done... Which is why I gave the option of informing me privately. Believe me, I am aware of the possibility of members of this list having been involved in, erm, shall we say "intra-tribal skirmishes". If I can get some idea of what to avoid at all costs, then it's less likely that any tendencies of mine towards foot in mouth disease will cause problems later on. Although, I do accept the probability of both feet disappearing down my own throat simply by having asked the question....No, I'm not offended at all, but you have highlighted something I am worried about, even if curiosity overcame fear. It's already been made clear to me what can happen between two clashing personalities, let alone two clashing philosophies....A reasonable fear, but I don't know what exactly it is that I'm afraid of. So, in deference to the feelings of Suzanne, and any one else who might feel the same way, I'll cut the word "publicly" from my request. The whole topic is like an open secret: lots of people know, and assume that you do too, so you end up feeling stupid and ignorant when you ask. Well, I'm feeling stupid and ignorant right now. But I'm still asking. If anyone wants to do the electronic equivalent of taking me aside and imparting their wisdom (seriously! I am in earnest), then I shall be most grateful to them. If no one wants to, then I shall have put up with knowing nothing but the occasional dark hint. Ladies and gentlemen, the ball is in your court. If you want to countenance my fumbling attempts to play, then thank you. If not, then I stay as the spectator who arrived very late and missed a hell of lot of the best, as well as the worst. [27]
Well, we already know that slash is a topic to avoid... Any of the other topics to avoid, well, they're so obscure that your best bet is to know absolutely nothing about them; then you won't be *able* to bring them up at all. Anything else is rather morbid curiosity. Yes, the initial question was perfectly okay to ask; (and I've sent her an answer, and it exhausted me, emotionally). What concerns me is all the other people popping up and saying "I wanna know too". Look folks, you *don't* want to know. Any more than you would want large blown-up photos of traffic accident victims decorating your walls. In this case, ignorance is bliss. However if you still wish to engage in gossip, all I can do is request that you do it in private. Ask Joanne. She will hopefully have more than one version of the events with which to titillate your morbid curiosity. [28]
Dear all, [K] is quite right. Ignorance *is* bliss in this case. I have two versions of the events in question, but [K's] is the most comprehensive of the two, involving scanned copy of material generated by both parties. That's as impartial as is humanly possible, just as I asked. The result...well, I feel like a traffic accident victim: shocked, wounded (I wish I knew where, so I could try doing something about it), and uncertain of what's happened to me, and inclined towards tears. But since I asked the question, *I* have to put up with it. If you *must* ask me, be warned. As [K] has indicated, it is not pretty, and it horrifies me. [29]
What I'd recommend for any curious newcomers is: look for original issues (not reprints) of Horizon newsletters #22 (June 1989) and #23 (December 1989). Each of them had a pullout center section on "The Controversy in Blake's Seven Fandom" with numerous letters from both sides. Naturally, there's a certain bias toward the club's own position, but you can still get a fair idea of what was going on.

Most of the copies of the old newsletters have had the pullouts pulled out and thrown away, but you can still find intact ones if you shop around at cons and used zine sales. I was not in the fandom at the time, but I gather that the other big issue, besides slash, was a proposal for a series of professional, commercial, for-profit B7 conventions (you know, like Creation cons and that sort of thing). A lot of people were afraid, whether rightly or wrongly, that those would conflict with the fan-run, nonprofit cons, and there was quite a nasty dustup over it. Personally, I think that the idea was probably never financially feasible in the first place (since B7, much as we love it, simply hasn't got the same huge number of followers as Trek or Dr. Who), and in any case, it never happened. Which in retrospect makes all the unpleasantness seem rather sadly futile.

I would not recommend asking old time fans about it-- having done that very thing a few years ago when I was an innocent newbie myself, and regretting it. It seems that just about anybody who was close enough to events at the time to actually know much about it still feels queasy about the whole thing, even after nearly ten years. [30]
[K] said: "Well, we already know that slash is a topic to avoid..." Yes and no. For those who don't know, there is another B7 mailing list called Space City with a lot of fan fiction on it, most though not all of which includes often explicit adult relationships between characters. Homosexual relationships stories (known as slash) are common and those who are not offended by that can have a good time over there in an atmosphere that welcomes discussions on these subjects. However, slash is a subject that can also be discussed on this list. As far as I'm aware there are no banned subjects on this list (Space City does have rules about flaming and stirring, both of which are not allowed over there). This means that people can discuss slash or even post slash stories on this list (Lysator). It also means that people who find that type of thing offensive can also post their views. Done properly the discussion could be quite interesting, but it runs the danger, because strong feelings are involved, of getting quite nasty. I wasn't around during the great slash war that led to Space City being created but as some know we have had some other strong arguments that I have been involved in here, which is why there is a third B7 list called the Spin List. This is for where a thread goes well off topic and is boring those who are not interested. You also get some general fun discussions over there that are not B7 related. [31]

1998: General Remarks

If you go back in time a few months and read a post by Yvonne Harrison involving fanfic for Blake's Seven, I think you'll see that the performers DON'T appreciate stories written about them and whether or not they jump each other's bones.

In fact, the actor in question had been lovely to fans, had been, in fact, sitting with them and having drinks and talking and was fascinated by the phenom of fanfic until someone mentioned a story about him and his wife.

He was, needless to say, seriously upset and from being open to his fans and supportive of fanfic, turned one hundred and eighty degrees and opposed it vehemently, if memory serves. [32] [33]

I've been away from fandom a very long time, and in the year since I joined ORAC I haven't been very active, partially because of undependable transportation, but mostly because what I heard from active friends and acquaintances and read in the newsletter and zines didn't inspire me.

The last time I was a fan was in the late '60s, when everyone was taking sides on their pet issues; I've seen my share of spite and malice, personal self-aggrandizement, emotional immaturity, delusions of grandeur, pettiness, factionalism, and I've seen supposed allies literally come to blows over trivia. But I have never seen such general or extreme bad manners than since 1 returned to fandom — and I say that who am not exactly the Minister of Protocol.

I don't know all the details of the controversies currently swirling around in fandom. and quite frankly, I don't care. There are obviously some valid issues involved, but as far as I can see, they're not being addressed, the real reasons for the foofaraw are lack of perspective, fragile, bloated egos, narrowness of mind, meanness of spirit, intolerance, disrespect for and indifference to the Feelings of others, spitefulness, and such dazzlingly bad manners. Random makes the Dallas City Council look like the paragon of politeness.

I've twice mentioned the manners, or rather the lack thereof, in fandom. Now I'll make my point, which is that much of the difficulties in fandom could be reduced or avoided entirely if fans would practice some very basic courtesies. For instance: not calling other fans names, thinking before you speak, not carrying tales, not interrupting other fans during meetings, and when you disagree with another fan, discussing the issue, not the other fan's character, intelligence or habits. It's not necessary to give a damn about the other person: it's highly probable he doesn't give a damn about you, either. But when you have a common goal with someone you loathe the sight of, such as organizing a con, publishing a newsletter or zine, or getting Blake's 7 back on the air, it is necessary to avoid hurting your adversary's feelings in order to avoid spending your lime and his in retaliatory games against each other; it might be enjoyable for the two of you, perhaps even for the spectators, but it won't get Blake's 7 back on the air.

If we all made an effort to practice only slightly better manners we would have more lime and energy to spend on our goals, and might increase our chances of achieving them [34]

1999: General Remarks

Langley commented: :
In 1988-89, the Blake’s 7 fandom was seriously damaged when some of the actors in the show, who had become friends with a good number of the fans, were shown samples of slash stories. Taking offense to the portrayal of their characters as homosexual, and seeing this type of writing as a betrayal of their friendship with the fans, the actors sought to ban the slash authors they knew from fandom and to rid the fandom of slash. As with all of the other forms of "official" sanctions against slash, the furor eventually eased, and slash fiction continued to be written. (Langley, June 17th, 1999) [35]

A version of the events was compiled in 2009 by Fan History Wiki. No sources were provided on this account of events, and the account is frustratingly vague on details. An archived version can be read here.[36]

1999: Remarks in "Lysator"

In August 1999, newer members of the Lysator mailing list asked for more background on the "fannish controversies", feeling that the unspoken undercurrents in the community were causing them to miss nuances and impacted their ability to participate in and connect with the community:
The whole topic is like an open secret: lots of people know, and assume that you do too, so you end up feeling stupid and ignorant when you ask. Well, I'm feeling stupid and ignorant right now. But I'm still asking. ... Ladies and gentlemen, the ball is in your court. If you want to countenance my fumbling attempts to play, then thank you. If not, then I stay as the spectator who arrived very late and missed a hell of lot of the best, as well as the worst.[37]
These fans were loudly and clearly told the topic was not one that the community liked discussing. One list member went so far as to say that those who kept asking for information were morbid and looking to be titillated:
Anything else is rather morbid curiousity. Yes, the initial question was perfectly okay to ask; (and I've sent her an answer, and it exhausted me, emotionally). What concerns me is all the other people popping up and saying "I wanna know too". Look folks, you *don't* want to know. Any more than you would want large blown-up photos of traffic accident victims decorating your walls. In this case, ignorance is bliss. However if you still wish to engage in gossip, all I can do is request that you do it in private. Ask Joanne. She will hopefully have more than one version of the events with which to titilate your morbid curiosity.[38]
Eventually, one list member took pity on the newcomers and offered up a few crumbs of information and suggested the fans go on a treasure hunt:
What I'd recommend for any curious newcomers is: look for original issues (not reprints) of Horizon newsletters #22 (June 1989) and #23 (December 1989). Each of them had a pullout center section on "The Controversy in Blake's Seven Fandom" with numerous letters from both sides. Naturally, there's a certain bias toward the club's own position, but you can still get a fair idea of what was going on.

Most of the copies of the old newsletters have had the pullouts pulled out and thrown away, but you can still find intact ones if you shop around at cons and used zine sales.

I was not in the fandom at the time, but I gather that the other big issue, besides slash, was a proposal for a series of professional, commercial, for-profit B7 conventions (you know, like Creation cons and that sort of thing). A lot of people were afraid, whether rightly or wrongly, that those would conflict with the fan-run, nonprofit cons, and there was quite a nasty dustup over it.

Personally, I think that the idea was probably never financially feasible in the first place (since B7, much as we love it, simply hasn't got the same huge number of followers as Trek or Dr. Who), and in any case, it never happened. Which in retrospect makes all the unpleasantness seem rather sadly futile.

I would not recommend asking oldtime fans about it-- having done that very thing a few years ago when I was an innocent newbie myself, and regretting it. It seems that just about anybody who was close enough to events at the time to actually know much about it still feels queasy about the whole thing, even after nearly ten years. [39]

2000: General Remarks

Many years ago, there was a fiasco in Blake's 7 fandom. As I recall, it had to do with slash fanfiction (along with graphic illustrations) which fell into an actor's lap and he was not at all happy with it. The resultant fiasco fractured the fandom, caused a ton of hurt feelings and broke up friendships, etc.. And this was with the characters in the fanfic, not the actors. [40]
[Rob Wynne]: One Mr. Darrow was less than amused when someone let him in on [slash]. (The less said about this, however, the better. It damn near destroyed B7 fandom in the early 90s in the USA.)

[Mr. Bungle]: Leans forward eagerly* Do tell! :)

[Rob Wynne]: I'd rather not, honestly. It was a Grade-A mess, and it poloraized American B7 fans to the point that there is almost zero B7 fandom left in the US. I think the only group still going is the ORAC crowd in Texas, and they have diversified. The capsule version is that someone (who's name I've forgotten) not only alerted Paul to the existance of said fanfic, but also revealed to him the names of the authors (the real names that went with the various pseudonyms...several of whom were big name fans). Much nastiness ensued. Best forgotten, really. [41]

.....along with Judith Proctor, I launched AltaZine. This was a direct response to what I perceived as the shortcomings of the Horizon Letterzine (editorship of which I had just resigned from, in utter disgust at the way a covert editorial policy - Diane's, largely made up as she went along - was being imposed on the contributors, people who were being silenced without even being told *why* they were being silenced). AltaZine ran for seven issues, with at most 40-something subscribers, before I decided to fold it. Not because the Horizon competition was too great (in fact the HLZ was in a state of decay around the same time), but because this Lyst had turned into the main forum of B7 discussion and was essentially doing the job I had envisaged for AltaZine, and more efficiently with a wider contributor base....

The issue in question was that hoary old chestnut called slash. I had allowed discussion of slash to enter the pages of the HLZ, and several people - I think it was four in all - cancelled their subscriptions as a result.....Anyway, from now on - said she - no mention of slash was to be made in the HLZ. This directive was coupled with the way Judith Proctor had used her LOC in HLZ #14 to advertise - quite legitimately, IMO - a number of zines she had acquired from the States. Unfortunately, some of these were Ashton Press publications. There is an unwritten rule in Horizon that you do not advertise Ashton zines. You do not even acknowledge their existence. Even though Ashton produce some highly regarded publications - including the marvellous Hellhound series - Horizon is not the place to find about them. That part of Judith's letter had to be replaced by an editorial paragraph of mine, which was naturally not allowed to mention Diane's belief that Judith was deliberately shit-stirring by discussing slash and advertising proscribed zines.

If you have a copy of HLZ #14, you will notice that some pages are barely legible. This is because my printer ribbon was worn out with reprinting the 'offending' passages, not once but twice, since most failed to meet with Diane's approval first time around....[42]

2005: General Remarks

"Uhm -- huh? Why is asking the actors about [slash] a faux pas? Well... I could comment on the crusade that Paul Darrow of "Blake's 7" went on, backed up by some of his adoring-worshipper fans, to drive out slash writers from fandom in the late 1980s, but I really don't want to think about that nightmare again. I wouldn't even read slash at that time, but still thought that it was a vicious witchhunt. [43]
...it's just fanning the flames again of OLD flame wars. Gadzooks, what next? Resurrecting the infamous Blake's 7 wars? [44]

Here's the story as I understand it. It's only part of the story. I don't know much about the fan-group infighting that went on, or the stuff involving PD & company wanting to change to pro-run cons. But I hope this will give you part of the picture.

Paul Darrow made it very clear that he did not like slash. Most folks respected that, and while it didn't stop those who wanted to from writing or publishing it, they took care to keep it out of his sight. Literally. This was when at least one member of the B7 cast could be found at an American convention approximately every three days. Oh all right, they could not. But if he or any of the cast were at a con, adult material was not allowed in the art shows, and slash zines were "banned" from the dealers room. (Banned in the sense that it was kept under the table if anyone who cared walked in.) This worked reasonably well.

Now, there was a ton of other stuff going around at the time. Political stuff, largely having to do with conventions, zines, merchandise, and who was making money off them. This was the late 80s. There was a ton of money floating around. But not many people were turning a profit, and those who did didn't do it for long. But it looked as though B7 and other British media were about to break huge in the U.S., with merchandise and videos and broadcasting.

This was also the time when Creation appeared and started running conventions to make money -- something that fan-run cons had never done or intended to do. There was a lot of paranoia about piracy of goods, zines, etc. There were some people who were notorious for making money by pirating fanzines (one of them now pirates DVDs). Some people tried to sell VHS copies of various shows, a practice not only illegal but deeply frowned upon. Mr. Darrow, Terry Nation, and a few others decided that if anybody was going to profit, it ought to be them.

There were also a few artists and zine publishers who gave the appearance of making a lot of money. (I only know for certain of one publisher who made money off her zines -- because a friend of mine did her printing, and knew exactly what they cost to make and ship. She did both gen and slash, and sold a ton of stuff. I'm going to call her [zine editor], and she'll return to this story in just a moment.) For the most part, this was untrue, but when you see somebody's print go to auction for several hundred dollars, or somebody sell out of carton after carton of zines at an envelope-pushing price, it makes for suspicion and jealousy.

Now, two things happened that made Paul Darrow go batshit. First, gave him porn. I've heard different versions of the story: It was b7 slash, it was RP slash, it was het featuring Paul and his wife, it was given to him as a well-meaning but dreadfully inappropriate gift, it was leaked by someone else to get the author in trouble, etc. Whatever it was, he got it at the worst possible time, read it, and went ape. (Now, I think he's a huge jerkoff for various reasons, but I don't blame him for this. One thing you never do in fandom is try to impose your personal crazy shit on the pros.) Second, he was at a con (in New Zealand, I'm told), and some dipstick in the audience asked him, If you hate slash so much, why do you hang out with [zine editor] when she puts out tons of it?

These two incidents combined with the whole money thing to make a giant pool of spooge. Paul went on a weird-ass moral crusade and tried to bind fans to his side for the proposed professional cons in a "you're with me or against me" thing. People in fandom chose up sides based on whether they wanted to be a Paulketeer, how much they hated or did not hate [zine editor], how much they hated or did not hate other groups, and on down in a fracturing Mandlebrot set of spite. Old fannish rivalries were dragged out and relived. Old grudges were nursed back to health. There are people who, to this day, do not speak because of all this bullshit. [45]

2007: General Remarks

"I don't think it's a coincidence that BNFs have really only appeared since LJ. Ummm... not really, from my understanding of the history of my oldest fandom, Blakes 7; in the 80s and early 90s the BNFs were there all right, but a different breed. They ran the fan clubs, edited the zines, had access to and were personally known to the ex-cast and crew, dominated cons etc. They also got starring roles in the almighty B7 wars that erupted, partly over slash (one of the actors tried to 'blackban' anyone involved in slash) and decimated the fandom in the US and tainted relationships for over a decade (before my time, but I've heard about it oh yes).[46]
Oooh! I have information on WHY RPS is forbidden in Blakes 7.

Way back when, there was a conference in Australia. There were 'zines available at the conference, and one of the zines contained RPS. Paul Darrow read it (I am not sure whether he was browsing and found it or had it presented to him) and was NOT IMPRESSED. Neither was his wife, who was with him at the time.

(Nothing to do with anything. I just heard this from someone who was there, and thought you might like to know) [47]
I've heard roughly the same story (and another version where the story was sent to him by post and he subsequently turned up to a con with it, breathing fire). However, I don't know of anyone who has actually *read* this RPS story, or can produce a copy of it, or can even say who wrote it or what it was about or what zine it was. So I'm always a bit heistant to actually say it existed. Because, well. Given the turmoil in B7 fandom at the time, I wouldn't trust Paul Darrow not to embellish the truth on something like that. If you do know any of the other details, then I'd love to hear them. I've always been curious about what really did happen, and a lot of the people who were involved in the fan wars and are still around really don't like talking about it, for perfectly understandable reasons. [48]

I happily read fan fiction in a fandom where one of the actors caused a bitter rift due to his opposition to slash. I don't give a damn for his opinion. In summary, the opinions of other fans, in the context of the fan fiction community, mean more to me than the the people who make the canon....

it's a fairly famous incident. I wasn't involved as I came to media fandom later and so this is second hand. The fandom was Blake's 7. Apparently fans who were pissed at other fans about something else entirely showed some of the actors slash zines with the intent harm the relationship between the actors and the slash fans. Result: actors a bit upset, Paul Darrow (Avon, see icon) was reportedly very upset.

I presume that the actors got over it because they continue to attend cons and many of the most active/high con profile B7 fans are slashers. [49]

2009: General Remarks

I'm reading Henry Jenkins' "Textual Poachers" at the moment .... He has some theories about why slash is seen as dangerous, including an incident where slash writers were 'outed' to a member of the Blake's 7 cast - who wasn't at all happy![50]
Oh, yeah; I remember that fracas. It got ugly, and left scars that lingered for years. B7 has had several fairly vicious slash wars. I was only an observer for that one, but have been involved in a couple of others. [51]
The Fan war imbroglio occurred approximately around 1989. A group of people had organized a fan convention for B7 in the NY-New Jersey area. The con name might have been DSV (for Deep Space Vehicle). This con was considered to have been a success, however there were questions of who could take credit for the success, as there was a lack of communications in the con community at the time. There are several versions of what happened next, depending on who you talk to.

After the con a lot of the fandom split into 2 camps, although some fans remained on speaking terms with both.

One group of fans who originated from this con envisioned organizing 2-3 cons afterwards. However, these would be for profit conventions. What they were planning was to pay actors to commit to appear in the conventions, instead of just doing the usual thing of paying their travel expenses. Actors used to commit to cons with the "unless I get a job" provision.

The reason for paying the actors was that there had just been a convention where the organizers lost all their name guests because the actors got jobs. While actors would sometimes be paid extra, it was not enough to turn down jobs. The group of fans planning the for-profit conventions hoped they could guarantee the actors. However many, many people didn't like the for profit idea. And somehow, the issue of slash got wrapped into all of this. Keep in mind that slash was still under the table compared to now.

One of the convention organizers was friends with one of the actors, enough so that he would hang out at her apartment. This friend of the actors said he had no problem with slash.

Two things kicked problems into high gear. One fan who went by the name of London Bates, with an enormous mailing list (of the paper kind), sent out a letter saying that "Other fans are behaving badly". A lot of the people who received her letter had no clue what had been going on. Another actor who was most involved (Paul Darrow) also sent out a letter.[52] As a result, people felt compelled to say something.

Some factors that fed into the B7 imbroglio - who got credit for that earlier successful convention - who was friends with the actors - who was a slash fan or a secret slash or could be outed as a slash fan to the actors.

There are people who were more centrally involved than the person relating this story that does not overlap with this account. Some people's experience were different.

One of the letters that London Bates sent out about this conflict had a return address on the envelope that bore the name London Rushdie.

The series of for profit cons did not happen because primarily the actors had commitments that could not be broken. The people who had formed that con committee reformed as another committee to run their event as a traditional convention, not for profit. This con was a success and actors Michael Keating and Paul Darrow (the one who sent the letter to fans) were at the con. And one of the producers was also there.

The second con did happen. [53]

2011: General Remarks

I heard about major slash wars in B7, long before I got involved in it this century, in which even Paul Darrow got involved. I'm not sure I want to know more...[54]
While MfU fandom, with the horror of the Great Slash Wars still scarred upon living memory, makes incredibly fine distinctions between slash, het and gen, in order that no one should stumble accidentally on something that makes them go "Argh! My eyes!"....[55]
....B7 had a particularly nasty slash war back in the 80s, and so slash and gen were particularly fiercely differentiated, ie you had to warn for all slash content no matter how U-rated, but not for non-explicit het (this persists to this day in the pre-set ‘sexual content’ buttons in the Hermit Library, which default to ‘kissing/non-explicit sex’ for het and ‘none whatsoever’ for both m/m and f/f). So there are really different generic conventions/expectations for slash and het, in that het could be tucked into gen stories but slash not so much. (When I was active in B7 fandom in 1999-2003ish, there was a vocal movement for ‘gen slash’, which is basically canon [action-adventure stories where m/m relationships are backgrounded and taken for granted.])[56]

2013: General Remarks

I think I heard this some time in 1994 or 1995. The fan maintained that the events were kicked off when Ann W. made an unintentional poke to a certain actor's ego (the fan telling me the story never gave any details of the alleged poking, something I've always regretted). No matter how it started, it escalated on both sides. The problem was that even after the major combatants stopped engaging, the gossip and rumors still flew thanks to friends and friends of friends. What bothered her the most was the impact it had on local B7 fannish get-togethers in the NYC region. Members had to studiously ignore the increasingly acrimonious arguments and this eventually strained the community and contributed to the Sopron Alliance's drifting apart (who, even these many years later, I remember her describing as a friendly, irreverent, devil may care group). They actually sounded like a lot of fun. Be that as it may, in the end I heard from many a former B7 fan that the entire mess caused them to leave Blake's 7 fandom without a backward glance. Most migrated to other fandoms, which, while not conflict free, steered clear of actor involvement and TPTB.[57]

2015: General Remarks

[Cynthia Jenkins]: Well, Blake's 7 fandom was a very happy, very successful fandom until the point that the creatives started being invited over to cons and I guess there were two problems. One, they were not happy about the things that fans were doing with their characters. And two, some of them got a little greedy, and started thinking, Wow, my God, look at what they're paying at that art auction! Maybe we can make money. So between wanting to, I don't know ... wanting to participate ... wanting to get into the organizational end in ways that I don't think fans really wanted them there, and trying to think how to make this pay. And feelings ... and fights that grew largely out of discovering that people had been writing slash. You know, "How could you do this to me? I thought you were my friend, you betrayed me." The fandom basically blew up. Producers that wrote a "You're either with me or against me" letter, and well it turned out to be a hot topic in fandom, and a lot of fans just got tired of the fighting, and a good chunk of the writers flowed over to Professionals at that point, and a good chunk of the readers who liked reading their stories sort of followed behind them....

[snipped]

[Henry]: Anyway, you were at a con where the producer called in a bunch of fans and chewed them out in very direct and public and very personal ways, that was just like the beginning of the fraying of that fandom...

[Henry Jenkins]: He was physically there. There were stories of Paul Darrow calling fan writers in the middle of the night from the UK.

[Cynthia Jenkins]: I thought that was a letter.

[Henry Jenkins]: I'd heard that some people had gotten a late night phone call. Because he got so angry and picked up the phone in the UK and called people.

[Cynthia Jenkins]: Anyway. Big mess. Late '80s.

[snipped]

[Cynthia Jenkins]: I was not in the "inner circle" at that point. I was not one of the fans who spent a lot of time socializing with actors or producers. I mean, it's not that I haven't enjoyed meeting actors, but on the whole, I really don't care about the actors or producers. To me, it's about the stories. And, after that experience, I would much rather go to cons that had no creatives there at all

[snipped]

[Henry Jenkins]: Well one of Darrow's responses was to write his own novel about his character, which demonstrated so little understanding of who his character was compared to most fan fiction.

[Cynthia Jenkins]: Yes but Darrow—one of the lead actors of Blake's 7, Paul Darrow —also wanted to assert that he was the creative force behind the development of his characters. That he made the writers do this, that he persuaded them to do that, and ... some of us give the writers more credit than he does.

[snipped]

[Cynthia Jenkins]: This is where two-plus decades is not your friend. I am remembering it as having more to do with slash. I would really not want to stake my life on it without going back and rereading that ... exactly how it was phrased. Because it was just one of those moments that became very painful and, like childbirth, you kind of block the details from your mind and move on. I don't ... I hesitate to make ... I feel really stupid because I sat through the whole thing, and I should remember it all better than I actually do.

[snipped]

[Henry Jenkins]: Because I think the actors who flipped out in Blake's 7 flipped out in part because they were anxious about how people perceived their sexuality as human beings, and were they showing too much of who they really were, I think there may have been some closet cases among some of those actors, it's hard to know. But the freakout was a very personal thing for them. And the fans had kept saying, "We're not writing stories about you at all. We're writing about our version of your character." And that line was very, very clear. [58]

Gallery of Some Open Letters

Terry Nation and Paul Darrow Press Release

Terry Nation/Paul Darrow Press Release dated Jan 2, 1989.

Click to see larger versions.

Laurie Cohen's Jan 1989 Open Letter, part of the Darrow/Nation Press Release Packet

Laurie Cohen's letter dated Jan 3, 1989 (part of the Jan 2, 1989 Press Release packet)

Some excerpts:

THE ONLY SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE PROSPECTIVE TOUR CONVENTIONS AND THE MORE TRADITIONAL "NOT FOR PROFIT" FANNISH CONVENTIONS IS THAT SINCE THE TOUR WILL BE ORGANIZED FOR PROFIT, WE CAN GUARANTEE THE APPEARANCE OF ADVERTISED GUESTS.
The truth is, the tour, if it happens, will be a wonderful thing for Blake's 7 fandom and everybody in it: providing fans with terrific conventions with guaranteed guests and unique programming: providing (fan) artists, zine publishers, (fan) dealers, etc, the opportunity to make money using their talents...
The idea of a tour was broached to me by Paul and Terry during Thanksgiving weekend. The three of us are friends, going back more than five years now. They are both well aware that I have been on the Con Committee of several Scorpios; that I had stepped in on zero notice and "picked up the pieces" so to speak in reorganizing the abortive Doctor Who tour that was ultimatedly transformed into "The Paul and Mike Show" or "Tour of Duty"; that I had been the driving force behind and principal organizer of DSV One. In short, my background was in well-organized, well-run fannish conventions...

I know of several "fan" dealers who made several thousand dollars at DSV One selling zines and merchandise. I know of several artists who received similar sums there, partly because for SIX HOURS (until three in the morning) those same "uncaring," "contemptuous,"

"money-grubbing" gentlemen Paul (despite severe back trouble) and Terry, together with our other guests, insisted on auctioning every single piece of artwork in the auction, knowing that the artists would get better prices for their work if they did so. While these dealers and artists were collecting small fortunes, the guests who made it all possible were being paid the paltry sum of $500.... Let me first say that this is not intended as an attack on those dealers and artists; on the contrary, I applaud their creativity and am happy for their success. But what kind of double standard says that it is all right for fans to make money at conventions, but that the guests should not?!
The artists in particular should welcome this tour: past experience shows that art pieces always sell for higher prices when they are auctioned by the guests...
There is one limited proviso I will make: there will be restrictions on the public sale and exhibition of sexually explicit artwork and zines at the tour conventions. What people sell or show their friends in the privacy of their own rooms is entirely their own business. But in deference to the sensibilities of our guests - who object, quite reasonably, I think, to being confronted with lurid stories and pictures of how they get it on with each other in the most graphic detail - the open display and distribution of sexually explicit materials must be restricted, as indeed, it is at Scorpio and was at DSV One. If it weren't for the insensitivity (not to say thoughtlessness) of certain unknown (to me) fans who apparently felt compelled to show Paul and Michael some of the more colorful stories that were being written about them, this wouldn't be such a problem. But unfortunately, the problem does now exist.
The situation is quite different from the ordinary "for profit" situation, where the guests get paid simply for appearing. Here, Paul and Terry are the organizers - they pay for their own expenses; they make money only if the tour is a success. In consequence, they will do anything possible to make 6ach of these conventions successful, and that includes organizing some pretty unique programming.
I have tremendous personal regard and affection for traditional fannish cons, and the last thing I would like to see is for them to be hurt by the tour. But I see no reason why both cannot coexist quite harmoniously. On the contrary, I believe the tour could prove a shot in the arm for Blakes 7 fandom!
Personally, as a fan, I'd hate to see the tour fail because of the understandable but totally misplaced fears of a concerned few. I want to see Paul and Michael reprise their roles on stage during the tour. I want to see Paul play Vila and Michael play Avon. I'd like to see the Blakes 7 cast perform, possibly with fannish assistance, scenes from some of my favorite Blakes 7 fan stories. I even cherish that ancient pipe dream of bringing Paul, Michael and Gareth together at one American convention. (Just think of the possibilities - we could beg, plead, (blackmail?) them into reprising the end of Blake - but doing it "properly" this time!)
I would like to believe that the misgivings expressed over the prospective tour have been generated by ignorance of the true facts and a genuine concern derived from the spector of too many "for profit" debacles like Spirit of Light. However, I am certainly not unaware that there has been a regrettable factionalization of Blakes 7 fandom in the last year, and that certain people, apparently including some or all of the organizers of these attacks, may feel themselves to be on the "outs" where this tour is concerned. Let me reassure you, and them, that such is not the case. I know I speak for all concerned with this venture when I say that we would be more than happy to have anyone involved with the tour who wishes to be. There is far too much divisiveness in this fandom already without adding to it. Rather, we should try to put an end to it and focus instead on the fun, the joys and the accomplishments each of us has derived through our involvement with Blakes 7 fandom. Finally, I would say to those who have expressed concerns over whether the convention will be good for the fans and the fandom that they, more than anyone else, should volunteer to work in its organization; their involvement is the surest guarantee that the things they fear will not be permitted to happen.

Note that the 1988 date on the letter is incorrect. Click to see larger versions.

Paul Darrow's and Michael Keating's letter to Ann W, Leah R, and Linda T

This letter demanded that these three fans stop using their likenesses in fanfic and fan art. The use of "Esq." behind the actor's names does not denote any legal role nor does it convey any legality to the letter. In the UK "Esquire was used generally as the default title for all men who did not have a grander title when addressing correspondence..."[59]

Paul Darrow's Statement Read Aloud At The 1989 Gambit Convention

Click to read the images below to read. Also see Paul Darrow's Statement Read Aloud At The 1989 Gambit Convention.

Epilogue

Fans continue to read, write, draw, buy and sell slash in Blake's 7 fandom. Ann W. and Leah R. continue to publish fanzines and neither Darrow nor Keating take further action against them. The Federation Archives letterzine folds and is replaced by a newsletter titled, not un-ironically, The Neutral Arbiter.

And sadly, the fears of many fans proved to be accurate as fan run Blake's 7 conventions were replaced by slicker and more expensive for profit events. As one fan explained in 2012:
"The big cons can feel so impersonal and the professionally run cons, like Creation in the States is not worth mentioning suffice it to say you feel like all they're interested in is taking your money and herding you like cattle.[60]
Another fan opined:
"I wasn't able to attend the Aftermath convention in 2008 but gather this was one of these more 'corporate' conventions with "gold passes" staged by professional event organisers who had no interest or feeling for the subject (not welcome developments IMHO) and I have heard many fans found the event a disappointment ..."[61]
and
"Had enough of professionally run events that seem only intent on charging for everything."[62]

Zine Statistics as a Measure of the Impact on the Fandom

trends in Blake's 7 zines, click to enlarge

In today's fast paced era of Internet based fandoms, the life cycle of fannish enthusiasm is difficult to measure. Fandom is spread across multiple Internet platforms making it difficult to assess how large a fandom base is, how productive and how engaged is the community.

In the pre-Internet fandom era, however, the number of published fanzines often provided a more solid measurement of the popularity of a given fandom. It would take at least one year - if not longer - to solicit material for a fanzine, to edit it, to publish it and then to sell it. And then, fans had to buy the zines. Few fans could afford to spend money on a fandom they were no longer interested in.

In 2001 Tavia analyzed the numbers of fanzines produced in Blake's 7 fandom, both before and after the events of the Blake's 7 Wars, based on zine contents compiled by Sarah Thompson. Her research shows that the conflict took place at the height of the fandom's popularity (as measured by fanzine production) with a sharp fall off in the years thereafter. Whether the conflict played a role in the drop cannot be determined; however the numbers show that within 2 years of the events, fanzine production fell by almost half. [63]

Other Fandom Wars

References

  1. "This formal letter was broadly distributed through fandom by Paul Darrow's supporters, and when Paul Darrow's wife, Janet Lees-Price, wrote to me once she made reference to it." -- Re: [CriticalEdge Re: Looking for confirmation of a rumor] post by Jane C. on CriticalEdge dated April 21, 2003.
  2. Enterprising Women by Camille Bacon-Smith pg 25-26 (1992).
  3. Enterprising Women by Camille Bacon-Smith pg 35-36 (1992). In later years some fans would call the over-involvement of actors in fandom the "Paul Darrow problem".
  4. comment by Lil Shepherd, at Erotica versus porn writing: I am actually going to be quasi-controversial today, March 19, 2009
  5. comment by Melody C, at Erotica versus porn writing: I am actually going to be quasi-controversial today, March 19, 2009
  6. comment by Lil Shepherd, at Erotica versus porn writing: I am actually going to be quasi-controversial today, March 19, 2009
  7. See the letterzines Pressure Point and Horizon.
  8. see Dalek Man, London. Having scrambled British SF TV expectations, Terry Nation considers reshaping fan conventions
  9. comments by [J O] in Horizon Newsletter #22 (June 1989(
  10. from the editor of Pressure Point #9/10 (April 1989)
  11. comment by Pat Nussman in On the Wing #1 (Fall 1990)
  12. by Leigh Arnold in Magnificent Seven #9 (1991)
  13. from a fan in Rallying Call #13 (April 1995)
  14. from Late for Breakfast #25
  15. from Late for Breakfast #25
  16. from Late for Breakfast #26
  17. from Late for Breakfast #26
  18. from Late for Breakfast #26
  19. AltaZine was a fan publication created by Judith Proctor and Neil Faulkner. It arose from The Blake's 7 Wars and the resulting editorial restrictions imposed on the Horizon Letterzine. See 2000 for more.
  20. a letter by Jean Graham in Tarriel Cell v.8 N.3 (February 1995) in regards to a fan who had an serious accident involving a head injury.
  21. Other fans chose to highlight what they perceived as hypocrisy on the parts of the fans who supported the actors' opposition to slash. Of particular note in this comment is an early reference to both fans and TPTB conflating slash fan fiction with RPS. comment: Subject: Slash & Fans post on Lysator by Leah dated Jan 1, 1995.
  22. Ann W, Leah R, and Linda T
  23. from a fan in Rallying Call #16 (January 1996)
  24. from a fan in Rallying Call #16 (January 1996)
  25. Lysator, [Joanne], August 1998
  26. Lysator, [Suzanne], August 1998
  27. Lysator, [Joanne], August 1998
  28. Lysator, "list geezer" -- [K A], August 1998
  29. Lysator, [Joanne], August 1998
  30. Lysator, [Sarah T], August 1998
  31. Lysator, Steve, August 1998
  32. The Blake's 7 issue was far more complicated than the story/memory most fans relay: see The Blake's 7 War
  33. Bliss, March 1998 at alt.tv.x-files.creative
  34. from Tarriel Cell V.2 N.4
  35. from K.S. Langley
  36. WayBack link.
  37. Subject: Unearthing "ancient" history post on Lysator by Suzanne T. on August 23, 1999.
  38. Subject: [B7L] Topics to avoid post on Lysator by Kathyrn A. dated August 24, 1999.
  39. Subject: [B7L] Re: Topics to avoid post on Lysator by Sarah T. dated August 25, 1999.
  40. Elyse, a due South fan, November 7, 2000 alt.tv.due-south
  41. a exchange between two fans at First Impressions: "Time Squad", alt.fan.blakes, March 27, 2000
  42. In 2000, Neil Faulkner commented on Lysator, the Blake's 7 mailing list, about his reasons for deciding to publish Altazine: Subject: Re: [B7L] Horizon 2.0/*Wild* accusations! post by Neil F. dated March 29, 2000.
  43. Joe Flanigan Answers Some Stargate Questions at the Ex Isle forums dated Nov 16, 2005.
  44. a Stargate SG-1 fan in 2005 at Gateworld
  45. Ann Larimer at Question for old-school fans on my flist:; archive link (2005)
  46. Who Makes A Celebrity dated March 4, 2007; reference link; reference link.
  47. jamethiel_bane comments at RPS and privacy
  48. nopseud comments at RPS and privacy
  49. comments by copracat at Icon maybe appropriate: fanfic and creator's wishes, January 2007
  50. Slash As The Dark Side of Fandom dated Aug 20, 2009; reference link; reference link.
  51. Slash As The Dark Side of Fandom dated Aug 20, 2009; reference link; reference link.
  52. Paul Darrow was the actor who played Avon on Blake's 7.
  53. Logovo gave her recollections of the events in an oral interview at Escapade in 2009. They have been edited for clarity, spelling, and grammar. The original notes can be seen at Fanlore Live/Logovo notes.
  54. Fandom Specific Conventions dated February 5th, 2011; reference link; refernce link.
  55. Fandom Specific Conventions dated February 5th, 2011; reference link; reference link.
  56. comment in Reading the Romance dated Jan 3, 2011.
  57. Morgan Dawn's personal notes, accessed Sept 23, 2013. Morgan Dawn remembers hearing this story story from a participant. Note that this account does not refer to convention profit motives, access to actors or even the slash debate.
  58. Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Henry and Cynthia Jenkins (2012)
  59. Wikipedia's Esquire page accessed October 30, 2013.
  60. Another Blake's 7 convention - any chance? dated Feb 1, 2012; reference link.
  61. Another Blake's 7 convention - any chance? dated Feb 1, 2012; reference link.
  62. Another Blake's 7 convention - any chance? dated Feb 1, 2012; reference link.
  63. Trends in B7 Zines, Archived version (accessed Dec 17, 2013).