The Blake's 7 Wars

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Event
Event: The Blake's 7 Wars
Participants: The Fannish Controversies, The Controversy, The Feud, and The Blake's 7 Slash Wars
Date(s): late 1988 onwards
Type:
Fandom: Blake's 7
URL:
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The Blake's 7 Wars were a series of events taking place in the late 1980s in the Blake's 7 fandom community. They go 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. They also created ripple effects of fear and uncertainty in other fandoms.

A fan in 1996 said: "Everyone lost in this Gauda Prime of B7 fandom."[1]

See Timeline of the Blake's 7 Wars.

What Happened?

The Blake's 7 Wars were fueled by misunderstandings, bruised egos, power plays, changes in fandom size and demographics, cliques, jealousy, differing access of fans' to celebrities, and poor communication among all parties, as well as some of the PTB's powerful desire to monetize conventions. The creation and distribution of slash fanworks was used by both fans and the actors as a strawman excuse for conflict.

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 1989, a fan wrote that the controversy originated with Paul Darrow and Terry Nation's wish to use B7 fandom for his fun and profit and that Paul had been talking about the idea of his own convention(s) since as early as 1987. [2]

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, Annie Wortham, Leah Rosenthal, and Linda Terrell, two of which had what they felt to be a friendship with Paul Darrow. 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, Darrow got a solicitor to send a formal letter to Wortham, Rosenthal, and Terrell, ordering them to stop publishing, drawing, and writing, anything involving "his" character or his likeness, plus those of two other actors. [note 1] Pseudo legal threats were issued against fans.

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!'"

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, claiming that 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. [3]

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. [note 2]

Gareth Thomas' comments at Scorpio in 1987:

As I say, everyone out there is paying my wages, and my reason for coming to an amateur con, not a professional one, its my way of saying thank you. Professional cons I've been asked to do, and I've turned them down. I said, no way, I will not do a professional con. Why? people say, because I know that some of the others do; Michael does, Jan does, I won't because those people out there have already paid to see me once already. Now they're paying to see me again. Why the hell should some bastard at the top cream that off? I don't want money for doing this. I want to say thank you. I don't want money, not for this. Why should some bastard up there be creaming it off? That's unfair of them. [4]

Some later comments by Terry Nation in Dalek Man, London. Having scrambled British SF TV expectations, Terry Nation considers reshaping fan conventions (January 1990) only confirmed some fans' fears.

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." [5]

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)." [6]

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!" [7]

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[note 3], 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's 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.

The Paper Trail: A Sample of Fan Open Letters and "Formal" Comments from TPTB

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.

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 (if possible) of each fan's filters.

1988

flyer for "The Killing Grounds" by Suzan Lovett, printed in 5th Season #5 in 1988, a zine was abandoned due to the controversy. A fan in 1993 wrote: "Suzan Lovett apparently drafted a time travel crossover that involves someone going back in time to prevent Blake's shooting and inadvertently causing the nice Federation to become the nasty Federation in B7.... maybe I have the story screwed up, i got it from Tashery Shannon verbally over a month ago. Susan never wrote it 'cause she got tied up in time travel paradoxes. And she got pissed off at B7 fandom 'cause of Paul Darrow." --comments by Lynn C on Virgule-L, quoted with permission (May 28, 1993)

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

See commentary in The Federation Archives.

1989

General Remarks

Terry Nation said he wanted the rift in B7 fandom healed, and then read a statement by Paul saying that his loyal wife Janet had been persuaded not to go to Gambit for the sake of her health, and that those who opposed his interests were in the wrong; this dressed up in Biblical and Kennedy references. [8]

Southern Seven #6 (1991) reprints a letter (dated August 1989) by Leigh Arnold telling Wortham that due to tensions in fandom following the Blake's 7 Wars, she was reprinting her stories in Magnificent Seven #9: "Reasons for doing so must be fairly obvious to anyone who has been active in this fandom during the early months of 1989."
[comments by the Unicon (June 24-25, 1989) staff]:

[From the third progress report]: Now that I have your attention I am thrilled to announce that according to a phone call from Mr. Paul Darrow on Sunday April 16, he will be making his only 1989 appearance in the United States at UNICON '89, He has guaranteed that he will be here - Paul's play will end touring the weekend before the convention and he starts filming on his new television series the beginning of July and he has decided to spend his only free weekend with us. He is very excited about this convention and intends to do everything he can to make this a "rousing success". Michael Keating is still coming and in a rare moment of modesty Paul confirms that the "Paul and Michael show is not bad".

[From the back of the Unicon flyer]: I have worked in science fiction conventions for almost fifteen years and in that time I have worked with and come to know many of the stars of the genre. Recently my friend Paul Darrow has come under a very vicious attack in certain fan publications. In my experience, Paul Darrow is one of the best people in the business. Paul has consistently tried to be accessible to his fans and has given a great deal of his time and energy in efforts to meet as many of his fans as possible. He does not do this for financial gain, he does it because he loves his fans. He is one of the least demanding and hardest working performers I have ever seen. Paul and Janet wanted me to thank everyone from the bottom of their hearts for the support they have received. I want to thank them for being the wonderful people that they are. I hope that all of you will get the chance to meet two of the kindest, most decent, and most loving people around. I know that my life has been enriched for having known them. -- Michelle Wilson, Supreme Commander

[comments by Joe Nazzaro in Freedom City Gazette #6 (January 1989)]:

Over the last few months, I’ve seen friendships, and even relationships, deteriorate because of certain events in fandom. I’ve witnessed rumor and gossip carried to new heights and outright lies circulated about a number of very fine people. I’ve observed childishness and pettiness, and conventions that have been more soap-operatic than enjoyable. Speaking for myself, the last several months have found me the subject of more than one nasty rumor, several obnoxious phone calls, and a series of anonymous letters, which I now wisely discard without reading. Memories, yes, but not the sort I care to remember.

The reason I chose this subject to discuss is because, slowly but surely, I see the warmth and friendliness that drew me to Blake’s 7 fandom beginning to fade, and being replaced by an ever-thickening layer of distrust and pettiness. What used to be a most enjoyable part of my life is becoming increasingly less fun.

So where is all this leading? Truthfully, I don’t know. The one thing that keeps coming back to me is why most of us got involved in this silly business called fandom in the first place: to meet other people who share a common interest. Perhaps we should start remembering that, and concentrate on establishing some new friendships instead of destroying old ones. Perhaps it’s time to start having fun again.

A number of people have speculated that Blake’s 7 fandom may be dead within another year, that its decay may be irreversible.

[...]

Where will Blake’s 7 fandom be in 1990? In a year, a lot of things can happen. What happens next is up to us.[9]

[comments by Joy Harrison, editor of The Sonic Screwdriver #5 (June 1989)]:

There's been so much unpleasantness, so much nastiness in certain areas of British media fandom that we were forced earlier this year to paraphrase that totally unknown and utterly incompetent English playwright, William Shakespeare, and talk about "plagues" and "houses." (Sorry, Will, you know we love you!) We strongly doubt there is any need to go into detail; you've heard it all by now. And while editorials are supposed to provoke controversy, we have no desire to see blood spilled on our pages.

Fandom should be fun. You've heard that before; we've said it before. But there are always a few individuals who cannot leave things be, who have to exert their authority, even when they have none. Power games, basically —and, wherever you go, you will find people who play them. It isn't just a problem in British media fandom, or in fandom in general. It's everywhere. And the best way to deal with it is to let the players play their games — and ignore them. The power-hungry cannot bear to be Ignored. So what better way to treat them? Of course, they do tend to resent such treatment, but should any of us care? After all, these are the people who are spoiling fandom for everyone, simply because they cannot accept the idea that others are entitled to their own opinions, that not everyone thinks the way they do. Meanwhile, the rest of the fannish world continues as It always has. We read, we watch television, we see the films our own fault, for only we can let them spoil it.

Fandom goes on.

[...]

We don't think our problems need to be addressed here, because they have already been discussed at length. In our pages and elsewhere. You know our views and we think we know at least some of yours.

We ask only that you think about what you say and do. Think. And then act. [10]

[P A] gave me her view of the fan flap, in which Laurie Cohen was a pawn of Paul Darrow. This contrasted slightly with the concom's view, which was that Paul Darrow was a pawn of Laurie Cohen, in their mutual quest for power within and over fandom (both versions agreed on the latter point). [11]

I was surprised to learn at GAMBIT that the third pro in Darrow's proposed convention triumvirate was not Pearce, as was my first guess, but Terry Nation himself. Nation had always struck me as a much more principled man than Darrow. He still does, in fact. What surprises me now is Nation's apparent naivete.

Nation read a letter from Paul Darrow at one of the major general assemblies of GAMBIT. In effect, it denied in vehement if vague terms any malfeasance on Darrow's part, and then it got a bit overblown, the only phrase of which I can recall exactly now is, "the last man to wash his hands in public was reviled for 2000 years." (Nation kept reading it straight, but the actors on the dais with him started screwing up their faces at the more histrionic passages.) When he was done, however, there was a major show of pro solidarity. Nation rushed to defend Darrow in uneguivocal terms and all the other pro guests got solidly behind Nation. Their message was clear: there was no rift in B7 fandom save what a few troublesome fans were making themselves.

Nation insisted that the sole reason they had been contemplating their Pro Tour conventions was to show the fans a good time, that the great weakness of current fan-run guest cons was that the guests might have to cancel out up to the last minute. By having a contract with the guests in which they could treat the cons as real work — true professional commitments — you eliminate that weakness of the current convention format. He said it had never been their intention to drive anybody else's cons out of business, that they had not been talking about having these cons in the same cities as the fan cons, and certainly not on the same dates (apparently Laurie Cohen has either lied to his face, or else he never bothered to check to see what was being said by her on his behalf). He got very indignant and insisted that they were not trying to bilk or milk the Americans and they were not trying to take money away from dying children.

He seemed to me very ignorant of details, and certainly the actors up there with him seemed to be ignorant of anything other than what they were hearing right then and there. He admitted not having discussed any details concerning the financing of this project, and in that probably lies the insurmountable stumbling block that they will face. Completely ignoring any fan animosity (and therefore any boycott sentiment) that they may engender with all this, I don't see how they can do everything they say they want to do and still keep the cost of membership down to a reasonable price. If they up the dealer rates the dealers are going to stay away in droves. (Fan dealers won't be able to afford it and how much money can pro dealers make at a single-theme con?) I think they would have to hit $100 advance membership per person for a weekend. Not even WorldCon charges that much. No matter which way you do the accounting, they're going to have to rob Peter (and everyone else) to pay Paul.

There's no real resolution to it all. They're trying to put a dollar value on what could only be measured in devotion before. Even if the fan organizers do get financial compensation for their efforts in this proposed new venture, I think the majority are going to wind up demoralized in the end.

Terry Nation has probably never had a personal reason to doubt Paul Darrow's veracity. [12] I've seen it before, people who behave tolerably well within their own personal circle of friends, but who feel no sense of accountability outside that circle. So naturally their friends within the circle feel compelled to stand by the friend who's acting out and insist that they know so-and-so to be a fine upstanding individual and therefore "he who attacks my friend attacks me." And naturally, Wortham's friends will feel compelled to stand up for her as well. [13]

Remarks in "Southern Seven"

Your vitriolic, crack-pot lies printed in the Terrell rag are laughable. You are everything Paul Darrow says you are. Furthermore, you're stupid, you're expendable and I'm NOT buying. Nor shall I ever buy again any other garbage you care to fabricate in the future. May this whole defamation scheme backfire all over you and your ugly cronies. Have a nice day. -- Dee Dee Stewart

Interestingly enough, according to my records, no "Dee Dee Stewart" has ever purchased a zine from me. -- Annie Wortham, ED [14]

[from the editorial of Southern Seven #5, part one, comments by Annie Wortham]:

I'm going to mention one other thing that affects the zine, and then I'll let you get on with enjoying it. Leigh Arnold of Van Nuys, CA has been telling all and sundry via her self-styled "Public Service Announcement" that I have been served with a "cease and desist notice for libel, slander and harassment." This is a blatant out and out lie. Neither I nor my zines have been served with any kind of legal papers whatsoever and her insistence and publication that I have amounts to libel and harassment in itself. I can only hope that of you out there realize the ridiculousness of her claim. If I had been served with legal, enforceable documents, this zine would not exist. On the advice of my lawyers, I have changed my copyright disclaimer in the front of the zine. Please read it carefully.

[...]

This issue is specially dedicated to Linda Terrell. Without her integrity and courage, I wouldn't have made it through the last few months. Besides, in a way she's responsible for inspiring me to get this done so quickly. She certainly convinced me I wasn't leaving this fandom no-way, no-how, no-time until was good and ready. Thanks, Linda. This one's for you...

I’ve had a long discussion with my conscience (that voice inside one's head that tells one the difference between right and wrong). My conscience insists that I should no longer financially support you (yes yes, I know you don't make a profit from your zines...) I am therefore requesting a refund of the deposits (which I believe to be $14.00) I currently have with you. That money is not, by the my, forfeit. I would appreciate this refund as soon as possible. However, if you would rather not correspond directly with me (I know how difficult it is for you to confront people face-to-face when you're upset with them), you may give my money to Sue Glasgow in February. She will be attending GAMBIT.

There are enough fans and enough zines in this fandom, that one does not have to have dealings with people who only wish to contribute hate. My conscience has convinced ms that I will not miss your zines. My conscience, however, is very conscious of the money of mine that you have, however. There are a lot of fans who put out zines for the benefit of the fandom, rather than themselves, and I would rather that $14.00 go there. [15]

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. [16]

Remarks in "Pressure Point"

[from a fan letter in Pressure Point #8 (January 1989)]:

'The dragons' teeth which we have sown among ourselves are various and potent. At this very moment, a number of battles are raging simultaneously, and the following list is my no means exhaustive. We have the debate over slash; the BNF/snf fingerpointing contest; the more academic question of what constitutes 'canonical' material in this media-oriented fandom; the issue of whether this fandom needs the continued presence of actors/guests in order to survive; the extremely problematic problem of whether it's beneficial for the actors and the fans to become involved on too personal level; and the enormous storm of controversy that has arisen from Terry Nation's and Paul Darrow's proposal to do a series of conventions with Laurie Cohen (in her persona as Decima Productions) this coming fall. I don't have time to cover them all, in this one letter to PRESSURE POINT, but I'll put down some thoughts on a couple that have touched me personally in just the last few days. Slash (explicit-sex stories between same-sex characters) has long been the subject of fan controversy. There are a number of stands possible to take: It's wonderful and love and discuss it openly (enthusiasm); it's wonderful but I hide it in a closet (secret enthusiasm); it does nothing for me but it's no big deal (tolerance); people can write what they want but I think it twists the characters beyond what I can believe of them (qualified tolerance); what am I surrounded by weird homos? (borderline antagonism); and set it on fire and stomp on it (outright antagonism). Fortunately, fans are, on the whole, easy going, well-behaved, and tolerant. People who are outright antagonistic rarely have the poor form to violently contradict the majority opinion (acceptance of slash) in public. This is probably just as well. Not only it is very rude to tell you friends you think they're sick; but also, sexual content topics are always touchy (despite any superficial appearance of placidity); and i fear the anti-slash people are seriously outnumbered.......

Surely virtually everyone in B7 fandom must be aware by now that Laurie Cohen has been putting out feelers (extensive systematic ones) about doing a string of 4 to 6 conventions in the fall of 1989. Although she's been soliciting help from local fan organizations in the cities she's targeting, these would be 'professionals' conventions, in that the proceeds (if any) would not be donated to charity. Instead the money would go to her and whatever actor/guests make personal appearances. Rather like Creation Cons, in many respects, except that (as I understand it) the actor/guests would be cut in for a considerably larger amount of the proceeds. Also, the guests would have considerably more input and control over what form the programming takes, and how their schedules run. I don't see how anyone could object to the guests making money off their personal appearances; it's the way most of them make their living. Literally, I think the idea of their having more control over what they do at conventions is admirable. Anything that boosts the guests' enthusiasm will probably make thing more fun for the attendees......

Personally, I believe we're going through a transition toward a more arms-length relationship with our guests (in which all parties can gratefully recover their privacy) right now. In the long run, a little touch of affectionate formality, a measure of benignly calculated diplomacy may prove beneficial to us all. But whether or not the guests remain active participants, whether or not we preserve the earlier traditions unaltered forever, there will always be a fandom.....

I would like to state for the record the Gambit Con Committee has taken no position of any kind with regard to Mr. Paul Darrow's recent behavior and statements(he contacted us with perfect courtesy long before all this upset began, to let us know he'd gotten work, would be unable to attend Gambit, and wishing us success); nor with regard to Laurie Cohen, Decima Productions, and any associated proposed conventions (which are, as of present rumor, scheduled for next fall), and therefore have no direct impact on Gambit, which is going to be a once-only undertaking anyway.) Individual members of the Con Committee have personal and private opinions on these and other matters. But Gambit has formed no policies and made no declarations intended to interfere with the unimpeded, legitimate expression and operation of Ms. Cohen, Decima, or Mr. Darrow in any way. As Ms. Cohen has repeatedly insisted we make clear, from the conception of Gambit, we have been completely independent of any involvement with, interest in, or influence by Decima Productions. With all due respect, Gambit intends to maintain that separation.

[From a committee member for Gambit in April 1989, printed in Pressure Point #9/10]:Statement on behalf of Gambit con.

As a member of the Gambit ConCom, and as one of the people who participated in all of the telephone conference calls on this matter. I would like to clarify something something bought up in the statement read by Mr. Terry Nation on behalf of Mr. Paul Darrow at Gambit's Opening Ceremonies. Mr. Darrow's statement seemed to me to imply that Gambit 'withdrew' (his word) its original invitation to him and his wife, Janet, in a deliberate attempt to prevent either of them from appearing at the convention. This is not the case. Only 3 weeks before the convention was to take place, when we thought we had our budget and guest arrangements mostly settled, we received a phone message from Mrs. Darrow. She asked if her invitation to attend Gambit still stood, and stated that she expected a reply within 48 hours (her deadline). We were taken aback as Mrs. Darrow had previously sent us an eloquent letter in which she explained at length that though she appreciated our offer, she would be completely unable to attend Gambit without either Mr. Darrow or Mr. Michael Keating there as well: she felt that she worked best with those two gentlemen and that by herself (having had only a small part in the actual series) she was not enough of a 'draw' to justify the expense of travel arrangements. Naturally, we were curious as to why Mrs. Darrow had suddenly changed her mind about wanting to be at Gambit. But we promptly went over our finances to see if we could afford another guest. This question had to be settled before anything else. The answer was that, depending on airfares, we might be able to afford one more guest if we were willing to risk going in the red (as our budget stood before the con). To make matters more complex, within hours of Mrs. Darrow's inquiry, Gambit also heard from Ms. Jacqueline Pearce, who had likewise been invited earlier, had declined, and now expressed a renewed interest in attending the con. The Gambit ConCom (14 members) is strictly democratic.

I and several other officers spent the most of the next 2 days on the phone taking votes. First, the Committee had to decide if we were willing to risk going into debt to get another guest. The answer to that was an uneasy but definite yes. Second we had to decide between the two ladies, because we could not afford them both. The answer to that was an overwhelming majority vote (13 ayes and one couldn't be found in time) in having 'Supreme Commander Sevalan", who hadn't been at a US con for several years, rather than the relatively obscure 'Klyn', who had been over here recently, and who had expressed such uncertainty about her own value as a draw. From a purely business point of view, it was a clearcut decision. I will not deny that the infamous 'controversy' that has been poisoning B7 fandom lately may have played a part in individual decisions. But, having discussed the issue at great length and expense with most of the other ConCom members, I can fairly state that when the decision was made, Mrs. Darrow part in the controversy worked equally for and against her. The factor that tipped the scales in Ms. Pearce's favor was her relatively greater value as a guest. That was all. Three members of the Gambit Con Comm contacted Mrs. Darrow, stating clearly who we were, on the international telephone conference (we felt the situation merited the expense). We told her that, sadly for Gambit, we could not afford to bring her to our convention; and that the Committee was unhappy at not being able to have her attend. Mrs. Darrow barely paused before informing us that she would pay her own way, and we should see to arranging a hotel room for her. We told her she'd be welcome, and asked when we could expect her to arrive, so that we could make arrangements to pick her up at the airport. She said she would contact us wit the details later. However, we never heard back from her directly (Even when she apparently decided not to come after all.) We did juggle the problematic security floor arrangements yet again, to reserve a room for her with the other guests, just in case.

Approximately a week later (now only 2 weeks before the con),while we were still struggling to finalize arrangements for Ms. Pearce and wondering where we'd come up with that last couple of hundred dollars, we received another telephone message. This time it was from Mr. Darrow, inquiring whether his invitation to Gambit still stood (his specific phrasing). Gambit's budget had not, in the intervening week, suddenly developed a several thousand dollar surplus. Nor (in the time remaining) were we likely to raise such funds. Even had he been willing to travel coach class, the bottom line was that Gambit could not afford Mr. Darrow any more than it could afford his wife. Again, there were multiple factors in the equation. We were not sure exactly why Mr. Darrow was putting us on the spot with his last minute request. It was virtually certain he would be unable to come even if we said yes. Mr. Darrow had a play, and was in fact leaving home to attend final rehearsals and begin touring the following weekend.

Furthermore, the 'controversy' surrounding the Darrows was getting worse, if possible. And despite our best efforts to keep Gambit neutral in the debate (every side of this mess has staunch proponents on our committee), we had been dragged in by none other than the Darrows themselves. By the time of Mr. Darrow's inquiry, we had heard from virtually all our confirmed guests (except Mr. Nation) that the Darrows had contacted them to specifically request that they not attend Gambit.

If we had the money, I believe we would still have done our best to make Mr. Darrow welcome, regardless: Gambit has taken its neutrality seriously. And besides, in the past, as everyone knows, Mr. Darrow has always been an exemplary guest. And even though we would have liked him at Newark, for both diplomatic and business reasons, the bottom line remained the same: we did not have the money. Again, we initiated a conference call, carefully announcing the names of all parties on the line. We did try to ask Mr. Darrow why he wanted to come. He replied only that he wanted his original question answered. Did his invitation to Gambit still stand? When we replied as gently as possible, 'well,no', he cut across any further discussion and got off the phone as quickly as he could without actually hanging up. We tried to explain the situation we were in. We would have listened to Mr. Darrow's views, and we gave him a fair opportunity to air them. But Mr. Darrow gave us no chance at all for a reasonable discussion. These are the exchanges which Mr. Darrow characterizes as Gambit's withdrawal of its invitation to him and his wife.

From Gambit's point of view, it looks rather different. The Darrows put us in an impossible position, demanding to know if they could still come only 3 weeks before the con -- when they had each turned Gambit down long ago, and Gambit had therefore committed its funds elsewhere. The Darrows carefully phrased their demands to make it sound as though we were personally rejecting them ( no matter what our actual reasons); and then (despite our express regret at not being able to afford Mrs. Darrow, and our willingness to make hotel and transportation arrangements on her behalf) they attempted to make it appear that we have been brusque and uncooperative, and taken sides against them. I repeat, this is not the case. In truth, no matter how Mr. Darrow may choose to characterize the situation, the worst offense Gambit's ConCom has been guilty of is trying to manage our business finances responsibly. Since we made the decision not to spend the money we didn't have to bring the Darrows to Gambit, other issues have arisen. Now, some of us may regret less and less what was at the time a purely fiscal necessity. But back when the Darrows tried to re-invite themselves to Gambit, the only reason we couldn't afford them was money.

[from a fan letter in Pressure Point #9/10 (April 1989)]: 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.

[from a fan letter in Pressure Point #9/10 (April 1989)]: I am sorry to see any fandom degenerate into this type of thing. I'm sorry to see my friends degenerate into this sort of squabbling. This issue I've seen that seems to be causing the biggest row is the battle between Paul Darrow and certain BNFs in American fandom. I'm not going to name names here since anyone involved knows who they are, and I'm not going to launch into a detailed discussion about it all. I will just say that I have read some of the correspondence/flyers making the rounds from the parties involved re libel and slander, etc., and I think no one is entirely in the 'right' and all are partially in the 'wrong.' It basically seems to be Paul Darrow on the one hand and the BNFs on the other hand butting heads, both sides stubborn and proud, and neither intending to give ground first. It has escalated into a shooting war from there. In both cases, ego seems to have a great deal to do with it. Perhaps it is going to take an independent arbitrator to solve this mess. I hope it does not end up going to court involving a libel suit and cross suit. All that will generate is bitterness and hurt to all involved. Why can't both sides just back off and say, 'I'm sorry. I took what you said the wrong way and my temper got the better of me.' Because that's the root cause of the whole mess. Somebody said something and somebody else got their feelings hurt, then got mad and decided to 'get' the first party involved. That's for pre-schoolers, folks. We're all supposed to be adults here.

[from a fan letter in Pressure Point #9/10 (April 1989)]: As I said at the top of this letter, I believe in fairness and I hope Blake's 7 fans can overcome this misinformation and work together for the sake of this fandom. Our fandom is lucky that the actors care so much about the fans and want to help them and meet them. After all, our actors also have bills to pay just like the fans and they should receive compensation for the time taken off work and the enormous travel expense. We are science fiction fans and we are tolerant people in general. Let's let bygones be bygones."

[from a fan letter in Pressure Point #9/10 (April 1989)]: As for slash, it doesn't do much for me either, except make me a bit ill in the more extreme (explicit) cases. But many of the stories are well written and thought out, and if you concede that they don't really reflect the true attitudes of the B7 characters as established by Terry Nation, I don't have a problem with 'em. But even if did, I would hardly insist on every B7 fan in America not buying/writing/reading/drawing slash literature. For one, I doubt anyone would pay attention. Second, I would quickly become the laughingstock of fandom. It is a shame that someone felt driven to 'expose' these filthy writers and artists to certain actors and actresses. Having written adult stories (yes, and a slash story or two) myself under assumed name, I suppose I should now tremble in fear at the retribution that will surely fall upon me. But I won't hold my breath waiting. To the 'slashophobes' that dwell in B7 fandom: if you don't like it fine. But you do not rule universe, and there's this interesting document called the Constitution that has the fascinating section called 'The Bill of Rights'. And don't you know, the very first one deals with Freedom of Speech. So either ignore it and keep your mouth shut, or go join Falwall, Swaggert, et al. You should fell right at home until they find out you're a SF fan.

[from a fan letter in Pressure Point #9/10 (April 1989)]:

I don't want to overstate my case, by any means, but since you are opening up an issue of PRESSURE POINT to the 'controversy', I felt that I had best respond. Especially since I have heard some disturbing rumors concerning regarding my position and actions. First, I wrote one and only one public letter regarding fan vs. pro convention situation. This letter was printed in its entirety and in the only form ever written or authorized by me in the Federation Archives. I asked no other club or newsletter to print it. I have since heard it said I wrote numerous other letters which 'names names'. This is untrue. Prior to the publication of my public letter, I wrote one personal letter to a West Coast fan. Within six days of writing that one personal letter, I was receiving 'anonymous' hate mail accusing me of conducting a hate campaign against Paul Darrow and Michael Keating (?!). All of the sudden the Darrows had copies of my public letter ... before it ever saw print. I may be incredibly naive and slow, but even I could figure out what happened. I obviously trusted the wrong person with sensitive information. I I have more recently found out that private letters I wrote to Terry Nation, Paul Darrow, and Laurie Cohen regarding the whole situation have been circulated indiscriminately by the principals involved. I find that lack of discretion disgusting but given recent developments hardly surprising......

The attitude From England and the actors themselves seems to be that my references to charities and 'dying children' was a direct attack on Janet Darrow's inability to have children. That's about the biggest quantum leap of illogic I've ever heard of. They seem to want to make me out to be the bad guy because I advocate giving money to charity. Which rather illustrates the whole point of original letter rather nicely: excessive demands on the part of some guests strains the convention budget and takes money directly away from the charities and the attendee functions. Period. That's what I said and what I meant. If some of you are willing to empty your pockets for these people, have at it. It's your right to spend your money where you will. I have never said any different. What I said was, you think about it.

[from a fan letter in Pressure Point #9/10 (April 1989)]: For myself, I am not cowed by words like 'yes-man' and 'gutter-sniping apostate' (has anyone ever figured out how to snipe at a gutter?) If some out there wish to stay in kindergarten and calling names such as these gives them peace of mind, so be it. If some out there wish to seek a job with the National Enquirer by penning volumes of sensationalist emotional demagoguery, so be it. Fandom is composed of rational and intelligent beings. To you I say this: keep your own counsel. Put yourself in Paul Darrow's shoes and assess your reaction to being called what he has been called in the first strike (e.g. greedy, uncaring, a baby-killer -- shades of Anti-Semitism with only a slight alteration of the name.) But don't believe he is being wronged simply because I tell you I know it to be true. Conversely, don't believe he is 'evil' simply because you heard it somewhere from someone else. Don't support the Tour of conventions simply because I or anyone else tells you it is a marvelous idea. Conversely, don't abhor it and shun it because someone else told you it is a wicked device. Look, listen, and observe for yourselves. You choose, dear fans. It is YOUR fandom, after all.

[from a fan letter in Pressure Point #9/10 (April 1989)]: Personally, I see a great many problems with the plan as laid out by Decima, both by their declared representatives, and in writing in their mass-mailing. Terry and Paul came up with an idea, which, if it could be made to work, would be a dream convention. I just sincerely doubt that it can make money. I earn my living as an accounting clerk in a department store; prior to that I was an assistant manager/assistant buyer with the same firm. Determining the profitability of an item by looking at its costs versus the income expected from it is something I deal with on an everyday basis. The expenses for a con of this nature are very high. Hotel space, for example. In the New York/New Jersey area, a small conference room will more likely than not cost more than a single room rented for the same period of time. A good many of these will be needed to run this sort of con properly. Ballroom space, another essential for conventions is rented out by the section/foot. This goes for an even higher rate. (This information comes from a friend of mine who has been setting up business conventions in connection with her job.) And the cost of renting/borrowing video and audiovisual equipment and perhaps personnel, and you can see that the overhead alone will eat up a vast amount of revenue. Add to this the expense of bringing guests over; airfare, food, bar bills, etc., and the figure climbs even higher. Remember, as this con is to make a profit, by definition there will be nothing like a guest fund or charity auction to help pick up the slack. As to the expected income, Decima's mailing stated that admissions, dealers' table costs, art show hanging fees, etc. would be set at the fannish norms. How then, do they expect to generate enough income to make a profit? By the nature of fandom, you simply can't attract the 10-15 thousand people who attended the big Star Trek in their heyday. I think that's why, when the conventions were first being touted, the figures mentioned by the Decima reps included the controversial 50% commission on artists. Perhaps, Mr. Nation and Mr. Darrow were unaware of it (from the tone of both their letters, as included in Decima's mailing, I believe this to be the case) but I heard this figure myself, when a Decima rep was outlining plans for the tour at a local fan club meeting. Since the plan has has now been dropped, it's a moot point, but it would have been one way to generate the money needed to pull this off. Actors bowing out of conventions due to work commitments is not a problem unique to fan-run conventions. Paul Darrow himself bowed out of a good many conventions, both fan and pro, when he got the tour of 'Are you lonesome tonight?' Would the contracts for the tour specify that if the actor got other work, that free time for the convention had to be written into their contract as a condition of employment? This might cost an actor a long-term job, and how many actors would want to risk a long term possibly breakthrough role for them because of a convention?

[from a fan letter in Pressure Point #9/10 (April 1989)]: Thus, these rumors, like numerous others that have been related to me, had no basis in reality. They were not informational but malicious, intended to hurt me and injure my reputation within the fandom. And despite the reality, like all other rumors before them, they spread. What I'm trying to suggest is that when somebody tells you something, particularly if it's negative about another person, stop and think, rather than react. Where could they have heard that? Is it first-hand or twenty-second hand? Is it possible or even probable that they misheard or misunderstood or misinterpreted what they heard? I think it would be to everyone's benefit to believe the best of people and to be reluctant to believe the worst. Paul Darrow has been great for the fans and for Blake's 7 fandom. He has always made himself available outside of convention hours to spend time with fans. he and Janet are conscientious correspondents. He is unvaryingly hospitable to the waves of American fans who flock across the Atlantic to see him. Is it likely that he would suddenly be out to rook the fans? Of course not. Last April, in an effort to reconcile certain differences that had arisen in the aftermath of DSV One, I wrote to you and Annie, saying in part that fandom should provide an escape from the pettiness of the real world, not simply a new battleground. What I said last April still goes. I don't like fannish wars; I don't like fannish politics; I think this entire business is a monument to aggrieved egos and monumental stupidity. I don't exempt myself from a share of the blame or anyone else. But I think all of us should make an effort to put this behind us, and remember why we became in fandom in the first place: to make new friends; to discuss characters and plot situations that intrigued us, to explore and extend our creative horizons; to meet actors, writers, etc. who brought this show to life and to hear about it from their perspectives. Above all, TO HAVE FUN. The conventions we are planning are going to be fun. Fannish politics are not fun. If you enjoy power politics, go find another playground. If you're in this for the fun of it, come lend a hand with the conventions! It's a big playground and there's room for anyone who wants to lend a helping hand.

[from a fan letter in Pressure Point #9/10 (April 1989)]: It seems to me that most of certain people's distress has been caused by a lack of understanding of what fandom actually is. Fandom is us, those of us who love something so much that we can't just sit at home and absorb it passively. We have to have more, to do more. We have to join clubs and go to conventions and read fanzines ( and sometimes -- ulp -- even write and publish them) and hang out with other fans. For many of us, fandom is our primary social experience. I firmly believe that he whole problem is being caused by a failure to comprehend this. Fandom is about as close to being a true anarchy as we are going to find outside a political science textbook. Once a show gets out into the hands of the fans, we are going to do whatever the hell we like with it, regardless of what the creators of the show intended it to be. What we do with it may anger, amuse, appall or even deeply offend the show's creators. Tough. As I would to a Muslim offended by Salman Rushdie's THE SATANIC VERSES, I simply say: If you don't like it, don't read it. I don't like the concept of 'slash' fiction, either. So what? Since when did the universe depend on my (or anyone else's) opinions? Adult zines sell. They have an audience. Many fans want to read them. The marketplace don't know from ethics, and it don't care about people's feelings. I can certainly sympathize with Paul and Janet Darrow. It isn't surprising that they are offended by slash fiction. It would help matters if they could understand that the character in slash stories is not Paul but a figure more or less, by now, in the public domain called 'Avon'. Paul doesn't have to like it. But he does have to accept it, or else he has to reject a large part of what makes fandom what it is. Fandom belongs to us, the fans. It is our world, our lives. That means we come first. Period. End of discussion. Blake's 7 belongs to us now. Without us. the show wouldn't even exist anymore. That means that we are the most important element in any equation. Maybe even the only important element. Without grasping this, not outsider can possibly grasp fandom. Fandom does not belong to the writers, the actors, the producers, or even to the BBC. If any of them want to join us, they can do so as fans. They can't join as superior beings who behave toward us like gods. Nobody is going to order me to do anything. Any attempt to do so, in fact, stands a damn good chance of making me do just the opposite. As for the rest of this whole, ridiculous, painfully drawn out controversy, well ... I wish it would just shut up and go away. If these people want to feud, why don't they do it among themselves instead of trying to drag the rest of us into it? I don't care who is to blame, or who is right, or who started it, or who said what to whom when. It has gone on for way too long, and has caused a lot of hurt to too many people. There is no prospect of either side 'winning', whatever that might mean. By continuing to fight in public and trying to engulf all of us into it, they are hurting themselves and worse, they are hurting fandom. Which is where we come into it. They can do whatever they want to themselves and to each other. Bu they better leave my fandom alone! This is my life, folks, just as it yours. I'm furious that my fandom is being threatened by people who should know better. If they don't, they should at least be decent enough to stay out it and stop trying to ruin what they can never control.

Remarks in "Avon Newsletter"

Avon Newsletter was a publication openly supported by the Darrows and issues included the Darrow's essays and letters. The editor wrote in the January 1989 issue: "We would like to hear your views on what we consider to be the most cruel and unfair accusations aimed at two people who must be among the most considerate in the acting profession. I personally would like to add that it's six years now since I took on the running of 'Avon' and in that time I have known nothing but kindness and consideration from both Paul and Janet. They have helped me every step of the way. The club wouldn’t be as it is today without the interest they show and the affection they hold for their fans."

This meant fans overwhelmingly came out in support of their objects of affection in these pages. Fans with something less-than-positive to say said it elsewhere.

from Avon Newsletter #36, the caption: "At the Post of Honour. - Take Comfort. Your Courage is Vindicated. You Shall be Avenged." The editor's comments: "Judging from the letters we have received siding with Paul and Janet, it seems very appropriate to start this section with the following cartoon taken from PUNCH dated 1914 and sent in by Sue Chadwick"

There has been a grossly inaccurate and very hurtful article circulated containing a serious attack on Paul. Some of you, I know, have already seen it and written to say how angered you are by it. Because there must be many of you who have no idea what has been going on, I have reproduced the particular article in full in this n/l - page 3/4 and 5 (with Paul’s permission) and it’s followed by an answer to the attack from Paul. This article was written by Ms Annie Wortham and backed by some so called 'Big Name Fans’ in America...(who incidentally plan to try to boycott Paul’s book) [17].

The reason for all this animosity? Paul, Michael and Terry Nation thought of putting on their own conventions in the States because they have become increasingly sickened by the power plays, bickering and gossip instigated by some 'Big Name Fans’. They wanted to provide the best possible conventions for the thousands of ordinary fans, many of whom have been very shabbily treated. It’s difficult to imagine (in this country) the vast distances covered by fans wanting to meet Paul and other B7 guests and very disappointing for them when they arrive to find they are not allowed to do just that.

Janet also has come under attack for daring to object to certain ’slash fiction’ stories in which Paul and Janet are personally named. Now it is being said that she is trying to ’control’ fan fiction! An absurd accusation.

I could go on and on, but it seems sensible to let you read it all for yourselves and make your own judgements. Paul and Janet have always put themselves out for their fans and it seems a very shameful way to be treated after all they have done for fandom.

All of this is, of course, extremely upsetting for Paul and Janet, and although I've mentioned it later on in this issue, I would also like to say here how very much they have appreciated all the wonderful letters sent to them by fans annoyed by the attack (they’ve received hundreds and it would be impossible to answer all of you personally) - But please accept their ’Thank Yous’ here - they have been overwhelmed by your kindness. [18]

Over the next 9 pages we have printed as many L.O.C.’s as we’re able to 'squeeze in’ dealing with the recent 'controversy' raging throughout B7 fandom... even though we would like this matter ended. We do this as it’s only fair to those who have taken the time and trouble to write in with their opinions. And we once again apologise to those whose letters do not appear, but please accept our thanks. Next time we hope to deal with our more usual topics, including those that have had to be left out this time. Mr. Darrow would like it known that he has neither written nor had any other form of contact with the Ms’s Wortham, Terrell or Rosenthal since January.

[...]

We would like to thank everyone for the hundreds of letters we have received since the last newsletter went out. It certainly shocked and outraged you all and I’ve done my best to include as many as is possible in this newsletter (the reason for the n/l being so large this time). Apologies to those whose letters have had to be excluded - it’s been a very trying time for us all and having printed what I hope is a cross section of your opinions, we very much hope that now the subject will be dropped and we can return to something like normal. [19]

I had sat down and written a friend about the so-called 'controversy' sweeping American B7 fandom, when I realised - there was no problems! Look at it. The hysterical original statements claimed that there would be control of fandom, control of zines, of cons, of art. That just ain’t happening. And it's not because ’Anonymous’ and her hysterical friend jumped up to 'protect' us and save us. It hasn’t happened because it was never going to happen. At the time when I first received the statements, I assumed some points were gross exaggerations of some simple facts. That turned out to be true. I thought some other points were outright lies. That also turned out to be true. There are some facts which have remained fixed (although the pro-tour, still in its planning stages, is naturally subject to change) yet ’Anonymous’ and her friend have misconstrued those facts from the beginning, and any attempt at clarification is called 'changing the tune’.

There was a claim, for example, that the pro-cons would be held in cities and at times to rival local fan-run cons. The locations of those cities depends on what the fans there themselves want. That has always been true. There was only one city actually under discussion, however, where there is no regular B7 fan-run con, and where the fans were eager to be involved. That city was San Diego, and it was curiously not mentioned in the statements. Why? Perhaps because ’Anonymous’ couldn't get anyone to panic over a con held in San Diego. Perhaps ’Anonymous’ didn’t have her facts at all straight. Or just perhaps ’Anonymous’ was flat lying in order to raise a lynch mob against Paul Darrow. If this one basic fact has been twisted, how much of any of her statement can one take as true? Very little.

There was a claim of art control, that certain artists would pay 50% commission to join the pro con. The fact is that in addition, mark that, in addition to the usual art shows and auctions and the usual fees, some artists would be COMMISSIONED to do special art promoting the con (ie t-shirts, mugs. the sort of thing you see at any fan-con), for 50% of the profits. ’Anonymous’ pulled two words out - ’commission’ and '50%’ - and tried to make that sound like control. And then there’s zine control, and I’m certain ’Anonymous’ and her friends will make a big issue of this. A few writers and zine editors have already voluntarily blacklisted themselves. One admits so in the Federation Archives Addendum. Terry Nation didn't do that. Paul Darrow didn't do that. Janet Darrow didn’t do that. They did it to themselves. Why? They like martyrdom, I suppose. I dunno. I do know that slash is not the issue but merely part of the problem 'Anonymous' and her friends are creating. At Revelcon in San Diego, we had a slash panel, and Terry Nation presided. We discussed the issue maturely and rationally. We didn’t seek his approval and he didn’t seek excuses. The panel broke up with UNDERSTANDING on all sides. Almost all problems can be cleared up in a rational, mature DISCUSSION.

I’m sure this will come up, so... is it zine control if Terry Nation and Paul Darrow ask ’Anonymous’ and her two friends to no longer use them or their creations in their zines? That depends if you think that after maligning Terry Nation and Paul Darrow, hurting him and his wife, and distressing many fans as well, one still has a ’right' to their faces and creations.

Attorneys for Michael Keating and Paul Darrow have issued a cease and desist, that ’Anonymous' and her two friends are no longer allowed to use their images in anything, and I’ve no doubt that ’Anonymous’ will start screaming that they are attempting ’control.' I think that a person would have a great deal of gall to attempt any gain (be it monetary, fame, prestige, popularity or anything) from someone they've spent a great deal of effort to malign and hurt. Don’t forget, it’s Terry Nation’s characters and universe, and I think he’s been incredibly generous with it. It’s his right to put a halt to anything that hurts him, however. Instead, he supports the fandom. But you can’t ask him to support people who hurt him, his creation and his friends.

The biggest question I had to answer my overseas friend was: Why? Well, Paul Darrow and Terry Nation asked Laurie Cohen, because of her experience in setting up cons, to organise the pro-tour, and not 'Anonymous’. 'Anonymous', by her own admission in the Federation Archives Addendum, admits that Laurie Cohen asked her to be involved, and that she refuses to participate if Laurie Cohen is going to be 'in charge'. Think about it. All this so-called controversy is because one woman got jealous. 'Anonymous', being who she is, went on the attack. If she couldn’t have the pro-con, no one could. And she doesn’t stop. If she can’t have this fandom, no one else can. And she blackmails us further. She’ll take the only real contribution she had to this fandom, her zines and go home (this threat before the cease and desist order). Her friends will blacklist themselves and somehow it's the Darrow’s fault.

No, the only issue is that instead of airing her grievances in private to the Darrows and rationally talking it through with them, she viciously attacked them in public and involved, and disrupted, the entire fandom, and in doing so, hurt two of the most caring people I know. I can't find any issues of control, for the explained reasons. I see no 'sides’ in this matter. There is right and there is wrong. Hurting people is wrong. Deliberately and cruelly hurting good people in one's envy is terrible. 'Anonymous' and her friends owe a lot of people some major apologies.

To me, the most horrible - and the most beautiful - thing happening, that has been caused by this woman, is the reaction of the fans. Those who swallow the allegations that there is a problem (especially of control) are risking ulcers for nothing. But the hundreds of fans who have shown Paul and Janet their support and love, and who have stood up against this nonsense, will have created a stronger fandom in the end.

Blake's 7 fandom is, to my limited experience, unique. I can’t think of another fandom where the actors have the care and concern for the fandom that the Darrows do. I’ve thought all alone that we're very lucky to have such genuinely nice human beings so accessible to their fans. I now think we’re doubly lucky that they, and Terry Nation, care to much. A lot of strong bonds are being forged here, not the least of which are the bonds between the actors, the creator and amongst the fans. I'm glad to still be a part of it all. Hang in there folks, because I do believe we'll survive intact.[20]

I was absolutely appalled at what the Florida ’fans’ are trying to do to Paul and Janet. By what right does Wortham think she can carry on in such a way over such a matter? Has she lost all sense of proportion, of reality? Australian and NZ fandom has been buzzing with this incident since some American BNFs want to lay the blame at our door (for the revealing of the names behind the pseudonyms and/or [[Violating the Fourth Wall|showing the Darrows the fanzines in the first place]]). They've missed the point. The complaint was against the writing of the stuff, not against being shown it. Moreover I was very distressed that NZ's Kathy Hanson, who is a friend of mine, has been the recipient of a lot of hate mail and a vilification campaign of similar nastiness to that the Darrows have had to endure.

Wortham’s letter is a tissue of misrepresentation, half-truths and quoting out of context as would be obvious to anyone with any length of time in fandom. (No one would dispute her first two paragraphs but then she shoves in that unsupported emotive statement about the guests ’having to be kept happy' - whatever that means - and it goes downhill from then on. The 'dying children' provided the low point in black humour). Paul’s rebuttals were right on target However, her comments on the expenses of overseas guests at U.S. cons had the Conspire Committee in useless heaps on the floor. Hell, these Yanks don’t know the meaning of the word. Ask an Aussie about it instead. All our guests at media cons (except for a few DW ones who live here) have to come from overseas - and fly a damn sight further, so cost a hellva lot more. All bar the B7 ones charge a fee. All bar the B7 ones want first class. Even B7 ones have been offered a fee because we’ve come to expect it, or expenses. Wake up, Wortham.

Personally, I think Terry’s idea makes a great deal of sense. And why shouldn't the B7 actors be recompensed for their time and hard work? And they work bloody hard at a con - I've seen them at Scorpio 3 in Chicago, Eccentricon in Sydney and ZenCon II in Melbourne. As Paul pointed out, while they are away at a con, they could be missing out on work at home. What a dog in the manger attitude the Wortham entity has. Oh, and Ms Wortham, it is possible for a con to donate to charity AND pay the guest a fee.

Her claim that the Darrows want to control fandom is a nonsense. Likening them to Lucas and Spielberg in this matter is distortion. The trouble with the Worthams of this world is that they forget or, in their narrow, self-built ivory towers, aren’t aware that others have been in fandom as long (or longer) as they, and have long memories. I received one of those letters from Lucasfilm, as did any zine editor publishing SW fanfic of any kind, I can tell you that the tone of the letter was quite different from anything Janet may have written. It was downright insulting and threatening.

The point is Wortham’s behaviour is unworthy not only of an alleged fan of B7 and presumably Paul’s (fans like that & he doesn’t need enemies) but of a civilised intelligent human being. She might not agree with Paul and Janet's view of slash or conventions but she should not turn like a rabid dog & viciously attack Paul in print in an anonymous letter, trying to destroy his reputation in fandom like that. Who the hell does she think she is?

Blind Freddy could see this was a clear case of a fan getting too big for her boots, having an inflated view of her own importance, and feeling threatened. If it were not for the fact that people I respect have been hurt by this business, the whole thing would be laughable. There is Little Miss Wortham in Florida, spinning her wheels and casting up a lot of sand like a VV bogged in a sandpit, over something which really ought not to be an issue at all: namely some self-perceived, inalienable right to print pornography about characters she did not create in someone else's universe. Writing fan fiction is something only permitted out of goodwill or turning a blind eye by the copyright holders of the original. We are ALL in breach of copyright. She and others like her have lost sight of this important fact, that to write fan fiction is a kind of privilege, a privilege she and her kind are abusing by acting in this manner.

Above all, it is almost beyond belief that she should mount this campaign of vilification. The Darrows ought not and should not have to endure this. It is way out of order. Fortunately, many fans know the truth from either having met the Darrows or reading reports from those who have. So they know how considerate of fans, how friendly, outgoing and willing to spend time with them, they are.

No, truth will out. It may not be pleasant to put up with this now but remember the vilification campaign run by some American BNF ST fans on Leonard Nimoy and ST itself because Spock was killed off and Nimoy, at the time, did not want to continue the role. Nimoy is still here, acting, directing, making appearances; ST has run to 5 movies and a new series, but where are those fans today? The Wortham and her cronies are being plain silly and, in the end, are cutting off their noses to spite their faces. They should be ignored - ’twould be the kindest thing - like the creaking of a mill or the idle chatter of frogs in a pond and other inconsequential noises.[21]

My first reaction was, surely no-one in their right mind would take anything she says seriously. All this talk of a "well known B7 actor” and ’’this same actor” smacks more of the childish tantrums of a group of unruly 6 year old girls rather than the reasoned comments of an intelligent adult. I was interested in her supposed concern for ’dying children and other worthwhile charities.' If this is true, why doesn’t she go out to one of the 3rd world countries and give of her time, money, care and love (if she possesses any) rather than stooping to release her odious fantasies in book form? Surely the money people have to pay for the privilege of reading such rubbish would be better spent on ’dying children and other worthwhile charities.' And anyway, Just what type of reader is she hoping to attract?

I am very relieved that the Atlantic Ocean separates me from people like her and trust that she will never be tempted to cross it. If she has any sense of self preservation she won’t. Paul and Janet’s fans (or should I say friends) have long memories and no doubt would treat her with the contempt she deserves.[22]

I've just read a friend’s copy of the Federation Archives Addendum (I no longer subscribe, but not just because of the ’’attacks” featured in it lately). There is one thing I would like to clear up immediately. After going on and on about how Paul is attacking Ann Wortham (with whom I have no personal quibble, but I do NOT like what she’s been saying about the actors), Linda then goes on to mention Kathy Hanson's name in unfavourable light. Now I have nothing personal against Linda either, but she admits to possibly jumping the gun on this current issue, then, in other communications besides this one, she places all blame of the ’slash informer' on Kathy, who has been receiving loads of unfavourable mail and been called some rather nasty names. I beg to differ. Kathy was NOT the person who told Paul and Janet the 'true identities’ of slash writers. Slash was discussed at a dinner party the night BEFORE ZenCon II in Melbourne, Australia (ZenCon was before Kathy’s con, Confederation); R-rated and slash zines were on sale at the con; a panel was even held on them! I have a program, should anyone require proof. People were asking Paul to sign these zines. I would point out that the zines featured stories with the authors’ real names used. All Paul and Janet had to do was open the zine and read the contents. When Paul and Janet saw Kathy, they merely asked: 1) did she write or publish slash (No); and 2) did she know that certain people write it (Yes, but so did I, and practically everyone else who can read. It's discussed openly in [[Federation Archives]]’ "Naughty Nookie” pages). So, instead of being a "snitch”, Kathy just answered the questions; Paul and Janet already knew who wrote it! I ought to know this, I WAS THERE! I don't recall seeing any other Yanks there; if you were, sorry, wish we'd met.

I've only been a fan for about 1 1/2 years, so, please let's not kill B7 fandom before I, and a lot of others, have enjoyed it more. I may not be the only fan in Tennessee, but if there are others, I’ve yet to meet them. My friends are those I've met through cons. And, among these friends, I feel I can name some actors, too, who have given much of themselves for the fandom. Let’s quit trying to fight each other, and resolve this as best we. can, for the sake of us No Name Fans who want to see B7 fandom keep on growing.[23]

Wortham and her faction have made themselves universally condemned, both for the contents of their attack and for the way they made their attack. And I don't know of anyone who isn't disgusted by the fact that the Wortham faction, Linda Terrall [sic] in particular, have also attacked Paul's wife.

I make these observations on several bases, but especially on the basis of my experiences at the Gambit convention. At the opening ceremonies, Terry Nation, to his infinite credit, stated that he wished to read a letter from Paul Darrow, and did so. He is to be commended particularly because there was a cowardly announcement, from the Gambit’s organisers, that mention of the controversy was to be discouraged, and because, at the same time, the organisers were not kept in the dark about Terry’s intention of reading this letter. When Terry got to the point where Paul mentions that his invitation to Gambit had been withdrawn, the reaction from the audience was palpable. Withdraw an invitation - what a scummy thing to do! And not a thing which the con committee had bothered to make known publicly. The letter got a whopping great round of applause.

The following day, at the guest panel, someone asked Terry to talk about his and Paul’s proposed convention tour. No, there were no fistfights or shouting matches at any time during the convention. Everybody knew how to behave - and nobody wanted to sweep the problem under the rug. So the problem was brought out fairly and frequently. Terry’s discussion of the proposed tour, by the way, got an enthusiastic response from the audience.

Now, Terrell’s Federation Archives. The Wortham front page statement. If one reads between the lines, it certainly sounds like she’s backing down from her libels and looking to clear out of the B7 world. The standout line of Wortham’s, though, is "Laurie Cohen, the organiser of this tour, contacted me herself by phone and by letter, and asked me to serve on the executive committee of their tour!" Now, stop me if I am wrong, but isn’t Wortham saying here that she knew the truth about Paul’s and Terry’s plans - knew how good and how harmless they were - before she wrote her anonymous letter accusing those plans of all sorts of evil?

Next consider Terrell’s response to one correspondent’s "I was not at the con where Mr. Darrow was supposed to have said the bit about 75 seconds with each fan, but I can assure you, that had to be taken out of context" - Terrell says, "to be fair, it was. But the writer did say she was not present at the time." Merciful heavens! If all this weren't so sad it would be screamingly funny. Terrell printed a damaging comment even though she didn’t hear it herself and knew that her source didn’t hear it! This is the woman who constantly has the name of the First Amendment in her mouth! If Terrell worked for a newspaper, her editor would have her taken out and shot.

Finally, two specific statements of Terrell's give the whole show away, I think. She frequently interrupts the letters she publishes to print her own opinions; one of those to whom she does this is, ironically, her own supporter, Leah Rosenthal. Rosenthal says, ' With the publication of her letter, Ann Wortham became the first fan with the courage to put her outrage in print,” at which point Terrell interjects, ”I sent out at least 50 or more private articles of my own before that.” If this statement of Terrell’s is not a description of a secret campaign of defamation, I don’t know what would be.

Most significant of all is Terrell’s churlish response to the reasonable letter of someone named Susan Glasgow. Terrell says, ”To have printed Annie’s statement with names attached was to invite libel action.” You see what I mean about giving oneself away? In this country, since long before it was a country, the law has been that the truth is not libel.

Let’s hope that the marvellous proposed convention tour is not scuttled by this mess. Terry was truly prophetic when, in ’Mission to Destiny’, he has Dr. Kendall exclaim, ”Someone among us is determined that this mission should fail, and, frankly, I can't even guess at a motive,” and then puts in Avon's mouth the reply, ’’Try greed. It’s usually reliable.”[24]

As I walked out of the Anugraha hotel on the Monday morning after the Space City 1988 convention, I said to my husband, "If I ever again say to you , I'm going to get involved with running a convention’, hit me!" Gentle soul that he is, he would only promise to remind me that I'd said it. I have not changed my mind. Fans that organise conventions have my sympathies. I can empathise with their frustrations, angers, regrets and (angst?) until the cows come home, 'till dawn tints the sky and the gin bottle is empty.

I say this as a way of showing that I am not one of those fans that seem to have an inbuilt antipathy to convention committee members. Those fans (mercifully a small minority) who seem to go to conventions looking for things to complain about. Rather the opposite, I will always see things from the organisers point of view. I have been there and I know the problems.

Having offered my credentials and bias, I'll go on to say that I found Ms. Annie Wortham's article repugnant and offensive. I wonder could she possibly have met the same 'actors’ I did. She is obviously referring to Paul, and I wonder if her coy avoidance of using his name has something to do with the law of libel. Paul and Janet are both very articulate in their own defense, they don’t need my help. But as a convention organiser, I feel I own them a debt that deserves my vocal support.

Space City 1988 was not without its problems. The nature of the problems are not relevant to my argument, so I won’t go into them. What I will say is that when Paul and Janet arrived at Space City, past midnight, after a very long day (the last night of ’Are You Lonesome Tonight?’), they were met by Ann O'Neill and myself, both of us close to hysteria. Ann and I were very tired, but not at tired as the Darrows. Despite that when we suggested that they get a good night's sleep and we talk about our difficulties in the morning they would not hear of it. They then gave unstintingly of their time, energy and support. Nothing was too much trouble for them, and such was their commitment to the Sunday’s events that no-one present would have guessed that they had very little sleep the night before.

As far as the accusations of Paul wanting to control everything, the only item Paul insisted on changing was the private lunch planned for Sunday. I do not remember his exact words but the following captures his sentiments entirely. His words were to the effect that he came to conventions to meet his fans and he was not prepared to shut himself away for a nice lunch with a select few. He was not an elitist, and he did not approve of elitism. He would have a sandwich with the whole of the convention.

It was at this point I heard the ’75 second’ story straight from the horses mouth. Remember this was before anything had been said about it and no one had any reason to believe that these words would ever be the subject of public debate. Paul told us that at a recent U.S. convention (he did not mention which one) the scheduled programme meant that he would have precisely 75 seconds to spend with each fan. This was something he was very unhappy about, and for that reason at Space City he would lunch with everybody and speak to as many fans as possible.

Before leaving this item I would just like to say something about his so-called ’charm'. It seems to me that Ms Wortham uses the word 'charm' to mean ’smarm’, insincere flattery. Charm to me has always stood for good manners and social ease. Paul is certainly charming by my definition, so much so that even as he was declining our lunch he did not forget to thank us for thinking he would need a quiet break in the middle of the day. A quiet lunch would have been very nice he said. No one has ever said ’Thanks, but no-thanks’ to me, more politely.

The (angst?) that my last convention caused me has led me to resolve never to be concerned with them again. I have avoided keeping up with current convention goings on. This present fracas was brought to my attention by a friend. Fandom has always had its fair share of petty backbiting and bitchiness, but it seems in the last six months to have become a whole new ball game. Quite frankly Ms. Wortham, if that is what fandom is turning into, you are welcome to it. I have quite enough problems to cope with in my real life. I don’t need this sort of acrimony in what used to be a hobby, a way of escaping. A relaxation.

Janet and Paul Darrow’s devotion is in my opinion beyond question. Surely if they did not care about their fans a great deal, they would simply withdraw from fandom, leaving it to poison itself. No one worked harder at Space City and they were quite prepared to do more if asked. No guests were paid for their efforts, and Paul and Janet were in no doubt as to why they were there. Not to please themselves and not to please the committee, but to give the fans their moneys worth. Which they did with pleasure![25]

Those of you out there who know me will know that I’m generally a quiet type, one of the ’silent majority’, not given to speaking out in public. Now, however, I feel sufficiently impassioned to abandon my fence and to step up onto the soap box. How many of you remember, like me, when B7 fandom was a reasonably happy place, where Joe Public thought we were all slightly demented, but we were happy, knowing we weren’t doing anyone any harm? How many people remember when the only controversy involved was about the comparison of ’standard by’ to ’time distort’, or a light-hearted bit of Tarrant bashing? This was pre-fourth series - a long time ago now!

All this may seem a little pointless to some, but please bear with me. We, the British fans, the diehards, owe the American fans a great debt, for they gave B7 fandom a shot in the arm when it was dying on its feet. After the clubs began to fold, the most notable, of course, being the dearly loved Liberator Popular Front, how many of us wondered how long it was going to be before B7 fandom died completely? Condemned to a lonely corner of some Dr. Who club who held a slight affection for us?

What has all this got to do with anything, you may ask. Well, I'll tell you, from my personal point of view, at least. I think, my friends, we have spawned a monster that has nothing to do with groups of fans paying tribute to a much loved programme. The Americans may have helped save B7 fandom, but haven’t they created for themselves, for all of us, a monster that is out of control? Which came first? The chicken or the egg? B7 or B7 fandom? Have we got to a point now where the whole concept of fandom has grown and crushed B7 itself? I cannot condone Annie Wortham’s attack on Paul, nor it this letter written in defence of Paul, I am writing about what I see as a sickness spreading through fandom, of which her attack is symptomatic.

I talked to a lot of U.S. fans at ’Space City’, and I had one staying with me for the week following. My occasional ’partner in crime’ Judith Ellison, I know, would support me when I say that we were horrified by some of what we saw and heard. I know all fans, regardless of nationality, are not the same, and I know there are some very wonderful people out there, but the difference in attitude between British and American fans was profound. I speak now in general, and I have no wish to seem offensive, bigoted or whatever, but I found the Americans sorely lacking in humour, and I found them to be possessed of an arrogance I have never found amongst British fans. They act as if they own B7, lock, stock and barrel. If you are not a ’recognised' fan, you are at the bottom of the pecking order (somewhere in the vicinity of primeval slime, one would imagine). They have a strange semi physical, semi psychological hierarchy which does not exist in Britain. They seem to feel that they have the power to make or break B7, its cast and its fans, and woe betide anyone who crosses the monster’s path, for they will be crushed by it, as Annie Wortham appears to be trying to crush Paul. Okay, this sounds hysterical, and okay, it may only apply to a minority, but it’s how I feel about the situation!

[...]

The controversy over Annie Wortham’s article seems too indicative of a new trend. Rest assured, my friends, that if B7 fandom ceases to be fun for me, if people like Ms Wortham and her ilk continue to make fantasy and escapism a chore, I shall, as is my right, withdraw from organised fandom and sit at home with my videos, content that I at least, still have some perspective, and can still enjoy B7. B7 is about appreciation of a TV programme that we all loved to varying degrees, not about the egos of the people who watch it. I could say more, but I fear I have already said enough to bore you all. I feel very strongly on this issue, as you may have gathered, and I don’t believe I’m the only one to think that B7 fandom may be snowballing out of control.

Thank you for your time. If you agree, or disagree, I’m sure you’ll let me know[26]

I’ve been involved with fandom for many years, most recently, I’ve discovered a show called Blake’s 7. You remember - an incredibly imaginative, exciting television series with good scripts, and great acting... The show has captured my imagination due mostly to the remarkable work of Paul Darrow. Let’s consider the man for a moment. Aside from the usual commitment to a job, he has continued to support and perpetuate the magic of the show by giving his time and efforts to the people who don’t want it to end - the fans. Mr. Darrow is under no obligation whatsoever to continue his affiliation with ’Blake’s 7’ and yet he and his wife continue to give their time and efforts for us.

Then along comes this incredibly pathetic group of people who seem to find it necessary to make life miserable for the Darrows. What right do these people have to do this, except for personal maliciousness on their own part? All I want in fandom is a chance to share in the excitement and dreams of the sc-fi world. The petty attitudes of people like the ones who are instigating the nonsense against Paul Darrow simply has no place in that world. As far as I'm concerned they are welcome to go to hell, and leave the fandom to those of us who are in it because we like it.[27]

Human nature is such that I’m sure a great many fans will simply 'bury their heads in the sand' and hope the whole thing will blow over. Eventually it will. However, the type of fandom that it leaves in its wake is what will be decided. To say that it doesn't affect "me" is ludicrous. . . it affects all of us! I take great exception to anyone (even some elected officials) who profess to protect MY rights (in fandom and elsewhere) without first finding out how I feel about the matter. Hopefully British Canadian, Australian & New Zealand fans will not see this as a case of America against Paul. In fact there is only a very SMALL percentage of fans (how can

they call themselves that?) who are party to these lies. They don’t need numbers behind them... all they need to be is LOUD. These ’righteous crusaders' are professing to ’protect’ B7 fandom DESPITE the fans wishes. Not only are they content to send out their "hate mail" to all and sundry (I got one and I've never even met the women!); but they resort to using a public ('unbiased') forum - the Federation Archives - to express their highly biased opinions.[28]

1990

General Remarks

[remarks in Short Circuit #2]: One thing that drew me to Pros fandom was the fact that the actors didn't seem to have much to do with the fans. Unlike Doctor Who, Blake's 7 etc. After the recent who-ha in B7 fandom, I'm beginning to feel this way might be best. After all it is the characters that matter when all is said and done. Actors can often tend to show they have feet of clay when they can't cope with fans. [29]

[remarks in Short Circuit #2]: Linda Terrell: After the mess in B7 fandom, I don't even want to smell 'Cult of Actor'. I've had enough fawning Pet Fans to last me until The Second Coming. Unfortunately, it seems to be a recessive trait in Media Fandom - especially if The Actor gets involved (i.e. accessible). [30]

[remarks in On the Wing #1]: [ 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. [31]

[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].

Remarks in "Gambit"

From the zine Gambit:

From the editorial of "Gambit" #6, remarks by Jean Graham about "the war that rampaged through our little fandom":

Some wag once said "Never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained as stupidity." Accordingly, we really must plead 'innocent' to a matter which has generated controversy from some of our contributors, expressly the placement of art and stories within the zine and of contributors' names on the Table of Contents pages. Again, our staff members formatting those pages were often not B7 fans, and knew virtually nothing of the war that rampaged through our little fandom. Their ordering of stories, art and names was altogether random. and any malice there-in inferred is purely imaginary. Objectivity is invariably the first thing to vanish in any war, large or small. We like to think that, at least in an editorial sense, we have maintained ours. We'd also like very much to keep it that way. Now, having bent our own 'rules' by broaching the topic in the first place, GAMBIT'S staff would like to clarify a point or two.

This publication exists for a single, inarguable 3-letter purpose: FUN. We engage in this overgrown, time-gobbling lunacy because we happen to enjoy it, and because many others have told us that they enjoy our meager efforts in the field. Plainly and simply, there is no other reason for GAMBIT to be. It has garnered no profits, no glory and no fame to speak of. And it has, by careful design, brooked no incursion of politics (beyond a gentle parody or two) into its pages. This policy, by caveat of the entire editorial staff, will continue for as long as the zine itself continues: we see no other way to produce a zine, fulfill our purpose and keep the peace all at the same time.

GAMBIT is, therefore, apolitical. That is not to say we are unaligned, undecided, neutral or nonpartisan, but that we are, as a whole, entirely without politics. It does not mean that as individuals, we do not hold strong opinions and feelings on the controversies at hand — we do. But this zine — the product of joint efforts on the part of many differing individuals cannot and will not become the inappropriate forum for debate on such matters. We have no desire to join the morbid ranks of too many zines that have already 'died' of this wearisome malady.

While we sympathize in all respects with the deep-seated emotions involved, we must ask, with soft entreaty, one last favor of our contributors. Please... please don't send us ultimatums? We can find no equitable means of proscribing one side of your war without banning the other as well — and then we'd have no zine at all.

As this column is written, leaders of the two most powerful nations on Earth -- once bitter ideological enemies -- are sitting down across a summit conference table to discuss the rather lofty concepts of disarmament and world peace. The microcosm of B7 fandom would, we think, do well to learn from their example. Perhaps, one day, it will.

With love and a prayer for détente. [32]

Regarding your editorial, I can only hope your call for peace in the world of B7 fandom is heeded by all. News of 'the controversy’ has of course reached fans over here [in the UK], but gratefully after a few letters in club newsletters seems to have died down. I hope the same happens over there and that the fans can soon get back to the whole point of fandom — enjoying the series, the zines and themselves! [33]

I agree with your ’Elocution’ column. Other letterzines have described the argument in full. Save your zine for fun! [34]

I would never do anything to offend anyone in B7, most especially the actors. I fear the silly Controversy has sullied our fandom for along time. [35]

There seems to be some sort of squabble taking place; I don’t know what it is about, but I have seen veiled references in other places. I don’t want to step on any toes, but it seems the height of arrogance for people who are being published and distributed for free to object to where their work is placed in the volume. [36]

1991

[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. [37]

[comment by Ann Wortham in the editorial for Destiny]: In 1989, Brendan O'Cullane, under the auspices of XENON PRESS, and in partnership with Adrian Morgan, intended to publish a zine called DESTINY. During the early part of that year, Brendan did put out an adult issue, DIFFERENT DESTINIES (now available from ASHTON PRESS). Although Brendan had the best of intentions and had plenty of material in hand to publish the zine, real life intruded. Around the time in question, the great "Controversy" was under way, during which time Brendan and Adrian were subjected to persecution by a West Coast B7 zine editor, an actor, a producer and numerous other people...all this in spite of the fact that Brendan and Adrian had both maintained that they wanted to remain "neutral."

1993

General Remarks

You bring up that old controversy. If you want eyewitness accounts, that counts me out. ..... The business with the letters, though, was very public-end very silly. If you’ve read one or two, you’ve read them all. My first awareness of that mess was when [a fan] wrote an open letter accusing Darrow of scheming to take over the B7 con scene in cahoots with Terry Nation. Supposedly, they were going to see that none of the cast appeared at any but their own cons, and limit the art sold there to a "stable" of favorite artists, and of course, not allow any / zines or art. This nefarious plot supposedly had as its hidden agenda the goal of stamping out /, as if no fens would attend other cons or buy what was on the tables there.

The holes in [this fan] and her friends’ reasoning hardly need pointing out. It’s true Paul Darrow and Terry Nation were planning to run a "tour" of cons, and one assumes / wouldn’t be welcome at the tables there, but the plan, as Darrow had been telling it to people (according to [my friend], who had heard of it from him), had nothing sinister about it. Actually, the cons he wanted to put on sounded kind of different and fun, with fen-written B7 skits acted by the actors (sometimes playing each other’s characters), and other good ideas - a nice break from the usual endless panels. From the gossip I did hear, though, the falling out between [the fan] & friends and Paul Darrow wasn’t over /, but over their attempt to control and monopolize him at a con they had run, and his dissatisfaction with this was the beginning of the idea for PD and TN to do their own cons. That was my understanding of what was behind the blow-up.

As to who’s to blame for the silly proportions it took on, in my opinion, that particular group of fens can be rather pushy, while on the other hand, Paul Darrow can be a difficult person, quite polite and winning, but with a very fragile (and very big) ego. To charm people, and then feel misused by them (with or without good reason) and lash out at them seems to be a pattern with him. At least, he has done that to more than one person I know, for reasons including their involvement in /, which he took as a personal betrayal. On the other hand, [one of my other friends] has done A/B, came "out of the closet" about it, and has remained on good terms with him. So, I think there must be lots of variables involved. My own opinion is that the real trouble was the whole situation of so many people thinking they were Paul Darrow’s pal. At the time, it felt very odd and strained, with a sense of unhealthy competition. The fantasies even the most intelligent fens can create around a charismatic sex object, each fen wanting to believe she is special to him, leads to odd behavior from both the worshippers and worshipee.

On one hand, it was understandable, since most people had just come from Trek fendom, where the actors behaved like aloof stars, while Paul went out of his way to be available and chat with anyone who wanted to. He seemed to have a fantasy too - of growing American popularity and a Hollywood career, and was himself riding a wave of euphoria. As far as I can make out, his hopes of an American career got disillusioned at about the same time the rest of this happened ..... Be all that as it may, the general effect was disillusionment all around, and unfortunate uglinesses between P.D. and some fens, and between fens and fens. -

So, you asked for eyewitness accounts, but all I gave you was an abstract bag of theories and air. But really, it was messy, complex, and I don’t think anyone involved in the whole situation was in full possession of all their wits and motives. It’s too bad it soured so many fans on Blakes 7, since purely as art, the show (at its best) is a rare occurrence on television. I feel you have to go to films or plays before you find much script writing and acting of that quality (especially the combination of both). [38]

I remember a few years ago, in the B7 fandom, when Paul Darrow learned about the slash stuff being written about him and other B7 characters. Note: The stories he learned about were about the B7 characters and had nothing what so ever to do with the actors themselves. But that didn't stop Mr. Darrow from getting on his soap box, and demanding that anyone who read/wrote/bought/had anything to do with this were no longer friends of his. He even attempted to get restraining orders against a few of the big names in fandom. Anyone remember the flak going on for over a year about [Ann W]/ [Leah R] and Mr. Darrow. He even told his fellow actors, that if they didn't listen to his point of view and not attend certain conventions, because they were being run by people who were friends of friends of a slash writer, that he would not be their friend. So, that year, conventions were rather thin with people, making it nice to be able to sit and talk to the guests that DID show up! At one point, I asked Terry Nation (creator of B7) what his opinion of slash. He thought it funny, because he couldn't picture Avon or any of the others doing anything like that. But he did agree that we were dealing with the characters, NOT THE ACTORS. A point for Mr. Darrow to ponder, would he be as upset, if Avon wasn't so popular or if someone else had gotten the role and we slashed that person instead.

It was that flak that finally drove me out of B7 fandom. Enough was enough, I retreated to my other fandom - Pros.

But I think that we have to remember that an actor thinks that no other person could've done that role better. That THEY are the character, with a private life thrown in. They do tend to get antsy over these things. [39]

I heard that Jackie Pearce was not scheduled for the con Darrow wanted everybody to boycott and that when she heard what he was doing, she called up the organizers and asked to be included. I have no idea if that's true, but what a good story! [40]

How does Darrow reconcile his medieval attitude toward slash with [widely circulated photos of Darrow kissing Keating at cons], I wonder? Another thing that surprised me in the Gambit tapes was Darrow's letter. If ever I was tempted to side with him, that killed it. Pontius Pilate? Oh, puhleeez. And he never mentioned any of the issues, just framed it all as a personal attack on him. [41]

I agree in the long run that much of the feuding sparked and pushed by Darrow's wish to use fandom for his own publicity. Slash seemed tacked on as a side issue presumably because Darrow wasn't crazy about it in the first place, but maintained as important in the fannish arguing because some fans are seriously annoyed by it and happy to have an excuse to attack it. [42]

The reason Wortham had her name withheld at first was because she was on the concom of the then-upcoming Gambit convention and she feared that if her authorship were known at that time, reprisals might be taken against the convention itself because of her association with it. I believe her fears were well grounded, because once Gambit was over, she went public about her authorship of the letter in the next issue of the FA, and the next big B7 con that she was associated with. Freedom City, did suffer a backlash of refund requests even though the chairman kicked Wortham off the committee. However, the "Name Withheld by Request" became an issue in itself because it was turned from "Name Withheld" to "Anonymous" in most of Darrow's statements on the matter and in his supporters' statements. Again and again, they made a point of how cowardly it was to write an "anonymous" letter and how irresponsible it was to publish an "anonymous" letter, and this went on even after Wortham went public about her authorship. Darrow and his wife pulled out of Gambit itself, albeit that might have been for legitimate professional commitments at the time, but they then tried to get the other guests — Gareth Thomas, Jacqueline Pearce, Terry Nation, Brian Croucher, and makeup lady Shellagh Wells — to pull out as well, and when they said no, Darrow threatened to make trouble for the U.K. residents (all but Nation) with U.S. Immigration. (Jacqueline Pearce is reported to have said to him when he phoned, "Paul, dear, get a grip on yourself.")

Darrow's first printed response was a piece entitled "Unwortham's Lies," which Terrell printed in the FA. It addressed none of the questions Wortham brought up about the proposed convention tour, but instead proceeded to go way over the top with ad hominem attacks, including the insinuation that Wortham had stolen money from the con committees she had been on (which, by the way, is actionable libel). Some people who had been neutral on the subject before (and a few who had even sided with Darrow) proceeded to side with Wortham after that because of the viciousness of his overreaction and because he explicitly said that anyone who claimed neutrality was as bad as Pontius Pilate washing his hands of the matter. Darrow proceeded to send pseudo-legalistic letters to Wortham, Terrell, and Wortham's usual fan fiction co-author Leah Rosenthal, under a solicitor's letterhead trying to scare them into backing off and out of the fandom. The Darrows invested a considerable amount of personal time and money in inundating the known B7 and Doctor Who fan clubs in the U.S. with their own public relations campaign, sending copies of "Unwortham's Lies" and Janet Lees Price's (Mrs. Darrow's) own attack against slash (Wortham and Terrell were known to have written slash) to just about everyone whose address they could get hold of. They also got Michael Keating and Terry Nation — the other two pros that Darrow had lined up for the proposed con tour — to write statements backing the Darrows up, and they sent copies of those around, too. (The issue of whether or not slash fan fiction was obscene was something of a red herring when it came to the issue of convention financing, but there was reportedly talk of not allowing "objectionable" material to be sold in the dealers' rooms at the pro conventions.)

Darrow and Nation said that they had been planning a convention tour, but that it was not supposed to be held in the same cities or on the same dates as fan-run B7 conventions, and that while they were going to run it for profit, the higher actors' fees were meant to guarantee the actors' appearances, and they would be planning events such as acting and writing workshops that would offer more bang for the buck. However, other fans came forth and said that Nation, Darrow, or one of their fan representatives had approached them in the preceding weeks and had indeed mentioned the usual fan-run convention cities and dates as the cities and dates the pro tour was thinking about. From start to finish, I never did hear anyone in Darrow's camp address the issues of start-up capital or whether their workers were to be paid.

As best as I can determine, the next big B7 con after that was Orbit featuring Darrow, Keating, and B7 producer-director Vere Lorrimer. It was supposed to be a toe-in-the-water sort of affair to see if they could keep this thing up on a regular basis. I did not attend. I heard reports that it either ran in the red or almost did. However, the big scandal was that makeup lady Shellagh Wells was refused an ordinary paying membership because Darrow didn't want any pros around who had gone against his mandate" to boycott Gambit. There were reports from the U.K. that Darrow later refused to appear at the next Space City convention with any of the actors who appeared at Gambit against his "mandate," and that since Darrow eventually got his way in getting some guests dropped from the lineup, some of the Space City concom resigned in protest.

[...]

OK? that was the public side of it. What didn't make its way into the letterzines was a private incident that apparently precipitated Wortham's initial letter in the FA, sometimes referred to as the "Dinner Party Massacre." Darrow went out to a restaurant in the company of four fans who had known him for years, had his home address and phone number, had dined with him away from the madding crowd before, and had worked like dogs on B7 conventions and zines. They considered him their close friend. In the course of the dinner conversation, Darrow discussed the convention tour, but he also said, "An actor can't be friends with fans.” His dinner companions at first thought he meant that he considered them his friends rather than his fans, and thus they were enormously flattered. But one of them pressed for clarification, and he made it clear that he considered his dinner companions to be his fans. Ergo, they were not his friends.

Now, when I heard this, it provoked very little surprise. It's exactly the right combination of financial calculation and social miscalculation that I would expect from Darrow. Everything he's said before and since fits in perfectly with this attitude. But to the fans who had considered him their friend, it was a perfidious betrayal. He was only after their MONEY. And it wasn't just their money they were being protective of. These were some of the people who had poured all their spare time for many years into B7 conventions, B7 clubs, and B7 publishing. Some fans have devoted more time to B7 than the actors ever did. They had felt that B7 fandom had been a labor of love all that time, and that the actors they adored had shared that attitude of love of the series and love of fandom. To me this was naive. But that's apparently what they believed until Darrow shattered their illusions.

Ann Wortham put out an alert whose factual content concerned the proposed tour, but the emotional content was, "These people don't love you, they're only interested in your wallets."

Darrow claimed Wortham was just upset because he didn't ask her to run the proposed convention tour. In point of fact, however, Laurie Cohen (the woman whom they finally settled on to run the convention tour) had actually asked Wortham to run a major portion of the tour before the infamous dinner, and Wortham had already declined because of lack of time and because Cohen was notoriously disorganized.

The naivete of the fannish principals did not stop with the pros, though. Apparently they thought that once they presented their case to the fannish public at large, fandom would rally round them and that would teach the pros not to muck about with fandom. What actually happened was that some fans would never be convinced that Darrow could do wrong, and while some fans thought Wortham and Terrell were in the right, few were prepared to sustain a long-term freeze-out of Darrow and his supporters. Many a long standing fannish friendship was severed over the controversy. There's this general belief in media fandom that just because we all like the same thing, that makes us soulmates, and the shock that some fans experienced when they discovered that wasn't true was profound, touching, and banal all at the same time. [43]

The B7 Fan Wars were a clash of BNFs (Big Name Fans — mostly [A W]) and Egotistical Actors (see Paul Darrow, mostly, with some ill-considered drunken comments from Gareth Thomas) I came in late on them too — they seem to have started at uh DSV which was in '87? Newark, NJ. Someone insisted that Mr. Darrow autograph a slash zine (stupid, really — who the hell would want an autograph from a portly, over-the-hill B-grade actor in a perfectly good zine?) and Mr. D. refused — naturally. Not sure how this tied in with the issue of how much money the con "made", and whether the proceeds were sent to the proper charities in a timely manner, but the comment was made by Ms. [W], who should know better, that (Mr. D. was doing a few Creation cons at the time — for pay) at least the can't profits went/would go to a charity for dying children, and wasn't Mr. D a grinch for robbing them of their last wish? Now, this hit a live nerve with Mr. D. as his wife, Janet Lees Price

[...]

Mr. D. then opened both barrels, bullshit about lawyers involved, WRT "reproducing Mr. D's image without his consent, ie, publishing illos in S7, and BS perpetrated by "affiliates" of both sides, nasty rumors, dead hamsters sent to people's mailboxes, etc. There are certain folks in fandom, and I'll point out a few of them to you at MW if you go, who don't know when to SHUT UP ALREADY with the malicious gossip, and both sides had their share.

[...]

A total lack of perspective all around. I'm sure there are aspects I missed, not being a regular Speaker to BNFs. [44]

Remarks in "Strange Bedfellows"

Remarks in the APA: Strange Bedfellows:

In the Great Fannish Controversy in Blake's 7 fandom, a few years ago, which coincidentally happened at about the same time as Paul Darrow's dreadful book Avon: A Terrible Prospect, one of the sillier things the anti-slash faction came up with was that slash was wrong because it was portraying the actors in sexual activities. Horizon the B7 Appreciation Society announced that from now on they would as a matter of principle never print any such stories in their zines. (They hadn't printed any slash before, either, but that was, so I was told, because no one had ever submitted a slash story of sufficiently high quality.) This all got mixed up with Paul Darrow objecting to people who were on the opposite side to him in the controversy continuing to profit by stories/artwork about/of him, out in the original point of principle the logic chain was; slash uses the actors as if they were gay; the actors are not gay; implying that someone who is not gay is gay is an offensive and shameful allegation; slash is therefore wrong. It wasn't purely a matter of sex. This was proved by Horizon continuing to produce their heteroerotica zine, Alternative Seven, and by no one objecting to Avon's torrid affair with Anna Grant in A:ATP. The reaction against it was more like the reaction I got when I casually mentioned in a round robin a few years ago that I rather thought Andre Norton was a lesbian, and got my head bitten off by someone who knew a friend of Norton's and knew how upset Norton had been by these allegations. I am not in favour of 'outing' closet gays. Not unless they are actively and dangerously homophobic, that is, in which case I think it's justifiable self-defence, my feelings about the actors, as opposed to the characters, are expressed in a poem I wrote when Gordon Jackson died, "An Actor's Dead" [45] — I never knew him, never saw him except on screen, but I was profoundly sorry for his death, and felt that I had known a loss - not in the least like losing a friend, but certainly not someone I was as indifferent to as I was to Gene Roddenbury (who I had met, once.) I don't particularly want to write or read stories the actors' - whether or not the actors engage in sexual activity. If the stories are even as firmly rooted in reality as, say, a story in a tabloid newspaper headlined "SEX LIVES OF TV STARS" then I think it's discourteous to publish. But I also think that the strong objection to 'actor slash' is very largely a form of homophobia, related to these people I mentioned in the Controversy who objected to any form of slash because they believed that suggesting someone is gay is an insult. [46]

1994

General Remarks

I don't want to stir up a hornet's nest, but there was a whole war fought over this subject in B7 fandom years back and it all stemmed from one person who thought it was okay to reveal fan writers' pseudonyms to someone who was a potentially hostile party. The majority of the fan writers involved were not amused. As someone who writes sometimes under a pseudonym myself, I prefer to have the option of revealing myself to whom I wish. [47]

Remarks in "Strange Bedfellows"

I remember one gathering before the con at Laurie Cohen’s apartment that Paul Darrow was going to drop in on, as he was in New York at the time, and every time the doorbell rang the couple of zines that were being passed around went under the sofa cushions until we could see if it was Paul or a fan arriving. [48]

Needless to say, the fandom never grabbed me. Besides the fans always seemed to be running to the actors and trying to curry favor by ratting out their fellow fans. [49]

1995

General Remarks

[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. [50]

[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.[note 4]

Yes, Actor slash does exist for B7, I'm not sure if someone else will have already answered this though. In fact, Paul Darrow brought a court case against some slash zine editors because his wife was so offended by slash, and in particular Paul Darrow/Gareth Thomas Slash. This is a long and involved story, so I won't go into it in depth, but perhaps it's best that the people on the B7 net don't find out that it does exist, you know how some of them can get!

By now someone better informed than I am may well have replied to this, but in case they haven't--

I think most of this story is pure rumor. To the best of my knowledge, after asking around about it for some time, the only people who have ever claimed to have seen such a thing as B7 actor slash (or at least B7 actor smut, since there is some question as to whether this one alleged story, if it ever even existed, was slash or het) are Paul and Janet Darrow. At the time of the infamous Controversy (ca. 1989), they claimed to have been sent anonymously an explicit sex story dealing with themselves (and in some versions Gareth Thomas) under their real names. However, the details of this incident, including the date when it was supposed to have taken place and the content of the story, changed with every telling; and the opinion of many is that the Darrows made the whole thing up.

There was certainly never any court case. There were some half-assed threats (none with any actual legal validity) made by Paul Darrow in connection with the Controversy, but nothing ever came of them. The people he threatened had never written or published any actor slash; he was trying to stop them from publishing any B7 material whatsoever, which of course he had no right to do. The real source of the conflict with those particular fans was not slash at all. He was simply out to get them in any way he could, for other reasons. (And in his defense, I will say that I think he had very good reason to be angry with them, though not to say and do the outrageous things that he did in response.)

I did acquire another interesting bit of information on this issue at Escapade. [J C] told me that a friend she considers reliable told her that she had actually seen the notorious story. Paul Darrow himself showed her (Jane's friend) the first page only, so she didn't know what kind of story it was, but it did exist. BUT, she said, that was back in 1981! So even if such a story existed, it probably had little or nothing to do with organized fandom. He was, after all, a big star at the time, and stars are liable to get all kinds of strange and unwanted attention from the more peculiar members of the public. Perhaps during the Controversy the Darrows dragged up an unrelated incident from the distant past and pretended it had happened more recently in order to elicit sympathy for their anti-slash stance (which was less a matter of principle than an excuse to attack people they were mad at for other reasons).

I can think of only one thing I've ever seen published in a zine that used a B7 actor's name in a sexual context. It's a poem. I tried to track it down, to give the precise reference, but now, of course, I can't find it. Anyway, it was a short, vague het thing in which Avon and Cally are in bed together. As part of their love-play they have pet names for each other, and she calls him "Paul." All I can say is, if that little poem had anything to do with all the (as far as I know) otherwise unfounded allegations of B7 actor slash, then it was a damn tiny molehill to have generated such a mountain.

I'd be very interested indeed in any further ACCURATE information on the matter. [51]

As someone who lived through the feud and was a concom member for STARDRIVE, the proposed series of B7 cons of which grossly inaccurate reports triggered much of the widely public side of the feud, and then for ORBIT, the con which we did after STARDRIVE was cancelled, I'll put my two cents in. Yes, there was never any court case, although there were snotty threats (which had nothing to do with smut, but which tried to scare certain folk into not using Paul's likeness in any way). Having seen personal letters Paul and Janet wrote to members of the STARDRIVE and ORBIT concoms during the height of the nastiness, I can certify that slash was a minor concern at worst. (For the record, I had already published Blake/Avon under my own name at the time I was invited to join the STARDRIVE concom...)

Further accurate information? People on both sides behaved like asses. And it had no particularly chilling effect on slash, as far as I've been able to tell. At this remove, that's probably all that's important. [52]

I had several discussions with Terry Nation (the creator of the show) about the controversy and was Terry was in his cups (which he was usually every night at a con) he laid most of the problem at Janet's doorstep.

cover of issue #2 of "The Other Side", artist is Lana Brown. It is an homage to Spock Enslaved!. This zine cover was allegedly an issue in The Controversy.
"Scorpio" (referred to by some fans as "Avon in a condom") by Suzan Lovett, printed in Those Who Favor Fire (April 1989)

His almost exact words were, "Imagine your working hard all day and you come home to a wife that has been receiving letters and writing to people all day and she is screaming at you to do something about all this *nasty* material out there. After a while you will do anything just to get some peace and quiet."

Terry knew about slash, he didn't understand it, but he certainly was appalled by it and I gathered that Paul know about it as well and wasn't particularly concerned about it. The problem started when Janet was given a copy of an Australian zine with a particularly erotic picture of Avon chained to a pillar and she went over the top. Terry implied that she wasn't real stable and was very insecure on the adulation Paul was receiving. Plus, at some point she underwent treatment for cancer, but I dont know exactly when.

Remember the Suzi Lovett picture, "Scorpio" which had Paul Darrow dressed in black leather so tight nothing was left to the imagination? It was also called Avon in a condom. Well, the New Zealand fan who was so rabid about slash was running an art show and I was helping. This came up in the auction and she refused to put it up because Paul would be offended. I told [her] it had two bids, she had to do it. She said to put it at the very end. Before we had a chance to do anything, Paul walked up behind us, saw it and reached over and took it out of her hand. "I'll auction that one," he said with a definite twinkle in his eye.

Finally, one of the U.S. fans who knows Gareth quite well was in England two years ago and went to see him. She took him some old pictures, clippings, etc. and handed them to him in a large envelope. She said he looked at them, clasped them to his breast and asked, rather hopefully she thought, "Is this slash?"

I have been told that the actor's knew about slash almost from its inception and really didn't have any problem with it one way or the other. It wasn't until the infamous Australian tour when it was pointed out to Janet that things began to go downhill fast. As an observer to the entire controversy, I agree with Shoshanna - there was an incredible amount of escalating silliness, stupidity and down right viciousness on both sides. [53]

The information I had came from when he attended a convention here in Australia. Zencon. Some bright fan handed him a slash zine, which had Darrow/Thomas slash in it [54] and asked both he and his wife to autograph it. This is the one that led to the court case that I know of, I wasn't actually refering to the one I think you were (Rosenthal?) which went no where, but the one where he tried to copyright his face and lost on that basis. I was actually at this con, and was aware of all the shouting and screaming that was going on, so I am accurate in my news there.

As far as I know, [the zine with Darrow/Thomas fic] was also an Australian zine, but I've done research and it wasn't Blake's 7 the other side, which is one of the one's he mentioned in his case. Oh, he lost on every count, as the makers of B7 wouldn't support him. Neither would Thomas, who was making money out of the cons and the fans and really couldn't have cared less about the whole business.

I don't blame Darrow for getting upset, I think if I was in a show like, say, Cagney and Lacy for example, and someone wrote slash about me in that regard, (taking it I'm an actor, not a fan, and not a slash fan at that), I may become upset myself at the thought. But then again, maybe not. I'm not that easily perturbed.

Anyway, I got my stuff autographed, being about 6 people ahead in the line before the daft fan with the slash zine, so I'm happy.

Ah, the zine you describe with Avon on a pole? that was Blake's 7 the other Side wasn it? Hmm. (From what I heard, Paul wasn't upset by slash until Janet took offence - as is, I suppose her right, sigh).

I've had artwork in that zine myself, so I can't make too many comments. The editor is also a good friend, and it wasn't her fault that it was handed to the Darrows. Still. Glad I wasn't involved at the time.[55]

Throwing in my two cents worth on the Paul Darrow issue. From what I know via either talking with him, or hearing reports of other people who had talked even more extensively about the issue, was that he did really loathe slash - his opinions were incredibly conservative in general - but that he was perfectly capable both of pretending that it bothered him less than it did, and also not minding so much if he happened to like a particular person who was involved in doing it. Not very consistent, but very Darrow. [56]

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. [57]

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!"

Remarks in "Late for Breakfast"

Comments in the multimedia apa, Late for Breakfast (1995):

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. 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? [58]

Gareth Thomas and Paul Darrow were firm friends during the making of Blake's 7. Any interviews dating from this period will probably emphasize 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. [59]

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. [60]

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. [61]

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! [62]

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 [63] 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... [64]

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??[65]

As for what we do as a nature of fandom, I know that this is where we get into murky waters. I *am* more inclined to respect the wishes of, say,Richard Carpenter over slash stories set in RoS because he was courteous and *requested* it and he is the writer and creator of those characters. In other words, he asked nicely and that goes a long way with me. I feel no compunction against going against the overbearing wishes of certain *actors* who insist that slash not be written because to me they vaguely resemble the character they once portrayed. (I'm not naming names, of course.) [66]

Remarks in "Lysator"

Darrow was quite convinced that his story, Avon: A Terrible Aspect was "canonical." In fact, Mrs. Darrow was fond of telling folks in letters that once Paul's book was published there would no longer be any "need" for fans to write stories about Avon's background, etc. because Paul's version would be the one true version. She was utterly convinced that everyone would accept Paul's version as the absolute truth and no one would be compelled to ever write a fan story again... If this story had been submitted to Southern 7, I would have REJECTED it.

In 1988 I nearly went to ZenCon II in Melbourne, Australia, unfortunately I missed it. However, during that convention (not necessarily because of the convention, but I think I have some documentation somewhere if anyone's interested) a great upset occurred between the Darrows and some fan writers who wrote slash fiction. Most unfortunately I think this included Annie. I wonder if there's a link? Maybe Avon: A Terrible Aspect was about Darrow re-affirming his heterosexual manhood in no uncertain terms. What do you reackon? As I've written before, I didn't like what he showed me. [67]

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. [note 5] [68]

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 [69]

The quoted article seemed quite sensible about slash, and Paul Gross's remarks were fine. But - and it's a big but, as [name redacted] said - just imagine a sensationalist newspaper's response; and indeed all actors are not as understanding or uncaring as Paul Gross - Paul Darrow (Avon in Blake's 7) took the idea of slash very badly, and split B7 fandom somewhat by it; he also apparently insisted that any fans he consorted with be non-slash, and he also stopped putting his arm round Michael Keating's shoulder and (so I've heard) tried to get MK (Vila) and Gareth Thomas (Blake) to denounce slash too. So - his reaction and its results were his problem, but I think it would have been better if he'd never found out about it. However, I don't think, now it's started, that there's anything we can do to limit whatever effect the Internet will have on slash fandom. [70]

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> [71]

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. [72]

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. [73]

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. [74]

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. [75]

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. [76]

[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. [77]

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) [78]

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.[79]

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.[80]

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.[81]

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. [82]

2000

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. [83]

[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. [84]

.....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....[85]

2005

"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. [86]

...it's just fanning the flames again of OLD flame wars. Gadzooks, what next? Resurrecting the infamous Blake's 7 wars? [87]

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. [88]

2007

"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).[89]

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) [90]

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 hesitant 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. [91]

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. [92]

2008

Way back when, and I mean way back, I was at Zencon in Australia where we had the actors who played Avon and Vila from Blake's 7 as the prime guests... Now some lovely little person, and I use the term loosely, had written RPS between Paul and MIchael... let's just say that both men, and Paul's wife were DEEPLY offended. [93]

I know the B7 actors were deeply offended by finding out about the RPS but let's not assume the offense would come only from stories that are as you say "against their nature". I don't think they'd take kindly to stories written about them being sexual with a female co-star either. [94]

2009

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![95]

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. [96]

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.[97] 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. [note 6]

There are a number of successful writers who also write occasional fan fiction, and many like to read fan fiction based on their work but, for good legal reasons, they cannot acknowledge this! 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. Rowling has few problems with fan fiction, though she would prefer people kept to canon...

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! [98]

2010

As for sides taken in the feud, money was a big part of it. There were procon promoters coming into the picture, and there was a perception that fans were making money off the fandom - which may have been marginally true in some cases, but when balanced against the hundreds who saved up all year to attend a con for four days, any profits anyone might have made were negligible. Fans paid for the airfare, hotel accommodations, and entertainment for the actors - I know personally, I racked up enormous debt in order to get my favorite actors to a couple of B7 cons. Any money for fees would have had to come out of people's salaries and mortgages, but that wasn't something the celebrities realized at the time, unfortunately. I don't know if they ever understood the financial hardships that some fen underwent in order to go to those cons - I remember finding people sleeping under the reg tables more than once, because they couldn't afford to actually stay at the con.

Not that such hardships were unique to B7. I remember a number of purely fan cons - no guests - where people couldn't afford to eat after taking a trip through the dealer's room. I remember my first Lansing con, T'Con, in 1978 - I didn't have the money for food for another two weeks after, thanks to a Joni Wagner art piece that I'm still proud to say is in my art collection. :) [99]

2011

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...[100]

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!"....[101]

....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.])[102]

2013

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.[note 7]

2015

[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. [103]

2017

Remarks by Suzan Lovett

In 2017, Suzan Lovett explained in an interview: Media Fandom Oral History Project Interview with Suzan Lovett:

Megan Genovese: Were you at the time aware of the conflicts in Blake's 7 fandom?

Suzan Lovett: God. Yes I was in the middle of it. And then it got to a point where we were dealing with..... I was friends with people on both sides of the conflict. And of course because I was drawing and I knew some of the actors really well I got caught up as.... well, I got caught up in the incidents, as well as having to listen to all the friends either crying their eyes out or screaming about something on the phone for hours a day. And it finally got to a point that I said [when] anything that takes this much of time effort and money better be a cause, not a hobby. I'm out of here... I pretty much [left] the fandom. Yeah.

[snipped]

MG: You said you knew the [Blake's 7] actors?

SL: Yeah. Some of them not all of them.

MG: You met at conventions?

SL: I met them. Well, I saw them at conventions and sometimes if you were the handler for the actor of course you got to know them quite well for the duration of a convention. But...uh I met Paul Darrow because a friend of mine and I went to England to watch him in a play that he was touring in, "Sting in the Tail" was the name of the play, and we had taken him just you know, small presents from United States. I had seen him at conventions, but I had never met him so I went backstage and my friend, and I just gave him the things and he said "Thank you." And we said "we appreciate you." And we were about to walk away. It was a matinee, and he had a lot of British fans there, and apparently they were taking him out for tea and he said "Do you mind if these American friends who came all the way from there joined us?" and they said "Actually, yes we do Paul." He got so embarrassed that he made a luncheon date with us. Next day.... That's where it started. And then it became really friendly.

MG: That was very gentlemanly of him.

SL: Yes, yes, it was. But from then on I knew him quite well for the duration of this whole thing this....this whole brouhaha in Blake's 7 fandom. The actor, Gareth Thomas, he actually called me the first time he was at a convention, and a very good friend of mine was handling.... was his handler at the convention, and he was carrying on and on about a couple of illos I had done of him and my friend said, "Well you know the person who did that is a friend of mine," [and he] said, "Oh call her I want to talk to her." So suddenly there's this phone call and my friend says "Gird your loins, somebody wants to talk to you."

MG: He didn't give you any warning other than?

SL: No, he didn't. It was that very familiar face on the phone, and I'm like "Oh God, don't make me make a fool of myself." So that was our first thing, and then I met him at a convention and we were ....we really got to know each other. I mean I went to England and stayed at his home...

MG: So, I imagine since you became such good friends that he appreciated your illustrations of him.

SL: That he did. I have also done some private illustrations for him. You know just just for him just for his home just because he wanted them.

MG: That must be very flattering.

SL: Yes. Yes, dear, dear, dear man.

[snipped]

Gareth wasn't [heavily involved in the controversy]. Paul was the instigator of the controversy. Which is why [Paul and I] kinda stopped talking and stopped communicating after a while.

MG: That's a shame.

SL: Yeah.

Megan Genovese: You didn't write slash for Blake's 7 is that correct?

Suzan Lovett: No, because the actors were so much into it.

MG: The actors were into the slash?

SL: No, no, no. The actors were so much into the fandom.

MG: Yes, [the actors] handled everything in the dealer's room.

SL: They wrote stories. They are the ones who went on the stage at conventions to sell the artwork, and I did not necessarily want to embarrass them. That's why I didn't actually.

MG: Even before you knew them?

SL: Even before I knew them from the first time they showed up at conventions, they were extremely personable and involved, and they didn't stay apart from the fannish activities. They were always into them, so I actually do have a couple of fresh stories in Blake's 7 that I never put out.

MG: For respecting their tender feelings. Do you know did they ever do you know if they ever came across any slash content?

SL: Oh, yes of course. That was one of Paul's points when he was throwing the fandom into a tizzy that ....it was a bad thing. Which I know he didn't think so because we had talked about [slash] before. He had often treated it as something funny at that time, but when he decided it was going to take exception to things, it was one of the things he dug up and took exception to.

MG: Did you think that he was looking for things to be upset about?

SL: Yes, he was yeah. At that time he was.

MG: Do you have any idea why?

SL: Yeah, I know very well the part of the controversy that I was involved in. I certainly do know that part. He... It's a really long story.

MG: [Could you] give me the brief version or as much as you're willing to tell me?

SL: At a convention in St. Louis, Paul took me out to lunch. And [he] wanted to pass an idea by me. I wasn't attending the convention as it was my daughter's birthday, so I had just showed up because he wanted to take me out to lunch. [He knew] there were a lot of Blake's 7 conventions, and because the actors were always on stage selling the artwork and selling scripts for charity for various things, he knew there was a lot of money in the fandom that was going around. And his idea was the idea he wanted to pass by me was ......what if [he] controlled the conventions? What if [TPTB] gave the conventions? That way the actors can guarantee being there instead of the fan conventions that they may or may not be able to show up because they might have professional jobs that are there getting paid for. And so... he wanted to turn it into a profit making venture and he said, "If I ask you to only sell your artwork at my conventions would you do it?" And I said not unless you buy all of them first, and then I said this is not a good idea. I said, "You're seeing a lot of money run around in these conventions." His idea was taking six weeks, and doing one commission after another each weekend, and I said, "But that's only because people go home, [and] they work for the next three months [and] they put aside all the money they can, and then they show up at the conventions. You must realize that there's only like 500 people at these conventions. It's the same 500 people. [Even if] you had six conventions one after another, you're not going to have all the people showing up all the time with all the money you seem to think they have. This is a very bad idea and a lot of the people who are running the conventions are doing it for the love of it. If you turn it into a professional venture you need to pay them." And his idea probably was they'll do it for the love of me. And because there was a lot of jealousy as to how much time actors spent with which fan, I didn't think that was going to go down terribly well either, [not] without it becoming a problem in short order. But anyway, I left the lunch, went home, and I said I wouldn't say anything about it. It will spark a problem. I came back home. I did my daughter's birthday. The next morning, suddenly my phone wouldn't stop ringing. Apparently he threw this [idea] out at the convention. And next morning everybody was mad. That's when the whole controversy sparked, and after that in order to justify himself, [Paul Darrow] kept finding all kinds of things that fans were doing wrong that they should not have been doing. So anyway, after a short time, I was out of there because, I mean, people were literally losing their jobs over because they were too depressed to go to work. Or people were trying to see if they can raise that kind of money and losing their homes. It was it was becoming a huge thing. And so I just left.

MG: Was it within the fandom. Were there people who supported the idea?

SL: Yes. Yeah. [Some] supported the idea and some people went against it.

MG:] And you say had friends on both sides?

SL: Yeah. Yeah. So as the fandom cracked into two and started fighting, and I had friends on both sides so it became unbearable.

MG: I know that you ended up not being in contact with Paul anymore after this or maybe because of this. Did that happen with any of your fandom friends?

SL: Oh, some of them pulled away. Certainly I didn't necessarily pull away from everybody. I don't think I remember now, but some of them certainly pulled away. But that's pretty much [how it is] usually in all fandoms. All fandoms you get into some people you are you're friendly with, and you realize they're friends for life no matter where you go from then on, they are forever going to be your friends. And some people are close and sincere and very nice to have within that fandom, but without that tie that's holding you together, it's certainly going to unravel later on.

2020

WWI was touched off by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the Blake's 7 Wars were triggered by an announcement by Paul Darrow that he and Terry Nation were planning for-profit conventions in the US. Fans started freaking out, because everything had been fan-run and not touched by dirty capitalism before. The fandom was largely split between the people who found this a tasteless cash grab by those they considered friends and family, and people who thought it was fine if the creators wanted to get paid for, you know, working by appearing at a convention. The first group was legitimately concerned that the commercialization of fandom would kill of the wonderful fan culture that had developed, and worsen the existing issue of TPTB having too much influence over fandom activities. The second group believed that both types of conventions would be able to exist in harmony. Everyone managed to overreact like crazy and lose their damn minds in a remarkably short period of time, given the fact that the entire debate was happening via snailmail. Emotions were high, misinformation was rife. The famous Name Withheld Letter (relevant) went out claiming, among other things, that this announcement meant actors would no longer attend fan-run events.

[...]

How is all of this part of the same drama? Well, in early 1989, Paul Darrow releases a public letter identifying one of the Secret Slashers as the author of the Name Withheld Letter (that one that shat all over his idea for commercial conventions). A very strongly worded letter, calling her a liar, scoffing at the idea that slash could be considered literature, and asking everyone to choose sides between him and the Secret Slasher. He literally says, ‘Her evil may triumph if the rest of you say nothing.’ His wife ALSO publishes a letter alongside it, calling slash tasteless and then outs the Secret Slasher by her full name, while wondering why slash authors all use pseudonyms. GEE, IT’S SUCH A MYSTERY, totally reasonable lady. A later mailing by a BNF on the Darrows’ side doxxes all three Secret Slashers, including their home addresses.

[...]

Peak drama occurs when Terry Nation reads a letter from Paul Darrow aloud at a convention. In it, Darrow thanks his supporters, claims that he and his wife were disinvited from the con, and again asks fans to choose sides. He references Pontius Pilate, so now you have people who are offended at the religions reference, con organizers who claim the Darrows were never disinvited, people arguing about slash, people who are super confused about what slash has to do with the whole pro vs fan con thing, and British people who are all, ‘this sounds like an American problem, please let us drink our tea in peace.’ The few fans with any sense of perspective think Nation and Darrow should have shut up and just planned their professional con like professionals and none of this would have happened. [104]

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.[105]

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 ..."[106]

and

"Had enough of professionally run events that seem only intent on charging for everything."[107]

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. [108]

Other Fandom Wars

Notes

  1. ^ "This formal letter was broadly distributed through fandom by Darrow's supporters, and when Darrow's wife, Janet Lees-Price, wrote to me once she made reference to it." -- Re: [CriticalEdge Re: Looking for confirmation of a rumor] (now offline), was CriticalEdge post by Jane C. on CriticalEdge dated April 21, 2003.
  2. ^ 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".
  3. ^ See the letterzines Pressure Point and Horizon.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ The Blake's 7 issue was far more complicated than the story/memory most fans relay: see The Blake's 7 War
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ 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.

References

  1. ^ from a fan in Rallying Call #16 (1996)
  2. ^ MPH's notes, quoted anonymously, February 1989
  3. ^ Enterprising Women by Camille Bacon-Smith pg 25-26 (1992).
  4. ^ Gareth Thomas Convention Appearances quoted at Hermit.org, referencing a quote in Freedom City Gazette #4
  5. ^ comment by Lil Shepherd at Erotica versus porn writing: I am actually going to be quasi-controversial today, Archived version by Melody C (March 19, 2009)
  6. ^ comment by Melody C Erotica versus porn writing: I am actually going to be quasi-controversial today, Archived version by Melody C (March 19, 2009)
  7. ^ comment by Lil Shepherd Erotica versus porn writing: I am actually going to be quasi-controversial today, Archived version by Melody C (March 19, 2009)
  8. ^ comments quoted anonymously, referencing Paul Darrow's Statement Read Aloud At The 1989 Gambit Convention (February 1989)
  9. ^ from Aftermath
  10. ^ from The Sonic Screwdriver #5 (June 1989
  11. ^ from a 1989 con report for Gambit, February 1989, quoted anonymously
  12. ^ See I don't need to be lectured on my responsibilities toward Blake's Seven fans.
  13. ^ from a con report for "Gambit," quoted anonymously
  14. ^ letter of comment in Southern Seven issue #5, pt. 1
  15. ^ from Leigh Arnold, "Southern Seven" issue 5, pt. 1
  16. ^ comments by [J O] in Horizon Newsletter #22 (June 1989(
  17. ^ There was no call to boycott that book
  18. ^ from the editor of "Avon Newsletter" #35 (January 1989)
  19. ^ from the editor of "Avon Newsletter" #36 (April 1989)
  20. ^ from Leigh Arnold in "Avon Newsletter" #36 (April 1989)
  21. ^ from Nikki White in "Avon Newsletter" #36 (April 1989)
  22. ^ from Viv Gover in "Avon Newsletter" #36
  23. ^ from Teresa Ward in "Avon Newsletter" #36 (April 1989)
  24. ^ from Irene Stubbs in "Avon Newsletter" #36 (April 1989)
  25. ^ from Jo Simmonds in "Avon Newsletter" #36 (April 1989)
  26. ^ from Judith M. Rolls in "Avon Newsletter" #36 (April 1989)
  27. ^ from Dena Kleinstuber in "Avon Newsletter" #36 (April 1989)
  28. ^ from Rebecca Reeves in "Avon Newsletter" #36 (April 1989)
  29. ^ comments in Short Circuit #2
  30. ^ comments in Short Circuit #2
  31. ^ comment by Pat Nussman in On the Wing #1 (Fall 1990)
  32. ^ from Gambit #6
  33. ^ from a letter of comment in "Gambit" #7
  34. ^ from a letter of comment in "Gambit" #7
  35. ^ from a letter of comment in "Gambit" #7, regarding complaints about an RPF real world crossover that a fan had recently written that included Paul Darrow
  36. ^ from a letter of comment in Gambit #7
  37. ^ by Leigh Arnold in Magnificent Seven #9 (1991)
  38. ^ by [T S] in a letter to a fan, quoted with permission (March 13, 1993)
  39. ^ comments at Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (March 24, 1993)
  40. ^ comments at Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (March 25, 1993)
  41. ^ comments by Sue Clerc from Virgule-L, quoted with permission (Mar 31, 1993)
  42. ^ MPH's notes, fan comments, quoted anonymously (December 26, 1993)
  43. ^ quoted anonymously, from an email to Sandy Hereld (February 26, 1993)
  44. ^ quoted anonymously from an email (March 16, 1993)
  45. ^ "An Actor's Dead" was printed in Be Gentle With Us.
  46. ^ from "Ghost Speaker" in Strange Bedfellows #3 (November 1993)
  47. ^ comment on Lysator, quoted anonymously (September 7, 1994)
  48. ^ comments in Strange Bedfellows #5 (May 1994)
  49. ^ comments in Strange Bedfellows #5 (May 1994)
  50. ^ 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.
  51. ^ comments on Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (April 8, 1995)
  52. ^ comments on Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (April 8, 1995)
  53. ^ comments on Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (April 10, 1995)
  54. ^ There is absolutely no known zine with Darrow/Thomas fiction in it. None. -- MPH's research and notes
  55. ^ comments on Virgule-L, quoted anonymously (April 10, 1995)
  56. ^ comments on Virgule-L by Gayle F, quoted with permission (April 11, 1995)
  57. ^ from a fan in Rallying Call #13 (April 1995)
  58. ^ from Late for Breakfast #25
  59. ^ from Late for Breakfast #25 (spring 1995)
  60. ^ from Late for Breakfast #26
  61. ^ from Late for Breakfast #26
  62. ^ from Late for Breakfast #26
  63. ^ Ann W, Leah R, and Linda T
  64. ^ from a fan in Rallying Call #16 (January 1996)
  65. ^ from a fan in Rallying Call #16 (January 1996)
  66. ^ comments by Michelle Christian, on Virgule-L, quoted with permission (September 28, 1996)
  67. ^ first comment by Annie, second comment in reply by Sarah at Lysator (May 7, 1996)
  68. ^ Bliss, March 1998 at alt.tv.x-files.creative
  69. ^ from Tarriel Cell V.2 N.4
  70. ^ a fan in Discovered in a Letterbox #8 (1998)
  71. ^ Lysator, [Joanne], August 1998
  72. ^ Lysator, [Suzanne], August 1998
  73. ^ Lysator, [Joanne], August 1998
  74. ^ Lysator, "list geezer" -- [K A], August 1998
  75. ^ Lysator, [Joanne], August 1998
  76. ^ Lysator, [Sarah T], August 1998
  77. ^ Lysator, Steve, August 1998
  78. ^ from K.S. Langley
  79. ^ WayBack link.
  80. ^ Subject: Unearthing "ancient" history post on Lysator by Suzanne T. on August 23, 1999.
  81. ^ Subject: [B7L] Topics to avoid post on Lysator by Kathyrn A. dated August 24, 1999.
  82. ^ Subject: [B7L] Re: Topics to avoid post on Lysator by Sarah T. dated August 25, 1999.
  83. ^ Elyse, a due South fan, November 7, 2000 alt.tv.due-south
  84. ^ a exchange between two fans at First Impressions: "Time Squad", alt.fan.blakes, March 27, 2000
  85. ^ 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.
  86. ^ Joe Flanigan Answers Some Stargate Questions at the Ex Isle forums dated Nov 16, 2005.
  87. ^ a Stargate SG-1 fan in 2005 at Gateworld
  88. ^ Ann Larimer at Question for old-school fans on my flist:; archive link (2005)
  89. ^ Who Makes A Celebrity dated March 4, 2007; reference link; reference link.
  90. ^ jamethiel_bane comments at RPS and privacy
  91. ^ nopseud comments at RPS and privacy
  92. ^ comments by copracat at Icon maybe appropriate: fanfic and creator's wishes, January 2007
  93. ^ comments at Prospect-L, quoted anonymously (February 2008)
  94. ^ comments at Prospect-L, quoted anonymously (February 2008)
  95. ^ Slash As The Dark Side of Fandom dated Aug 20, 2009; reference link; reference link.
  96. ^ Slash As The Dark Side of Fandom dated Aug 20, 2009; reference link; reference link.
  97. ^ Paul Darrow was the actor who played Avon on Blake's 7.
  98. ^ comment by Lillian Shepherd at Erotica versus porn writing: I am actually going to be quasi-controversial today; archive link; Wayback link (March 19, 2009)
  99. ^ from a private mailing list, quoted anonymously (October 3, 2010)
  100. ^ Fandom Specific Conventions dated February 5th, 2011; reference link; reference link.
  101. ^ Fandom Specific Conventions dated February 5th, 2011; reference link; reference link.
  102. ^ comment in Reading the Romance dated Jan 3, 2011.
  103. ^ Fan Fiction Oral History Project with Henry and Cynthia Jenkins (2012)
  104. ^ from Vintage Drama: The Blake's 7 Wars by whyarepangolins (July 2020)
  105. ^ Another Blake's 7 convention - any chance? dated Feb 1, 2012; reference link.
  106. ^ Another Blake's 7 convention - any chance? dated Feb 1, 2012; reference link.
  107. ^ Another Blake's 7 convention - any chance? dated Feb 1, 2012; reference link.
  108. ^ Trends in B7 Zines, Archived version (accessed Dec 17, 2013).
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