Timeline of the Blake's 7 Wars

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Fandom: Blake's 7
Dates: 1988-1990
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Below is a list of events involving The Blake's 7 Wars.

These events are drawn from the public discussions in newsletters, open letters, and letterzines. These are not uncontraverted facts, but public statements as made by the participants based on facts as they believed them at the time.

Precise dates are hard to pin down, but it appears that the bulk of the events took place in the latter part of 1988, with the majority of the published discussions occurring in Jan-June 1989.

1983

1983-1989 – Scorpio, a series of fan-run British media conventions begins in Chicago, Illinois with a large number of Blake's 7 fans in attendance. This is in spite of the fact that the show did not air in the US until 1986.

In 1990, Terry Nation talked about the enthusiasm, and while it is not specifcally mentioned, the lucrative financial opportunities of cons (and specifically mentions the 1984 Scorpio con) in Dalek Man, London. Having scrambled British SF TV expectations, Terry Nation considers reshaping fan conventions.

1987

Gareth Thomas was a guest at the 1987 convention Scorpio and was quoted in The Freedom City Gazette #4: "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." [1]

1988

  • January 29-31, 1988 - DSV One, a fan-run Blake's 7 convention takes place in Newark, New Jersey. In the months after the convention, one of the actors, Paul Darrow, discusses with fans his and show-runner's Terry Nation's plans for “for-profit” conventions. When they move forward with these plans, they select the DSV One convention organizer Laurie Cohen as their convention chair.
  • 1988 - Some members of the DSV One committee, minus Laurie Cohen, begin organizing Gambit, a New Jersey Blake's 7 convention to be held in Feb 1989. Ann W., a well-known US fanzine publisher and previous Scorpio and DSV One concom member, is one of 14 people on the Gambit convention committee.
  • 1988 - Marian Mendez begins planning Freedom City, an April 1989 Blake's 7 convention to be held in Maryland. She invites several former DSV One concom members to join, including Ann W. and Linda Terrell, another US fanzine publisher. Both agree.
  • 1988 – Laurie Cohen invites Ann W. to help organize the Paul Darrow/Terry Nation's professional conventions. Ann W. declines. Laurie Cohen also contacts other former concom members in various cities – it is unclear how many accept.[2]
  • 1988 – a letter begins circulating through fandom alerting fans to the fact that TPTB are planning “for-profit” conventions that will compete with fan events. The letter states that only approved fan artists would be allowed to sell their art and that fan artists will be charged a 50% commission. In addition, only approved fanzines written by a “stable” of fan writers would be permitted to be sold. Finally, the Blake's 7 actors would be exclusive to these for-profit conventions and would no longer be attending fan-run events. The writer believes this is another attempt to rip off fans, states that they will not work for free for non-charitable events and announces they will fight this “hostile takeover by the Federation.” It is signed “Name Withheld By Request.” The letter does not mention either Terry Nation or Paul Darrow by name and topic of slash is not raised.
  • October 1988 - Paul Darrow and his wife attend Zencon, a science fiction convention in Australia and ConFederation, a science fiction convention in New Zealand. During conversations with fans they are told that Ann W., Leah R. (a fan artist), and Linda Terrell (another fanzine publisher), have written slash fiction under pseudonyms.[3]
  • October 1988 - Paul Darrow turns down an invitation to both the Gambit and Freedom City conventions due to work conflicts. According to some fans, he then begins contacting the other confirmed guests to ask them not to attend. None of the guests cancel in response (although one guest is replaced due to a work conflict).[4]
  • Late 1988 - Paul Darrow and Michael Keating send a series of private letters to Linda Terrell, Ann W. and Leah R. stating that they can no longer use the actors' likenesses in art or fanzines nor can they sell convention photos they had purchased and licensed.[5] One LOC believes that these letters were "cease and desist" letters, something that the recipients dispute.
  • 1988 - Ann W. and Linda Terrell are both asked to leave the Freedom City convention organizing committee by the con chair. She was, they later claimed, responding to pressure from attendees who were canceling their membership.[6]

1989

  • January 1989 - Federation Archives formally publishes the "Name Withheld Letter". The editor talks about her negative experiences in Dr Who fandom in the 1980s when professional conventions replaced fan run ones in the US. She is generally supportive of the criticisms raised in the "Name Withheld Letter". She invites further LOCs on the topics.
  • January 1989 - Paul Darrow's first printed response "UnW's Lies" is published in The Avon Club Newsletter. The “Name Withheld” letter is also published. The Darrow's letter identifies Ann W. as the author of the "Name Withheld" letter and takes issue with both her as a slash writer and the content of her “Name Withheld” letter. Darrow's letter confirms plans for a series of professional/for-profit conventions and explains that one of the purposes behind these conventions is to eliminate power plays by BNFs and to return Blake's 7 fandom to "real conventions." The letter ends by asking fans to choose which side they will support. Alongside Paul Darrow's letter, is a letter written by Janet Lees Price which raises her and her husband's objections to slash fan fiction which she calls "tasteless".
  • Jan 2 & 3 1989 - Laurie C. starts mass-mailing a press release by Terry Nation and Paul Darrow explaining their plans for the Pro Convention Tour. According to the press release, for-profit conventions will allow them to guarantee actors attendance. The bulk of the organizing, planning and work would be done by the local fans on a volunteer basis, with their production company, under Laurie C.'s direction, supervising and providing the upfront funding and keeping any profits. No fan artists, writers, publishers or zines would be pre-approved and art commissions would remain at the typical 10%. Laurie also includes a personal letter that seems to contradict the press release saying that they will be asking dealers to keep explicit zines and artwork out of the dealers room. The package, which is mailed to many fans and fan clubs, includes a legal-looking letter from Paul Darrow and Michael Keating that identifies Ann W., Linda T. and Leah R., prints their home addresses, and revokes permission to use the actors' faces or likenesses. While this letter has a legal "look and feel", it is neither written by lawyers nor is it legally binding. (Copies of these letters are in the gallery below).
  • Feb 1989 - Federation Archives First Addendum is published. Ann W. identifies herself as the "Name Withheld Letter" writer. She claims she did not sign the letter because she was concerned it might impact the conventions she was working on. Many LOCs take issue with the publication of an anonymous letter. While most support the concept of paying actors for attending conventions, a few worry that that professional conventions may drive out fan-run conventions (similar to what happened in Dr Who fandom). The existence and presence of slash at fan-run conventions is generally supported. The addendum reprints a copy of Darrow's "UnW's Lies" and Mrs. Darrow's letter.
  • February 10-12, 1989 - at the Gambit convention, Terry Nation talks about his plans for the professional conventions. He also reads a letter from Paul Darrow thanking fandom for their support, indicating that the Gambit convention organizers withdrew their invitation to him and his wife and compares fans who do not take sides to Pontius Pilate. With the exception of this letter, convention panels steer clear of the topic. Slash fanzines are present in the dealer's room and Ann W.'s fanzine press is also in attendance. No restrictions are placed on what can be sold.
  • March 1989 - a second Federation Archives addendum is published. LOCS are mixed, with some supporting each side of the debate. One fan takes offense at the Pontius Pilate reference in Paul Darrow's letter that was read at Gambit saying that that the use of the religious metaphor was inappropriate and extreme. Most letters are supportive of slash, although one writer feels that it is peripheral to the main issue of pro vs. fan conventions. A UK fan announces this really is an American problem and suggests that the US fans work it out.
  • Spring 1989 - Pressure Point #9/10 is published with many LOCs. Among them is a lengthy letter from the Gambit concom stating that they did not disinvite Mr. and Mrs. Darrow. Rather, they claim, the Darrows changed their minds about not attending and contacted the convention three weeks before the event to see if the convention could still pay their way. Given the late date and the pre-commitment of their limited budget, the convention stated that the Darrows were welcome to attend, but that Gambit could not pay their hotel and airfare. Both Mr. and Mrs. Darrow decided not to attend. The remaining LOCs run the spectrum from supporting the idea of professional conventions and removing slash from dealer's rooms to defending slash as free speech. Many fans express disgust at the public airing of accusations by both parties. One fan wryly points out that because the Federation Archives has a small circulation of 200 , that if Darrow and Terry Nation had been wise, they would have ignored the "Name Withheld Letter" and proceeded to organize what seemed to be a fantastic convention format. Another fan expresses doubt that the conventions will be successful due to their high overhead and the relatively small size of Blake’s 7 fandom in the US.
  • April 1989 - Freedom City Convention takes place.
  • June & December 1989 - the UK based Horizon Newsletter publishes their version of the events, and includes numerous LOCs from readers in two issues: #22 and 23. Most object to the publication of an anonymous letter and are supportive of Paul Darrow/Terry Nation. On the topic of professional conventions, most feel that actors deserve to be paid for their convention attendance. On the topic of slash, the majority express dislike of the genre with some calling it pornography and sadistic. A few writers point out that slash fiction is here to stay and that prejudice against it - and the fans that read and write it - is worrying. One fan explains that slash fiction does not eroticize violence, it eroticizes love.

1990

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.[7]
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 ..."[8]
and
"Had enough of professionally run events that seem only intent on charging for everything."[9]

Public/Published Sources

  • Federation Archives Dec 1988-Jan 1989, First Addendum (Feb 1989) and Second Addendum (March 1989) (see those pages)
  • Name Withheld By Request” letter (published in Federation Archives Dec 1988-Jan 1989)
  • A letter from Janet Lees-Price to Ann W. (December 23, 1988) - this letter was sent "cc: to all fan newsletters"
  • UnW’s Lies” with the attached “Slash Fiction” letter by Janet Lees Price (published in Federation Archives First Addendum (Feb 1989) as well as in The Avon Club Newsletter #35 (Jan 1989)
  • Terry Nation/Paul Darrow Press Release dated Jan 2, 1989 (see gallery below)
  • Laurie Cohen's letter dated Jan 3, 1989 (part of the Jan 2, 1989 Press Release packet) (see gallery below)
  • Paul Darrow/Michael Keating “To Whom It May Concern” letter, undated (part of the Jan 2, 1989 Press Release packet) (see gallery below)
  • Paul Darrow's statement read aloud by Terry Nation at the Gambit convention (Feb 1989) (see gallery below)
  • A February 1989 letter from Linda T. to Kathy H. - this letter was sent out as "General Distribution"
  • Pressure Point #8 (Jan 1989) and #9/10 (April 1989) (see those pages)
  • Horizon Newsletter issues #22 and 23 (June and December 1989) (see those pages)
  • "Dalek Man, London; copy," an article written by fans Jean Airey and Laurie Haldeman for Starlog magazine, Jan 1990 (talking about Terry Nation's plans to create a series of professionally run Blake's 7 conventions)

Gallery of Open Letters

Terry Nation and Paul Darrow Press Release dated Jan 1989

Click to see larger versions.

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

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

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

This letter demanded that these three fans stop using their likenesses in fanfic and fan art. The use of "Esq." behind the actor's names does not denote any legal role nor does it convey any legality to the letter. In the UK "Esquire was used generally as the default title for all men who did not have a grander title when addressing correspondence..."[10]

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

Click to read.

References

  1. Gareth Thomas Convention Appearances quoted at Hermit.org, referencing a quote in Freedom City Gazette #4
  2. Source: Pressure Point issue #9/10 and Federation Archives Second Addendum published in March 1989.
  3. Source: Multiple letters in Pressure Point #8 and Federation Archives Second Addendum, March 1989. One of the New Zealand fans also circulates her own open letter in 1989 confirming that she had discussed the identities of some of the slash fans with the Darrows.
  4. Source: letters from the Gambit Concom in Federation Archives Second Addendum March 1989 and Pressure Point #9/10.
  5. See Letters from Pressure Point #9/10.
  6. Source: Pressure Point #9/10. Also mentioned in Federation Archives First and Second Addendums.
  7. Another Blake's 7 convention - any chance? dated Feb 1, 2012; reference link.
  8. Another Blake's 7 convention - any chance? dated Feb 1, 2012; reference link.
  9. Another Blake's 7 convention - any chance? dated Feb 1, 2012; reference link.
  10. Wikipedia's Esquire page accessed October 30, 2013.