Whomsoever Holds This Sword
|Title:||Whomsoever Holds This Sword|
|Editor(s):||Teri White and Jennie McGrath|
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"A collection of stories inspired by the Arthurian legend, "...noble chivalry, courtesy, love, friendship, cowardice, murder, hate, virtue and sin.""
One InspirationA story in this zine was apparently inspired by Suzan Lovett's fanart:
Art: Jennie McGrath (title pages), Leigh Moto'oka (majority of the art), Nan Nelson, Linda Garlick, and Sandra Basham.
- Jennie McGrath, "The Legend" (1)
- Jennie McGrath, "To Him Unconquered" (4)
- Sandra Basham, "Just Beyond Reach" (31)
- Lorna Breshears, "Silver Lining, Golden Mean" (40)
- Jennifer H., "When the Rain Comes" (64)
- Carol McCoy, "Knight of the Realm" (72)
- Sandra Basham, "Awakenings" (86)
- Vicki McManus,"Anything But History" (94)
- Fate Yanagi, "Last Act" (123)
- Jennie McGrath, "Exile" (127)
- Rebecca Ann Brothers, "Spirits from the Vasty Deep" (Stranded on a planet and taking refuge in a cave, Blake has a dream... a premise of blending Blake's 7 with Arthurian legend) (142)
- Carol McCoy, "The Long Dark Night of the Soul" (153)
- Sandra Basham, "Idle Hands" (170)
- Ros Williams, "Wisdom" (184)
- Teri White, "After the Sword" (This Suzan Lovett illo was the inspiration for this story.) (194)
- Teri White, "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (252)
Reactions and Reviews
I quite enjoyed rereading Whomsoever Holds This Sword. I like several of the stories but especially Rebecca's "Spirits from the Vasty Deep" and Teri's "After the Sword." Rebecca's is my favorite, but it's a close thing. 
I have mixed feelings about the basic theme of this zine, namely B7 stories that in some way reflect the Arthurian legends. Personally, I don't think that the basic ideas are all that good a fit. However, since the theme was loosely interpreted, there are some very interesting and unusual stories in this zine.
Slash fans should take special note of the A-B stories by Rebecca Ann Brothers and Teri White -- gen but emotionally intense. Also of slashy interest is a story from Jennie McGrath's "Time of Innocence" series, which has a slash finale (A/B and Ta/V) in The Big B7 Zine.
There's some nice A-Ta (and even B-Ta) for the Tarrant fans; a Tarot story ("Idle Hands"); and one of Vickie's cross-gender stories. I also enjoyed Carol's story of a pre-series encounter betwen Jenna and Tarrant, and Ros Williams's surreal tale of several major characters facing an oracle that prophesies their fates.Comment from Judith - although there were a couple of stories that I enjoyed in this zine, I felt there was a lot of dross in it overall. I agree with Sarah that a lot of the stories didn't fit the theme, but then King Arthur and B7 struck me as uneasy bedfellows anyway. 
The reviews of this on Fanlore aren't that positive (with Judith, who I tend to trust, calling it 'a lot of dross', though Sarah Thompson says there's some interesting stuff as well, which is more hopeful). Judith's dross opinion was backed up, pre reading, because the fics that are currently online (excluding 'After the Sword', which is online, but wasn't linked from Fanlore so wasn't read by me before I got the zine) aren't great.
And yet... unlike the previous two reviewers, I personally feel that Blake's 7 and Arthuriana are two great tastes that taste great together! I also love the idea of a themed zine (hence my interest in 'What on Earth Happened to You?')(which really is a great title). So - basically, I have been on the look out for this one for a while, even though I thought it likely it wouldn't be very good.
Well - it has been misrepresented. Generally, the fic here is pretty good or at least good fun. What nobody has quite managed to convey previously, though, is how few Arthuriana fics there are here. When I read Sarah's comment "since the theme was loosely interpreted, there are some very interesting and unusual stories in this zine" I incorrectly assumed that I would be reading stories like, say, Elviaprose's Kerr Avon and the Green Knight (or even her The Avalon Project)(or even One Night Stand!). Green Knight and the others aren't Arthurian!AU, and they never say that Blake is Arthur - it's a fusion that uses the rough structure of a familiar Arthurian story to speak about Blake's 7 (and is excellent, obviously).
What I would say is that in many cases I found it difficult to see a connection between Arthuriana and these fics. If I had to make one criticism about this zine, it would be that. No connection at all, except that Tarrant and Avon were often depicted as chivalrous? I guess? But since there are many characters in Arthuriana who aren't chivalrous, if they'd been depicted as deceitful or whatever then we could just as easily say that was inspired by Arthuriana.
It was a disappointment on that front, basically (N.B. I know that my Pride & Prejudice zine was also not all Austen-themed, but I assume this was a disappointment to people too!) All that said - in general, the stories were pretty good, and I enjoyed reading them. Several fics in this zine are also pretty damn gay (more than 'What on Earth', but less than the next two which are literally full of gay sex).
I will therefore not only give you a commentary on these fics, but also rate them 1-5 on Arthuriana and Gayness (0 is no gayness or Arthuriana, 1 is a bit gay etc).
The other thing to say about this zine is that, like Fifth Season 5 (also Arthurian themed... sort of), this zine is from the dawn of the computer age. This means the editor has used some vastly inappropriate clip art to decorate the zine borders for seemingly no reason other than that it was available (oh, 1992). Blake may be described as a bear (he definitely was in the slash zines on a few occasions), and fandom may traditionally LOL about Avon's teddy bear... but neither of these things justify the teddy bear image that is used throughout the zine (or the telephone???).
Jennie McGrath, "The Legend" Arthuriana rating: 5 Gayness rating: 0 This isn't a B7 fic; it's a re-telling of Arthurian myth from pre-Uther times up until Avalon. There is so much material in this that I assumed (rubbing my hands together with glee) I was going to see reworked in the later pages. As you now know, I was to be disappointed in this regard.
Jennie McGrath, "To Him Unconquered" Arthuriana rating: 5 Gayness rating: 1 This one is online - it posits that Blake is Arthur, Vila is Merlin, and Avon is Lancelot (Blake's most trusted knight), and they've been reborn (this past lives theme reappears throughout the zine, btw, and we have no straightforward AUs, which is odd). In this fic Vila is dreaming about the past, so that's how we get the Arthurian scenes.
Two major problems with this fic, which is largely inoffensive and at least actually sticks to the theme (the editors basically are the ones who do - this is an editor). The first is that Tarrant is introduced as Mordred towards the end - which is nonsensical. The second is that in general there isn't much of a plot beyond 'hey, isn't this a fun idea? Past lives!'. It's not fun enough to sustain a whole fic. Also (this isn't a major problem) Blake-as-Arthur identifies himself as Emyrs - which (and a later fic confirms this) is Merlin's name. He should have identified himself as 'Wart', right? (If we're going with the widely known T.H. White version of events.)
Sandra Basham, "Just Beyond Reach" Arthuriana rating: 1 (for chivalry) Gayness rating: 2 Avon sacrificed himself (he's now in a coma) to save Tarrant, who misjudged him. Vila is a wise fool, who was also misjudged. I quite like this one - because I like the heroic Avon, and it's pretty well written.
Lorna Breshears, "Silver Lining, Golden Mean" Arthuriana rating: 0 Gayness rating: 1 (implied, if you assume Avon wants to die because he killed Blake) This is a good fun romp, where Tarrant, Soolin, Vila (interesting survival group for GP) have to escape Blake's murderous rebels with or without Orac. Some nice details here as well about Tarrant rescuing Dayna's father's medal, and other references to previous episodes. All in all, I enjoyed this a lot (I don't much care for Blake's murderous friends, but people seem to think they are real - so).
Jennifer H., "When the Rain Comes" Arthuriana rating: 3 Gayness rating: 1 Unusual plot sees Jenna and Carnell travelling together following Blake's wars against Servalan (this is only vaguely Arthurian i.e. Blake isn't king, it's just set sort of generally in the fake-medieval period, but I'll go with that). I enjoyed it a lot, although it's a bit aimless. I would have welcomed a story about the war itself, for example (Avon is again Blake's most trusted knight).
Carol McCoy, "Knight of the Realm" Arthuriana rating: 1 Gayness rating: 0 I also like this one a lot. The title here is an obvious link back to the theme, and here it clearly is supposed to tell us that Tarrant is chivalrous - it even has some lines towards the end to bolster this reading in case you were confused: [Tarrant] belonged to a time when soldiering was honorable; young knights jousting for noble regimes. She feared for her chivalrous rescuer, that he would inevitably be crushed or corrupted by the flawed realm that held his allegiance.. The fic depicts Tarrant as a space captain rescuing Jenna from his ship of unruly (and unchivalrous) troopers. I like the characterisation of both T and J a lot, and for me the unexpected nature of what happens, and the fact that Jenna reflects on it and does something different because of her interaction with Tarrant makes this a satisfying fic.
Sandra Basham, "Awakenings" Arthuriana rating: 0 Gayness rating: 1 Sequel to the previous one where Avon was in a coma. Avon wakes up, pretends to still be a badass, Tarrant doesn't believe him. It's all right - but we got the message from the first one!
Vicki McManus,"Anything But History" Arthuriana rating: 0 Gayness rating: 4 Unexpected genderswap! It doesn't seem to affect anything very much except that Olga Gan spends a lot of time painting everyone's nails (including Blake's after she gets captured, and has to be rescued by Avon+Vila) and ... everyone is more emotionally open with each other/nicer to each other. I enjoyed this fic a lot, actually. Fairly trad plot (except that Cally gets packed off to Auron right at the beginning), with Blake getting over major prison trauma, but this time with more vaginas.
As you will see from the gayness rating, part of the reason I like this so much is that being a woman does not seem to have stopped Avon from being chivalrous towards Blake - in fact, she's more so. Not only rescuing Blake, but also sitting by her while she recovers, generally worrying about her, trying to convince her to get back into the revolution, and then Jenna (here given the not very male name - Jen) and Avon (Kiera) come up with a pretty good plan that benefits them and also will motivate Blake again. It involves Jenna and Avon getting their own ships. Then Avon has a conversation with Cally where (s)he asks him(her) what Cally would do with a spaceship "Park it in one of the Liberator's holds until needed" Cally answers - and Avon is like, curses, that was my plan.
This is a very long fic, but as I say - I enjoyed it. Does it have ANYTHING at all to do with King Arthur? If it does, I did not see it. Apparently there are more fics in this series - I would read them if available.
Fate Yanagi, "Last Act" Arthuriana rating: 3 Gayness rating: 0 Hurrah - this one is clearly using Blake's death in a PGP scenario to echo Arthur's. It's not a bad fic - mostly justified by existing in this zine admittedly, but a nice play with the concept. Tarrant is the only other survivor.
Jennie McGrath, "Exile" Arthuriana rating: 0 Gayness rating: 4 This has a slash sequel - that's how gay it is. Tarrant and Vila teleport down to a planet where they find Blake - the three of them talk about Avon, who was apparently childhood friends with B and V. Blake refuses to come back ("Not until he realises that he needs me ... I know he's looked for me, but not hard enough.") Obviously the fact that Vila was there in the past too complicates the straightforward slashiness, but I believe he ends up with Tarrant.
The fic itself is... well, I don't like childhood companions as a trope - and this fic is overall pretty twee. Plus at some point Blake leaves to go to the bathroom - and there's a reason nobody else writes that kind of thing in their fiction, although it does leave Vila and Tarrant time to talk.
Rebecca Ann Brothers, "Spirits from the Vasty Deep" Arthuriana rating: 5 Gayness rating: 4 Another one that's online. Blake and Avon huddle (naked) for warmth in a cave, Blake almost remembers his past as Owain Glyndŵr (who was also King Arthur). In this one Avon is Merlin, though he doesn't remember it (which doesn't make much sense). If this idea were given more scope I would probably like it more, but, as it is, the fic says a few out-there concepts and then peters out. Why doesn't Avon remember if he is the wizard?
Carol McCoy, "The Long Dark Night of the Soul" Arthuriana rating: 0? Gayness rating: 1 Blake, Avon, Vila, Tarrant (the girls have survived, they just aren't in the story at all) sit around, argue about whether Blake is a bounty hunter, and huddle for warmth PGP. Vila protects Tarrant, which is quite sweet. It's all right.
Sandra Basham, "Idle Hands" Arthuriana rating: 2 (hinting at past lives) Gayness rating: 4 Vila wants to read tarot cards of people who aren't Blake or Avon (friendly people, in other words) - but the two of them basically dare each other to participate, and he's forced into it. I don't think there's too much for you here if you don't like B-A, but if you do... well, this fic is very enjoyable. Both B and A are depicted as being quite fragile even as they are trying to hurt each other. And the tarot cards reveal that B and A share a strong bond "the sort of thing that went beyond love or sex, and occasionally even surmounted death" but Vila wusses out of telling Avon this as he thinks it will upset him. The fic is very based in the reading of the cards - with the final pages basically explaining what each card in the reading means. I assume it's vaguely accurate? Anyway - I enjoyed this fic.
Ros Williams, "Wisdom" Arthuriana rating: ? There's no oracle in Arthuriana, but it is magical, so I guess that's ... sort of thematically relevant. Gayness rating: 0 The fic is basically a string of encounters between each major character and the oracle - they're nicely done, and short enough that the idea doesn't get old. Rather charmingly Deeta Tarrant is included! (Del Tarrant's section is also good). Carnell is also in this one, which makes sense (I guess people who like Arthur also like Carnell)(I like both too)
Teri White, "After the Sword" Arthuriana rating: 5 Gayness rating: 4 My favourite in the zine, although it too has a sort of flat ending (possibly because the Hermit Library version of this story indicates it's a prequel to someone else's fic - what happens in that one???). Great fun until then though.
In the past, Blake and Avon are a King and his
gay knightcydymaith (companion) - Avon is Bedwyr (or Bedievere - the king's most faithful knight, who in legend returns Excalibur to the lake), and Blake is rather more confusingly Geraint, who is too obscure for me to know about (which is good - we're in deep Arthur now! Mabinogion). A quick wiki tells me that his most famous story is perfect for Blake/Avon (though not actually referred to in this fic). Apparently there also was a King Geraint, but basically... Blake is Arthur? He has to be to make Bedwyr's devotion work. So, I assume he's Arthur - he just has a Welsh name.
Anyway - so, in the past they roll around together as children, and then Avon saves him repeatedly when Blake is king. It's all really sweet. Geraint is a bit straightforward - you get the sense that Bedwyr is the brains of the outfit, which is a tad irritating, but generally... I am having too much fun to pick holes in this one.
In the present, Blake and Avon are separated after the Andromedan war! (Blake was on Terminal, but Avon didn't... look around, I guess?). Eventually they both dream their way into Geraint's kingdom, and meet up with the other two - though they never recognise that their counterparts are them (they are, though), presumably for magic reasons. Once together, Avon and Bedwyr threaten each other viz not hurting their version of Blake, and then there are heroic sacrifices and misunderstandings, and people dying in each others' arms. It's basically my jam.
Here's my favourite exchange (Blake's dreaming, but not yet in the shared dream - probably), that picks up on themes from some of my favourite exchanges between the characters in canon, but not in a gauche, rubbish way like Big Finish sometimes did:
- "I've been waiting for you," Blake said, and knew immediately that it was the truth.
- "Oh?" Avon said sardonically. "I thought you were merely sitting here feeling sorry for yourself."
- "That, too," Blake admitted.
- "I suggest you cease and desist, in that case. Your precious cause needs you."
- "And what about you, Avon? Do you need me back?"
- Avon merely smiled.
- Blake persisted. "Do you need me back, Avon?"
- Avon leaned across the table and his words were a whisper of breath. "You won't know that until you find me again, will you?"
I assume, also, that the fic is based on Suzan Lovett image (though Avon is a knight, not a wizard in the fic). It's a shame that the Lovett Arthurian images do not appear in this zine. Just as it's a shame that not all the fics in this zine are as Arthurian as this one!
Teri White, "The Man Who Knew Too Much" Arthuriana rating: 2 Gayness rating: 0Short first-person dialogue fic about Vila being an immortal wizard. It's fine - quite a nice ending to the zine. 
Whomsoever Holds This Sword worked much better for me on rereading than the first time through, although 1 still don't really fancy the Arthurian crossovers all that much and was getting fatigued by all the "they're reliving it throughout time" motif that showed up in half of the stories—it was the frequency, not the idea per se that was getting to me.