Oblique Reviews #2

Oblique Reviews #1
Oblique Reviews #2
Oblique Reviews #3
Oblique Reviews #4
Oblique Reviews #5
Oblique Reviews #6
Oblique Reviews #7
Oblique Reviews #8
Oblique Reviews #9
Oblique Reviews #10
Oblique Reviews #11

Back again for our second instalment of Oblique B/A reviews. Potion Seller has some realness for you today: five more fics. A tale of twig-butt, ‘Alpha Elite’ aka my white whale, inexplicable necromancy and STEAK YOU WILL CERTAINLY ENJOY.

STORY: Bucolic Bliss
HAS POOR VILA BEEN DRAGOONED INTO THIS SHITSHOW? No Vila, but Avon is off to have sex with a random woman for afters
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? Avon doesn’t have feelings or is hiding them because… the writer can’t be bothered to explain, really.
EDITOR’S NOTE: clean. safe. free.
PROSE: reader there were awkward mark twain references reader I died
OVERALL: After sex Avon flounces off and he’s like oh yeah old uni gf, eat your picnic alone here Blake. I have lunch plans and then I’m going to fuck a woman, byeeeeee–and I’m like … bitch is gonna turn you innnn. Also what were you going to do, give her a hand-job? His excuses are such bs, like ‘well Blake we JUST had sex now I will go have sex with some other person’–and it’s like Avon. You literally can’t get another erection rn. And smell like sex. You need a shower and a few hours and a goddamn /nap/. And a juice box. No one CALLS him on it. Blake is like whyyyyyyyy but I’m like lol make it a looooong lunch kiddo. Don’t drink no alcohol or nothin. I hope this lunch takes place in a pool because you had weird outdoor sex and probs have like twigs in your butt. And she will write ebay an annoyed note like seller said item GENTLY used but–

No wait she’ll just turn you in for the bounty. Dumbass.

Some of this would be okay if the story didn’t think Avon was sexy, cool, intelligent and emotionally unavailable here. I could forgive all if Blake just whispered ‘twig butt’ and *scene*.

STORY: Cat’s Cradle I
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? God, how to even say it? Avon is mad at Blake for ill-defined Blakery, and is maybe closeted, maybe a sadist? I *honestly* can’t quite express this, it seems like Oblique Kismet.
EDITOR’S NOTE: ponderous, pretentious
PROSE: good
OVERALL: The first Sebastian I remember reading as a child was One Night Stand. I think I ambivalently hated it. The first Sebastian I remember reading as an adult was Cat’s Cradle. I know I outright loathed it. I had paragraphs and paragraphs of reasons, which I’m not going back to find. I assume they were fair enough. I hate this less this time (I am near the end of ObliqueQuest because I’ve been reading out of order to survive, and numb and hopeless now), but this story is some bs even as it’s a decently-written fic. Essentially: Avon is mad at Blake for on-the-job dickishness and demands an exchange of ritual humiliation/venting for the day’s work.
* I will never not hate everything about Alpha Elite bs. Never ever ever. From hell’s heart I eyeroll at thee.
* I don’t quite know why they don’t even debate Avon’s mention of reasoned discussion, mutual decisions and a sharing of responsibility–why that’s nonviable for them, what form it could take.
* I need more on this SFnal ‘normal in this universe’ process and what it’s normally like, and I need more on Avon’s motivations in this particular exchange.
* The ending is rather ??? Like, the whole why-people-do-things question in this story is underdeveloped, but because the writing’s good, I kind of skaaaate over that. But WHY does my partner really like this story? Even after I followed her around the house reading the part about the dark nimbus of the world’s sadness and evil stars and cat’s cradles!! A REAL THING THAT HAPPENED TO MY EYES! Two paragraphs that was! There is BETTER bdsm fic in the world!

STORY: Cat’s Cradle II
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? They love each other but It Can Never Be because Blake is a user in very ill-defined ways, even though practically nothing has changed about their working relationship in the wake of Part I except it is somewhat more tense and awkward now
PROSE: good
OVERALL: * “No special flare for necromancy was necessary to read Avon’s thoughts” ???
* I’m not sure what Sebastian thinks Avon actually wants of Blake. I don’t quite believe the domesticity one-liner in Bittersweet. Part II makes me think we’d have done a bit better in Avon’s POV from PI.
* I both like this better than P1 and have more problems with its emotional arc. The end is so fucking Oblique I could bottle it and add essence of Oblique to cakes to dye them black and make them taste like ashes, which is always what passion tastes like in your mouth after you come in an Oblique fic. And I’m fucking done for the day–maybe the week. I’ll come back later when I’m drunk and/or have had time to remember why I LIKE this fucking pairing.
* This is well-written except for aforementioned. Though Sebastian fic is really–of a type, isn’t it.

STORY: Caveat Emptor
HAS POOR VILA BEEN DRAGOONED INTO THIS SHITSHOW? lots of suggestion/actual past!Vila, Soolin, Tarrant
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? Because Blake’s been conditioned a lot and GP is about to happen and Avon knows it, and also Avon loves Vila more (now, he didn’t used to) and Blake is straight.
PROSE: Like yoghurt with granola stirred in: generally smooth but with weird chunky bits
OVERALL: You know what is a hard sell for me? Avon and Vila have been shagging for a while (11 years, on and off), and Avon thought he might be in love, but Vila cheated on him with Soolin, so now Avon’s annoyed. Just like, as background info. Admittedly this is in part because I don’t like or trust Avon/Vila AT ALL, but even with that, I think–that’s a lot to ask me to just accept as not-important, informing!background? I do like this ex-prison brothel set piece. Look, there’s some intriguing plot stuff, but I ended up skimming the ending: too much going on, messy, emotional whiplash, dragging.

STORY: Clean Slate
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? Avon’s lost his memory, though that’s honestly not that much of a problem as it happens—it’s every ‘Because Blake loves the revolution, and even though Avon finds the Federation’s abuses soooooo deplooooorable, he doesn’t want to do anything about them. Or anything.’ fic ever. (Tell you what, I have a stored up rant about liberal politics, aesthetics and Avonistan in light of the reprise of fascism.) Essentially the whole long set-up plays no real role in the fic’s crisis.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Straight up TELLS ME Glasgow is normally amaaaaazing at voices so I should pay attention here to how a mind-wiped character sounds and how different it is from his normal voice. Ho I will tell YOU if I think this woman is ‘a master at putting those voices on paper’, and if they’re ‘finely constructed’. You may have to wait a while.

This is (I think?) the edition editor, too, being praised like this by a co-worker in her own venue—screamingly awkward, imho. I know fandom now involves recs and comments, but that feels so different to me from the story being framed by this detached, nameless editorial assurance appended to the document and forever preceding it. Like having a waiter come over while the first bite is hovering at your lips to flatly declare it’s delicious. You are going to enjoy that steak. It is perfectly cooked, and if you don’t think so, that’s on you brother. Or as a friend said, “your steak tonight: those dripping red juices remind all of the senses of the darker side of culinary desire—our chef has outdone himself this evening, with a concoction to satisfy your worldly hunger for haute cuisine and your animal passion for blood and flesh”. Her Oblique is on point and we’re no longer speaking.

Norms change: I’m glad this one isn’t current.

PROSE: Before starting I knew this did not need to be 31 pages long. UPDATE: I spoke no lies. You’d lose nothing but ‘fewer readers’ by brutally compressing the initial pages.  And really the whole fic.

A ‘piss you off’ from Vila. Competent prose, in general, but not notable. A jarring POV shift on page 10: too late in the game, and too unmarked. Followed up with more such. At one point in the sex scene Blake gets called Bodie. Says it all, really.

OVERALL: I must admit it took me many tries to complete this quest. It was one of my ‘reds’: the last remainders. Essentially Avon loses his memory in an accident, but the amnesia is also kind of voluntary and selective. More could be done with the parallels with Blake’s memory loss, but the point is no-memories Avon eventually gets back to work, eventually bangs Blake, and eventually leaves the Liberator out of disdain for the violence involved in said work.

The plot does an odd little ‘Orac could give us a successful revolution where we’re not directly involved in the violence and you choose not to take it’ detour, which is potentially conceptually interesting as a fix-it, but as Bryn Lantry said in the notes to one of her B/A fics when she tried something similar on a more thought-through and plot-important level, tech solutions are cheap. I really feel they should only be employed when you’ve got something GOOD you want to do that justifies or necessitates this, or when you’re going to spend a lot of plot energy making the hand-wavium meaningful and important.

Crusader imagery, with Blake killing Avon—Willa has something very like this, also in a dream sequence. I wonder who borrowed from who? Good physicality with Blake on page 7—we’re very much not in his POV, until we are. This is one of Glasgow’s better Blakes, and I think limited POV probably plays a role in that.

Obviously this is a negligible-prep no-lube anal, but that’s in keeping with the bulk of era production, so I can’t eyeroll too hard.

I don’t hate the story necessarily for the typically-Oblique ‘but it can never be!’ of the end. This is somewhat more justified than many of them, though it needs a bit more to land it. Why now and not before? I have some thoughts, but the story doesn’t meaningfully engage with the reasons, and as we’re in a close Avon POV—that’s frankly weird.

I do hate this story: it’s a drudge, and the whole thing we’re drudging for ends up really doing nothing. I could FEEL the two-page version of the first twenty pages, at least as effective, hovering around my temples like an impending migraine. Everything feels repetitious: I want a storyboard, and to figure out what parts this NEEDS, and to fix it on that level, and to give it more interest throughout.

What this story might be succeeding in doing, that I don’t have access to, is hurt/comfort shit. That’s a real kink for some people, a whole suite of pleasures and weighting that happens to have limited frisson for me (it was decidedly more important in this era of fandom, too—not sure why). I can’t say whether the extended wake up, fall unconscious again hospital scenes would do it for you if this was your bag, baby, but I feel I ought to nod to that. If this is functioning as hurt-COMFORT, that’s a slightly unusual step for Glasgow and Oblique.

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