Oblique Reviews #8

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
SUMMARY

Koan of the day: Oblique is both better-designed than most of the other comparable zines out there, and exactly the shit I pulled in the early 2000s with my high-school lit mag (shout-out to Folio).

ALSO: Editor’s Notes for Oblique continue to sound like gay-porn Lemony Snicket.

STORY: —Open All Hours
MUSE OF FIRE RESPONSIBLE: M. Fae Glasgow
HAS POOR VILA BEEN DRAGOONED INTO THIS SHITSHOW? —
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? Blake is in his Feelings about mind-wipe trauma. He also loves Avon, but thinks Avon doesn’t give a fuck really, and that Avon is too probably-emotionally-eviscerating to even get into all this with (fair).
EDITOR’S NOTE:

Screen Shot 2017-01-20 at 10.46.30.png

Oh well THAT makes a refreshing change.

PROSE: ‘even his tastebuds could remember those screams’ da fuq? And who rouges a nipple, really? Does that even look good? I bet it’s like, sticky and super weird. But overall, better than her standard, I think.
OVERALL:  This… is a decent story. I am not worse for reading it; the world is not worse for having this story in it. It’s Blake-focused, and though I don’t like Mind Wipe: The Plot, it’s not really unfair to him. It’s very like several other stories: they leave the ship for the leisure centre in a way that’s just like a Willa fic (one which I quite like), the brothel encounter is very like what I think? is another decent Glasgow (but one that is, as is more typical, Avon-focused), there’s another Oblique fic (I think not by Glasgow?) with a very similar POV and emotional arc. This is more or less as competent as these other stories it’s like (with the exception of ‘one of my favourite Willa’s’, which is significantly more ambitious). Not much happens herein, and what does happen is not my cuppa (anonymous group sex is so my dad’s era, like paisley and the blithe absence of condoms), but there are feelings and there isn’t character-assassination, the situation is well described, and the prose is readable and propulsive enough. The way Blake’s mind keeps circling Avon and returning to him before Blake knows he’s in love with Avon is well-done. I’m also not sure that Avon *wasn’t* one of the people Blake encountered in the brothel, and I like that ambiguity–there’s a productive range of possible readings of this story.

Not a word, though, on how bad leather tastes. We’ve all made that stupid mistake at some point or another.

STORY: Promises, Promises…
MUSE OF FIRE RESPONSIBLE: M. Fae Glasgow
HAS POOR VILA BEEN DRAGOONED INTO THIS SHITSHOW? Vila
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? Avon is still a bit into Vila; Blake has homophobic class norms and has been character-assassinated harder than Caesar was assassinated. It has me like Marc Antony up in here, I got funeral speeches for days.
EDITOR’S NOTE: “And of course, there is family. Always, there is family.” Weird–not only is that a terrible line, it’s also what I told my analyst this week.
PROSE: same dialogue problems as last time
OVERALL:

PIII of Dome Cycle

The story’s urge to do a not-quite-comedy of manners here over-rides it’s characters’ humanity and believability. But surely the whole point of talking about class is to talk about how it shapes human interactions? You can have horrible, classist, believable people: Austen and Dickens did. In fact, that’s the only way to stage effectual discussions of the topic. I can buy Avon’s Mom responding REALLY differently to Avon coming home than someone else might (though I think the fic thinks the two mothers’ reactions are more different than it’s actually depicted them as) due to her specific demographic positioning. I cannot buy her one-note GOSH, HOME FROM PRSION/THE REVOLUTION, AND SEATED SO UNTIDILY!! Like–response that might be–a /component/ of her reaction? But we’re in full Alice in Wonderland surreal territory with her, in what’s otherwise a realist text. Even if she dislikes Avon… pure practical considerations would run ahead of these concerns? Unless she’s supposed to be dumb as fuck, or deeply unstable, and I don’t believe she is.

All the class stuff is so time-located! This is especially weird in what is, in some ways, a kind of serious SFnal story, though I didn’t mind it so much in the Five and Cybermen BFA “Spare Parts”, so maybe I can’t kvetch.

‘Luncheon’, etcetera: It’s a weird–Americanish?–version of Upper Classness. Idk, I feel like everything about these stories would be better if everyone involved had to read one Wodehouse novel and report back. (EDIT: Glasgow did write one Jeeves/Wooster fic!! Guess not even Plum could save her.)

And as I fucking kneeeeew, Blake feels about Avon a little like Avon feels about Vila (and/or still has the class expectations and inhibitions Avon is only now working through), and apparently that makes Blake a shitty shitty shit shit and Avon totally blameless. EVEN THOUGH all through this chapter Avon’s like MAN I HOPE I DO NOT LOVE BLAKE, EW, Blake still should have his emotional labour on-fleek in the middle of this especially pivotal moment in the revolution.

This crap le petit mort thing, I can’t. (‘skin whispering sexy secrets to matching skin’ is also… not a fav of mine)

The way time’s passing and what’s happening could be clearer in this part.

I know the story doesn’t ‘mean’ it in a way, but the longing on p7’s almost fun?

This story wants like–simultaneously for everything to be run well (and for it to be Blake’s fault if it’s not) and for people not to do the work that requires, because it’s soooo boooooring that they have to focus and debate shit. Idfk.

Oh and then there’s still Delta organ-raids under Blake. Really? Faaaaantastic. Like–this is so OOC for the sake of nothing, really. Just another means of making Blake look shit and creating drama. You COULD have justified this plot point, she just–didn’t even care to. This isn’t even PRACTICAL!! Ffs I’m not fully reading the rest of these, though I read this one properly, from now on I’m just skimming to discover how Blake is bad at everything Blake is canonically decent at and the extent to which Avon, who gives a few fucks in this story, for the first time in his life, is a perfect shining angel.

Again she tries some stuff where Avon’s allowed to Be Bad Too, but it’s a false equivalence that only serves to protect the character.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

STORY: Rapere I: Rapture
MUSE OF FIRE RESPONSIBLE: Sebastian
HAS POOR VILA BEEN DRAGOONED INTO THIS SHITSHOW? —
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? Avon can’t explain anything for shit, Blake doesn’t know he’s bi and has limited information to work with.
EDITOR’S NOTE: none
PROSE: good: sebastian is a competent writer
OVERALL: I enjoy the thing about the water, and I enjoy the turn. I like this fic, but ffs Avon. Here’s how to fix this whole fucking situation:

Avon: Actually, Blake, for your benefit, I dosed you with water rather than drugs, because it turned out we didn’t have any aphrodisiacs after all–sorry to trick you, but our lives were on the line from those Aliens Making Us Do It, and I could see how uncomfortable you were with the whole situation. I’m not trying to humiliate you: I put myself in the same position, as you saw.

Blake was angry for a few days, and felt very awkward about having been Into It when on drugs, or not, as the case turned out to be. He had to have a hard think about his sexuality. Maybe he /was/ a bit bi?

Meanwhile, Avon was being consistently slightly nicer to him–a bit flirtier. Sometimes he had a kind of mad dog look about him, like he was massively repressing some tension, but then that was kind of Avon-Normal, and Blake figured he too was adjusting to the fall-out from the alien oddness. Blake actually figured the sex thing had brought them together: they had a couple of kind of intimate conversations over the course of the next week. They got very drunk together (Avon’s idea), and while nothing happened it was all physical, friendly and nice. Blake began to suspect he might like to try that sex  with Avon thing again some day, minus the aliens and threat of death, though it would of course be hella awkward to bring it up with Avon.

Imagine his surprise and even pleasure when Avon actually suggested it–and why not? They’d been getting on well recently, and for some reason the reasons he Couldn’t Possibly with Jenna fled his mind when it came to Avon. After another few weeks of this Blake had to admit they were dating, and that he actually really liked Avon. But that was all right, you SHOULD like someone you were dating. In fact if you er, REALLY liked them, that was quite normal! Very, very normal!

He awkwardly broached the subject with Avon, who responded with a raised eyebrow and a flat ‘I realised midway through our first fuck that I was in love with you; this has been–let’s not call it an elaborate plan. More like a plan to try several good dim sum places, then choose the best one and go there regularly. That level of plan.’

‘Oh,’ Blake said, feeling a bit chagrined.

‘Yes,’ Avon agreed.

‘When we have Earth, can I take you out for dim sum?’

‘Yes,” Avon capitulated, ‘provided we only order things reputable bloggers specifically recommend.’

‘And a few wild-card items for the sake of adventure!’ Blake protested. ‘And anything the waitress really likes!’

‘Oh all right,’ Avon groused, ‘fine.’

*Fin*

THAT IS LITERALLY ALL IT WOULD TAKE TO RESOLVE THIS ‘SOUL DESTROYING’ DRAMAPROBLEM WHY DO THESE PEOPLE WHO CAN BREAK OUT OF PRISON SHIPS SUDDENLY NOT HAVE THE PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS GOD GAVE A GOOSE?????

STORY: Rapere II: Raptus
MUSE OF FIRE RESPONSIBLE: M. Fae Glasgow writing as Emma Scot
HAS POOR VILA BEEN DRAGOONED INTO THIS SHITSHOW? Vila
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? Blake has Federation conditioning he hasn’t told Avon about, Avon is a spurned rejected bitch
EDITOR’S NOTE: none
PROSE: p good, generally, with some exceptions, like–
OVERALL:

‘a snowflake of his own terror’? ????

‘Or do you only lead when you will be feted and covered with glory?’ What portion of Blake’s life would this… describe, exactly? It’s that thing where the wrong insult is actively unhelpful in a critical exegesis.

I REALLY like how HURT and pissed Avon is by being rejected here. Even as I think–I want more emotional maturity out of them both, so I can buy into this situation a little more, and so that this payoff works better?

This is one of those times when Avon doing EXACTLY what Blake does would be something they could come back from, to be expected, a minor infraction, but when Blake does it o shit it is the worst.

If Blake’s worried about maintaining an erection during sex, why not BE penetrated? Not being erect all the way through for that is very normal (and easily concealable, and comprehensible in this scenario)?

God, poor Vila is really emptied out by this.

Everything about the ending is messy, and Blake’s emotional arc could be clearer.

Even Glasgow can’t make this crack trope entirely unfun.

STORY: Rapere III: Raptor
MUSE OF FIRE RESPONSIBLE: M. Fae Glasgow writing as Emma Scot
HAS POOR VILA BEEN DRAGOONED INTO THIS SHITSHOW? —
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? Avon loves Blake, and I have NO IDEA really what Blake feels about him and whether they could ever possibly do anything with that–basically, because Blake knows about the lurve and pities Avon, everything is like Foredoomed, idek.
EDITOR’S NOTE: none
PROSE: surprisingly good
OVERALL: We 0-70 with this high kink–it’s interestingly written, some of Glasgow’s better B/A in the Vanessa Mullen line, but there are also weird conflations with Blake’s past/being tortured that I don’t feel quite work, and that make this not entirely about them. That’s a serious con of The Federation Torture Trope.

The emotional turn after Blake realises Avon’s in love with him is fairly interesting, but I’d like more of what that love means for Avon (and, again, more sort of–front-end development, re: both what feelings people came in with and the start of the fic).

The double-entendre line doesn’t really work.

I mean overall, this is surprisingly fun, isn’t it? Even if the Blake’s not quite written right and the WE CAN NEVER BE TOGETHER!! especially fucking arbitrary. It’s SO Oblique: the deus ex machina IT CAN NEVER BE descends from the ceiling, needing n0 justification: and then the goddess Hymen appears in the forest and says ‘nah’.

I said aloud, ‘I actually experienced pleasure reading this story’, and my girlfriend laughed.

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2 thoughts on “Oblique Reviews #8

  1. I also really like ‘Rapture’! and I enjoyed your alternate ending, although I also think … that Avon never saying anything and being really hurt by all of this is quite plausible. That’s some good Avon characterisation, right? And rather than your completely reasonable (and entertaining) alternate ending, I imagine either silence forever, or instead (another way of resolving it) Avon tipping over the edge at some point, like the ‘wade in blood up to your armpits’ of Star One or… you know, shooting Blake (I imagine there is a lot of shouting post ‘Blake’, obviously, assuming they both survive, as you know). So – something like that, and Avon’s like ‘it wasn’t even DRUGS, you QUEER. you are QUEER for me. for ME’ and Blake’s like ‘that’s a lie … right?’ (or maybe he’s done some thinking and knows it isn’t), and everyone else is also there, and very embarrassed. And then Avon goes away to hide in a cupboard, because that’s the best plotline, except when it isn’t 🙂

    Ultras Made Them Do It is a good plot line. Thanks canon!

  2. I mean, as with the last comment I think we’re talking about a different order of responses. Yes, it makes sense for Avon to be deeply hurt and too repressed and awkward to act to solve the problem, of course it does, and I completely believe, for example, your fic wherein he’s struggling with his sexuality and pops back into the literal and figurative closet. But establishing emotional reticence or incapability is one thing (and it must /be established/), and giving a character a childlike inability to reason is another. This is difficult to articulate–essentially, I have to see how this character comes to this point rather than just accepting a kind of high school emotional logic for grown, otherwise capable (if emotionally constipated) adults. It’s all about establishing Oblique Affect in this, it’s not about this story, these decisions, even these characters: whatever it takes to get to ‘but it can never be’, or that’s a foregone conclusion so it becomes evacuated of tragedy and meaningless/impotent. If it can NEVER be, there’s no sadness there, no failure of potential/possibility, just like, ‘oh, here we are listening to Evanescence again, I guess.’

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