All Adaptations of Dickens’ ‘David Copperfield’

David_Copperfield_(1935_film)_poster.jpg

(poster for 1935 Hollywood version)

This is a list of all filmic David Copperfield adaptations I’m aware of. I’ve omitted stage and radio productions, but am very interested in any information you have on these, and may at some point start to look at them as well. Please comment if you know any more television or film adaptations! I suspect the list may not be very complete outside the Anglosphere.

David-Copperfield-Bartholomew.jpg

(still from 1935 Hollywood version)

Some notes:

  • There are three productions for children, including two animated versions, one of which departs radically from the plot. Two of these cut Uriah Heep.
  • There are five BBC miniseries.
  • There are eight tv miniseries, counting BBC offerings and not counting television films.
  • Not one version double-casts Uriah, though we meet him when he’s about 15 to David’s 11 (and Steerforth’s 17) and “Explosion”/the climax of the novel comes when David’s roughly 23 to Uriah’s 27 (based on Molly Katz’s timeline). At least four double-cast Steerforth (it is sometimes difficult to determine and a child actor is more likely to be ambiguously or uncredited), while the rest that include him rely on a youthful actor. Only two I can think of could be said to have a youthful Uriah: Italian 1965 and the BBC 1974 (this one reads as perhaps mid-20s throughout rather than 15). 1999 DC Uriah’s actor was 38 and 2000 DC actor’s Uriah was 33.  Italian 1965 Uriah’s actor was 30. As happens today, working-class Victorians were subjected to a variety of physical hardships that could indeed appear to age them more rapidly than their better-off contemporaries. David initially thinks Uriah older than 15, but he’s a child looking up at an older boy, and there’s a world of difference between a teenager looking old for his years and one actually being played by a 35 year old.
  • All other adaptations persistently age Uriah up to perhaps his 30s, which visually locates the problem with his desire to marry Agnes in his age rather than his class. If he looks 35 when David and Agnes are about 11, even if he still somehow looks 35 when David and Agnes are in their early 20s, a relative age has been conceptually established that does not permit the modern viewer to treat the prospect of their union as reasonable. Consider for example Austen adaptations, which almost uniformly ‘soften’ the canonical age differences between Brandon and Marianne and between Emma and Elton for a modern audience via casting, rendering Georgian marriage practices and stories concerning them acceptable to contemporary viewers. A union between Uriah and Agnes thus becomes not a problem of class and (to the extent you can separate these elements) personality, as in the novel, but of age and personality (even if age is not explicit mentioned as an issue: we have been visually cued). Class is elided in this formulation, as are the ‘there but for the grace of god’ parallels between David, Uriah and Steerforth.
  • There are six foreign language productions (counting the silent Danish version with cards). Only one (Brazil 1958) adaptation seems to have been made outside of either Europe or the Anglosphere.
  • None of them that I’ve seen seem interested in ‘Easter Egg’ nodding to other Dickens’ productions, one another, the events of the period or those of Dickens’ life. I could be wrong here! This is a casual observation.
  • All of them go with ‘David Copperfield’ as their title (unless they’ve been listed wrong where I grabbed them), choosing to use no other elements of the actual book title (The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery (Which He Never Meant to Publish on Any Account)) (or of the 14 variant titles Dickens employed).
  • I’ll probably use this page to link to reviews of all of these as I work (it may be some time before I’m done).

Screen Shot 2017-02-25 at 19.41.01.png

Screen Shot 2017-02-25 at 19.41.36.png

Screen Shot 2017-02-25 at 19.47.08.png

Screen Shot 2017-02-25 at 19.46.03.png

Screen Shot 2017-02-25 at 19.44.56.png

David and the only even slightly age-correct Uriah (possibly still a little too old-looking for 15?), Italian 1965 version

For comparison: Young Bruce in the very Dickensian Gotham, as played by 15 year old David Masouz.

Screen Shot 2017-02-25 at 21.38.01.png

Screen Shot 2017-02-25 at 21.37.50.png

Title (year and medium), national origin, adult actor for David if known, any other identifying information

  1. David Copperfield, consisting of ‘The Early Life of David Copperfield’, ‘Little Em’ly and David Copperfield’ and ‘The Loves of David Copperfield’, (1911 film) American, Ed Genung, 3 reels, black and white, first non-British version, probably no Uriah and possibly no Steerforth
  2. (1912 film) British?, Bolton cites in Dickens Dramatised
  3. (1912 film) French, from Pathe, distinct from above (same source)
  4. David Copperfield (1913 film) British, Kenneth Ware, 3 Davids (child, youth, adult), silent, a contender for the title of first British feature film, black and white
  5. David Copperfield (1922 film) Danish, Gorm Schmidt, silent, black and white, first non-Anglosphere version, possibly no Steerforth or Emily
  6. The Love Stories of David Copperfield (1924 film) British, silent, black and white, first
  7. David Copperfield (1935 film) American, Frank Lawton, Hollywood, black and white
  8. David Copperfield (1954 two-part television film? unsure) American, David Cole, black and white, possibly no Steerforth or Emily
  9. David Copperfield (1956 tv miniseries) British, Robert Hardy, BBC: first BBC miniseries, black and white
  10. David Copperfield (1958 tv miniseries), Brazilian?, Márcio Trunkl, first and only  non-continental/Anglosphere version (if indeed Brazilian), black and white
  11. [Excerpt from] David Copperfield (1958 short teleplay) British, BBC, part of the series “Fact in Fiction: Children at Work in the Last Century”
  12. David Copperfield (1965) tv miniseries) Italian, Giancarlo Giannini, black and white, watch here, filmed like “The Leopard”, very interesting, two Steerforths
  13. David Copperfield (1965 tv miniseries) French, Bernard Verley, Uriah written out of plot, ‘Le théâtre de la jeunesse’ suggests possibly for children which would make it the first children’s production, black and white
  14. David Copperfield (1966 tv miniseries) British, Ian McKellen, BBC: second BBC miniseries, black and white
  15. David Copperfield (1969 television film) British-American, Robin Phillips, first colour production (assume colour from here on out unless indicated), two Steerforths
  16. David Copperfield (1969 tv miniseries) Spanish, Paco Valladares, black and white
  17. David Copperfield (1970 tv film) British, Robin Phillips, two Steerforths
  18. David Copperfield (1974 tv miniseries) British, David Yelland, BBC: third BBC miniseries, rebroadcast in 1976
  19. David Copperfield (1983 animated film) Australian, unclear, second production for children
  20. David Copperfield (1986 tv miniseries) British, Colin Hurley, BBC: fourth BBC miniseries, Simon Callow as Micawber (which is interesting because Callow has a good line in playing Dickens, so playing a character based off Dickens’ dad makes sense for him)
  21. David Copperfield (1993 animated musical film) American, Julian Lennon, no Uriah, Emily or Steerforth: in fact the crackiest plot changes you could possibly imagine, third production for children, watch here.                                                                                          Screen Shot 2017-02-25 at 18.28.25.png

    Clara Copperfield looking as confused as I am.

              Screen Shot 2017-02-25 at 18.28.41.png            Char_12641.jpg

Murdstone looking like a budget Ratigan (I suspect this film’s entire planning meeting was  someone saying ‘like Great Mouse Detective, but awful’).

18. David Copperfield (1999 tv series) British, Ciarán McMenamin, BBC: fifth and currently final BBC miniseries, child David is Daniel Radcliffe–this is the role that got him cast as Harry Potter, two Steerforths
19. David Copperfield (2000 long tv film) Irish-American, Hugh Dancy, not good
20. David Copperfield
(2009 long tv film) Italian, Giorgio Pasotti
21. David Copperfield (2018 treatment, STILL IN DEVELOPMENT), British

UPDATE:

Per the Dickens Fellowship: “Presumably you have seen Dickens Dramatized by H Philip Bolton. Lists 2 DC films in 1912.”

I hadn’t, as it turns out, but now I have:

Dickens Dramatized David Copperfield Section

This includes a wealth of information on theatrical and radio productions, but it stops in 1987, either to celebrate my birth or on account of the publication of the book. I’d love to see a modernisation that brought Bolton’s work up to the present, double-checked for productions outside the Anglosphere (with an emphasis on the UK and US) and was more accessible. This hefty academic volume, of which I’ve reproduced a very small portion above, is not a reference text most libraries possess, and the printing format is almost reminiscent of contemporary fanzine listings. It’s no doubt a great resource, and the product of an incredible amount of research, but think how much more navigable and searchable it’d be as an online database, and how much more information about productions it could provide via linking?

An updated listing could also give more attention to plays produced outside London and NYC/the American East Coast.Even within the Anglosphere, this feels a little lopsided. Given the density of plays, I really feel there must have been more going on in, say, northern England than we’re seeing. (It’s probable Bolton’s front-matter, which I don’t have access to, talks about his process and lacunae, or that there are reasons I’m unaware of such things wouldn’t have occurred.) I feel as though the accounts Bolton’s drawing from (various Dickens society publications, it looks like?) are metropole-centric. They seem more likely to include something happening in Brighton (i.e. stroll out of Croydon: you are in Brighton now) than in Manchester (stroll out of Euston: keep going forever). It’s not until 1884 that I see Manchester in here, and it’s 1906 for Edinburgh. Can there really have been no Scottish or Lancastrian productions, even minor ones, against all these London outings? There’re very active trade publications for actors in this period which discuss ‘provincial’ productions–I wonder if DD is cross-referenced with these, and with extra-London theatrical archives? I also can’t believe Australia and Canada aren’t staging productions earlier and more prolifically than is here reported.

SOME NOTES ON BOLTON’S LISTING:

  • It omits a lot of productions, as I suspected it would: the internet has made this job so, so much easier.
  • In 1914 a production got ditched for more patriotic fare, which is interesting because it indicates a conception of Dickens as insufficiently nationalistic. I wouldn’t necessarily have thought that. Perhaps DC just isn’t ‘blood and thunder’ enough, but still, when you think literary nationalism you think of Shakespeare beyond and outside of Henry IV and the Richard II speech. You think of a whole idea of Shakespeare-osity.
  • It’s interesting how earlier formulations of DC center ‘Em’ly’. If that happened today I might consider it a feminist gesture, but at the time it seems to have been about finding the melodrama in DC. So many theatrical productions look to be her story. That fallen woman redemption arc did work for these audiences in a way it just doesn’t or can’t for me. Sure they had to scrub some serial numbers, but when they chose to obscure and condense, for them this was a key element. I don’t think it necessarily would be, now.
  • In theatrical terms Steerforth and Uriah used to be considered character parts, and David a male ingenue.
  • Young David was sometimes, initially very often, a trousers role, i.e. played by a woman or child (as in a panto). Some American productions do it too. Grown David was seemingly always played by a man. This might make Betsey’s ‘I wish you’d been a girl!’ almost a visual gag?
  •  ‘1870 at Theatre Royal, Croydon’ ayyyy (I live in Croydon)
  • Three French theatrical versions crossed over DC and Oliver Twist.
  • A 1930 play in Budapest includes Dickens as narrator, a la Muppet Christmas Carol.
  • A 1933 version played to Wandsworth Prison. Dickens would have liked that.
  • There was an Australian opera called David and Dora.
  • WE MEET AGAIN, UNCLE TERRY! Terrance Dicks produced a BBC Copperfield. Who and Dickens always have a kinship.
  • Dora was almost universally cut from early adaptations.

Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 02.32.42

Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 02.33.41

Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 02.35.52

Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 03.08.59

As a final note, Bolton briefly mentions a 1981 American musical Copperfield. Here is a hilariously mean review of this apparently abysmal production.

“This is the kind of musical that sends you out of the theater humming every score other than the one you’ve just heard.” lol

“often incoherently told melodrama in which all the villains literally wear black.” To be fair at least two of them (the Heeps) canonically do that for plot reasons, but point taken.
“Barrie Ingham’s Uriah, who looks like an attenuated porcupine with red quills, makes the most of his inevitable song (” ‘Umble”) and gets the evening’s two laughs. One could picture him being quite jolly in a Christmas pantomime at the London Palladium.”
— Could one? I’m interested
— 1981 was a halcyon time, when an NYT theatre critic might be expected to know what the flying dutchman a pantomime was.
Advertisements

Oblique Reviews: In Summary

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

I’m so amazed and delighted you have come through, traveler–that you have kept up your strength through all 56 Oblique B/A fic reviews! In a way, the activity would be pointless without our pausing here to draw some conclusions. So, here are some notes. (Please feel free to comment with your own.)

Almost immediately, we can pick up on Oblique’s House Style. Edgelordy, with shades of But Of Course It Can Never Be. Inevitable Doom, Mandatory 90s Promiscuity (see also: 90s comics). Darkness is Adult (see also: 90s comics–these trends aren’t developing in isolation from the culture). Glasgow writes a significant amount of these fics. She gives us a lot of ‘Avon and Vila have known each other a long while’ (totally undeveloped in these stories in question as an reading of the source text) and a significant number of B/A/V triangles. I would say that overall, Oblique is no better written than your average zine. Out of this run of 57 stories there are perhaps 5 really exceptional works and 10 additional pieces of respectable competence. That’s not–a good average. It’s significantly worse than some, and the monotony of the ways the house can displease exerts extra wear and tear on your correspondent, who positively fought through her way through some of these stories.

What it is is ‘gritty’, in that way that often passes for ‘harder-hitting, more thoughtful, riskier and more skilful’ than more sentimental offerings. In case it needs saying, the artistic capital and seriousness we afford to Darkness!! is bullshit. There is nothing a priori better written, more thoughtful, or even more IC/truer to this text about an Oblique fic versus a piece of fluff. ‘Grimdarkness’ has its own ideology and purposes: it’s not simply ‘more realistic’ than other fiction traditions. In fact it’s quite marked, loud in its biases and at times obvious in its objectives. ‘Realism’ is itself a mode, and not the end-all be-all goal of fiction, but don’t let anyone tell you Grittiness has a unique claim to access and represent art or life.  There is nothing sexier or more morally necessary or more intellectually challenging or more fun about that register, per se. Oblique’s sort of shared-world is not a particularly reliable or authoritative interpretation of the characters and canon.

I hope I’ve shown at a few points that a lot of what Oblique takes as read is actually not terribly established fanon, which we accept unblinkingly because it’s been said so many times, with such complacent knowledge. A wider diversity of readings and tones and an interaction with the source-text less fettered by this not particularly great aspect of our fic tradition is both possible and desirable. There is good stuff to be gleaned from Oblique, but to have let it dominate fandom to the extent it has, for as long as it has (and don’t make the mistake of thinking it vanished when Judith, Nova and Willa turned up: it was still alive in that era’s work, and is still with us now) is frankly silly. We’re not exactly at ‘de-colonise your mind’ levels of seriousness here, but do try and think of where you’re impacted by this, and about what it would be to relate to canon without these frames, without readers trained to expect and writers trained to recapitulate them. It’s HARD for me, personally, but one has to start somewhere.

NOTES:

  • B/A/V is almost always really unkind and damaging to all three characters. It can but rarely come to any good. Perhaps it could be balanced better, but I do not care to discover if this three-way is salvageable. I think Good A/V and Good B/A (no point talking about B/V: a non-thing) operate on too different of registers, perhaps, for that mingling to be particularly successful (or possibly in different genres–they might each hinge on very different readings of the text).
  • Editor’s notes are difficult to do well, and before engaging in any such thing you should ask questions about audience and intent. Who is this for, what do you wish it to do, and will it accomplish that? Editor’s notes are a feature of the publication or era, though, and you don’t have to worry about them (in fandom, at least) much anymore. (SFF, maybe.)
  • It’s kind of odd how little variation there is in Oblique: it feels like there are relatively few story types. For the most part these aren’t plot-heavy fics, and the emotional arcs fall into only a few camps. The team knew what they liked and what they wanted to read and publish (again, and again, and again).
  • It’s interesting how many one-offs there are, and how many people have only a few appearance within these pages (at least under these pen names). Even someone great like Jane Baron has so few fics!
  • The way zines came out must have REALLY exerted a strong influence over your development as a fic writer. It must really have really affected your ability to hit your stride, to expand out, to shake up your typical schtick, etc. I don’t know that I’d want to be judged on my first three fics in the fandom. It’s also very odd to think that I’ve easily written more even than Nova, who I think of as a Big Name, and in a shorter time, in part probably just because I can hit ‘post’ and she couldn’t. TBH I’m obviously Me off the bat in my first B7 fics, showing some indication that I’d come to write the sort of stuff I’m writing now, but that’s also BECAUSE I was in Who first, and this was not my first rodeo. The way I thought about and wrote the pairing developed immensely over the course of multiple publishing opportunities. Not so much via feedback, here, outside of immediate conversations with friends, but that was certainly true of my time in Who.
  • It’s easy to see that Oblique has a house style, but we can similarly detect and discuss the house style and operating assumptions of lj comms, lj as a platform, Ao3, given fandoms, given pairings, etc. And perhaps we ought to? They shape fics and trends, and merit analysis.
  • Even as the ghost of Oblique haunts us still, it’s in some ways almost unfair to say there’s a continuity between what this magazine was doing and us now. We received a tradition, sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly, via reading, but we’re not in the same spaces or the same medium. We don’t share the same level of access to material (this is the elephant in the room when talking about Oblique: did they have good access to visual copies and transcripts?), the same assumptions, the same social moment of queerness or the same social conditions of fandom: are we the same pairing? There are a few people knocking around who remember these people, but they aren’t them, and I have no such direct contact. Is there a meaningful sense in which we’re equally ‘the B/A community’, or the SAME B/A community? Or are we into the realm of imagined affective trans-historical queer communities?
  • The serious weirdness of Americans looking at Britain and the Edwardian class-fetishism of these fics has me in my ‘write a paper’ feelings, but no one needs ‘Britpickier: Figurations of British Class in Fanfic’.
  • I’m really uncomfortable with what a lot of these fics, Glasgow’s in particular, want to do with Vila’s class position. It gives me deep cringe, and I’m about as sure as I can be that that’s down to the feeling of exoticism/fetish than a straightforward manifestation of classism on my part.
  • You cannot have your cake and eat it too. You cannot make Avon victimised and blameless and cool and really in control and a moral authority and amoral!sexy. You have to, for the sake and duration of the fic, choose your Avon and also your (tyrant vs manchild vs canon) Blake. This can be complicated or, if you’re careful, ambivalent or uncertain, but that shit’s for advanced players who’ve mastered the basics. What you can’t be is: serving a pizza topped with cake topped with sushi topped with thai green curry because you wanted to eat out and you wanted the best of EVERYTHING at once and you have a primitive desire for fusion cuisine. I don’t want to eat that, no one does.
  • Likewise, you cannot have Blake ALWAYS be wrong so Avon is ALWAYS right, or whatever it is you want. You can’t bend the plot and the moral weight thereof around how you want a character to come off: you can write a plot that facilitates what you want, but you can’t just assign meaning where you want it to fall.
  • THIS SHIT IS NOT EVEN HEALTHY FOR YOUR BELOVED WOOB, WHO YOU ARE TRYING TO USE IT TO VENERATE. When you impoverish a character in the fic via bashing, every action and decision connected to that character is dragged in a different direction accordingly. This is true anywhere: you can’t have awful cunt Buffy and ‘loving refugees from her awfulness’ Spander without raising questions as to why Xander is friends with Buffy, and Spike obsessed with her. You are saying things about the characters you like, their circumstances and persons and relationships, in saying something about other figures in the story who their lives are intertwined with. The more weight you want that bashed character to bear, the more distorting the effects of this decision. It does less to the story to be mean to Tarrant in an S3 fic than it does to be mean to Blake in an S2 fic, if the focus of your relationship is Avon’s Choices, because Avon’s S3 choices and actions are less involved with Tarrant than his S2 choices and actions were with Blake. Also, being mean is sour and distasteful, potentially alienating some readers and limiting your reading of the text/impoverishing your own story: do it with caution. On the other hand, however, to some extent a rising tide does lift all boats. Avon looks better when Blake looks better. Mutually-constructed competence is a neat plot mechanic and also a great character mechanic. It’s also canon, not just in that both these characters ARE competent but also in that Boucher does this trick all the time (Redemption has some good examples).
  • Trying to scrub out all your beloved woob’s faults and to consistently locate the sympathy of the whole moral universe with him evacuates and deranges said woob as surely as the worst character bashing. It is really violent?
  • For an example of what Oblique-hangover has done to fandom: You cannot post the MOST candy-ass Nice Blake without people rolling up to say they loved how Blake was dark and terrible and probably beating a puppy in this one. Meanwhile THERE IS LITERALLY NOTHING YOU CAN WRITE AVON DOING THAT ANYONE WILL ASCRIBE EVEN AN INSTANT’S BLAME TO.  If Oblique has one lasting legacy, it is these particular bad B, A and B/A characterisations and dynamics, which are now hard-wired in reception. I am exhausted by this weaksauce meme that constantly crops up in what I read and in responses to my own work. The emperor is nude. Kirk doesn’t actually fuck that many women. Ferrero Rocher aren’t even really fancy. THAT THING ABOUT LEAVING FOOD TO COOL BEFORE REFRIGERATING IT IS AN URBAN LEGEND!!
  • We think of plot as determining the course of a story’s possibilities, and also about genre doing this, to some extent. We’re also willing to discuss the writer in this capacity: Bob Holmes wouldn’t do X, Nova would do Y. But we don’t necessarily account similarly for mood. There’s an Indian theory of aesthetics wherein ‘mood’ is the fundamental interpretive category, the thing announced and appreciated. I’m thinking about that in re: Oblique fic. The house mood of the venue/the pieces is perhaps THE THING determining where these plots can go and what stuff will mean, and sympathy with this house mood is perhaps the chief factor and deciding whether you as a reader will ‘Buy In’ and successfully engage with a fic. In Oblique fic, whatever happens will be constrained by that pervasive But It Can Never Be. Even ostensibly happy Oblique fics almost seem to need to nod to this.
    Perhaps more could be said about mood as determinative in other art expressions?

Oblique Reviews #11

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

STORY: The Things We Do for Love
MUSE OF FIRE RESPONSIBLE: M. Fae Glasgow
HAS POOR VILA BEEN DRAGOONED INTO THIS SHITSHOW? Vila, but almost as a prop? He’s so not psychologically important to this story.
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? Avon has been too sex-abused, Blake is too stupid for life.
EDITOR’S NOTE: a weird dare to leave this section alone I wish I could take
PROSE: In the initial section she can’t reconcile herself to the fact that the voyeuristic POV she’s chosen means giving up on some experiential details of the sex. She wants the frisson and surprise of the having the telling given over to an observer, but also to give readers all the details of the porn. Which–undercuts both modes, to be honest? It could have been better managed with a more omniscient narrator, capable of dipping into the three people in the room.

We’re in ‘the big rebel’ lands.

The descriptions are at times quite competent, if businesslike. ‘Cream’ and ‘lifeseed’ though. ‘The timbre of his voice was indigo velvet’. Cause with a capital C.
OVERALL: This story loses me at ‘hello’ with something about Blake, in Avon’s room prying on legit business, hiding in the closet when Avon comes in. Metaphorically it’s very slightly amusing, but come the fuck on, Roj Blake lifestyle revolutionary doesn’t hide in the closet when he believes himself to be Right and on Necessary Business. Duh. Duh! ALL THIS IN THE FIRST PARAGRAPH. WHICH IS NOT YET DONE!

Cod Freud Cally–my old nemesis. We meet again! She is here to provide a Womanly Explanation of All This. WHY IS ALIEN CALLY THE DOYEN OF THE BIG BAD UNDERBELLY OF FEDERATION SOCIETY??

Apparently Avon is SO FREE with information about his life, but Blake just won’t ask, he won’t SEE!! It’s fucking ridiculous I’m sorry. Why do such violence to Blake and Avon alike to make this story work? Key traits Blake has to lose for this story to function: perceptiveness, emotional intelligence (inconsistent but definitely something he has a lot of at times), assertiveness, pragmatism, concern for his ship/work/life/lives of his friends, resourcefulness, experience of the world, intelligence, sense of humour. BLAKE responds to Cally informing him that Vila was abandoned as a child with “but the social services–“, as if Blake has any reason whatever to trust the state. As if he doesn’t know the shit the state gets up to, and as if his entire life is not dedicated to unseating it. Even if Blake were unaware of this detail of their fuckery, it would never, ever surprise him. Glasgow brings it back a little with ‘oh he’d heard shit like this before’, but you can’t have Blake be a rube and an arse in this sense and then back-read in plausibility and THEN strip Blake’s experience out again for the next paragraph. Where was her beta??

Key traits Avon has to lose to make the story function include his general reserve or guardedness. He also wobbles between being a Metatron speaking with the Voice of God, tuned in to the authorial fiat re: how psychology works in this story, and randomly utterly unwilling to act on his own insights of a moment ago. How good was this story, that the writer wanted to strip down the characters this completely to get here? Could it have been told about anyone, really, so long as class distinctions and the bdsm frame were preserved?

It most annoys me that this fic makes awkward little stabs towards thinking seriously about Blake as a subject, and indeed marshals them into its greater project of dehumanising Blake in order to tell a story about the self-help book sexual psychology it’s so invested in. Is this really elitist of me? It’s not necessary that someone have done a lot of work on psychoanalysis to write a fucking fanfic, and what I’m demanding from them is a treatment of the subject that satisfies someone who’s read up on it to a grad school level. The demographics of earlier and current fandom have shifted, there–this education level is more common in fandom now, and in part it’s due to larger cultural shifts in the discourse and the availability of higher ed to women (the primary readers and writers in this field). I guess what I’d ask is that the stories, regardless of their era of composition, not FOCUS on this if they’re going to do it really badly: not come out swinging and didactic and complacent in their knowledge, offering one absolute solution and interpretation of people and their actions within the world they’ve created, and having that solution be this facile.

‘Somehow, it seemed worse for Avon.’ And therein lies the poisonous strain of ‘imperial woobie’ that has fucked this fandom more thoroughly than any other single thing. Vila’s been orphaned and made a child prostitute. And yet, ‘somehow’, Avon’s porcelain-throated pain is more important, don’t you see? Sadder, sexier. He’s like a poor suffering Edwardian mite, simultaneously feminised into a towered princess and in full retention of the rights and privileges of a class-coded masculine subjectivity. This may seem a stretch, but as a friend pointed out, “I think that “somehow it seemed worse” is like at the core of SO MUCH racist discourse now etc”. Exactly?

In this particular story, the ‘abuse by someone he trusted and loved’ being uniquely bad makes a kind of sense, sure. But we can’t divorce this from the whole territory of Avonistan, a land in which it is always, ‘somehow’, worse when things happen to a character cathected in these particular ways.

I just can’t fucking stand stories that take Blake elaborately to task for objectifying and using the others and leave the rest of the crew’s motivations untouched. They are all on a prison ship to start with. They collectively escape. They are collectively on the run. They collectively choose to stay here rather than run off, either because they don’t wish to or don’t feel it would be safe. They don’t have to do as Blake says–really, they physically do not. Cally isn’t shooting Vila for mutiny. They are all using each other, and that’s both interesting if you’re going to get into it and boring because it’s normal. In your job, in your social circle, everyone is similarly entwined. Calling Blake out here!! Is not provocative, it’s a slightly awkward stubborn misreading of the spirit of the text to no certain purpose. It’s also the. dumbest. double standard.

This is one of the MANY stories of this era that thinks a history of sexual abuse is like, a cool dark past character enhancer, and to be honest that fic trope is as dull as it’s disgusting. Because it is a fetishising of Avon’s woobie status, as constructed by assault–it’s glamorising and voyeuristic and frankly wholly unlike dealing with real child sexual assault victims, while the story’s off lauding itself on its dark grittiness. And yes, romance and fic aren’t always realistic and hard-hitting, and that’s not even necessarily a bad thing, and yes, fic should be able to explore anything, but I’m also calling shenanigans on this whole trend of fic that locates character and its own authority as a story in this very real issue and then handles that issue in this cack-handed way, while assuming a tone of smug lecturing superiority and/or racking up Gritty Coolness Points on these terms.

STORY: The Truth Will Out
MUSE OF FIRE RESPONSIBLE: M. Fae Glasgow
HAS POOR VILA BEEN DRAGOONED INTO THIS SHITSHOW? —
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? because they knew each other before and Blake didn’t tell him about the rebellion and Avon got interrogated and raped a lot because of him and has internalized homophobia and Anna Angst and also now Blake’s a bitch for poorly-explained reasons. Also Avon is cross about having been forgotten. It’s been a Time.
EDITOR’S NOTE: stupid but short (like Vila, Avon sneered)
PROSE: awkward
OVERALL: Is this a Wila fic? Because it wants to be several different stories and throws out too many lures and idk where I am now even (but, as Aralias points out, if this were a Wila fic, Blake would be cleverer and nicer, and the ending wouldn’t be a stupid GAUDA PRIME IS COMING!! wink wink bullshit thing (Aralias didn’t say that last, that was me)).

STORY: Virtual Reality
MUSE OF FIRE RESPONSIBLE: Sebastian
HAS POOR VILA BEEN DRAGOONED INTO THIS SHITSHOW? —
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? The ending is a bit ???, but they are deeply (and damagingly–it makes both of them do unwise, risky, morally dubious things) in love with one another, and even though it can be a very bad idea Blake seems to get that there’s no back-button on this, it’s something they have to work with (I kind of wonder whether they’ll try some of Avon’s Things now, and whether that’ll make Avon, at least in the moment, SUPER pleased–though was it the VR that was losing its charm versus Actual Blake, or was it *being* the sadist in the equation?)
EDITOR’S NOTE: ‘Here is a chain of events, of interlocking actions that, once begun, lead to a promised ultimate doom’ ahahah oh Oblique, that’s everything you do p much/same
PROSE: actually very good
OVERALL: So Avon’s sadistic and makes himself virtual-reality fan videos about Blake, who he’s kind of obsessed with. Vila finds out and there’s social awkwardness/tension.

I really like Avon’s reaction to Vila finding out, that’s consistently well done.

Nice writing. Especially great physicality for Avon.

One saving grace of this fic is that it doesn’t think Blake’s dumb. That just FORCES the fic to go better directions. Interestingly the narrative voice is unusually loud, and unusually with Blake.

Time/event-flow is a bit awkward in this. How long have they been fooling around before Blake watches the tape?

I don’t really have a problem with Blake watching the disc–they’re dating, he’s been told it’s About Him, he’s expected here, he wants to watch it to make Avon happy–feels like an honest mistake. Though I have real trouble with the idea of Avon’s pornography as equivalent to a physical violation? The fic takes that contention fairly seriously.

I really like ‘I was supposed to be enjoying it, was I?’/’Didn’t it look as if you were?’ There’s a sort of–wistfulness to that. All along the back of this fic I sort of feel an intense emotional craving, maybe two-way: it works for me. The whole axis of ‘normal’ sexuality is interesting here, as is Avon’s comment about inadequacy, and the fact that he’d *say* it. The closing conversations end up being really powerful, even if I do think–everyone in this fic acts like fairly hardcore sadism is CRAZY RARE, rather than… something within the compass of imagination/practice?

I could do with a bit more thought/emotional arc from them re: WHY they are crazy in love.

I enjoy this story and think it does valuable things in the fandom even if it’s not *exactly* my cuppa.

STORY: The Warm Patch
MUSE OF FIRE RESPONSIBLE: Adrian Alexander
HAS POOR VILA BEEN DRAGOONED INTO THIS SHITSHOW? —
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? They had sex once and Avon is afraid to sex again because the Feelings will come for him. Then they do sex again. And Avon’s like ‘oh I can’t love you, there is no love within me!!’ and the story seems to think this is a factual statement, rather than in direct contradiction with the immediately-preceding motives and events. Then they’re not going to have sex again because Avon thinks it’ll only hurt them both. Even though there is no love within him. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
EDITOR’S NOTE: baffling
PROSE: fine
OVERALL: Avon ‘killed and cooked a bird’ for them. Series 1 Avon. … ……….if you fucking. say so.

God I’m so tired of under-explained It Can Never Be. The through-line here needs work. Perhaps the story needs a stronger editorial hand? This is something I often think about Oblique, but I’m not sure where beta tradition was then.

STORY: Witness
MUSE OF FIRE RESPONSIBLE: Jane Baron
HAS POOR VILA BEEN DRAGOONED INTO THIS SHITSHOW? Vila
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? They can be together! Good for them. Bad for Vila. Oh well, so long as someone’s made miserable! ****Oblique****
EDITOR’S NOTE: no
PROSE: good
OVERALL: I don’t think this does Vila any favours, and I think he’s cooler than this, but it’s NICE sex writing and kind of unusual for the pairing/an interesting outsider perspective. It’s decent to Blake even while being too SPECIAL SPECIAL AVON!!

This feels like it COULD be post-Fugue? Possibly?

STORY: You’re It: A Game of Tag, Part I
MUSE OF FIRE RESPONSIBLE: Caroline Dare
HAS POOR VILA BEEN DRAGOONED INTO THIS SHITSHOW? Vila
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? They can be together, but also with other people. It’s nice, but casual and low stakes
EDITOR’S NOTE:

Screen Shot 2017-01-23 at 06.28.40.png

fuck you specifically, this editor’s note

PROSE: fine
OVERALL: It’s fine, but a bit–what’s the point/90s ‘everyone is having casual sex with everyone for no reason really, just de facto and without consequences’. The sex is all right?

WE ARE DONE. DONE. WE MADE IT. WE HAVE ONLY THE SUMMARY, NOW. OH HAPPY DAY! OH, CONGRATULATIONS TO ANY SURVIVORS!!

Oblique Reviews #10

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

STORY: Should Auld Acquaintance.
MUSE OF FIRE RESPONSIBLE: M. Fae Glasgow
HAS POOR VILA BEEN DRAGOONED INTO THIS SHITSHOW? Vila
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? More Vila. I guess Blake didn’t quite know about all the organ harvesting.
EDITOR’S NOTE: perplexing
PROSE: see last episode
OVERALL: DOME CYCLE IV: There’s a coup and Blake’s in prison or something, I can’t be bothered to pay a lot of attention anymore.

STORY: Something to Live For
MUSE OF FIRE RESPONSIBLE: Sean Charles
HAS POOR VILA BEEN DRAGOONED INTO THIS SHITSHOW? Vila appears to be… doing his own thing and allowed to have a life??
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? They’re not, actually.
EDITOR’S NOTE: none
PROSE: fine
OVERALL: The old ‘Avon thinks he killed Blake, but it was only the clone’ saw. Then Avon’s being held, first by Servalan and then at Freedom City, as a sex slave in exchange for Vila’s continued existence. (He feels he owes Vila one/doesn’t want to be the reason his last remaining friend/crew-member/responsibility gets killed off.)  Blake finds him there in a brothel, they rescue Vila and then Avon, and the future looks to be full of romance and adventure. In short, it is a story, with a plot and character relationships that make some sense and matter.

It’s not my favourite. It’s got a lot of stuff I’ve seen before, decently but not exceptionally well-executed. While the ‘making love with a prostitute in the dark and then realising you’re actually with your long-lost love’ feels Shakespeare-classic and is decently handled, it’s also a little inherently melodramatic. The story doesn’t give me enough of the emotional reactions I particularly dig to get me over that hump/make me excuse that entirely.

I want a little more of Jenna, and continue to eye-roll at Beautiful Prostitute Avon (THE MAN IS IN HIS 40s AND NOT THAT CONVENTIONALLY HOT). I wonder why I’m reading a sex scene between Vila and his brand new OC boyfriend who I don’t know or care about yet. The writer clearly has some basic story-telling/craft legs: this feels at times almost conventionally ‘episodic’. Ultimately it doesn’t do a ton for me, but not due to its being bad, really. It’s just not good enough.

STORY: A Spanking Good Time!: A Game of Tag, Part II
MUSE OF FIRE RESPONSIBLE: Caroline Dare
HAS POOR VILA BEEN DRAGOONED INTO THIS SHITSHOW? Vila (basically no Blake tbh)
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? same as p1 really, except this time weird consent dynamics–ok at the end but uncomfortable for a while
EDITOR’S NOTE: seems to be insulting the fic as well as you
PROSE: unobjectionable
OVERALL: essentially no Blake/still no point, also I never want Vila to be here for this/hate snivelling weak Vilas and prefer more fun, with-it ones (and I know this is me, but while I like Vila a lot as a character I never want to think about him having sex/don’t find him particularly sexual)

STORY: Terminus
MUSE OF FIRE RESPONSIBLE: M. Fae Glasgow
HAS POOR VILA BEEN DRAGOONED INTO THIS SHITSHOW? Vila
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? Blake is hella dead, and by the end of the fic so’s Avon.
EDITOR’S NOTE: at least it’s short
PROSE: okay? ish?
OVERALL: Too MUCH dialogue in this one. I have rarely met an almost-all-dialogue fic that worked for me. This is, like many of them, really circular–the same 4 ideas over and over.

At the end of pg 5 everything goes mad in an unproductive way. I mean maybe I could buy this Avon MO, but the all-dialogue framework gives it very little room to breathe?

Avon goes a bit interestingly crazy on page 6.

What is the /point/ of the way Vila loves him in these things? It seems just there to like–frame Avon and present him in this Glow Of Love, supposed to pass from character to story-frame to reader. And I don’t have this relationship with this character. I love Avon, sure, but I don’t want to PERSONALLY love/schtupp him, and I don’t have a great deal of or interest in Glow of Absolution. It puts me the hell off. I also feel this really evacuates him. Without his weaknesses, how can his strengths mean anything? Without his rough edges, he loses definition: who is he then, beyond a moderately attractive man cathected out of all proportion?

Asked a friend who I thought might have more insight: “idk but I will say, as someone with an official Avonistan passport, that this ALSO does not work for me”

What’s Blake up to in this fic (pre-dying, obvs)? Not sure.

Can’t really imagine Avon saying ‘crap’. One line away from ‘shall’, as well. The ‘sitting’ thing at the end is like ???

Why are we lifting a Big Blake Line for Vila here and why? Idk, feels awkward/cheap.

Another AVON AND VILA HAVE KNOWN EACH OTHER AAAAGES, I think? Which always strikes me as like–weird/why/why do you feel you don’t need to précis that at allll?

STORY: Terms of Surrender
MUSE OF FIRE RESPONSIBLE: Sean Charles
HAS POOR VILA BEEN DRAGOONED INTO THIS SHITSHOW? —
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? Avon’s been raped by Federation troops who were torturing him for information and is pissed Blake didn’t prioritize him over a LOT of people getting killed. Blake points out that

1) that was a lot of people, and
2) giving the Federation what they wanted wouldn’t have protected Avon.

Avon is worried Blake largely acted out of concern for others rather than for him, though, and finds that unacceptable. They’re still together, but Avon’s lingeringly pissed. To an extent this is fair, and to an extent it is irksome. Shit’s happening to you, it’s not really his fault, your emotions are legitimate and your own and you can have time but also be accountable for your own shit.
EDITOR’S NOTE: none
PROSE: fine
OVERALL: The ‘what would you do under torture??’ question really interests some people, and me–not even slightly. It is like saying that without food, people starve: it’s not people doing anything particularly psychologically interesting. Everyone breaks just like everyone burns when set on fire, it’s just a matter of degrees/the clothes they were wearing at the time. Yes it’s impressive if you can hold out against some torture, and yes it says something about your character, but it’s also a question of training, etc., and everyone can be broken, and what they do when broken–isn’t particularly interesting (even as you’re likely to have a richer and more nuanced conversation with someone who’s sated or even a bit hungry than you are with someone who’s starving). So any time someone has BETRAYED SOMEONE!! in these stories by breaking under torture, I just raise an eyebrow, because that’s like saying someone can betray you by getting eaten by a bear. Also I am bored. Also why do we keep doing this shit, putting pressure on a never-good-in-the-first-place idea?

Weird typographical error where lots of sentences end in ?s for no reason.

This fic sets itself up to occupy a kind of complicated emotional place and make some weird manoeuvres therein, and that’s fine, but ultimately I’m not feeling the emotional through-line as well as I ought to be? I think I’d have to like–actively beta this before I could suss out how to tighten everything.

Oblique Reviews #9

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

STORY: Revolution
MUSE OF FIRE RESPONSIBLE: M. Fae Glasgow writing as Cally Donia
HAS POOR VILA BEEN DRAGOONED INTO THIS SHITSHOW? —
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? They used to fuck and now Avon’s mad that Blake wants to Star One. But maybe they stopped fucking before Blake started Star One-ing bc idk Avon was afraid of love, and also of how Blake was doing what Blake always said was his mo: drinking milkshakes and fighting Tories (and he’s all out of ice cream)
EDITOR’S NOTE: patronizing about something literally no one should get to be patronizing about
PROSE: everything about the way it is determined to use the Beetles makes me want to die
OVERALL:

This is a fic which is determined to ‘cleverly’ use Beatles quotes in every. goddamn. line. of. dialogue. Run. Save yourself. It is too late for Erin. She was like a blackbird, singing in the dead of night–

So Avon in this gets to be the moral voice of reason, which is interesting bc he said fuck all at Control. Also… man it’s awk when people give Avon this job. Like, what he does in the script is one thing, though Boucher’s attempt to seriously reframe what was /nothing/ in a Nation script is kind of ambivalent and unconvincing (and Avon isn’t objecting circa Albion, Gambit, etc.–no one is? This annoys me about the end of S2 a lot), but this more aggressive moral defence from Avon is REALLY another, and seems uncomfortably like giving Avon unearned moral authority. Now, I like a soft, sopping-wet knight-errant Avon. I can be sold on this with little effort. But you do have to like… set up a stall and offer merchandise. At least LET ME BUY IN to Moral Avon!!

As time passes, I grow to increasingly resent Oblique’s interest in very deliberately laying out pretentious/unusual words like choice dainties. ‘an expression that would have been ingenuous on a face less roué than Avon’s’ shit like this is what made me punchable in high school (this isn’t even–like, does he HAVE a ‘roué’ face??)

REALLY circular, and a lot of stuff that doesn’t–actually mean much, seemingly here to make the conceit work and/or because Glasgow always wants to write arguments and is amazingly bad at it.

An allusion that doesn’t come off is like egg whites that won’t froth: really fucking frustrating and pointless, leaving me hungry for the macaron of competence that never comes.

STORY: Rise…
MUSE OF FIRE RESPONSIBLE: M. Fae Glasgow writing as Cally Donia
HAS POOR VILA BEEN DRAGOONED INTO THIS SHITSHOW? Vila
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? Because Avon is with Vila
EDITOR’S NOTE: none
PROSE: eh, fine
OVERALL: This isn’t really… funny enough? And it doesn’t have enough of a point? I mean I am not its intended audience, this is an Avon/Vila fic that is kind of mislabeled, and that’s actively not my ship. But even granted that, this is 3 pages of ‘why have I read this, I don’t think I’d like this if I shipped it’. At least it was only 3 pages of that, though. Elsewhere, I cannot trust Oblique writers and editors not to pad.

STORY: Romancing the Stone
MUSE OF FIRE RESPONSIBLE: M. Fae Glasgow writing as Cally Fornia Donia
HAS POOR VILA BEEN DRAGOONED INTO THIS SHITSHOW? —
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? Avon doesn’t want Blake and Blake is dumb as fuck.
EDITOR’S NOTE: written, by the, popular idea of, William Shatner (the rhythm is fucked)
PROSE: Tee-hee cutesey at times: ‘these demure pages’. And if there is a tone that causes me to kill swaths of men, it is…
OVERALL: I get bored of back-and-forth ‘he did x, but HE say it was y!! lololololol’ reeeeal fast. It’s like–a bad sketch routine. What it feels like, despite the ‘risqué’ (gag) content, is the sort of children’s show comedy you used to get in the 80s and 90s in America, that sort of unfunny standup for children? Like, if Avon doesn’t want to fuck Blake in this story, that’s all good in the hood, but this I DO NOT UNDERSTAND YOUR CARTOONISH OVERTURES?!?!? wouldn’t make sense in a hyper-Victorian social universe, much less in one that contains Toyes. Why would very-British Blake have a cowboy fixation? He’s not German. Why are they suddenly at a shit version of Big Cedar Lodge, when earlier they were going to the most expensive hotel on the planet–which seemed more to Avon’s taste? If Avon himself was off appreciating the luxury brothel market, how did he get into a /bar fight/? Page 7, Avon’s like, well Blake’s not thinking rn!! But he’s been on this track for like a literal week so… clearly Blake decided this while in sound-ish mind.

Disgusted Avon at some point held a position in academia. that The poor fucking MA students who had to suffer him… frankly, I’d have sued.

STORY: The Room
MUSE OF FIRE RESPONSIBLE: M. Fae Glasgow
HAS POOR VILA BEEN DRAGOONED INTO THIS SHITSHOW? —
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? Avon won’t even talk to him about the sex they’re having and their relationship (it turns out because being with Blake is too much of an emotional and physical risk). The end is esp wanky re: this.
EDITOR’S NOTE: none
PROSE: at once better and worse than ususal
OVERALL: This is actually pretty fair to Blake for once, allowing him to have thoughts and emotions that matter and that are not ridiculous. It’s a fairy visual, evocative piece, and the emotions are kind of interesting (esp. because Blake is allowed to actually exist for once–I SWEAR fic is better, even just for Avon, when Blake is better). I like how long it takes Avon to piece himself back together afterwards. A no-dialogue fic: always annoying.

STORY: Rosetta Stone  *DIRE TRIGGER WARNING: DISCUSSIONS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT, UNDER AGE*
MUSE OF FIRE RESPONSIBLE: M. Fae Glasgow
HAS POOR VILA BEEN DRAGOONED INTO THIS SHITSHOW? —
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? Maybe not, but even if they are, the reasons are fairly fucking convincing. More below. Because this is a good story, this can’t be summed up easily.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Strange triangle. A kerning error briefly made me believe women would in some way be important in this story. As ever in this zine: no. Alas, it was ‘two men’, but smushy. Story of my Oblique life.
PROSE: very acceptable
OVERALL: I almost find it hard to believe this is by the same Glasgow who wrote all the others. It feels more like a Sebastian fic (or Jane Barron? Vanessa Mullen?). Seriously, either this is someone else subbing covertly under Glasgow’s popular pen-name, possibly because of quite how controversial the material is, or Glasgow is capable of writing very, very well at times. She has some decently-crafted, mid-tier fics in with all the A/V/B, so it’s not out of the realm?

Right, so this story is very good for several reasons. Essentially, via a sympathetic but unsparing close Blake POV, we learn along with him that he actually does desire children (which of course picks up on the first episode’s accusations along those lines). He works out that, logistically, he can’t actually have hurt the children he was accused of hurting, but he still doesn’t really know whether his desires were created artificially, whether they’re the result of some trauma or  whether they derive from something innate in him. It ultimately doesn’t really matter: Blake is stuck dealing with this sexuality (and it is an entire, consuming sexuality rather than an isolated, controllable interest) regardless, left trying to retain his sanity, lead a moral life and take steps to protect any children they run across from himself.

I might have appreciated a couple lines where Blake thought about and dismissed his in-universe options for psychological intervention, but in general this is a really compelling treatment of his problem that lets you inhabit his discomfort and intense desire without working to sexualise and render acceptable the unmediated acts under consideration. It’s at times very hard to read because of this: pedophilia is generally disturbing and a vast personal squick for me, and I had to go through the story twice to be sure I was giving it a fair hearing.

The other risk of fic that foregrounds kink, making it the locus of a character’s or the story’s sexuality, is that the people involved and peculiarity of their relationship will be subsumed, and the story will become ‘any two guys, spanking’, etc. Not so here. This–and here we hit on the ‘why they are doomed this week’ stuff–feels intensely personal to these people, and if I don’t quite share the author’s characterisations (or at least the characterisations she employed to make the fic work), I nevertheless understand them as valid readings of the text. Despite the Blake-focus of the pov, this story nonetheless provides an unusual and convincing Avon who displays qualities I don’t normally associate with him, yet which are familiar. It’s charged and tense: Rosetta Stone doesn’t lose the frisson of this relationship within the altered structure of the kink dynamic. This is a story about the fulfilment or devastation these people might be able to bring one another, not just these sexual practices.

I love that I have no idea quite what Avon wants, here. Initially he presents himself to Blake as interested in BDSM, so willing to make a sort of ‘unusual sex’ tit-for-tat trade. He pressures Blake into it in this interesting, manipulative, topping from the bottom way. I’m not sure that claim was ever quite true, though, given that their later sex doesn’t fall into that pattern. Is Avon just interested in subbing? Was Avon abused as a child, sexually or otherwise, and is this a safe or accessible way of coping with/managing the desires those experiences left him with? Is it instead a remarkably compatible kink he happens to want or need independent of such a history? Does Avon simply desire/love Blake, and see this as a means of getting in there, of making himself indispensable and privy to the secret and giving Blake what he needs? A way of experiencing love while retaining control?To what extent is it a power thing? A way, as Blake hypothesises, of experiencing a love not easily compatible with who he thinks of himself as and presents himself as in the world? I can’t definitively say, but in a really productive way, I think.

So, will this accommodation, when they finally reach it, prove stable? Neither of them really know. Everything is complicated by the fact that they do love each other (the conclusion feels a bit like the end of the Sebastian fic with the virtual reality bdsm, there). Outside the fic, I wonder what happens as Avon ages or becomes harder, as per canon–the fic alludes a little to changes in him over time, but can’t nod to what it can’t yet see. I’m interested in how this plays out, in what can become of them in this universe, in whether they can find some way of sustaining both the theatre (and it is well-done, mutualistic performance) and their interpersonal dynamics outside of the bedroom (which are influenced by and connected to this kink-play, but not wholly reducible to or explained by it).

Essentially, this fic needed written at some point, by someone. There was a spectre haunting fandom: what if the Federation had had some starting point for their allegations? A few fics teased and abandoned this as one of a host of accusations tossed about in fights between Blake and his opponents, principally Avon, but none of them ever worked with and through the idea fully. I don’t want many more fics like this at all, but I think the idea deserved one principled exegesis, and this is it. It’s handled with remarkable sensitivity and skill. It doesn’t engage in either easy moralistic condemnation or even a shred of exculpation for the violation the acts Blake contemplates would be for their victims.

If this is Glasgow’s (and not to be a bitch, but I do question it because it’s such a tier above many of her fics, and I could see why you’d want not only to deny authorship but to actively deflect suspicion thereof in this case), then it’s not ‘so good it justifies all the badfic’, but I think it might well be far and away her best. It also almost makes sense of Oblique, in and of itself. All the camp Hot Topic pretend darknessss and edgelording here has a point: this is a story few other zines would or could have run. It answers a lingering question skilfully, and builds something powerful out of it. If more Oblique worked this well I wouldn’t begrudge the house-standard harshness and muck–but then I think the harshness of this story is expertly balanced by the feeling and vulnerability herein, and that it wouldn’t work half so well as a hit piece. THIS HAS BEEN THE MORAL OF ALL MY MOANING ABOUT CHARACTER-ASSASSINATION IN FAVOUR OF UPLIFTING YOUR WOOBIE, BTW. IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: SYMPATHY GETS YOU THERE BETTER.

All the background plot stuff also works well. (Except VILA is supposedly really coming on to Blake, as well as Jenna? ??? Also, a bit of crap Jealous Jenna in this.)

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.

Oblique Reviews #7

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

STORY: Lovers and Madmen: Unravelment
MUSE OF FIRE RESPONSIBLE: M. Fae Glasgow
HAS POOR VILA BEEN DRAGOONED INTO THIS SHITSHOW? Vila
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? Blake is conditioned to destroy anyone who shows him love, like the victim of a shite fairy tale curse
EDITOR’S NOTE: so amazingly awful I c/p a small portion of it here:

Screen Shot 2017-01-19 at 10.00.57.png
what did I fucking say last time about what this one would probably do? no. lies.

PROSE: I have also provided a sample of purple prose, the unfun form of lavender menace:

Screen Shot 2017-01-19 at 23.47.42.png

Also, ‘samesexers’ and ‘bisexers’. :/

Avon uses ‘crap’, which, unlikely.

‘Beautifully hollowed buttock’ the fuck?

In general, the prose is somewhat more than usually irksome this time aroung.

OVERALL: This is technically interesting, as it’s basically someone doing a remix of her own fic, which I don’t think would happen again in B7 fandom until last year (fandom in general didn’t really take up that remix form, as the concept solidified).

So Blake is conditioned, etc., and responds to seeing Vila and Avon together and hearing them talk about inviting him to bed with them with crazy rage and a desire to destroy them. He briefly is like ‘wait, this isn’t me’ and fights off the conditioning, but then it pops back. I don’t find conditioning terribly interesting as a plot device: here it means Blake isn’t responsible for any of this. This is like when a falling rock hits someone, knocking them dead, and then that body falls on and hits someone else. The character and agency of the corpse are totally removed from the story. Anyway, Conditioned!Blake then decided to give Avon the BDSM Avon’s secretly been craving, and in true 90s weird BDSM fascination/shaming tradition, this BDSM will be so fierce it will ruin Avon’s vanilla shag times with Vila forever: Blake’s evil dick will Turn Avon, making him crave only Bad Romance from now on. A mighty and resounding ‘k’ to all this.

Blake standing there ‘naked, monumental’ on page 8 unintentionally hilarious.

More Wagner. I loathe Wagner. Fucking fitting.

It’s kind of amazing that, having written so MUCH for this pairing, Glasgow’s work is not more varied or better. It feels, with few exceptions, like the same three stories over and over again. I’d be hard-pressed to identify the years these came from. But she CAN occasionally write something much better? Possibly she’s more competent in other fandoms.

The ‘twist’ of the ending doesn’t really work. They’re already en route to Star One, so this is no ‘development’ at all?

STORY: Mist
MUSE OF FIRE RESPONSIBLE: M. Fae Glasgow
HAS POOR VILA BEEN DRAGOONED INTO THIS SHITSHOW? Vila
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? Because Avon is on drugs and also with Vila a bit
EDITOR’S NOTE: the reader will admit’ ho u don’t know me
PROSE:  ‘want to feel a man in you, making you even more of a man yourself?’ #CockrubWarriors
OVERALL:

The order of actions and flow of time are a bit weird in this. I often feel like Glasgow could use a beta on that score.

Kind of interesting story about drug use. I feel like it could do more, but it’s not bad.

Why does drugged!Avon always say the same stuff in his passion? There’s no real reason for that to be the case.

‘the undiluted masculinity redolent around them’

Blake is so absent from this is almost shouldn’t be tagged b/a, and what their fucking means is hardly dealt with (but then what fucking Vila means isn’t really explored either).

STORY: Motif
MUSE OF FIRE RESPONSIBLE: Leigh Graham
HAS POOR VILA BEEN DRAGOONED INTO THIS SHITSHOW? Vila (Vila’s married, Blake’s dead, Avon’s fucking a houseboy)
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? I HONESTLY CAN’T FUCKING TELL YOU. RARELY HAVE I KNOWN SUCH ANNOYANCE.
EDITOR’S NOTE: informational, but delivered in an annoying way
PROSE: fine
OVERALL: A lot of characters to keep track of, introduced and dispensed with v quickly. The Sisterhood plot’s kind of insulting (going to just suggest actually that this writer… has a weird relationship to women, even if this writer is one). What HAS Avon been doing with himself for 7 years, and why would he necessarily still be technologically In Practice? His world seemed low-tech.

Oh look it’s that ‘Avon was programmed to shoot Blake!!’ chestnut. Back again. In like, STRONG form, because every post-Terminal mistake Avon made is down to this.

Vila’s going to fuck Avon despite being married, with 0 thought for his wife? I’d expect like, a sentence explaining that. I have no idea why these people are fucking–they don’t seem particularly into one another? If you said Avon was going to fuck like any of these new original characters, in /this fic/ as it’s been developed, that would literally make more sense.

Blake’s alive. He and Avon fuck. And then they stop having sex FOREVER and there is not a WORD of explanation. Not. one.

A line lifted from Five Doctors.

Of course The Men are all fucking fine, while the women are dead/absent. Of. course.

The story ends with its vast mess of plot slobbing about the place and nothing will ever make sense again.

This is supposed to be p1 of a trilogy, but I think there is only an equally bemusing p2 (which I just skimmed). Cannot say am sad for loss of this kunstwerk. Avon’s cloneson got kidnapped and Avon suddenly cared: also, Tarrant was fucked.

STORY: The Night Watch
MUSE OF FIRE RESPONSIBLE: Erszebet Bathory
HAS POOR VILA BEEN DRAGOONED INTO THIS SHITSHOW? —
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? Blake uses weird alien mind control to sleep with Avon and then thinks better of trying that again because it’s wrong.
EDITOR’S NOTE: somehow childlike
PROSE: fine
OVERALL: There’s not enough ‘why’ from Blake here, and the plot device means that Avon’s fairly absent–though you could revise this story so we’d know more about what Avon feels initially and then under the influence, and I think that’d be better. It’s essentially a vampire-thrall sort of ploy (per the wanky author name), but it’s not really doing it for me on that level, and I don’t know what this means for them.

STORY: Oh L’Amour
MUSE OF FIRE RESPONSIBLE: M. Fae Glasgow
HAS POOR VILA BEEN DRAGOONED INTO THIS SHITSHOW? Vila
WHY ARE BLAKE AND AVON DOOMED THIS WEEK? Okay, so Blake didn’t know about the Delta level shit, I guess, which makes… the whole moral weight of an earlier chapter kind of collapse… so… It’s unclear Who Avon Will Choose, but also there is only settling and misery along either path, yay, yaaaaaay
EDITOR’S NOTE: you wouldn’t think I have the ENERGY to hate these as much as I do, and yet somehow, I always seem to find it!!
PROSE: fine I guess
OVERALL: DOME CYCLE V: I like the end as a dichotomy–though I think you’d need to give Blake a bit more credit in order to make it a meaningful one. Avon is a class hero and his servants love him. And that says it all really, doesn’t it. Also, LOVE in Glasgow is like–a stupid thing that just happens to you, and I can buy a ‘you can’t control luuurve’ argument, but like, there’s no *causality* to it in this beyond a kind of physical infatuation? Which makes it less interesting/feel less real. Like, true, you can’t PERFECTLY ACCOUNT for love, but there are typically some fucking reasons it’s happening, idk. And like–this probably involves things you’re going to do with your life together (Avon enjoying hanging out at the pub all the time, for example, is a bit far-fetched). It’s like those weird scenes she’s written of Avon being bored in meetings where people talk about what to do in the wake of their successful revolution (Avon’s typically fairly interested in logistics and plans, in canon?). What does Avon like/think about in this? Who is he, considered apart from these relationships?