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September 1992


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 24 Sep 1992 19:58:29 EDT
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Several people posed questions about BLAKE'S 7, a British Science fiction
series. I want to first say that B7 has been and continues to be a major
fan interest of mine and I would recommend it to anyone who likes intelligent
science fiction with a dark edge. In many ways, the series was a response to
ST with a bad totalitarian Federation, the protagonists as subversives, and the
 relationship founded on mutual distrust rather than the "great friendship."
More to the point, the female characters are stronger than any on American
SF TV. All of this made the series tremendously attractive to the fan
communities who adopted it before it was ever aired here. The program
circulated informally via pirated videotapes. In many cases, because of the
problem of translating for the British PAL system to the American VHS, the
tapes that circulated were made by pointing a camcorder at a screen playing
the series and these were copied down multiple generations as the program's
popularity spreed outward. B7's success is the model for other fandoms such
as those around Starcops or The Professionals or The Sandbaggers or Red
Dwarf, British shows which have not aired extensively in this country. I
discuss the series extensively in the book in various contexts. As Sue
suggests, there is a heavy overlap among Slash (homoerotic) fan writers between
 Star Trek and B7. Many B7 slash fans began with Trek and moved over when
they felt they had exhausted the themes, characters, and other program
materials. To my mind, many of the most sophisticated fan writers write
in B7. There are significant differences in the fan writing which reflect
the different tone and content of the two series. B7 slash stories tend to
be much darker, focusing on the brutal competition between the men, the
problems of building trust, struggles for authority and power (as in something
 as basic as who is the top and who is the bottom) and issues of class
 relations. Star Trek slash tends to be lighter and more romantic, assumes an
basis of friendship between the male protagonists, focuses on the possability
of greater intimacy (via the mind-meld), etc. In other B7 fan writing, a
key theme is working around story events which kill off character or
threaten potential lines of narrative development of interest to fans.
Because B7 was a semi-serial rather than an episodic series, the stories
tend to be more time-specific, that is more closely anchored to specific
story events. Zines are sometimes subdivided according to the season in which
the story is set with much devoted to fifth season stories, ie. stories that
go beyond the aired narrative and rework its rather emphatic closure. What
is posed by the differences between the fan writing surrounding the two
programs is of course what role program ideology plays in shaping the
reader's appropriation of program materials. I stress the resistant and
creative reworking of program materials in the book, but it is certainly
clear that fans respond to parimeters set by the original series, at least
as they interprete it, and try to write stories that are somewhat consistent
with the original characterizations. They were of course drawn to the program
because it offered the chance to explore issues important to them and as I
argue, fandom is motivated by a mixture of fascination and frustration,
fascination to motivate their initial involvement, frustration to spark
creative reworkings of the original.