The new A/B slash zine from Mannanan Press - 'Bend Me, Shape Me' by Nova. It consists of seven stories, told by the first and second season crew on the Liberator - although the zine isn't a B7 replay of 'Rashomon', where you get a range of different perspectives on the same situation: instead, each story represents an alternative twist of the kalaidoscope and offers a separate interpretation of the A/B relationship.
As those of you who've seen Pat Fenech's B7 genzine 'Rites of Passage' will know, she has an artist's eye for design. Perfectly chosen photo collages, subtle background images, typeface jokes, the best cover (and it should be: we spent two months deciding on it) - hey, even the colophons are beautiful. It's been a privilege to work with someone who uses the smallest details of layout as a way to interpret the mood of the stories.
And the stories themselves - well, I left that part to Pat, who says: " 'Bend Me, Shape Me' is A/B, wonderfully observed and lovingly reproduced. When I first read these companion pieces by Nova, I was charmed by the originality of her perceptions of my favourite Seven and by the affection so apparent in the portraits she paints of all the crew. If you like a good story, well told, then you will enjoy these seven stories as much as I still do, after reading and re-reading them."
The ordering details are listed below - and please let us know what you think of the zine. Oh, and if you're wondering about the title, it comes from a song by Amen Corner which is, IMHO, the slash writer's anthem:
Bend me, shape me, Any way you want me. As long as you love me, It's all right...
I'm a fan of Nova's stories, anyway, so this collection could have been just *made* for me (of course, if she now wants to add one by *Orac*, I wouldn’t say no...) Seriously, it's a lovely collection, not so much A/B stories as whole-crew stories, each with a different aspect of the intricate A/B dance at the heart. Each of the original 'Blake's 7' as set down by Blake himself (in Time Squad) is given their turn at narrating, and the voices are distinct, individual and true to character.
My favourite - 'Zen and the Art of Slash Writing', which succeeds at mixing the humour and passion which was so integral to the series itself as I saw it. Zen's seemingly detached, mechanical voice (I could *hear* Peter Tuddenham speaking this, especially the drily wonderful exchange between Zen and Blake regarding Avon) is beautifully mixed from the start with a strong and very personal attachment to Blake especially, and the slow change to very human empathy and something very close to lyricism (while never losing the even-more-precise-than-Avon vocab) is lovely.
I also loved Vila's terrific 'Matchmaker', with its light, bright tone (catching his unique mixture of good will, selfishness and humour) and the endearing sight of the whole crew 'ganging up' on My Heroes - for their own good, of course! - as well as Avon's - unusual - reaction to being manipulated. Blake's 'Heads I win, tails you lose' has an unusual twist on the A/B/J triangle (and an interesting Jenna, unsentimental and a little devious, but neither jealous nor mean-spirited) and also captures the mixture of affection, frustration and amusement Fearless Leader *must* have felt dealing with this turbulent lot. And Avon's bleaker but ambiguous 'I do not need anyone at all' (tragedy isn't my thing, but I like ambiguous) is a nice contrast.
Gan's 'Walls' keeps the simplicity of the canonical character without turning it into dull platitudinous wood (something fearfully easy to do with our Oleg, I'm afraid) and includes a light but very nice thread on Gan's own attachment to and friendship for Blake. Cally's 'Metaphorically speaking' could be subtitled "Everybody Gets Some!" and as Sarah said, is a nice, long, tangled and very unusual look at the 1st/2nd season crew. With, again, a refreshingly different take on Jenna (BTW, I would *definitely* recommend this collection for Jenna fans as well as J/C enthusiasts) plenty of passionate sex, and a warm feeling overall. In contrast, Jenna's own 'Angels and devils' is a harsher piece, in keeping with Jenna's tougher, harder character, but does a fair job of keeping sympathy throughout, even when her actions and motives are quite nasty.
Beautifully set out with attractive typeface and page set-out, and pulled together with masses of photos (and not one of my favourite on-screen moments missed - I checked <g>), it's a gift for A/B fans, a bargain at twice the price, and a treat for anyone who enjoyed the brilliantly complicated free-for-all that was Blake's original Seven ...
If you got RITES OF PASSAGE, Fenech's first zine which was a genzine, then you know that this zine is illustrated with lots of photos from the series put into collages. The title BEND ME, SHAPE ME comes from a song by Amen Corner which is a basic love song. If you like A/B, you will like this zine.
Nova's concept is that she has taken seven characters: Vila,Blake, Jenna, Gan, Avon, Cally, and Zen, and she has each of these tell an A/B story in the first person. So each story has a slightly different tone and flare to it. My personal favorites are Blake's story, "Heads I win, tails you lose;" Avon's story, I do not need anyone at all;" and Zen's story, "Zen and the art of slash writing." Obviously, the most original one is the last one, and I admire it.
Vila's story is "Matchmaker," and here he and the crew conspire to bring the two men together. In Blake's story, "Heads I win, tails you lose," both Jenna and Avon are interested in Blake. Jenna's story, "Angels and devils" deals a lot with Jenna's family and background. Gan tells the story of "Walls," and I hope I don't give too much away when I say that he continues telling the story as a ghost after he dies. Avon's "I do not need anyone at all" is an interesting story with a twist involving Travis. It's very bittersweet.
Cally's story, "Metaphorically Speaking" is a sexual free-for-all and definitely different. On one hand, I enjoyed one of the plotlines that Avon and Blake had met before the London and that both were manipulated into forgetting it. Tynus turns out to be a real villain in this. But, some of the other parts of this story were not my cup of tea. I'll be honest and say the stories told by the two women were the least interesting ones for me overall. That could be because I am more interested in the A/B in the story and less concerned about the other characters.
Zen's "Zen and the art of slash writing" starts out with the word "Information" and ends with this sentence: "The person inside Zen smiled." I really got into this story. At first the account is slow, stuffy, and rather academic--just the way you'd expect Zen to be. But it picks up, and I really enjoyed the creative way that Nova stayed in "Zen character" to tell the story. Lines like "Blake's zygomatic muscles lifted his mouth into a smile" show the refreshing angle to this story.
BEND ME, SHAPE ME by Nova is a real winner for the A/B fan.
The stories are basically upbeat and are especially recommended for fans of =Careless Whispers=, Melody Clark's novels, and other such happy-ending A/B zines. They will also be enjoyed by fans of any of the first- and second-series crew, because they make a point of including all the characters. It's nice to see A/B stories that do not slight the other characters, an all too common flaw. Furthermore, each of the seven stories is told from the POV of a different one of the seven original crew members (including Zen, for reasons explained in that story).
The longest story in the zine, and my favorite, is the Cally story, "Metaphorically Speaking." The title refers to her attempts to convey telepathic experiences in words. It's as much a C/J story as an A/B one, with a complicated plot involving telepathy, memory loss, and precognition. Cally, we learn, has deceived her fellow crew members as to the extent of her powers and her reasons for joining them, but it's all in a good cause; she is on a secret mission from Auron, to create a better future for the galaxy than the one that has been prophesied. Altering the future requires exploring the past, since it turns out that Blake is not the only one whose memory has been tampered with. Cally is also helped in her mission by Jenna's hitherto unsuspected abilities. There is plenty of steamy sex, both f/f and m/m.
The second longest story, also qualifying as a "novella" (over 30 pp.) by Stiffies standards, is the Jenna story, "Angels and Devils." I found this one somewhat less satisfying, perhaps because I thought that Jenna's emotional problems-- the result of a childhood spent under the thumb of her father, a travelling performer, con artist, and priest of a fraudulent religion-- and the solution to them, were a little too obvious. Nevertheless, the story kept me reading right along, eager to see what would happen next. I especially appreciated the way that this story, like the Blake story, handled an A/B/J romantic triangle while keeping Jenna a sympathetic character, since I really dislike the "Jenna as jealous bitch" stories that are not uncommon in older A/B. I was also intrigued by the mysterious stranger to whom Jenna relates most of the story, and who, at the very end, reveals the answer to one of the little mysteries of B7: what a fresh-faced kid like Nova was doing on that ship with all the hardened criminals.
My second favorite of the stories, after "Metaphorically Speaking," is the Gan story, "Walls." Initially, Gan's rural background causes him to be shocked by some of the goings-on on the Liberator: "Jenna slept with Blake without being married to him." Gradually we find out that he is not so naive as one might assume, and we learn that his background of personal tragedy is even more complicated and more tragic than the aired canon suggested. Highly recommended for Gan fans.
"Matchmaker" makes amusing use of Vila's sexual kink: he's a voyeur, who'd honestly rather watch it than do it, not that he objects to the latter. He and the rest of the crew conspire to get Avon and Blake together, as they all pair off with each other.
"Heads I Win, Tails You Lose," the Blake story, deals with Blake's dilemma when he realizes that both Jenna and Avon are interested in him. For the sake of crew morale, he dare not show favoritism to either, and so he has to let the two of them work it out between themselves. Eventually, with some help from Vila, they do.
Avon's story, "I Do Not Need Anyone at All," comes the closest to tragedy, since it leaves him at the beginning of the third sesaon, desperately missing the man to whom he has given his heart, without ever quite knowing whether his love is reciprocated. Since the eventual outcome of the relationship is unknown, the tone remains ambiguous. I tend to go for the bleaker type of B7 story, so I liked this one a lot.
Finally, Zen's story reveals part of the truth behind the organic technology, with some sad elements as the ruthlessness of the System, comparable to that of the Federation, is exposed. Amusingly clinical language shifts into lyricism as the affair between Blake and Avon proceeds, with narrator Zen looking on.
Each story is illustrated with several pages of editor Pat's wonderful photo montages, which capture the mood of each story. The stories themselves are wonderfully thought-provoking, full of interesting ideas and suggestions about all kinds of B7 issues. I hope lots more people will read the zine soon so that we can talk about some of those ideas. Highly recommended.
Well, gals, we might as well go home. No one else is going to be winning any awards next year. This is simply wonderful. I was so frustrated I almost threw it across the room but I'd hate to ruin the beautiful physical production. Great photo collages, beautiful type, lovely vellum inside covers.
Try reading this around dinner time--it'll serve the phone solictors right to listen to you sobbing while they try to sell you magazine subscriptions. In genre terms, "Metaphorically Speaking" is a really outstanding _science fiction_ story--as discussed in earlier posts, this is rather outside B7 norms! Someone else might have written "Zen and the Art of Slash Writing" as an expansion of a smart-ass remark; Nova's version is beautiful and deeply sad. (And I thought I felt sorry for _Travis_!--you'll see what I mean when you read the story.)
I'm still snuffling today. Nova conveys such true feeling, especially within her special territory (that canon shows only the second half of a much longer ongoing relationship between Blake and Avon).
"Angels and Devils" not only has some Thomas Hardy elements, but a rather Hardy-esque feel to it.
But what really chokes me up is an even sadder possibility. A TV season is shorter than a calendar year, so four seasons could be about three years. What about a B/A "Anne of the Thousand Days"--first Blake loved Avon, then Avon loved Blake, and "Star One" is the one day they both loved each other?
I was particularly impressed by Gan's story. The story developed the character for me and provided a better perspective on his view of the Liberator and his crewmates. I find Gan to be a block of clay in most fanfic: he is usually used to fit the needs of a story more often than he is developed as a fully realized person.
"Angels & Devils" was heart-breaking and I cannot remember the last time I was that moved by anything written, B7 fanfic or not. That was heartbreaking and insightful writing, dead-on the characters. It even makes much of S3 and S4 seem to make more sense. It is rare that I read a story where I can simultaneously love and hate the same characters, and want to scream at them for their frailties. Yes, I do know the line between fiction and reality, but I haven't quite forgiven Blake for letting happiness slip from him in that story through his own inaction. And it is all too real that people lose a chance in a million because of their fear to act, to change the status quo.
I think that Jenna was breathtakingly well-done. All too often, I see her portrayed in a very one-dimensional, reactionary manner. I quite like Lillian Shepherd's work but her Jenna is simply too hateful and possessive to be real. I didn't necessarily like BMSM's Jenna as a person, but she was real, as completely three-dimensional a person as someone standing next to me, and achingly understandable without being an object of pity.
Avon simply breaks my heart in his tale, Jenna's tale, and Blake's tale where I see he is most vulnerable. That he doesn't fight for what he wants somehow translates as a bruised and sensitive soul too willing to doubt his own worth and the intentions of other rather than apathy.
It is a beautiful collection of stories. It reminds me in some ways of albums that were made in the 1960's and 1970's when artists created record albums intended to be cohesive, each song related to the rest, not simply a method for getting 10-12 songs out.
Fiction, all by Nova (each with a different POV):
"Matchmaker" (S1; V POV; A/B, B/J, C/J, G/V)
"Head I Win, Tails You Lose" (S1; B POV; B/J, A/B)
"Angels and Devils" (S4; J POV; A/B, J/Raiker, B/J, J/V)
"Walls" (S1-S2; G POV; B/J, B/C, uc G/V, uc A/G, A/B)
"I Do Not Need Anyone at All" (S2-S3; A POV; A/B)
"Metaphorically Speaking" (alt-S1, S0; C POV; A/B, C/J, G/V)
"Zen and the Art of Slash Writing" (S2; Z POV; A/B)
Art, all by Pat Fenech:
photo montages, pp. [1-2], 8-9, 21-23, 38-40, 72-74, 92- 94, 109-111, 149-151, 163-166; plus a photo of the viewpoint character at the beginning of each story, and another as background on the last page of the story
Back to Fanzines
Back to Blake's 7 Index
Last updated on 06th of April 2001.