Spoilers: For those familiar with B7, I am being very careful about specific references to The Unpleasantness At the Gauda Club, in order to not-spoil those who aren’t. For newbies, see below for links to background information. There’s also a crack_van intro, but you wouldn’t want to waste your time on rubbish like that.
Warning: Opinions expressed in this essay are probably not typical of the fandom, but no one else volunteered. To make up for that, I’ve quoted from the more normal opinions of others.
Website: Always planning to make one, but…
Dedication: To bethbethbeth, for the Gambit-quality colasplutter when she heard I was writing this essay.
Terminal. It was the third time I watched Terminal. I’d seen most of the episodes on video, and read a few dozen fics, and written a few. Although I usually preferred to read B/A, I didn’t really believe in B/A as a ship.
And then, that third time, it clicked into place. I saw that Avon was sure that he wasn’t going to find Blake. And Avon was more or less certain that his own, probably horrible, death was only hours or minutes away. But just because of the most infinitesimal chance that he and Blake could be together again--and Avon could save him again--he had to take that chance. That’s how strong his love is.
The only throughline I can see for the series is what happened when Avon’s obsessive love for Blake replaced his obsessive love for Anna Grant. Considering the lack of Blake half the time, the show can’t be about what Blake does (although it could be about Blake as a negative space, an absence very much felt as a presence).
It isn’t really a very political show, so it can’t be more than incidentally about the decline and fall of the Federation. Although fanon is that Blake is ready to orate at the drop of a hat, in fact it’s impossible to tell from canon whether he’s a leftist, rightist, or centrist. (I like to think that, like Trollope’s Plantagenet Palliser, his real passion in life is for something really beside the point like decimal currency.)
As to the possibility that the show hasn’t GOT a throughline, that it just stumbled from quarry to quarry en route to its seasonal cancellation…well, you might choose to say that. I couldn’t possibly comment. (A kinder way to look at it is that B& was originally broadcast between 1978 and 1981: a time when TV shows were thought of as essentially disposable, rather than permanent artifacts that would keep turning up in one format after another.)
Sure, I’m a B/A shipper--I mean, I’ve written about 50 B/A stories, which makes about half my stories B/As. In another sense, I’m an anti-shipper. I’m damn sure they’re doing it. I just wish they wouldn’t. You know how it is, when you have a friend who’s dating somebody you don’t like. Even apart from you-know-what. I think of it as Avon: A Terrible Relationship. And, I must admit, even apart from you-know-what, a lot of it is Avon’s fault.
To a degree, B/A is an egalitarian pairing. They’re quite literally in the same boat. They have somewhat similar backgrounds, they’re not a generation apart in age, they’re both intelligent, verbal, well-educated, and extremely brave. Blake thinks he’s the commander of the ship, but he doesn’t have any external authority to back that up. It’s purely personal that every time Blake says “Jump!” Avon demurs, finally says that three feet is his final offer, Blake demands six, and gets it.
But in another sense it’s the apparent equality that gives point to the never-ending struggles for dominance. Avon never stops arguing with Blake, even though he never wins an argument (and even 90% of the time I think he’s right--but then when Paul Darrow played Thomas Doughty in “Drake’s Venture,” I also thought he was right 90% of the time when he hassled Francis Drake.)
The all-B/A zine is called “Fire and Ice,” which is a wonderful title for a B7 zine because there are Hours of Play Value in debating which is which, and who is the Irresistible Force Who Meets The Immovable Object. And whether there’s any imaginable PowerPlay in which Avon could prevail.
As Sally Manton said, “Blake and Avon--or the two people on that ship that mattered…They’re both tough, arrogant, self-willed and ruthless--a mixture that invariably, and on a heart-warmingly regular basis, leads to fireworks.[…] And, although Blake does in essence trust Avon with his life and his mission, he’s under no illusions about the fact that the man is a selfish bastard where most of humanity (and nearly all of humanity outside the Liberator’s hull) are concerned. Blake and Avon
There’s a concept in U.S. contract law called “detrimental reliance”--that is, a contract can be implied based on one party’s changing position on the assumption that there was a contract, and undergoing some kind of disadvantage. The way I see it, Avon definitely thinks he’d be better off almost anywhere in the universe than hanging around Blake. (I tend to agree with him.) But even though he constantly threatens to leave, well, ummm, actually he never does. Whereas Blake just goes on doing his rebel-y things, and his (harebrained schemes) daring strategies are somewhat facilitated by Avon’s contributions.
Under less fraught and terrestrial circumstances, one or both of them would just pack his cases and go home--their worldviews are irreconcilable, they have very little respect for each other, and even though manifestly they like arguing, they argue all the time. Being stuck on a spaceship under heavy fire forces them to spend two seasons papering over the cracks in an inherently fragile relationship. B7, like every other slash fandom, has a predominance of first-time stories, but what I really like are stories about the efforts to keep the relationship going despite overwhelming odds.
Blake’s goal in life is to overthrow the Federation, the multi-planetary Evil Empire that framed him for child molesting and sent him into exile in a remote Space!Siberia because of his former leadership of the Freedom Party. Avon’s goal in life is to have so much money that nobody will be able to bother him. These are inherently incompatible goals, and although it can certainly be argued that Blake commits a number of plain old ordinary crimes, Avon devotes a lot of time and energy to carrying out Blake’s revolutionary designs. In a cause which Avon didn’t believe in at the beginning and was never converted to on an ideological level (although he does come around to saying “In the end, winning is the only safety.”)
I see Blake as the ultimate Public Man, dedicated to vast goals, and Avon the exponent of the private life--cultivating his own garden, and being damn picky about who gets invited to the garden party. It’s canon that Blake is an Alpha grade, and fanon that Avon is too--unless they come up with a special Alpha Elite ranking he can have. I see it differently--that Blake is a kind of Space!Bobby Kennedy, a limousine liberal who takes no interest at all in the social privileges his rank would entitle him to, and that Avon is a lower-middle-class would-be arriviste.
During their inaugural Quarterdeck Argument on the London, Blake declares his credo: that he will fight “until the honest man can think and speak.” (Considering who he’s talking to, that doesn’t bode well for the future of the relationship.) Avon says (well, he would, wouldn’t he?) that “wealth is the only reality” and you can only get it by taking it away from someone else, which to me implies that he didn’t expect any trust funds or inheritances.
However, with the exception of the line of darkfics (the zine Oblaque specializes in these), it’s not really EnemySlash in the, e.g., Mulder/Krycek or even Harry/Draco sense. As S.E. Thompson points out, it’s much more like romantic comedy bickering, or perhaps the bodice-ripper pattern in which the proud beauty surrenders happily to a powerful man’s dominance. Eventually. Romancing the Slash
Don’t throw bouquets at me.
Don’t please my folks too much.
In this essay, I’m be writing about Blake/Avon and Blake-Avon stories (the latter being stories about an emotional bond that isn’t explicitly sexual within the story). There are a lot of fandoms where the fiction concentrates on a single pairing (e.g., The Sentinel; The Professionals) or a single figure (Fraser/One Ray Or ‘Tother). Right now, Blake/Avon is probably the most popular slash pairing, but this hasn’t always been so (there were Avon/Vila and Avon/Tarrant eras, and both those pairings are still popular; there may be historical factors behind the trends, although I’m not quite sure).
But even within slashdom, B/A is a plurality pairing--there are many other m/m and some f/f pairings. Sort of like a microcosm of HP, where A Thousand Flowers Bloom. There are B7 stories with a sexual element that don’t have Avon in them, but it’s rare; he really is the Little Black Dress of B7 and he’s even got the black outfits to prove it.
According to Norman Lear, every TV show is about a house and a family. Many years before Buffy and the Scoobies were linked to form the Uber-Buffy, there was “Rescue”: the B7 episode in which the sinister salvager Dorian saved/captured the survivors of the destroyed Liberator because they formed a “gestalt.” By that point, Blake had vanished--but I think that, at least on some level, Blake and Avon must have realized all along that they could have been synthesized into one pretty damn shiny human being.
Each of them has a knee-jerk response to problems: Blake by ordering people around, Avon by coming up with one of the smart-ass remarks he can field in any situation. Personally I prefer the latter, although it can be argued that sarcasm is a weapon of those who don’t have an original solution to offer.
Blake’s antagonist and secret sharer is Travis--in “Star One,” Blake even masquerades as Travis, and eventually Blake has a scarred eye as the counterpart of Travis’ missing eye. Avon’s is Servalan (with their matching penchant for silly black and white outfits--do they call each other up to find out the Dress Code?), and throughout Avon is very much in the position of a character in a medieval Mystery play, with an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other, offering contradictory advice.
Jist take a slice of all the advice you give so free.
B/A isn’t necessarily Ship Zero--the original exponent--of the pairing who must be in love because they never stop arguing, but it’s an early example. (Just as B7 is extremely influential in the development of the Unheroic Mismatched Space Rebels genre.) Avon is often described as feline (although there must be some sort of polyjuice involved in any fanonical description of him as “graceful”). Blake, on the other hand, has warm brown eyes, and is loyal, large, shaggy, and relaxed. Naturally they fight like cats and dogs.
I have a terrific photo in a book about Rodgers & Hammerstein. It’s from the original production of The King and I. Yul Brynner is standing Blakeishly, his hands on his hips, his legs planted wide apart. Gertrude Lawrence, in a loud striped dress, is up in his face telling him off about something. The King of I Am. He even has an Anna.
I think it’s significant that, although Blake spends a lot of time worrying about whether Avon is going to pick up and pack out, he doesn’t seem seriously concerned that Avon is going to sell him and the rest of the crew out; except for a flare of concern on Vila’s part on the London, nobody else is either. Avon has a genuine interest in not getting killed in a cause he doesn’t believe in, and he always thinks he knows how to do anything better, but at least he is sincere in the advice he offers. Even though it’s often Don’t Do Something, Just Stand There.
Don’t look so vain with me.
Don’t stand in the rain with me.
Fandom has articulated many theories about the bizarre costumes chosen by Kerr (His Trousers Are Pastede On, Yay) Avon, but the consensus is that the leathery black plumage is designed to attract the Burly Rebel (var. Curly-Headed). Personally, I think it’s so that he can’t pull his trousers up at the knee to preserve the crease. Blake’s too used to having someone else to iron his clothes, and Vila and Gan don’t give a monkey’s.
As for S3 and 4, it could be that he’ s just pining for the fjords, or nest-building with the Curly-Haired Pilot. Or that he doesn’t get many new outfits so he stays with ones that are suitable for falling off a motorcycle. B7 is the only fandom I know of where the pairings don’t have names, but the outfits do. (The Freedom City mailing list culture also includes a variant of the remix called the HEX--Happy Ending Expediters--when a reader who thinks someone else’s story has an overdose of angst is authorized to cheer it up a little; the inverse is a SAD.)
My favorite B7 macguffin is the Sopron from Harvest of Kairos. The Sopron is an alien life-form that protects itself by scaring off potential predators by inducing it to believe that they’re seeing something like themselves, only bigger and tougher--much as Jane Austen said that men see women as looking-glasses with the magical power of reflecting them at twice their actual size. I would argue that B7 fans are usually able to relate more dispassionately to Blake as a fictional character, beloved or otherwise than to Avon. (I always think it’s funny that even though the damn show is called Blakes7, the people who are particularly fond of Blake are a minority, and sometimes an embattled one.)
There’s a large genre of BUARA (Beat Up and Rape Avon) stories, whereas Get-Blake stories are rare enough not to need their own descriptor. In fandom, what you get The Man Who Has Everything is additional third-degree burns and another concussion, so clearly this shows who’s the fandom favorite.
It’s true that the scriptwriters tended to assign the techno-neep screeds to Avon, and that no matter how much he demurred at carrying out Blake’s latest orders, Avon was never unable to carry them out, so there’s a tinge of canonical justification for SuperAvon stories. I think of Avon as the Patron Saint of tech workers, somehow managing to meet impossible deadlines set by clueless bosses to do something that wasn’t really worth doing anyway.
Don’t keep your hand in mine.
Your hand feels so grand in mine
B7 is an extreme example of Implied Slashiness Via Body Language.
Obviously Avon’s version of the classic adage is Keep Your Friends Close, Your Enemies Closer, and Borrow Your Boyfriend’s Shirt While He’s Still Wearing It. And I would say that the classical examples cited by SpaceFall Rebel Gropeage are really instances of Avon grabbing Blake rather than vice versa or mutual seizure. A complicating factor is Avon’s simultaneous demure and flirtatious affect--not just with Blake, with everybody. (A further link with Servalan, who also has a factory default Flirt setting.)
First up is the Automatic Reactions incident in Time Squad (Avon doesn’t waste much time.) That is, when Avon knocks Blake out of the path of an about-to-detonate bomb, they end up on the floor, in close proximity. When Blake asks why, Avon says, “Automatic reaction--I’m as surprised as you are,” and Blake says, “I’m not surprised.” To me, the interesting thing is the way the scene is played. Blake doesn’t have a nice big tension-relieving guffaw that a) he isn’t dead and b) Avon’s Don’t Rely On Me For Anything proclamations don’t hold water. As a matter of fact, I think he looks and sounds really angry.
Later on, Blake gets on the Public Address system and tells Avon (and nobody else!) to come and rescue him from attack by giant snake-like electrical cable. At the end of Horizon, Blake orders Avon “get back to your position!” and Avon does, despite a manifest desire to rip off Blake’s leg and beat him to death with the knobbly end. In Voice from the Past, Avon displays his penchant for looking really sympathetic to someone who is unconscious or facing the other way as he looks at Blake and touches him with infinite compassion--and then, when Blake wakes up and gets obstreperous, Avon’s hacking away with the inept karate chops again. The one-minute condensed B/A.
My favorite, however, is the exchange from Duel that Sally uses to open her essay:
BLAKE: Have you got any better ideas?
AVON: As a matter of fact, no, I haven’t.
BLAKE: Does that mean you agree?
AVON: Do I have a choice?
AVON: Then I agree.
This would be an excellent bit of slash-evidence dialogue all by itself. The fun part is that they’re not going to interrupt an argument for anything so trivial as a space battle, so Avon grabs Blake with his usual protectiveness, and they stay in a tango hold and continue arguing en promenade with several changes of direction. Strictly Ballroom!
Why do they think up stories that link my name with yours?
Why do the neighbors gossip all day behind their doors?
B7 has great fans, and great writers. Man, I love B7 fic, but there’s so damn much of it that I feel overwhelmed even trying to talk about it. For a start, there are about 500 stories online at http://www.hermit.org. I know 500 is zippo in a fandom like HP or BtVS, but it’s a lot to analyze at once. And then there are all those zines--over 3,000 of them. S.E. Thompson’s (print, unfortunately not Web-available) “Guide to B7 Erotica” spans two volumes, and only goes up to 1998.
One tendency that I’ve observed cross-fandom is that if a writer has a preference for one partner in a ship, she’ll tend to write the preferred partner as being more in love than the less preferred one, because there’s a built-in sympathy factor. There’s also a lot of B7 fanon about Blake being more emotional and more approachable, because in conventional terms he’s a nicer person than Avon.
It’s true that Avon is in a lot more episodes, so sheer longevity counts, but I’d say that at any given moment when both Blake and Avon are onscreen, it’s much easier to determine what Avon is feeling. It’s common to describe Avon as being machine-like or unemotional, but in fact he frequently displays a passionate but narrow range of emotions. A lot of the time, he isn’t nice (and I think it’s thrilling for fans to contemplate someone who is absolutely uncompromisingly Never Bothers With People He Hates).
What lesbians, proverbially, bring to a second date is a U-Haul. Blake managed to go one better by bringing the U-Haul after a disastrous first date. One common pattern in B/A stories is for the sexual relationship to act as a catalyst that forces Avon not only to recognize but to admit otherwise unacknowledged or unspoken emotions. In other words, Blake gives sex to get love. Avon gives love to get sex. Which makes Blake the girl.
However, because Avon is noticeably shorter than Blake (although not, as some fanon would have you believe, in need of toe shoes to go down on a hobbit), there’s a certain amount of Smaller Man characterization in B7 fanon. Probably the central item of B/A fanon is that Blake has a larger endowment than Harvard, and he does display a certain easy confidence that implies a sense of security. I rather think that Avon Regrets that he has a small Part of Life.
In B7 fiction, it is never safe to go downplanet to a festival, or to attempt to recruit a planet to the rebel side, because odds are they’ll follow Athenian customs and require previously heterosexual rebels to engage in public displays of affection that soon become private. It is definitely not safe to blow anything up, because Blake and Avon will get trapped in the rubble. Like any other fandom, “cave” is not followed by “canem” but by “shag.” There are a lot of First Time backrub stories; a lot of after-the-battle First Time stories follow Roger Ebert’s formula (“We’re alive! Let’s kiss!”)
Fandom would be nowhere without issues of Trust and Betrayal, and B7 offers rich seams for mining. However, the theme of the Bad Father seldom pops up, and indeed Family in B7 is a bit of a Shortest Thesis in the World joke.
Jenny Pausaker’s questionnaire for her B/A survey identifies the pairing’s tropes as caves; aphrodisiacs; sexual slavery; Avon crying; “Blake being hung like a bull”’ Avon in black leather; and “a rescue from a brothel.”
Well, the black leather is canon, the tears are highly anti-canonical, and even though there aren’t any explicit brothels in canon (I wouldn’t bet on what services are available at either Freedom City or Space City) there is an episode where Servalan buys Avon in a slave market.
Jenny’s typology for story endings are a statement or implication that the sexual relationship will continue--or that it won’t; either the resolution or intensification of their previous antagonism; angst all around; or recognition that Blake has more power in the relationship--or that Avon does. No wonder there are so many stories, given the plethora of possibilities.
People will say we’re in love.
Well, why not? It’s true, ain’t it?
As my icon shows, I believe (but thousands wouldn’t) that Blake and Avon are having sex because they like having sex with men. A lot of the first-time stories, though, are not only first time for this pairing, but first same-sex experience stories.
I for one am sure that Avon’s been sleeping with anybody he a) felt like sleeping with and b) was able to pull, since he was barely legal. Canonically, he had at least one girlfriend, I think that the confrontation with Blake in the computer room of the London was largely staged to impress Jenna, and Avon shows varying degrees of interest in varying females, so it would be AU to describe him as exclusively homosexual. Which leaves a good deal of leeway, of course.
At no point in canon does Blake refer to any past romantic involvement of any sort. He does kiss his cousin Inga on the cheek (Hostage), and says that “she was important to me once.” This has been cited as evidence of Blake’s heterosexuality, but he’d better not have had an affair with her in the past; he’s obviously quite a few years older than she is, and he went to Exbar “when he was a boy”--I really, really hope that there was nothing going on between, e.g., 15-year-old Blake and 7-year-old Inga, other than familial affection.
The canonical basis of the show--the set-up, as it were--is that the Federation wants to defuse “Blake’s legend” as a bringer of hope in a hopeless world through false charges of child molesting. It’s quite possible that those charges were chosen because of knowledge or rumors that Blake is interested in adult males. It could also explain why, although Blake clearly likes Jenna, in canon she gets a grand total of nowhere with him romantically or sexually. But then again, Cowboys Only Kiss Their Horses.
Because B7 is a somewhat marginal fandom, and many of the people in it are not particularly interested in meta-fandom studies, I’m assuming that many of the readers of this essay have heard of B7 and are curious about it but have limited exposure to it and could use some background information.
The gen list is Lysator (that’s just the name of the computer--in Sweden!--where it’s housed). If you’d like to check it out, it has archives and everything. Lysator List
After the Great Slash War, a slash-friendly mailing list, Space City, was spun off; it has been reincarnated as the Freedom City mailing list. It isn’t archived, so the only way to see if you’d like it is to join. To get individual messages, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, with subscribe freedom-city [your e-mail address]; to get messages in digest form, use the same e-mail address but put subscribe freedom-city-digest in the body of the message.
The most estimable multi-threat Marian (not merely archivist but writer under many names and artist in two and three dimensions--AND she plays Avon in the RPG) maintains this listing of All Online Things B7 Marian’s Links
Excellent guide by an outstanding fiction writer and always wise and good-tempered commentator: Betty’s Guide to B7
The Sevencyclopaedia (it's a British show, after all), an amazing work of fan scholarship, started by Neil Faulkner, with additional contributions by Murray Smith and others Sevencyclopedia
I’m taking the coward’s way out here and suggesting you try the Memories page at Crack Van Recs. They’re not all B/A; some of them were rec’d by me, some by other people, so there’s some breadth of perspective.
Long-running and still ongoing MusesFool Role Playing Game: RPG
Zine recs from the Space City list (many of these stories are available online via Hermit or Oblaque). “Some of the stories on this list are actually gen, but are still picked as favourites by slash fans because of the intensity of the relationship and the quality of the writing.” Space City recs
A listing of A/B stories in zines, with some notes on provenance, in 22 closely printed pages (going up only to February, 2003): Zine stories
A unique resource, which I’ve found tremendously helpful as a writer (because it concentrates on themes and what makes a story work): Sally and Jenny’s 50 Favourite A-B Gen Stories, with an appendix with briefer consideration of 50 runner-up stories:. Jenny (under her fandom name) has just started to analyze the 500 or so B/A slash stories in her zine collection, but results won’t be available for a while, so there’s no slash equivalent yet. Some of the stories are available online but most are in zines.Sally & Jenny
Blaquista par excellence Joyce Bowen has a list of top-10 Blake-oriented gen stories (and two honorable mentions) and 10 plus three runners-up for Blake-oriented slash stories <a href="http://www.hermit.org/Blakes7/Fanzines/Favorite/JoyceBlake.html”>Blake oriented Recs</a>. For an older exchange that still has some very interesting things to say about B/A, slash fandom, and fandom as a whole, I’d recommend the 1998 Neil vs. Judith debate Slash-A Case Against, Judith’s Counterattack, You Expect Me to Let Her Have the Last Word? and Additional Commentary, <a href=”http://www.hermit.org/Blakes7/Essays/AZslash.htm”>Slash Debate</a>. CODA <i>This torch I bear is scorching me, And Buffy’s laughin’, I’ve no doubt. I hope she fries. I’m free if that bitch dies. [Beat] I better help her out.</i> Spuffy: Het B/A. Do the math. Romeo thinks he’s in love with Rosalind, but then re-channels his passion toward Juliet. Spike thinks he’s in love with Dru, but re-channels his passion toward Buffy. Avon thinks he’s in love with Anna Grant, but re-channels his passion toward Blake. And in each case, eventually someone comes and clears the stage. With a pitchfork. <lj user=”azdak”> demurs, pointing out that Spike and Buffy spend a lot more time beating each other up than Blake and Avon do. To which I point out the ridiculous pushing-and-hair-pulling fights that the B7 crew have with the nominal enemy; you wouldn’t expect much bloodshed from a Friendly Match. With Blake and Avon, the violence is strictly verbal. Avon’s got a chip all right…but his is on his shoulder. Kerr Avon. Fortune’s fool. Love’s bitch, but not man enough to admit it. AND, IN CONCLUSION… NORMA DESMOND: <i>Nobody leaves a star! That is what makes one a star.</i> LORNE: <i>If all you’re going to do is brood, you might as well just be evil. Because, then at least…leather pants.</i> SPIKE: <i>You’ll be in love until it kills you both. You’ll fight and you’ll shag and you’ll hate each other till it makes you quake, but you’ll never be friends.</i></lj-cut>