Conceptually Alien

An editorial


2001 – a year, like 1984, full of science fiction associations – is perhaps a strange year to be writing about a series that first appeared more than twenty years ago. The morally ambiguous dystopia that is Blake’s 7 certainly owes more to 1984 than 2001, although I like to think that Orac might have its origins in Hal. Various theories have been propounded to explain the continued interest in Blake’s 7. It is certainly not the series’ perfection that keeps writers coming back time and again to this setting and these characters. Indeed, many have speculated that perhaps the opposite is the case: the imperfections, the inconsistencies, the sparsity of the background, the (let’s face it) occasional descents into garbage, not only set amateur writers free to contribute but also provide the plot holes for us to plaster, the bare canvas for us to flesh. Others have cited the complexity of the main characters (there are no heroes here), the universality of the themes, the unprecedented bleakness of the ending. Or perhaps it’s just all that black leather…

So, with more than two decades of fiction already amassed, why a new zine?

The decision to edit ttba was sparked by announcements from more than one publisher that they were pulling out of printzine publishing, while a demand remained from some at least for new stories in the printed medium. A new crop of talented writers (New Souls for the Faith) has appeared who can bring a fresh outlook to the old themes – which is not to overlook the depth of understanding that those who have been writing in this universe for years can contribute. Hopefully, a new zine will also bring new readers.

But there’s more to it than that. I was disturbed by the tendency to classify – to pigeonhole – Blake’s 7 fanfiction. You know the sort of thing I’m sure: h/c, B/A (or should it be A/B), S2/3, and so on. The overuse of a certain punctuation mark that I still refer to as a solidus. The whole gen–het–slash threeway divide – as if the world ever divided neatly on those lines. As if sex, or lack of it, was all that distinguished children from adults. As if neat distinctions were appropriate anyway for a series where good and evil are often hard to tell apart.

So, a ‘mixed’ zine. A zine aimed at adults, addressing adult issues, but not an ‘adult zine’. A zine whose diverse content hopefully reflects the wide range of reasons why people are still drawn to the series.

The fiction in ttba is difficult to classify. There’s a decided literary flavour to some of the contributions. All the stories bring something novel, whether it be an idea, a characterisation, an image or a style of writing. I hope to have avoided (or subverted) some of the more obvious Blake’s 7 clichés; this is not the zine to look for stories featuring back-rubs, alien planets with strange customs or isolated huts in the snow. What the stories have in common, in my opinion at least, is that they are all well worth reading. All seasons and major characters are featured. Several short contributions were written in response to the theme of the Seven Deadly Virtues for the Labor Day celebrations on Freedom City. A few other stories, mainly shorter ones, have appeared in draft form on the unarchived Freedom City list (or its predecessor Space City).

ttba, for those who are interested, stands for Title To Be Announced, although the overlap with several of the characters’ initials is not unintentional.

I thank the many people who have supported this venture, including the contributors, Una McCormack for proof-reading, Julia Jones, Carol McCoy, Judith Proctor, Dana Shilling (among many others) for advice and encouragement, and members of the Freedom City and Lysator lists, whose interesting ideas I have drawn from shamelessly in writing this editorial. Above all, I thank the creator, the late Terry Nation, the writers, actors and directors and all the others who brought Blake’s 7 and its characters into existence and, perhaps unknowingly, gave us something to write about.

January 2001



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Last updated 22 September 2002