Tales from Space City #8

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Reviewed by Hafren

Tales from Space City 8, ed Helen Patrick 2004

There's no particular theme to this one and in some ways it seems bittier than some other issues - there are normal-length stories but also quite a few snippets, filks etc. There's also a more humorous tone than in most, I think. Like all this series, it contains adult material - in this case both het and slash.

It opens with an absolute knockout of a story, Jennifer McGee's "A Mouthful of Feathers". This has to be one of the best B7 stories I have ever read. I must be careful when reviewing it because it packs a massive punch at the end, in the way that fanfic is so good at - ie it'd be good enough just as a story, but because of shared information we already have, the impact is exponentially deeper. It starts with a sister and younger brother surviving the massacre of their parents on a frontier planet; the sister is brave and resourceful, the boy, who tells the story, less so. She escapes but he is taken back to earth by one of his captors.

It isn't hard to guess who the sister is; the point of the story is who the boy is, and why his dreadful experiences lead him to do what, at the end, we know he is about to. The title is one of those you go back to at the end and reassess. And even when you read it again, knowing who the boy is, the story is just as harrowing. A real star, and worth the money on its own. It's also what I'd call an example of positive angst - though the end is tragic, you could say it was also redemptive in that the boy finally does something he can be proud of.

The "five things that never happened" pattern was a fanfic craze a while back, but Belatrix Carter, in "Five Things That Never Happened to Kerr Avon", interpreted it in the light of her own growing interest in very short fic. The result was beautifully terse and bleak. I was so intrigued by the form that I copied it in "Five Things That Never Happened to Roj Blake", as a companion piece.

Predatrix's "Art & Crafty" is a pastiche of some Helen Patrick themes, but also influenced by Executrix (the short titled scenes) and Willa (weird motifs that shouldn't work but do). Complicated, isn't it... This, apart from being very funny and stylish, is an interesting example of how referential fanfic sometimes gets. In most fandoms the allusions tend to be to litfic; in B7 we seem to have enough stylists of our own to turn them into a sort of style canon. I particularly liked the "feetnotes".

Snowgrouse's "Murdering Mouth" is an A/B PWP that is less about sex than language and metaphor. It's very sensual and evocative, as is her "Soolin Hair Poem".

Helen Patrick's "Ugandan Affairs" comes with a footnote explaining the title, which makes me feel old as I recall the phrase very well. Not quite a PWP, because what stays in the mind as much as Avon's kink about performing in public places is his unexpected but believable loyalty to Blake when it matters.

Predatrix's "Desert island" is another A/B PWP, on a desert island with a magic wand, borrowed from Pratchett, that turns things into pumpkins. Not much two people can do on a small desert island except quarrel and shag. So they do, enjoyably and characteristically.

Nickey Barnard's "Victory" is quite different, a Servalan at Star One piece. It's very fluent and literate, but I do have a problem with most Servalan stories. In my mind, canonical Servalan, like most truly evil people, is both superficial and predictable, and to make her more interesting you almost have to make her uncanonical. This story, at the end, has her feel a moment's compunction about the death of a young woman, and though it would make her a more interesting character, I just plain don't believe it.

Jenner's "Unlikely Pairing" is a bit of fun about different writers' preferences which I think will mean more to list members than anyone else. Again it must go back a fair way.

Snowgrouse's "Somnifera" is an Avon/Soolin, which is potentially quite an interesting pairing. But if you're going to use purple prose I think you're better off telling the story in third person, or at least not choosing Avon as a narrator, because for the life of me I can't hear him exclaiming "Golden goddess!" even in the privacy of his own head.

Belatrix Carter's "Once, before the End" is a Vila/Tarrant, which seems very unusual from her, and I wonder if it was in response to a challenge or request, because I can't see her believing that one! But of course she does it with great skill and as convincingly as anyone could. It's got a very good S4 atmosphere, disillusioned and doomed - the innocent-looking last line is a killer when you know the canon.

"Sunrise" by Zenia and "Sunset", a response to it by Snowgrouse, are a pair of very lyrical, melancholy A/B PWPs where, again, heightened language is more the point than sex. (Or maybe it is the sex....).

There are other little fragments, poems, songs etc. So far, I think 7 is my favourite of the Tales, but there is a lot to like in this one, and "A Mouthful of Feathers" is essential.

Reviewed by Steve Rogerson

This 76-page A5 zine is the latest in the series edited by Helen Patrick, featuring stories that started life in some way on the Freedom City (and its predecessor Space City) email list. It contains explicit sexual material and is not for sale to under 18s.

A Mouthful of Feathers, by Jennifer McGee
The opening story is a brutal tale of gangsters abusing two children. It doesn't take long to realise who the sister is, especially when we learn she has blonde hair and is learning to shoot a gun. But the story is told first person through the eyes of her younger brother, and the twist is when we discover whom he really is.

Five Things that Never Happened to Kerr Avon, by Belatrix Carter
Five short what-ifs to amuse the reader, followed quickly by:

Five Things that Never Happened to Roj Blake, by Hafren
a similar entertaining set of what-ifs. I liked the last one. B7 would have been an odd show if that had happened.

Art & Crafty, by Predatrix
An odd little piece this. It is all A/B and it is funny with nice section heads that make up the editor's once listed writing preferences, hence the story is dedicated to the editor as a birthday story. A strange mix of gay porn and cross-stitching.

Murdering Mouth, by Snowgrouse
No plot here, just a longish, well-written sex scene between Avon and Blake. Very graphic, and the title should give you a clue as to the nature of some of the action.

Ugandan Affairs, by Helen Patrick
Blake has the unpleasant task of chairing a meeting of squabbling rebels and Avon goes along to keep him company. During a toilet break, Avon uses the estimated five minutes to heighten his relationship with Blake knowing there is a risk of being caught. A more relaxed debriefing follows when they get back to the ship.

Desert Island, by Predatrix
Predatrix muses on what she would take to a desert island and decides on a magic wand so she can replace herself with Blake and Avon, and then watch the inevitable sex that takes place. Afterwards, when the wand is used to turn a pumpkin (don't ask) into a pair of teleport bracelets, the author seems to have forgotten to dress the pair before they snap on the bracelets.

Victory, by Nickey Barnard
No sex, which came as a bit of a shock given the content so far. This is set just before the start of season three and the action takes place on Servalan's ship as she views the battle and decides how to boost morale and at the same time boost her own standing. We see a very stressed Servalan in an extremely well written missing scene.

Unlikely Pairing, by Jenner
Avon and Blake wonder what kind of story they have to look forward too as they compare the tastes and styles of various fan fiction writers and look back at previous stories by this author. A short tale aimed at those who know the fan fic writers.

Somnifera, by Snowgrouse
A crew member is seduced by Soolin and tells the tale in first person. I won't spoil it by saying who the lucky person is, just that the experience is beautifully narrated.

Once, Before the End, by Belatrix Carter
Vila decides to let Tarrant share his booze and gives him comfort following the death of Zeeona. Then one thing leads to another. I generally quite like Tarrant/Vila stories, but this one troubled me because Vila was the dominant one, and I find that hard to gel with the characters on screen. Well written, but I couldn't get into it because of that problem.

Avon Calling, by Harriet Monkhouse
This is a filk to London Calling by The Clash. It is set on Gauda Prime, as Harriet's Christmas filks traditionally are. I like the line:
My base is exploded, my space ship is downed,
My people are missing on unfriendly ground,

The filk is basically Avon calling in on Blake. I can't help wonder though whether The Clash song "I fought the law" might be better suited to Gauda Prime. Maybe next year.

Sunrise, by Zenia
Sunset, by Snowgrouse
These two apparently linked short stories finish the zine off in the Avon/Blake style that is almost but not quite a theme of the publication. Sunrise takes place many years after Gauda Prime. Blake has become a recluse and discovers he is dying, and thus seeks comfort in the arms of Avon. The story merges nicely into Sunset, a beautifully written sex scene between the two of them.

Other stuff
Snowgrouse gives us a poem about Soolin's hair and the editor explains how a piece of art was more than what it seemed at first glance and how it inspired the Ugandan Affairs story. An unusual piece of ascii art from Spacefall brought a smile to my face. Val Westall's front cover art shows a gen shot of Blake and Avon and Willa Shakespeare gives a sinister look from Servalan on the back cover. Bondage is the subject of a couple of filks from VM.

Posted on 21st of December 2007

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