Oblaquest (Oblaque III)

Review of slash zine by Predatrix

Oblaque is one of my favourite slash 'zines. It has a very decided house style (rather more than most other b7 slash 'zines I've seen). No artwork, no poetry, just very well-written slash stories concentrated on emotional and sexual intensity (with a leaning towards the dark side of both). Some people find it twisted and kinky, I find it twisted, kinky and deeply enjoyable (even if I can end up slightly squicked or depressed after reading some of the stories).

This is one of the earlier "milder" Oblaques (the issues from IV onwards seem to have been harsher and weirder) but it's still got enough dark to give a hearts and flowers slash fan the screaming abdabs for a week (luckily the hearts and flowers slashfen are probably concentrating on B/G (DS9) and avoiding b7 like the plague).

Oblaquest - (Oblique III)

ReOrbit: The Darkness Drops (A/V) - M.Fae Glasgow

Another cracking dose of emotional pain from M.Fae. No cuddly sex scenes, but plenty of the dark, destructive side of love. Following Orbit, Vila has finally been driven beyond his endurance, and has to hit back. Grim and unrelieved.

ReOrbit: Stony Sleep (A/V) - M.Fae Glasgow

Sequel to the above. Avon's viewpoint as he sinks into a severe depression, and realises that Vila is in danger because Blake's trying to manipulate the situation for reasons of his own. More unrelieved gloom.

Flow Gently, Sweet Afton (A/B) - Leigh Graham

"Karl Afton", a mild-mannered man totally reconditioned by the Federation, bumps into a certain Roj Blake who has most uncomfortable effects on the hidden parts of his memories. Yes, folks, just for a change we've got an Avon-more-mindwiped-than-Blake-story. I thought it was a reasonably clever idea but the sketched-in relationships don't really work Doesn't have the punch and conviction of the tangled passions in M.Fae's stories.

Hauf Fun, Hale Earnest (A/B) - Cally Donia

Ah, now this one's a nice treat for us A/B fans who were getting a bit depressed at the gloom and the decidedly-nasty Blake in the previous stories. As the title implies, this story starts out jokey and ends up romantic. The crew go to a planet with a very Scottish culture, expecting to have to make political speeches, but they end up having a party instead. Nice description of Avon looking absolutely gorgeous in full Highland ceremonial rig-out. Lovely seduction scene.

e who Laughs Last (A/V - sort of) - B. Sassenach

This one seems to be meant in black humour rather than a serious attempt to be convincing. Guess who was a Federation spy and an Alpha all along, cunningly disguised... Neither nice nor convincing, but it's an interesting idea... The first in a section entitled And Sundry Other Bastards, i.e. the writers are having fun inventing a character who is Even More Of a Bastard than Avon!

Appearances (A/V) - Morgan & O'Cullane

Blake rushes into Avon's room to save Vila, who is apparently being beaten and raped. However, appearances can be deceptive. Can Avon and Vila convince Blake that what he saw wasn't the real truth before Blake drops Avon on a deserted planet in disgust? I think this one is misfiled in this section - there are no real villains in it.

The Price to Pay (A/"Brodie") - M.Fae Glasgow

I think this is a crossover but am not sure (have seen little Pros slash and none of the series). However, as the character is called "Andru Brodie", has intense blue eyes and calls Avon "sunshine", it probably is an AU Pros crossover. A nicely nasty little piece, anyway. Avon picks up this character in a brothel and finds he's a bit too much to handle. The end scene, where Blake teleports down to get Avon, is one of the best bits in the whole 'zine. M.Fae can do Avon being Horribly Embarrassed better than anybody else I have yet discovered (see also the Delta Dome episode in Ob IV for wince-making laughter).

You're It (A Game of Tag part 1) (A/B) - Caroline Dare

A change of pace. After the "bastards" section, which was heavy in parts, we get to the traditional "gratuitous sex" section in the middle of an Oblaque (probably on the principle that after all that angst it's just what the reader needs). The middle part of a nice PWP series in which Avon, Blake and Vila go off on shore-leave for a few hours of al fresco s/m. I like the way she implies that there is real affection under all the rough play (they're trying to be convincingly cruel without actually hurting each other). Any slash fans who turn on to the idea of Avon getting all ruffled and dirty and being forced to beg for sexual pleasure will find this one fairly hot.

A Complete Balls-Up (A/V) - Gael X. Ile

A PWP with a fairly obvious idea, but none the worse for that. Avon puts his back out when he's having sex with Vila and they have to discover how to get out of that position, preferably without either making it worse or having to ask Cally to come and disentangle them. Good irritably-funny dialogue and jokey ending.

Hell (A/B) - Adrian Alexander

The start of the more romantic section of the 'zine. A short vignette. Blake and Avon are on a horribly hot planet (a certain fellow-feeling here; summer has come to blight my existence, too early as usual....) and Blake can't sleep, but is standing admiring Avon and wondering if he dares do anything.

In the Beginning (A/V) - Edi N. Burgh

A nice sweet one, this. Avon and Vila decide on a casual no-strings "arrangement", but find more affection and fun than either expected.

Lament (A/V) - Cally Donia

Can't tell you the idea of this one without ruining it for everyone. Lovely story, anyway.

ReOrbit: The Second Coming - M.Fae Glasgow

The Editor said M.Fae was "blackmailed" into providing a happy ending for the doom-and-gloom ReOrbit stories. M.Fae said this story was so sweet it should come with extra toothpaste. I think it would be too sweet on its own, but it's just right if you're feeling agonised from having read the two first stories. But then I like darkish slash which manages to pull off a happy ending Against All The Odds. Slash is about doing the impossible, anyway.

The Warm Patch (A/B) - Adrian Alexander

Out of the romance section. This one is fairly agonised. Blake is trying to convince Avon to take the risk of love, but even love and sex can't quite convince him - and he hits back when threatened. Slight hurt/comfort aspect.

The Room (A/B) - M.Fae Glasgow

Much more distant/isolated in tone than M.Fae's usual style. No dialogue. The idea is that Blake & Avon go to an isolated room and have sex every so often, but Avon refuses to submit to Blake's desire for love. This satisfies their immediate sexual desire, but does nothing to fulfil any of their other needs.

Something to Live For (A/B) - Morgan & O'Cullane

A PGP (traditional It Was The Clone style) where both Blake and Avon believe the other one is dead. Gloom at the beginning but a happy ending with a new ship and several new recruits. I would really like it, but I think it's trying to do too much at once, so it ends up slightly sketchy.

The Ties That Bind (A/V) - L.A. Scotia

Cheerful little PWP. The crew are getting irritated with Vila's boasting that he's better as a thief than Tarrant as a pilot or even Avon as a computer expert. Avon dares Vila into a bet - and finally comes up with an interesting lock for him to pick.

For A' That (A/V at least in this episode) - M.Fae Glasgow

The second installment of the Dome Cycle. AU plot where Avon takes cover with Vila and Vila's family in the Delta Dome. I love this sequence. The lovingly-crafted social backgrounds between the Deltas and the Alphas are wonderful. I also like the idea that Vila is the one who knows what he's doing and Avon is tagging along. Too many bad A/V stories just have Vila needy & vulnerable while Avon isn't, and you end up with a gay version of an Alpha-male (!) wounded-hero romance novel. M.Fae is doing a good job of convincing me that the Avon/Vila dynamic is more complicated than having all the power on Avon's side.

Hope this review is of some help to new fans trying to decide what to go for first. People usually either really like Oblaque or really hate it.

Footnote from Judith. I enjoy Oblaque greatly, but I would not recommend it for a first slash read. It is extremely explicit, frequently bleak, and would probably come as too much of a shock to a first time slash reader. Try something milder first, then you'll be ready to enjoy Oblaque to the full if you find that you want something stronger (not everyone does).

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