Liberation Review: Right To Reply
All of the Anorak Zone tries its best not only to feature facts and figures, opinions and the like, but also (hopefully) to entertain. With my more flippant style of reviewing it's inevitable that the Zone will receive feedback from time to time (I'm just dreading the day Trevor Hoyle or Caroline Holdaway read it).

After reading my review of the new Blake book Liberation, Alan Stevens, one of the co-authors, wrote to me to discuss some of the issues I'd raised. As Alan makes some very good points, I thought it only fair, in agreement with Alan, to present those points below. They are presented in full and without comment from myself.

Hi Mr Anorak,
Just read your review of Liberation, and I was really pleased by how much you seemed to like it, and by how much debate and discussion it appears to be generating. There were one or two points which you raised, however, I feel deserve a bit of explanation:

-The durations of stories were provided by Andrew Pixley, who took them from the BBC's own documentation. The variation between them and your own VCR is because all commercial VCRs have slight variations in playing speed.

-The titles of unmade episodes are usually all that is available on the story, particularly as some of the authors in question are dead or untraceable. We did contact a number of authors, including some who pitched stories that were never made (e.g. Pip and Jane Baker), and in most cases this was just a job to them, and if it didn't work out they have little recollection of it; their pitches and drafts were thrown out long ago.

-On Gan, we have stated our position as clearly as we can, with as much supporting evidence as we can produce from production details, interviews and close reading. As has been pointed out on other fora, it's academic whether you agree with it or not, and you are perfectly free to argue your own corner if you want to. This book is not intended to be the last word on Blake's 7.

-On this and other comments, principally regarding Kaplan and the two appendices and Afterword coming across as "fannish"-- this book is aimed at the fan market. In certain areas, we want to challenge some myths and received ideas, but in other areas we do have to remember our audience and not, for instance, go too deeply into literary theory, which we have found in the past can prove off-putting for many.

-In Rashomon, we get four different perspectives on the same event, which the viewer can then put together, reading between the lines, to find out what really happened. The same is true of the three different accounts Hal Mellanby gives of his past. We are not saying that "Aftermath" is equivalent to Kurosawa, any more than we are saying that "Gambit" is equivalent to the best films of Fritz Lang (which it references). We are pointing out that Nation used the same technique which succeeded for Kurosawa, and that it also succeeds for him.

-Joss Whedon, JMS, several of the writers of Star Trek: TNG, Voyager and DS9 (which, by the way, we do refer to, just under the collective aegis of sequels to Star Trek: TNG rather than on its own) and Grant and Naylor have all admitted in public fora that they have seen and enjoyed B7, and that it has influenced their work in various ways. This is why we referred to those series and authors in particular, and not things like, say, Andromeda, where one could argue for an influence, but we have no direct evidence of this. Dennis Potter (who, by the way, I knew during his lifetime; like me, he comes from the Forest of Dean) was a self-confessed fan of the series during its run, gave it a number of positive reviews in the press at the time, and most contemporary reviews of Cold Lazarus commented on the visible influence of Blake's 7 on Potter's show. The fact is, Blake's 7 has become one of those series which has had a big influence, conscious or unconscious, on subsequent SF-- much like Doctor Who, The Prisoner and Star Trek: TOS. And we never said B7 originated the story arc, postmodernism etc-- just that some later shows picked up these elements from it.

-On the subject of your last paragraph: I'm a little offended, I'm sorry to say, by the fact that you have effectively here attributed motivations to myself, Fiona and David Howe which are not the case, without asking us what the situation was. As it happens, Appendix B was something which the three of us discussed extensively: we considered doing our own reviews, getting in a guest reviewer, and omitting it entirely. The reason why we collectively decided on this option (aside from avoiding any claims of bias, which would have come up no matter who did the review) was not, as you say, to render our own products "immune to criticism," but rather the opposite: by citing the products, but refusing to give an opinion, ours or anyone else's, we allow the reader to make up their own mind, without feeling that they are being pushed in any particular direction. We have had a lot of enjoyable contact and discussion with you over recent years, and, to be honest, there's no reason why you couldn't have just e-mailed us to clarify this point.

But in general, thanks for the review.

Cheers,
Alan

Alan made some strong points, and, while the reasons for not including Kaldor City reviews perhaps could have been explained more fully in the book, it is true that I could have asked before writing up my view on the product. So why didn't I? Well, apart from the fact that I've grown used to reading reviews where the writer makes assumptions without checking out the facts, I also thought it might be best that way as I'd be putting myself in the position of "unaware reader", like the majority of the people who bought it. And the main reason? Well, I thought I'd already taken up enough time from the people at Telos, and…. I got shy. Here's Alan's response:

No, I'm always open to any correspondence; I think if you write a book or do a CD series, it's only fair to be open to questions-- if people are interested enough to take the time to ask me, I'll respond.

(To my suggestion that I made my observations "as a reader would see it"):Thanks, but as the reviews published thus far (and as others which I have seen which are coming out) indicate, different readers focus on different things about the book, and use it in different ways. Also, though, as you-- quite rightly-- say at the beginning of the review that you are someone who corresponds with us and with David, the readers of your site might assume that you have the inside story, as it were, on why the appendix was included in that format, which makes me somewhat concerned.

It's a fair point and Alan had every right to make it, which is why I included his responses on my site. Discussion is always healthy and here's hoping we're still pals. But a horrible thought just came to me… what if George Spenton-Foster looked in as well?


Thanks again to Alan for his comments. Liberation is still available to order in either paperback (ISBN 1-903889-54-5) or leatherbound deluxe (ISBN 1-903889-55-3) editions. Produced by Telos Publishing Ltd, it can also be ordered direct from the publisher's site at www.telos.co.uk.