|Date(s):||1979, March 1998|
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It is the first known story containing Blake/Avon (although the relationship depicted is actually Blake/Avon/Cally).
Mindfire is the first ever publication of this classic novel to be authorised by the writer. Written by EPS (aka Lillian Sheperd), Mindfire deals with the hell in which Avon has to live when his latent empathic skills are triggered. He literally cannot escape from other people's emotions. This is an adult zine featuring Avon, Blake and Cally. It's mainly heterosexual, but there is some slash content. 
Writing and Revising Process
EPS September 1979: This story is dedicated ... to Liz Newton: who I do not know and who will probably never see this story, but who is partly responsible for it because she wrote a story called 'Deliver Us From Evil', which appeared in the 'Seveners' newsletter. It provoked a reaction from me of, "Avon? You've gotta be kiddin' ... Hey, wait a minute ..." 'Mindfire' is the result of that 'minute'
EPS February 1998: 'Mindfire' was written in a white heat of inspiration between April and September 1979. It was the first novel I'd written, and the first time I'd used an explicitly sexual plot strand. It shows.
But, as far as I was concerned, that didn't matter. 'Mindfire' was pure self indulgence, a massive wallow not intended for publication, so I would never need to justify my characterization, and into which I could throw large chunks of my personal philosophy. Some of my views have evolved, but 'Mindfire' was and remained intensely personal.
When I finally made the - still difficult - decision to allow publication, I was faced with a choice: did I simply correct the spelling and grammar and tweak the style, or did I re-write it from top to bottom and make it more the sort of thing that EPS writes today? Judith expressed no preference (I think she was stunned that I had agreed at all).I decided, in the end, to follow my first instinct and let it stand, though the 'tweaking' went a little further than I'd originally planned. 'Mindfire' is an underground B7 legend (most undeservedly, but a legend nonetheless). You paid for that legend, not for some modernized and adulterated version, and who am I to deny it to you.
Judith Proctor 1998: It may have been EPS herself who loaned me a copy. I'd printed The Machiavelli Factor, a novel written by Lillian Sheperd (another of her pseudonyms) and she liked what I'd done with it. ...Much to my good fortune, EPS had kept the original masters. Pat Fenech and Sandy Douglas helped out with scanning the text and doing initial corrections of scanning errors. The EPS got the electronic version of the text and set to tidying it up. Now I've got it back to check, layout, etc., while she has my disc for Morgan to pick to shreds. Then Harriet (Monkhouse, not Vane) gets the fun of finding typos that I missed or new ones that I introduced in the layout process.
Read an extract here.
Reactions and Reviews
I just read Mindfire, a very nice B7 novel, by E.P.S. someone better known nowadays for Tail of the Tiger, an emphatically slash sequel to a gen Pros story (Action of the Tiger) and other slash in Pros.
I liked the novel, one that starts out set 2nd season, and then goes off into its own story line.
Plot: On a planet that Blake hopes to overthrow the Federation on, Avon meets highly evolved aliens, and in a stunning miscommunication asks them to solve his problem. Looking at him as a whole, they decide his problem is that he can't really tell friend from foe, and give him very strong and uncontrollable empathic powers, so that he can't help telling them apart.
He finds that Blake is the only one whose feelings don't bother him, and finally is able to ask Blake to help shield him from all of the other people there. But, other aliens on the planet (bred deliberately by the Fed) almost drive him crazy. Blake and Cally find him, and try to help, and once in relative safely, find themselves overcome with passion for each other. They are a little surprised at this, but willing; as they are about finished, Avon stirs from his coma and joins them; both physically and empathically. The aftermath knocks them out.
Avon recovers; they pussyfoot around all of this, finally the three of them talk. After some fighting on Avon's side, they agree that they will commit to each other; that basically they are married, and happy to be so. (Liberator crew is less than thrilled; Jenna is (gasp!) jealous, and Gan thinks non-monogamy and homosexuality *both* are perverted; Vila is just upset that if Avon can read his feelings that he'll know that he likes him (ooh ick).)
Avon and Blake even have a discussion where they admit that even if Cally died that they'd still be together, and that they have faced their attraction for each other. End Plot.Now the point of this post: The slash fan that sold me the novel called it gen... [Name redacted] read it and said it's slash, but then said, well, it's not gen... I have to admit it is slash, I mean Blake and Avon do have sex (fairly off-stage, but explicitness has never been a slash requirement) and say they love each other, but it doesn't *feel* like slash... It feels as little like slash to me as gay novels do (not gay stroke books--they feel unlike slash too, but in still a different way.) I'm not quite sure what I'm saying here. Has anyone else read the novel? It's not bad... 
We're back in get-Avon territory here (not that I'm complaining). It is truly amazing the ways writers find to abuse the poor man, but this is really hitting him where it hurts, as some gods with a diabolical sense of - well, something - turn him into an empath. That's right, our Kerr, who has enough problems acknowledging his *own* emotions, now has to deal with those of everyone around him. To put it mildly, it nearly kills him...
This is a really good story; it has its faults, but the good points vastly outweigh the bad. Avon and Blake are both somewhat too soft for my taste - given the intolerable (to Avon especially) situation they're in, the potentiality for some *really* splendid fire-and-acid-drenched fireworks is a bit fumbled (they argue, but not nearly as much as the TV characters would have!!). This softer characterisation also impacts on the quality of the bond between them, which is strong and deep, but without the fierce but unsentimental quality I love. But, given that, I still liked both men and their interaction is warm, involving and quite believable.
Cally is *very* well-written, very much like the tough Auronar warrior we hoped for at the start of the series, and even given something of a sense of humour (not too much, though). Vila (again a bit too soft, but not as much as Blake and Avon) and Gan are more superficial, but well done; Jenna is a problem, since her negative qualities are in my opinion rather overdone, but they are also one of the fulcrums of the plot, so must be accepted.And it's a very good plot, too, with believable and well-sketched secondary characters, a nicely-developed and interesting background, logical flow of action (and lots of it), some spectacularly formidable monsters, and the above-mentioned, horrendous and almost continuous mental and physical anguish that Avon goes through. Strongly recommended if you like to see him *suffer*... 
The author notes right up front that she never intended this story for publication, but after sharing it with friends, it took on a life of its own and was broadly pirated. Fortunately the author consented to publication so that the rest of us can get our hands on a cracking good story. The story takes off and rarely relents in pace, pulling the reader on an incredible journey. A real strength is this author's ability to portray alien/non-humanoid life in rich detail. The reader sees it in "Mindfire" and particularly in "The Quibell Abduction" which was written under another pseudonym, Lillian Shepherd.
It would be impossible to easily encapsulate the plot which gradually reveals itself. The affection between Blake and Avon strengthens and deepens when Avon is gifted/burdened with the ability of total empathy. Avon undergoes a number of harrowing experiences, devotedly supported by Blake and Cally, that involve Avon's 'gift' and something with the potential to alter the fate of the galaxy. While the Avon/Blake/Cally relationship is a central motif, there is danger, adventure, subterfuge, and the Federation too. The rest of the Liberator crew - Jenna, Vila, and Gan - are not as prominent but are not entirely in the background. They play a major role in the latter part of the story.
I enjoyed the author's portrayal of Avon and Blake; both were richly drawn and quite human. Although Cally was well done, I would have preferred to see a more action-oriented Cally. It is a minor quibble that "Mindfire's" Cally is not as well done as "The Quibell Abduction's" Cally since "Quibell" is without question the best Cally I have seen in fanfic. Gan and Vila were more broadly sketched than in most fanfic, particularly Gan who is often overlooked. I felt that Jenna was a bit harsh and obsessive. The original characters were plausible and three-dimensional, another treat.Having owned this edition of "Mindfire" for nearly two weeks, I've read it through twice and have reread sections several times. There are adult situations that would classify this more as "adult" than "gen," and a m/m relationship is alluded to without explicit scenes. Recommended. 
Mindfire, the very old novel by EPS is also a favorite of mine...odd though this seems to me because I find her characterizations very off, except for Cally. Her versions of Avon and Blake are far too nice, too gooshy beneath their hard exteriors. But it was written before 3rd or 4th seasons were aired. As pure SF/Fantasy, this one is outstanding in fandom, one of the few B7 novels I've read more than once. If you read it as an AU, it works perfectly well. 
The infamous Mindfire! I have loads to say about this one. To be fair, before we begin, I should note that EPS writes in the introduction: Normally, I welcome constructive criticism - any sort of criticism, to be honest - but Mindfire is different [because it was never meant to be published]. If you hate it - you were warned, and I don't want to know. (If on the other hand, you loved it...)
Fortunately, I don't hate it! I actually like it A LOT - or at least, I like the first half a lot. The second half is deeply problematic for me, for some reasons that I am going to go into (first - before talking about all the stuff I did really like), despite the very fair comment above. I don't think they are criticisms exactly, though, merely an expression of my own preferences and how they made it difficult to properly enjoy this fic. So - I hope that's OK.
Basically, my problem is that I am a true A/B shipper, and although this fic has the dubious honour of being the first A/B fic... it also really isn't. It's more accurate to say that it's an intense version of the A-B smarm with A/C in the background that we were talking about (in the review of The Mind of a Man is a Double-Edged Sword) that takes the situation to its logical (in fanfic terms) conclusion i.e. a threesome. Even that isn't an accurate depiction of what happens, though.
My problem with this fic is that where something like 'The Price of Justice' allows me to think that what Blake and Avon feel for each other (even on a friend level) is special, 'Mindfire' ... doesn't, really. At least, not once we get into the second half. Cally says that if the crew were Auron they would already all be married to each other - as though Avon's relationship with Gan or whatever is basically just as important as his relationship with Blake. In my world, Avon's relationship even with people he genuinely has an important relationship with (like Vila) isn't as important as his relationship with Blake.
What happens in this story is that Avon probably starts out fancying Cally - we see this in his jealous reaction to her going off with another man. She disappears from the A-B half of the narrative, just in time for Avon to get his empath powers. Avon finds out that Blake actually likes him as a person, and leans on him heavily (consensually) to help get through his trauma - this is the good part.
Then Cally arrives back in the A-B narrative thread, and the three of them end up having sex together because if you touch Avon then you can feel his emotions in return and basically Blake and Avon fancy Cally (or Blake feels Avon's attraction to Cally - it's not clear), and Cally fancies Avon (and maybe Blake a little?), and therefore they sort of all fancy each other. Though Blake tells us that while in communion he assumes he must physically desire Avon through Cally, Blake and Avon never have sex with each other (merely next to each other/touching each other). Rather than Blake and Avon having a special bond, he could literally have been literally anyone who was also there and quite liked the others. When we return to the Liberator, we find out Blake probably fancies Jenna more than he ever liked Cally (and certainly physically desired Avon) but now his experiences have bound him to Avon and Cally. But don't worry, B/J fans (I'm sure there are some out there), because all is not lost. As I said above, the crew should rightly all be married, even though Jenna is jealous and Gan is homophobic. Avon uses his touch telepathy to basically start an orgy (though this is making it sound crude, when in fact it's all very much more based in the spiritual etc etc, just with sex). We never consummate that group marriage, and both Gan and Jenna are pretty uneasy about it, but it's there - and presented as just as valid as the pairing that I actually think is the true one i.e. Blake/Avon.
So - this bothers me, and stops me enjoying all the stuff in the second half where Blake is holding Avon and calling him special etc etc, where really I should be eating up with a spoon. It feels so circumstantial. I wouldn't mind so much if this wasn't fanfiction and I didn't already have strong ideas about who cared about whom, etc, but it is. It's good fanfiction too... I really did enjoy it, but I have some more grumbling to do.
Mostly I don't actually mind that Blake and Avon only seem to be able to have sex with Cally, rather than each other (it's weird and interesting, even though I wish she basically wasn't there), if that's where we're going with it. Both of them are straight in this - I get it. But we we take that as read, then I do mind that in the orgy scene Blake apparently manipulates the situation so that Gan (who is homophobic, as we know) finds himself undoing Vila's flies etc because there aren't any women close to him. When Blake himself hasn't even kissed a man! (and has positioned himself close to Jenna). It's really bizarre - and unfair on Gan. Obviously Blake is no saint, but why doesn't he kiss Avon??? That's why I'm here!
Boo. Anyway - OK, let's talk about the good, shall we?
I basically love 'closed off, self denying Kerr Avon gets the power of empathy' as a plot device. It's A+ brilliant, and really well used here. We don't have to wait long to get into the good meaty Avon-suffering-too-many-Feels stuff, either. It's there in something like chapter 2. Yes, good, amazing. I also like the reverse that Avon can communicate his own feelings with touch as well - and I really like the way we learn this, which involves Blake about to storm off because he thinks Avon means what he says and then he touches Avon and realises that Avon loves him etc and is just pushing him away for bullshit reasons. Hooray!
Another thing I liked a lot with this fic, and this is what I was referring to when I was speaking about 'Mind of a Man' is that we very effectively contrast the gooey internal feelings (which aren't uncomplicated gooey, but I'll use that word anyway, because I am a mean person) with the surface appearance. So - when Avon initially wakes up, he sees Blake looking at him perfectly normally, perhaps even a bit irritated, but he can feel intense care underneath, and when Avon yells at him, Blake responds like it don't mean no thang, but Avon can feel that he's really hurt etc. The same is true with Blake misreading Avon's behaviour. What I mean to say is, this is why this plot device works so well for these characters, because they don't show these emotions most of the time. In general the characterisation of Blake and Avon (and Cally, I guess - boo) is really good, and the dialogue is good. That's why this really works for me, and 'Mind of a Man' really doesn't.
Avon is really ungracious and bitchy about his power in general - which I also like. And he is forced to use it for the rebellion to identify a traitor, and her death almost causes him to die (and Blake has to bring him back etc), which is exactly the sort of mcguffin that I like.
While I don't like the second half nearly as much (pretty much from the point where they start having sex, unfortunately), I do really like the ending where they all go back to the magical aliens who gave Avon his power and ask for it to be taken away. It's really well done, nicely thought through, and gives a good cyclical structure to the narrative.
It's interesting actually (given that this was underground until 1998) how much this feels like other fics that would come after it. Jabberwocky (which began in 1986) is the big obvious comparison, which has Avon finding his latent telepathic powers and using them to rescue Blake (who he has acknowledged his great love for)(while he is also in a romantic relationship with Cally - boo), and bringing absolutely everyone in to form a group consciousness. Jabberwocky also features Jealous Jenna, and a strong Avon-Vila element. All these tropes though are also popular in other fics - Avon's the Spock, after all, and also needs his telepathy to help him be with Cally - the telepath, and also - while I am a Blakestan and think Blake brings everyone together... most everyone else is the other one, so Avon is often depicted as the central hub of the group.
Some stuff is different though (understatement, obviously) - most notably, the semi-willingness to put Blake sexually into the A/C relationship. EPS's later fics are just A-B with A/C, and that's what I think this is really - it belongs far more firmly in the smarm tradition than what would eventually become the B/A tradition.
Which is not to say, right, that I think that if more B/A was like this, rather than what it is often like ... that things wouldn't be better. I actually think things would be better. The one thing you can always say about smarm is that they really really like each other (sometimes too much for plausibility, see above, but then that can easily happen in slash too), and there's no way if you're reading smarm that you can end up in a fic where they don't like each other at all (very plausible in B/A) or don't really care about each other, because by the time you're calling something 'smarm' it's all about how deeply they love each other really and the lengths they'll go to for each other. Slash fics like that are brilliant (and in too short supply. Alas, not enough B/A slash is also smarmy). In such a fic, Cally would presumably be a valued member of the crew who wasn't anywhere near as vital to the plot or to either B or A as those two characters are, and it would have some parts where men kissed - neither of which Mindfire has! By which I mean to prove, it's not slash; it's smarm.
I've sort of lost track of what I'm saying here, although I think it's relevant enough that I'll leave it. Maybe what I'm saying is that I'd like to remix this fic as slash.
I would highly recommend it, despite everything I said about how the B/A stuff aggravates me almost more than a regular smarm fic does (kind of like how Hellhound  upset me by having Avon in love with Blake and sexually desiring him, but still going off with a woman, even as his most important relationship was with Blake and vice versa). Early fic, eh? It doesn't know the rules. 
- a) Blake-Avon (with Avon/Cally), not Blake/Avon in my opinion, and moves away even from being pure B-A in the latter parts
- b) Very well written, and characterised, except for Jenna. Seriously - it's much better than most other fic in this fandom, and I'm not even just talking about the other fic written in the late 1970s or early '80s (which is mostly awful)
- c) Plotty and fun, although the second half with the mad scientist lady drags a bit
Mindfire is definitely a Guilty Pleasure (TM) and now I want to digit out and read it again :) The writer does love Cally and writes her well (even better in some of the stories under other pennames if I recall). As a complete addict to Beautiful Suffering, I adored making Avon go through what we must allow would be his ultimate torture, sharing emotions... 
- "Mindfire, EPS's wonderful Avon/Blake story, was written for and distributed to only ten of her dearest friends, and now I'd hate to guess how many people have a copy, but at least exponentially more than the original list." -- from DIAL #3
- from Judith Proctor
- Original Introduction, written by the author 1979
- New Introduction, written by the author 1998
- Editorial to the 1998 edition, by Judith Proctor
- In 1993, Sandy Herrold posted this review to the Virgule-L mailing list. It is quoted here with permission.
- from Sally Manton at Judith Proctor's Blake's 7 site
- from Morrigan at Judith Proctor's Blake's 7 site
- Lysator, Tashery S., dated September 1, 1994.
- Zines - smarm mainly, and Stadler Link - Procrastination Central, Archived version, post by Aralias, 2016
- comment by sallymn at Zines - smarm mainly, and Stadler Link - Procrastination Central, Archived version, post by Aralias, 2016