Star (Blake's 7 zine)
|Title:||Star , Star Two, Star Three, Star Four|
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Star is a gen Blake's 7 anthology. Each zine followed the next with titles like: Star One, Star Two etc....
Fiction (much of it linked here):
- Judith Proctor, "Harmony"
- Judith Proctor and Patrick McLaughlin, "Cygnus Delta" ("There is a livestock plague on the planet Cygnus Delta, and Blake goes to the aid of farmers. Things slowly start to go wrong for the Liberator crew. Cally meets a telepathic alien who is threatened by the plague. Avon makes a fatal mistake, and is forced to live with the consequences.")
- Neil Faulkner, "Kriegspielen" ("It's the middle of the Andromedan war and the fighting seems to have been going on forever. Cally's tired, everyone's tired, and the crew are all at each other's throats.")
- Catherine S., "In Broken Images" ("A study of the changing relationship between Blake and Avon from their first meeting to the last fatal encounter.")
- Andrew J. Down and Julz C. Monckton, "Vila's Christmas Surprise" ("Inspired lunacy on Xenon base when Vila decides that Orac should have his own set of wheels and become a self propelled computer.")
- Andrew Kearley, "Love and Honour" ("What happened when Tarrant and Zeeona originally met on Betafarl. A view of Betafarlian culture and the full reason why Zeeona removed her glove at the end of 'Warlord'.")
- Judith Proctor, "The Third Option" ("Tor Hammond is working on the Federation teleport project several years after the events on Gauda Prime. His life is quiet and uneventful until an irritating woman offers him an old Liberator teleport bracelet.")
- "Meet the Contributors"
- Judith Proctor, "Editorial"
- Kathy Hanson
- Jacqui Topp
- Martin Helsdon
- Les Jones
- Andrew Downs
Star 2 or Star Two contains 142 pages and was published in October 1994.
- Judith Proctor, "Trial"
- Jean Graham, "The Ultimate Slash Story" (reprinted with slight revisions from Avon's Gadget Works)
- Andrew Kearley, "Fugitives"
- Louise Rutter, "Ambitions"
- Jean Graham, "A Step Between" (S3; reprinted from Threads Through Infinity)
- Neil Faulkner, "Hunter"
- Andrew Down, "Gauda Prime-- An Alternative Ending"
- David R. Sanderson, "Slip to Black"
- Judith Proctor, "Shane"
- "Meet the Contributors"
- Judith Proctor, "Editorial"
- Zine ads
- Judith Proctor, "Wolf"
- Judith Proctor, "Tiger"
Reactions and Reviews: Issue 2
A lot of genzine for your money, with stories, poetry and various pieces of artwork. The contents, following the example set by Gambit zines, are helpfully arranged in series order and comprise one series A, two B, three C, one D and two PGP. All the stories are short to medium length except Neil Faulkner's "Hunter" (series C). This is an ambitious and ultimately successful tale involving another ship and a particularly unpleasant alien; to say much more would be to give away an artfully constructed plot. The portrayal of the Liberator crew is pretty good, especially Cally's attitude to Avon, though I wouldn't have thought Vila was quite as feeble as he is towards the end. This is one story where the character interaction and the action sequences are given equal weight.
Equally good is "Trial" by Judith Proctor, which centres on Avon's trial for fraud and is told in the first person by Blake. It is set in the early days on Liberator and brings out Blake's uncertainties about Avon both as a friend and as a fellow-rebel; how can Blake reconcile his cause and personal loyalties? There's a typically Avonish twist at the end. The second story by Ms Proctor is "Shane", Avon as a gunslinger. It has an utterly delicious drawing on page 118, but shouldn't he have an authentic big black hat? If you haven't read the novel by Jack Schaefer or seen the film you won't get all the resonances, but this is still a very enjoyable read. Perhaps you should get the novel too?
My favourite story was the haunting "A step between" by Jean Graham. It's a brief description of the conversation between Tarrant and Vila following Terminal, and it is exquisite. Nobody writes this type of simple yet telling prose as well as Ms Graham, or if they do, I'd love to find examples. I would have bought the zine at twice the price just to get these four pages. It also contains another of her stories "The ultimate slash story", but this one is comic.Fans of Travis, and of episode links, will enjoy Andrew Kearnley's "Fugitives", an ingenious tale involving Travis and Docholi. The remaining stories, all short, are "Ambitions" by Louise Rutter about Anna/Chesku, Andrew Down's amusing "Gauda Prime - an alternative ending" , and "Slip to back" by David R Sanderson, a bleak PGP which features Servalan. 
Star 3 or Star Three was published in 1996 and contains 170 pages.
- Lillian Sheperd, "The Haunting of Haderon" (reprint of story printed in Liberator 5 in 1979 and as a standalone in 1982)
- Vega, "Seven Days to Destiny"
- D. C. Morris and S. Barrett, "Economy Drive"
- Richard Self, "Alter Ego"
- Neil Faulkner, "Wit and Wisdom of the Dead"
- Judith Proctor, "Amagon"
- Vega, "Transition in Three Stages"
- Loulou Harris, "I'm Not Blake"
- Andrew Williams, "Unconscious Influences"
- Nicolene van den Berg, "Intermezzo"
- Susan Barrett, "Headache"
- Susan Barrett, "A Time Before We Met"
- Lynne Taylor, "Death Hand"
- Nicolene van den Berg, "Flight to Space City"
- Susan Barrett, "All That Remains Are Regrets"
- Judith Proctor, "Messing About in a Spaceship"
- Judith Proctor, "Olag Gan"
- Kelsey Adams, "Hymn to Him" (from My Fair Lady) Susan Bennett, "Cally's Thoughts on the Way to Terminal"
- Judith Proctor, "Og's Song" (S4; filk, Nobody Loves Me...)
- Jane Carnall, "A Blake's 7 Alphabet"
- Lucia Casarella Moore (color cover)
- Val Westall (back cover)
- Will Blight (inside cover Scorpio)
- Gavin Miller
- Lynne Taylor
- Kathryn Andersen
Star 4 or Star Four was published in October 2000 and contains 113 pages.
- Una McCormack, "Under the Influence"
- Natasa Tuscev, "The Quality of Memory"
- Penny Dreadful, "Trap of Glass"
- Morrigan, "Trade"
- Nickey Barnard, "London's Burning"
- Una McCormack, "Other People's Problems"
- Neil Faulkner, "How to be Topp on the Liberator"
- Marian de Haan, "Small Revenge"
- Dana Shilling, "I Know You All"
- Gillian Taylor, "Rehabilitation"
- Gillian Taylor, "Four Little Words"
- Julia Stamford, "A Price to Pay"
- Sally M., "A Christmas Canto"
- Susan Beth, "Logic Puzzle"
- Judith Proctor, "Editorial"
- Susan Beth, puzzle (see above under Fiction)
- Andy Hopkinson (front cover, altered photo)
- Andrew Williams
- Penny Dreadful
- Val Westall
Reactions and Reviews: Issue 4
Star Four is beautiful to look at. I love the brooding Blake on the cover -- it's even better in reality than on the web. It's nice and chunky, although the size is possibly just on the limit of the binding method, I only hope the last pages don't part company with the rest. The quality of the fiction within is almost uniformly very high. I haven't reviewed the humorous stories, as it is well known that I have no sense of humour whatsoever...
Under the Influence (Una McCormack) is an exposition of the relationship between tortured and torturer. Beautifully characterised and very sad, the story made the Earth Domes briefly live for me.
The Quality of Mercy (Natasa Tuscev) starts with a kidnapping on Albian but travels far into the souls of Blake and his kidnapper, a failed Federation officer, against a backdrop of an excellent adventure yarn.
Trap of Glass (Penny Dreadful) is as original as we've come to expect from Penny, and to say any more would spoil it.
Trade (Morrigan) is another kidnapping story, with some nice dialogue as Avon and Jenna bargain for their crew-mates. Vila is nicely portrayed angsting over the relative prices on the heads of the motley crew.
London's Burning (Nickey Barnard) revisits the crew and inmates on the London, as Blake finds out what his fellow passengers think of child abusers. Though the theme is old, the writing and the complex characterisations are excellent, and Nickey gives the scenario several novel twists. I really enjoyed this one.
Other People's Problems (Una McCormack) is a short but sweet tale that examines whether people's actions match up to their reputations.
Small Revenge (Marian de Haan) creates a rebel so annoying that his presence on the Liberator unites the warring crew-members against him. Though well written, this story didn't quite work for me; I felt it tried to meld together too many disparate plot elements (although each was interesting of itself) and I didn't believe that Avon would explain his background quite that readily.
I Know You All is one of my favourites of Dana Shilling's incredibly varied and stylish output. This deliciously written story throws Avon, Blake, Anna and Servalan into an alternative universe after that cellar scene. As someone else has commented, Dana has a gift for one-line character summaries.
Rehabilitation (Gillian Taylor) graphically fills in some of Vila's childhood at the hands of the Federation's prison system. This story deftly tackles a whole range of emotive issues and the differing reactions of the rest of the crew were well thought out.
Four Little Words, by the same author, takes another look at the Orbit scenario. Not one of my favourites.
In A Price to Pay (Julia Stamford), Servalan makes Avon a final offer. As plausible as it is heart-wrenching, this story stands out for me, even in this excellent zine.
I've never been much for the Christmas on the Liberator sub-genre, so I approached Sally Manton's A Christmas Canto with some trepidation. Despite occasional descents into sentimentality, on the whole the story packs a poignant punch and is heartily recommended.
If one thing lets the zine down it is the quality of the repro on the internal art. There are several nice Val Westall illustrations (I especially liked the Avon--Blake heads on p19) as well as some good ones by Andrew Williams (a very shifty-looking Vila on p85), but I fear they've rather lost in the translation to print.In summary, an excellent zine with a very high standard of fiction overall, and several real gems. Certainly good value for money. 
This is a very enjoyable collection. There is a variety of topics, styles and modes, ranging from conventionally written linear plots to experiments in form and language, and from comedy to tragedy. My objection to some of the stories is that they take too much licence in interpreting the series, but they are all recommended for their literary qualities.
Under the Influence (Una McCormack) focuses on the interaction between a Federation interrogator and a prisoner. In spite of his position of strength, the interrogator comes under the influence of his seemingly powerless victim. The idea is not new but it is wonderfully rendered. Another story by Ms McCormack is short: 'Other People's Problems', with an interesting twist in the end.
In The Quality of Mercy (Natasa Tucev), Blake is stranded on a very hostile planet along with a Federation security officer. This story tries to balance the ruthlessness of B7 universe by introducing a different set of values. They are personified in a character from Blake's past, but also prove relevant to his own personality.
Trap of Glass (Penny Dreadful) discusses whether it is just a coincidence that Travis's personal tragedy and psychic disposition are so suitable to the Federation needs. There is some fine eye/optic/glass symbolism and it is very professionally written.
Trade (Morrigan) demonstrates Avon's skills in dealing with criminals. A rather enjoyable thriller, with fast pacing and some brisk dialogue.
London's Burning (Nickey Barnard) proposes a kind of transitory period, in which Blake has regained his memory but still hasn't re-established his former self as the resolute leader of men. Provided one accepts this 'uncertain Blake' as a premise, it is a very good story, especially in its realistic depiction of convicts and the overall threatening atmosphere aboard the London.
How to be Topp on the Liberator (Neil Faulkner) is a humorous story - a real treat, and very postmodern in the way it derives its comic effect mostly from the written language.
In Small Revenge (Marian de Haan), the Liberator crew are presented as a rather unpleasant bunch, torn by antagonisms and suspicions, with hardly any warmth in their relationships. The story is about their encounter with someone who is even less pleasant than they are.
I Know You All (Dana Shilling) is a quote by Shakespeare's Hal, who hangs around with all sorts of morally dubious characters, but proves to be a worthy ruler once he inherits the throne. This becomes a parodic reference to a humorous story written in Dana Shilling's inimitable style, about a successful coup in which Blake, Avon, Anna and Servalan all play a part.
Rehabilitation (Gillian Taylor) suggests that the treatments Vila received from the Federation in his childhood haven't left him as intact as it usually seems. The idea is interesting, although Vila's sentiment is somewhat out of character. Four Little Words, by the same author, dwells on some nastier traits in Avon's personality.
A Price to Pay (Julia Stamford) is a PGP story with wonderful, requiem-like atmosphere. There is something about this final encounter between Avon and Servalan that almost resembles the resolutions of classical tragedies.
In Christmas Canto (Sally Manton), a homage to Dickens, Avon undergoes a curious transformation and changes his attitude to Blake. Sally Manton depicts her characters with great fondness and understanding. She is also very skilful in creating atmosphere and intimating events by means of carefully chosen symbolic details.For recreation, there is an interesting Logic Puzzle by Susan Beth. The art (by Andrew Williams, Val Westal and Penny Dreadful) is to my liking, and the front cover image of Fearless Leader is everything I could wish for. 
This collection of thirteen stories and a logic puzzle is the fourth and best looking in the series, with a lovely blue cover featuring Blake by Andy Hopkinson, and a very amusing Shakespearian frontispiece by Andrew Williams. I naturally wondered if the stories were of the same standard, and was quickly satisfied that they were, ranging from good to excellent.
The first story, 'Under the Influence' by Una McCormack, deals with Blake before The Way Back, recounting his interrogation and torture, and his refusal - though to no avail - to sign a confession. While the story showed that Blake's interrogator was as much a prisoner of the system as he, I particularly liked the hard questions raised by the former. If Blake cared, he asked, so much about the right of people to think and speak freely, why did he kill so many? Blake's response: 'They were legitimate targets. This is a war.'
The interrogator also questions Blake's responsibility 'to sacrifice your [Blake's] own people, your friends, on the grounds that you've had some revelation that the rest of us don't understand?' The latter's confession duly contains admissions that he had planned to hurt and kill innocent civilians. He also spoke of the death of people he had persuaded that his beliefs were right and apologised to the families of the soldiers he murdered.
'The Quality of Mercy' by Natasha Tuscev is set on Albian after Countdown. A Council member, and secret Federation officer, approaches Blake, claiming to have news of the latter's sister. The story deals with that officer's capture of Blake and the subsequent chase by the Liberator's crew.
The things I found especially good in this story were: the strategy the officer used to capture Blake; the latter's suspicion of the former, which still didn't stop him getting caught; the ability of Blake to find the officer's inner weakness and exploit it to his advantage; and the dividing up of the story into the well-conveyed viewpoints of Jenna, Vila, the officer, Avon, and Blake himself.
'Trap of Glass' by Penny Dreadful, set between Orac and Weapon, is a very interesting explanation as to the differences between Travis 1 and Travis 2. I will not discuss it here, as I would give too much away, and will only say that it is worth reading.
'Trade' by Morrigan concerns the capture of Blake and Cally by a bounty hunter who, instead of handing them over to the Federation, offers to ransom them for a large sum of money. Enjoyable passages in the story include Vila wondering 'exactly how the Federation assigned specific values to each of them,' grumbling as to why his price was not higher than Blake's or Avon's; and the intensity of the negotiations, with Avon haggling over every detail, particularly the amount of money. The best of all, however, was Blake's annoyed comment after he learnt about the haggling, that 'Our lives were on the line and you argued about money? It's not even your money, Avon.'
'London's Burning' by Nickey Barnard is my favourite story in this collection. The title is a pun on a BBC drama series of the same name about London fire fighters, in which Gareth Thomas played Assistant Chief Officer Bulstrode. (Michael Keating also made an appearance in the series.)
The story deals with events aboard the London, where there is a plot by Raiker to dump all the prisoners. Commander Leylan, well drawn as disillusioned, but honest and dedicated to his job, finds out about this plot, which - I was astonished ot learn - is the result of Raiker's moral indignation at Blake having committed 'one of the worst crimes that exists.'
Raiker's attitude is also shared by many of Blake's fellow prisoners, who attack him a few times. Ms. Barnard is exceptionally good in showing - one of the few to do so - the likely consequences of Blake being convicted of child abuse, something already seen in 'Haunted', published in the zine _Pressure Point_.
What the reader might find a little disorientating is that the pattern of events does not fit in with that seen in Space Fall. The best way, then, to read the story, is to see it as an alternate version of the start of that episode, albeit one that unconvincingly returns back to 'normal' quite quickly.
'Other People's Problems' by Una McCormack is set after Redemption. While short, being a page in length, it shows Travis in an unexpectedly favourable light.
'How to be Topp on the Liberator' by Neil Faulkner is my very close second favourite story in this zine, and one of my favourite humourous Blake's 7 stories. It is written in the style of four books by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle - including How to be Topp - that appeared in the 1950s. A schoolboy called Nigel Molesworth writes these books, which cast a satirical look at Britain in that decade, in a semi-literate style. This story was presumably inspired by Molesworth's treatment of the science fiction of the time, which includes a passage describing when he, after landing in a spaceship on Uranus, is arrested by the PUKON and his TREENS. The PUKON them orders the latter:
'Put him in the reactor, o clot-faced doodlebugs'.
'The reactor is full, O PUKON. You always put the earth men there and they always escape it is very depressing. It is the same with the furnaces and the steel doors. Always get out at the last moment'.
'Try the moon-crater full of monsters'.
'Full too, O PUKON'.
The story is told from the point of view of an Avon who appears to be a reincarnation of Nigel Molesworth. All those who enjoy B7 humour will love Avon's description of the typical dangerous mission, when Blake 'have this grate idea to steal sipa machine/sekrit weapon ect from Evil Fererashun'; and they will also love his explanation as to why Travis is 'so meen'!
'Small Revenge' by Marian de Hann is set between Trial and Killer. Blake goes to a planet to recruit a replacement for Gan. Not only does he want someone who he can completely trust; he wants to end the vulnerability and isolation felt by him due to the decision of Avon and Cally to bond. (Ms. de Hann feels (a feeling shared by myself) that such a relationship would change the crew dynamics.)
Blake decides to make the recruitment a fait accompli, to avoid all the arguments that would otherwise result. The problem is that the new person claims that Avon worked for Central Security and interrogated him after his arrest. His denouncing of Avon as a traitor leaves Blake with a big problem on his hands, and Avon explaining his criminal past. A paragraph on the eating habits of the crew is both concise and amusing, as well as nice background.
'I Know You All' by Dana Shilling is a very interesting version of what could have happened had Anna Grant's coup succeeded. Blake becomes President and finds that the job entails a hugh amount of paperwork. The story also tells the reader something he has longed to know: Servalan's first two names.
'Rehabilitation' by Gillian Taylor starts predictably enough, with Vila staring down Dayna's cleavage, thinking the same thoughts as those of many male readers: 'He knew that it was not good manners to stare, but if she didn't want men to look, she shouldn't wear things like that blue and gold jump-suit she had on today.' Dayna, due to her very sheltered life, is not used to such behaviour; and she overreacts to a movement by Vila, causing an injury to his head.
Sadly, this injury brings back all the memories of the drup treatment he underwent at the Eurodome Criminal Rehabilitation Centre. The memories and their consequences show well what lay behind his remark that 'I've had my head adjusted by some of the best in the business.' A must - if a nasty one - for those who want a glimpse into Vila's past.
'Four Little Words' by the same author looks at what might have happened had Avon thrown Vila out of the shuttle in Orbit. The reactions of Dayna, Soolin, and Tarrant are well drawn; and there is a black joke at the end, which I will refrain from revealing.
'A Price To Pay' by Julia Stamford is a PGP story with a difference, making it one of the best I have read. Servalan visits Avon, who has survived, and offers him Blake's legend in return for his co-operation. If he agrees, they will secretly cremate Blake's body and he will be put back on the Federation's wanted list. The Servalan we see is surprising but in character, admitting to respect for Blake's ideals, saying that he did the right thing in fighting the aliens in Star One. While believing that the Federation will go the way of all empires, she doesn't believe that it will happen in her lifetime, so will leave Blake's legend alone.
The final story, 'A Christmas Canto' by Sally Manton, is set before Warlord, and based on Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. Non-humourous Christmas treatments of B7 can be difficult, in that they can get drowned in sentiment, something fatal for a B7 story. This one succeeds, in that it splashes around in sentiment, but not for too long. The concluding 'Logic Puzzle' by Susan Beth I will say nothing about, leaving readers to think of a solution.As the reader has seen, the stories are a mixed bag, in terms of setting and character. They range from before to after the series, although with a bias towards the second season. In terms of the characters, fans of Avon, Travis, Blake, Vila, and Servalan will be happy; but a third to half of the stories appear, in my opinion, to deal with crew interactions as a whole, all of them doing and saying something, stories which display the writers' considerable talents well. As a result, even those B7 fans with particular allegiances will find this collection well worth reading.