The Machiavelli Factor
|Title:||The Machiavelli Factor|
|Publisher:||Green Dragon Press, Judith Proctor|
|Cover Artist(s):||Jean Kluge|
|External Links:||The Machiavelli Factor at Hermit.org|
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The Machiavelli Factor is a gen Blake's 7 170-page novel written by Lillian Sheperd. It was originally published by Sheperd's own press, Green Dragon Press, and then re-published and edited by Judith Proctor in 1996. In 1998 Proctor wrote that "The Machiavelli Factor is one of the most popular zines that I've ever published. That's a real tribute to both Lillian's writing and to Jean's beautiful cover art."
The listing on Proctor's site claims:
This zine is likely to appeal to two main groups of people. It has a far greater SF content than the majority of fan fiction. It makes significant use of well developed aliens and the artefacts left behind by the Builders. The second group is Avon-Blake fans. This is not a slash zine, but it does feature a strong emotional relationship between Avon and Blake. They argue most of the time, but recognise the forces that pull them together.
The Machiavelli Factor is a broad sweeping novel that takes Avon and his third season crew from Terminal to another galaxy. Here, they rapidly get embroiled in local politics as numerous power groups vie for control. Avon's knowledge of Liberator technology makes him a wanted man, and some groups would rather see him dead than controlled by the others. There's Scitech who control most of the technology left behind by an alien master race known as the Builders; the Guild who control transport between stars; the Fraternity, a criminal organisation; the Indies or Independents, and the mysterious ylln. 
The Machiavelli Factor was originally written and published in 1982. The author commented:
This fanzine is over six months late, and it is mainly my fault... my lack of enthusiasm for the production of this fanzine stems mainly from the so-called fourth series of 'Blake's Seven'. Holding the 'real 'Blake's Seven' characters in my head became almost impossible when faced with this travesty of what had been the best space opera to hit our screens in over twenty-five years.... it is very unlikely that I will write any more 'Blake's Seven' fan fiction.'
The zine was xeroxed and re-distributed "in the US" at some point between 1982 and 1996 without the author's permission.
In 1996 Judith Proctor published a new edition with Sheperd's permission and revisions by the author and publisher. This edition was re-printed at least once more in 1998.
Sheperd's author's note to the second edition discusses the revision process:
Coming back to revise this story was a strange experience. The carefully accurate references to the series kept reminding me how well I had once known and loved these characters, this scenario. It made me very reluctant to change anything that impinged on character or series background. Indeed, I doubt that many people will notice much difference between this and the first edition, though a word by word comparison would reveal some extensive stylistic re-working. At only one point has the current availability of videos of the first season (an impossible dream when I wrote Machiavelli Factor) made a textual change necessary.
The editor's note by Proctor highlights some of the challenges in re-printing a zine from the early 1980s in the 1990s:
Being me, whenever I fall in love with a zine, I get the urge to reprint it, so my next thanks are due to Pat Nussman and Pat Elrod who helped me trace Lillian Sheperd to obtain her permission to produce a new edition.
Tim Lomas deserves thanks for his efforts in slaving over a hot scanner getting the text into electronic form. Vega then did an incredible job in removing the numerous OCR errors that are inevitable when scanning a fairly faint original.
Lillian then edited the text and made a few revisions.
I've done the final editing and the layout...
Thanks are due to Jean Sheward who redrew her illustrations as the original drawings were not available.The cover picture is by Jean Kluge. I originally saw 'Lightbringer' hanging on Ruth Saunders' wall and surprise, surprise, couldn't persuade her to part with it. I wrote to Jean, who sold me a copy and gave me permission to use it as a zine cover.
The cover of the 1996 re-print was not created for the zine. It was originally called 'Lightbringer'. Proctor seems to have been given blanket permission by the artist to use it for any zine, before deciding on this one, saying "I don't think it could have been more appropriate to any zine than to this one."
One reviewer writes: "When I first laid eyes on the 1996 edition of the classic Blake's 7 story The Machiavelli Factor, I said 'Wow. Oh, wow. The cover. Wow.'.. The original looks to have been done in watercolour and pastel, and is just stunning.." 
In 1998 Proctor commented: "I've seen zines sell at conventions soley on the strength of the cover, but I've also had people coming back and buying copies for their friends because they enjoyed the story so much."
Cover to the 1996 edition. Artwork by Jean Kluge.
Reactions and Reviews
When I first laid eyes on the 1996 edition of the classic Blake's 7 story The Machiavelli Factor, I said 'Wow. Oh, wow. The cover. Wow.' A colour picture of Blake holding a crystal sphere radiating light. The original looks to have been done in watercolour and pastel, and is just stunning. But you should never buy a zine for just its cover. What of the contents?
It has been a long time since I first read The Machiavelli Factor, more than ten years since I pored over a borrowed copy of it back when I was new to fandom. It was better than I remembered, possibly because the main bits I remembered were the start, and a flaw that I found irritating. But as I read it this time, some bits came back to me, and others I just enjoyed as they came.
To get the criticism over with, the main flaw is still the same as it ever was - that we don't get enough of a hint as to who Valonia is. I don't mean that it shouldn't have been a surprise - I like surprises - but because of the lack of clues, the revelation was not only a surprise, it was also hard to believe. This time around, because I remembered who Valonia was, I picked up the few subtle hints there were, but I don't think they were enough. But otherwise, this was a durn good story, alternative universe set after Terminal.
One could describe this story as a series of leaps from the frying pan into the fire, from the fire to the volcano. Rescues, escapes, captures - I'm reminded of the line in the Princess Bride: 'You've kidnapped what I've rightfully stolen.' - as Our Heros find themselves pawns (and Queens) in a power struggle in a civilization far away from the Federation. Politics, treachery, duplicity - is there anyone that they can trust? But it's not just an action-politics kind of story, there's good character stuff, particularly for Avon and Blake. Tarrantophiles probably won't like what happens with Tarrant, but I can't really say that it's out of character for a third-season Tarrant, which this is. One has to assume that the author is a Blakephile, since all the bits from Blake's point of view are done in first person. Whether this was a good decision I'm not sure, but it doesn't seem to hurt. There are bits here that are just fun - watch out for the Masters of Illusion (!).A good read. A spirograph on the Sid & Nancy scale. 
This full-length novel whisks the 3rd season crew off to a completely different universe, straight into the middle of a completely different though equally dangerous political set-up. It's a great SF novel by any criteria, with an exciting and well-structured plot, an interesting background society and thoroughly convincing aliens - and it also charts some terrific, feisty, angst-and-humour-driven developments in the relationship between Avon and Blake.
'Machiavelli' is well written on a stylistic level, and the voices are good (very good if you consider when this thing was written. The Avon-Vila exchanges are some of the best, and better in general than the Blake voice). The skiffy concepts are also pretty good - I really like the idea of the Scoop, and intelligent aliens you can talk to, which is not something B7 ever really did. I also really like the idea of Blake in another universe still trying desperately to free the oppressed. I like that Cally and Dayna are competent - I do wish for a more sympathetic Tarrant, but I don't think this one is out of character. I like the idea of Blake hanging out with Dayna. I like ice tigers - I guess. They are also a bit cutesy. And I like the idea of Avon having to be in a circus act with Cally and Vila, although I didn't find the execution as entertaining as it should have been, and to be fair this bit is definitely something that I would have stripped out to get us to Blake-Avon faster.
Of more interest - they have several scenes where they yell at each other, which are actually my favourites. The bit at the sea where Blake explains why he left and Avon articulates many of Blake's worst qualities and Blake chooses not to listen is excellent. As is the A-B scene that follows it, which has an echo of 'Terminal' (my favourite), and a nice spin on the previous scene. The scene where they actually discuss their past in order to better understand one another is a bit... generic (neither has a particularly exciting past, which is quite relieving in a way, but boring in another) and goes on for a long time - but pays off later (I think. Based on the bits I read.)
There is also a bit where Blake cries - but it is actually quite good. That part also has some v good Avon internal monologue, which if I had to level yet another criticism at this probably blameless fic I would say is a nice change because Blake's internal monologue (which we get a lot of because the fic deviates between Blake's 1st and... variable close 3rd) is a bit personality-less. Which is odd, given that the fic also makes many good observations about Blake in Avon's dialogue. Avon is, of course, the star and well done.And I like the ending.
It is proper sci-fi, well written, intricately plotted and in character. Avon is great in it. It even has a happy ending, eventually. 
Right, well, I'm cross now.
I DID read on, as you asked, and things deteriorated rapidly.
Now the crew have all paired off and are going at it like bunnies, and also seem to have developed an inexplicable love of hiking.
And also there is that truly dreadful line which Avon says to Blake. You know, the one about the 'bull elephant'.
Please don't think my objection is because I'm prudish or squeamish about such things, cos I sure as hell ain't, and will out-vulgar anyone here if challenged to do so.
AVON would never say such a thing to Blake, or in fact to anyone, in a million years. It is utterly out of character, and in fact should probably be on the top-ten list of 'things Avon would never say, even with a gun to his head'.
None of the characterisation here seems much like B7 at all, which makes me wonder if this is a story adapted from something else? If not, the writer shows a startling lack of understanding of the B7 characters, and even in other parts where the characterisation is more accurate, this is done so in an over-baked manner 'look! look! I've got Avon saying something very Avonish here! Aren't I clever! Let's have Jenna notice just how Avonish he's being!'
Moggies like their stories to show, not tell.
And there are weird anachronisms dotted throughout: why are they eating brioche and prosciutto on a backward alien planet in the B7 universe? And if they're all sleeping in primitive huts, WHY have they got a dishwasher?
So basically, I'm not even halfway through yet, and I don't like this story at all. The third-person parts are bearable, nothing much wrong there, but whenever the author switches to first person and tries to analyse what's going on in the characters' minds the quality of the writing drops dramatically, and nothing they 'think' seems to match the actual B7 characters.
Come on, seriously, can you imagine Avon contemplating, even for a moment, the unflattering and impractical nature of Blake's pyjamas?I really don't see any point in finishing this story, unless you can promise me that all these references to human sacrifice will culminate in Blake being hacked to bits and chucked in the lake? 
- Footnote to the Editorial in the 1996/98 edition. The editorial itself was written in 1996, with this footnote being added in 1998 "as I produce a new set of masters for yet another print run..." etc
- from Judith Proctor's Blake's 7 site
- from Judith Proctor's Blake's 7 site
- Author's Note [to the First Edition]. The second edition note mentions that she did write another story "a savage post Gauda Prime vignette for Frontier Worlds that was my real goodbye to the fandom".
- Judith Proctor's Blake's 7 site
- Footnote to the Editorial in the 1996/98 edition
- Preface to the Second Edition: 1996
- Editorial in the 1996/98 edition
- Editorial in the 1996/98 edition
- Katspace. WebCite
- Footnote to the editorial in the 1996/98
- Katspace. WebCite
- SALLY AND JENNY'S 50 FAVOURITE A-B GEN STORIES. The zine is also picked out in the introduction to the 50 favourites, with the compilers noting: "Along the way we realised we were developing our own idiosyncratic definition of A-B. In Sarah's guide, A-B indicates stories where Avon and Blake are the main characters - for example, Sarah lists Anne Collins Smith's 'Shoot Feds and Dodge' as A-B, because it's a parody of Dr Seuss's 'Green Eggs and Ham' in the form of a dialogue between Blake and Avon, but she doesn't list Lillian Shepherd's THE MACHIAVELLI FACTOR as A-B because it follows the separate adventures of the full third season crew, even though Shepherd incorporates a lyrical and powerful account of Avon and Blake sorting out their differences."
- Aralias reviewed this zine on Dreamwidth in September 2014
- 2008 comment by windfola at Avon, the Paul Darrow Society
- a August 2008 comment at Avon: The Paul Darrow Society