Avon/Vila

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Pairing
Pairing: Kerr Avon/Vila Restal
Alternative name(s): A/V, rarely Avila
Gender category: slash, m/m
Fandom: Blake's 7
Canonical?: probably not
Prevalence: one of the most common pairings in the fandom
Archives: Avon/Vila on AO3, The Library at hermit.org (multi-pairing and gen archive), Liberated.org (multi-pairing and gen archive), Oblique Publications (multifandom, strong emphasis on A/V)
Other:
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Avon/Vila is one of the most popular ships in Blake's 7 fandom,[1] pairing cynical computer genius and failed white-collar criminal Kerr Avon with the more light-hearted, work-shy Delta thief Vila Restal. As a result many fics featuring this pairing focus on their shared criminal nature and/or on the differences between their classes/grades.

Avon and Vila in 'Pressure Point' (B05) by Terry Nation

The early multimedia fanzine touched, which through its editor's preference heavily leaned towards A/V in the Blake's 7 slash it featured, humorously characterises Avon/Vila as follows:

A/V (Abb. Avon/Vila) Used of stories in which a hapless/overbearing computer technician and an experienced/terrified thief find themselves irresistibly drawn to each other and follow this to its unnatural conclusion.

A subsidiary, A&V, is used of stories in which the aforesaid technician and thief find themselves irresistibly drawn, etc., but mysteriously manage to evade the unnatural result. These are also known in trade as 'cop-outs'.[2]

[Editor's Note: touched is a consciously queer zine, so the use of the term 'unnatural' has to be taken as tongue-in-cheek.]

As with B/A, fans of Avon/Vila find support for the pairing throughout the series, in particularly also because Avon and Vila are the only characters that remain together for the entire run of the show. Their canonical relationship is characterised by banter, which fans of the pairing see as evidence for the companionship between the two characters, though others have read it as evidence of dislike. This style of interaction is evident from very early on:

VILA: Very delicate. You know, with hands like that and a decent upbringing, he [Avon] might have made a respectable pick pocket. [3]

A further milestone for A/V fans is the episode 'City at the Edge of Forever': While the episode also (temporarily) pairs Vila up with a female love interest (Kerril), it also includes Avon defending Vila in his absence against fellow crew member Tarrant and putting every effort into retrieving the kidnapped Vila.

AVON: He's irritating, but he's useful. We can easily replace a pilot, but a talented thief is rare. [4]
Avon and Vila in 'Gambit' by Bob Holmes
If script-editor Chris Boucher seems to have been responsible for many of the biggest Blake/Avon moments and seems to have at-times almost supported that pairing, it is writer Robert Holmes who is responsible for many of the highlights of the canonical basis for A/V. Three of Holmes's four B7 episodes focus on this team-up: In 'Killer', Avon takes Vila on a mission to extort a piece of equipment from an 'old friend'. In 'Gambit', Avon and Vila rob a casino together behind the backs of the rest of the crew (and Vila drunkenly drapes himself around Avon). Both episodes illustrate the partnership-style interaction between the two characters. Finally, Holmes is also responsible for 'Orbit,' an episode that spawned hundreds of fics attempting to deal with the traumatic events depicted, which for Avon/Vila fans are an easy equivalent to the events of Gauda Prime / 'Blake' for A/B fans.
VILA: It's a trip I won't forget, Avon. AVON: Well, as you always say, Vila: you know you are safe with me.[5]

Characterisation by TPTB

Convention photograph of Paul Darrow and Michael Keating


In an issue of the Starburst Magazine released before series 3, Michael Keating, who played Vila, is quoted as saying

He's a great friend, so yes I do [miss Gareth Thomas]. However the character of Vila would miss Paul [Darrow; Avon] more if he left, because we have this rapport, he being Avon the genius, and I the down-to-earth Vila. Our roles offset each other.[6]

In the Blake's 7 Magazine and seeming before/during series 4, Paul Darrow, who played Avon, is quoted as saying

He [Avon] never seeks the company of the others but has a special relationship with Vila. He is protective in a 'big brother' way towards Vila because Vila is always on Avon's side.

It was suggested at the very beginning that Avon knew Vila before they met Blake as it was Vila who introduced him to the 'seven' and, now that they are the only two left from the original group, there is a certain bond between them.

[...] So I'm trying to introduce a slight softening of the relationship between Avon and Vila, another side of the character, without detracting from the fairly ruthless attitude already known. After all, Vila's loyalty to Avon must be rewarded in some way [...][7]
Paul Darrow & Michael Keating at Scorpio IV, from Ashton Press[8]

At other times, Darrow reputedly described Avon's relationship with Vila rather derogatorily as "one man and his dog",[9], though the timeline of that comment is unclear. Darrow was appalled at the idea of slash in his fandom (see, The Blake's 7 Wars), and may have directed this ire against A/V in particular, as some of the major players in the Wars were A/V writers. However, Darrow's own screenplay Man of Iron depicts Vila holding the rest of the crew at gunpoint when they refuse to save Avon (and in the end Avon almost thanks him for it) - arguably almost more than Holmes had ever done.

It also seems at least possible that Darrow's own easy relationship with Michael Keating (demonstrated at conventions) may have prompted some of the slashers to write as they did. This close friendship between the two actors continued until Paul Darrow's passing in 2019, and though convention appearances of the two actors together had grown less, they competed together in the UK quiz show Pointless as recently as 2018.

Fandom History

Avon/Vila was one of two juggernaut pairings in the early days of B7, only competing with Blake/Avon. It features in numerous zines, particularly those by Ashton Press, and was one of only three pairings (the others being Blake/Avon and Avon/Tarrant) to have its own single-pairing zines, most prominently the .75 issues of Southern Comfort. It also appeared in the fandom's earliest all-slash zine E-Man-Uelle in 1983, which is considered to be of poor quality, and in other early zines containing B7 slash, such as the multimedia zine touched, where the pairing appears from the very first issue (1984) and thus earlier than touched's first A/B. There appears, however, to be no known single candidate for the first-ever Avon/Vila fic.

In touched, Julie Kramer contrasted Avon/Vila with Avon/Blake, describing the appeal of the A/V pairing:

[Avon] does care for Blake, but he also knows bitterly well that Blake's cause is more important than any individual could ever be; and then there's Vila, to whom the "cause" means very little and Avon himself means a great deal... If Avon were to establish a sexual relationship with Blake, it would just give the man another hold on him, another means to manipulate him, which is the last thing the technician wants; given his nature, I find it improbable he would allow reason to be so completely overruled. Such a relationship with Vila, however, would be equally pleasurable and infinitely safer. The thief understands Avon without making demands, and he offers an unquestioning loyalty Avon could not get from Blake. ("Look, you don't have to give reason. You don't even have to explain. Whatever it is, we'll back you up." [Editor's note: from 'Terminal']) There is an unspoken bond between them, belying their differences, that goes beyond the amused affection they share - a kinship of rogues, larcenous at heart, that the moral crusader Blake can neither join nor truly comprehend. And (perhaps most importantly) Vila, unlike Blake, is not bent on self-destruction. Avon already believes he's lost Anna; would he knowingly set himself up for that kind of pain again? Oh, I grant you, Avon might be "fascinated" by Blake... but when it comes to taking a lover, I rather imagine he'd turn to Vila (in self-defense, if nothing else) and be quite happy with the choice.[10]

Interestingly, the pairing's popularity seems to have suffered during the move to web-based fandom, with B/A and A/T seeming to dominate discussion on the fandom's slash lists, Space City and Freedom City. Rallying Call, an apazine, seems to have seen a number of explicitly anti-Avon/Vila comments,[11] possibly also because of its focus on Roj Blake, who tends to feature less in Avon/Vila stories. A/B continued to dominate later on Livejournal and Archive of our Own, with some of these spaces also being perceived as actively hostile towards A/V.[12]

Relatively few of the hundreds of A/V fics written in the zine era have been archived on the web, leading to the impression that Avon/Vila is a more minor pairing than it is,[13] with one fan commenting: "My time on Livejournal had me convinced that not only was it not popular, but that the slash fans I did meet (B/A ones) were all convinced that A/V was somehow out of character/impossible... (But that B/A by those same standards somehow wasn't...)"[14]

While less A/V fic from the zine era has been archived online and fics written for the pairing in the internet era are fewer, internet-based Avon/Vila fans do exist. On Livejournal, Nicola Moody and Van, amongst others, supported the pairing both as a gen friendship and as slash. As of 2020, Avon/Vila fans are mostly active on Tumblr, where the pairing experienced a resurgence in the later 2010s and remains one of the most popular pairings. Tumblr's Avon/Vila fans seem less interested in the Gothic/post-Orbit/class type elements of the pairing, and more interested in the witty partnership.

Fanfiction and Popular Tropes

Post Orbit

Post Orbit is to A/V what Post Gauda Prime is to A/B: an almost unlimited source of angst as well as an episode that helps support the pairing (Holmes writes the two of them getting on well until the final choice). In the episode, Avon finds himself forced to kill Vila to survive (but ultimately finds a different solution).

Typical fics show Avon trying to reconcile with Vila immediately after the event, with or without success; or (more rarely) use the event to separate the characters based on this misunderstanding until they can be reconciled later. Some fics also postpone the reconciliation until after the events of Gauda Prime ('Blake'), without the characters really separating in between. As with Avon shooting Blake, Avon's attempt to kill Vila in 'Orbit' is sometimes explained away by madness, or mind control (at the hands of Servalan), or alternately it never happened at all because series 4 is a dream.

Post-Orbit fics are popular in gen zines as well as slash (see smarm).

In some fics Vila is outraged at Avon's behaviour, but in many he becomes terrified of Avon, leading to Sarah Thompson memorably describing the pairing as a gothic romance:

Now the classic prototype is the Gothic: a sweet little thing falls for a dangerous man, even though she knows he's bad news by any rational standard. By the fourth season, you've got the perfect Gothic hero-- sinister, smoldering, tormented by his dark past, and quite possibly crazy. But when you start looking for a suitably hapless, put-upon Gothic heroine, you run into problems. None of the women will do; they just don't cower properly. (A few writers have tried to force Cally into this part, but most don't see her as such a wimp. Besides, by the time Avon gets truly weird, she's out of the picture anyway.) There's really only one possible choice for the role of Gothic heroine, and it ain't a girl. A B7 Gothic romance has pretty much got to be Avon/Vila.[15]

Comarum, a fan on Tumblr, commented in 2016 in response to the quotation above:

I have heard several fans that have been in the fandom for a long time claim that they don’t like A/V because they perceive the relationship as inequal and “Vila deserves better”. This leads me to believe that they have mostly encountered the kind of dynamics you describe and maybe not so much of what I can’t help to think of as the more… modern interpretation XD Because what appeals to me in this relationship has very much to do with the equality of it. (See #Partners (In Crime) below).[16]
  • Paula, "An Anodyne to Dreams"
  • Mal O'Dar, "Cause and Redemption"
  • Dovya Blacque, "A Matter of Trust"(Vila comforts Avon! who misses Blake)
  • Quale and Scorpio, "Covenant" (Avon rapes Vila without realising Vila doesn't like it)
  • Vanessa Mullen, "Good Intentions" (Avon rapes Vila without realising Vila doesn't like it)
  • Ty Downs, "Habits" (Vila is scared of Avon, but stays with him anyway)
  • Ellis Ward, "In Lieu of Regrets"
  • Istia, Needs

Although this scenario is especially associated with zine fandom, Livejournal/Tumblr/AO3 has also explored the theme.

  • Lycoris, Hiding
  • A prompt on the B7 Kink Meme, "Avon/Vila, first time dubcon. It's just after Orbit and Avon goes to try and talk to Vila. Vila reacts poorly and it turns into a fight which turns into frantic, needy sex which Vila isn't entirely sure he wants but Avon desperately does. And it doesn't fix anything."[17] resulted in two fills

Post Gauda Prime

Avon/Vila shippers also make use of the Post Gauda Prime period, particularly as Avon is the only character likely to be alive at the end of the series, except perhaps for Vila who reputedly falls the wrong way based on the direction of the shot that 'kills him'. In some Avon/Vila PGP fics, Avon and Vila are the only survivors; in others, more members of the crew survive. These other survivors sometimes also do include Blake (and Cally), so the Avon/Vila brand of PGP fics is not solely an opportunity to remove a "rival love interest" to allow for an Avon/Vila relationship, though fics of this kind also exist.

Class

In the early 1990s, Textual Poachers described Avon/Vila fic as often being about class:

The dynamic of the Avon/Vila relationship is different [to that of Avon/Blake], not a struggle for dominance between two powerful men; rather, it often enters around the need to resolve class inequalities before true intimacy can be achieved. In Hakucho’s ‘Just Say No’ (1990), Vila, the submissive Delta, cannot refuse Avon’s sexual attentions, having spent a lifetime being raped, threatened, and manipulated by powerful Alpha men who took what they wanted from. Avon must teach him to refuse attentions before either man can enjoy the sex shared between them. In Jane Carnall’s ‘Civilized Terror’ (1987) Avon accidentally sparks Vila’s memories of previous abuse when he approaches him with a belt in his hand as the two are undressing. […] Carnall's narrative hinges on class barriers and the distrusts they breed, the difficulty in overcoming them and achieving communication within a world where neither man can comfortably express his true feelings. Not all fan stories paint Vila as a victim of sexual abuse; some allow Vila to challenge the repressiveness of Avon’s Alpha upbringing. Here, class imposes different modes of expressivity, different ways of loving. Vila as a Delta is portrayed as more in touch with his feelings, between able to communicate them, more tenuous and frequently less inhibited. Avon as an Alpha is shown as overly private, governed by logic, rather than emotion, preoccupied with work rather than pleasure and prudish about nudity and sexuality. […] The conflict between them enters around what codes will govern their relationship […] Here, Avon does not help Vila work through his fear; Vila helps Avon overcome his inhibitions.[18]

However, as the fan quote by Julie Kramer from touched above also shows, even in early zine fandom, Avon/Vila was far from limited to discussions of class, nor were the roles always as strictly laid out as Textual Poachers makes it seem. An informal survey about 'The Perfect Avon/Vila Story' in Unique Touch #2 (1988) initiated by Chris K., for instance, makes not a single mention of the grade dynamic, but heavily emphasises preferences for friendship and romance.[19]

Other examples of stories negotiating the class dynamic:

  • Pat Terra, Jealousy (A/V, implied A/Tynus)
  • Catocala, "Crossing the Grade"
  • Adrian Morgan and Brendan O'Cullane, "Outside/In"
  • M. Fae Glasgow, "There is None So Blind"
  • Jane Carnall, All Alone (B/V, T/V, unconsummated A/V)

Partners (in Crime)

Possibly even more popular than the class/grade dynamics, certainly in the more contemporary Avon/Vila fanworks as of 2020, is the emphasis of Avon and Vila as fellow thieves, 'a kinship of rogues.'[20]

The same Tumblr-era fan who commented above on the Gothic version of the pairing remarked:

it seems to me that the fics that focus on the two of them as partners in crime or other (voluntary or involuntary) teamwork are often about how well these two seemingly different characters can - at best - complement and balance each other. Rather than trying to reconcile perceived differences or finding out how the characters need to change in order to make a relationship work it’s more about exploring why those differences may not be so difficult to reconcile at all, and that the key may not be to affect change as much as accept differences? [...]

What appeals to me in this relationship has very much to do with the equality of it - more precisely the fascination with the equality between two very different characters! I think these types of fic are far less prone to treat Vila as a victim, and also far more likely to show Avon’s as a weaker character. And that they tend to argue that they are both of them better around the other - i.e. Avon being more relaxed and Vila being more confident when alone with each other than otherwise. Again: complement and balance.

Which doesn’t mean problem-free, of course. No-one into this pairing can forget that S4 happens. And that… sense of fragility is often a part of the trope I think. They may have the ability to balance each other but that also means that the greater the toll that events take on either of them, the greater the risk that the balance is going to tip.

[These are fics that] somewhat emphasises theirs as a relationship based on liking someone for, rather than despite, who they are.[21]

Jaelijn described the appeal of the pairing similarly:

[With] A/V I found two people who despite being on the surface so very different are so often on the same wavelength, who banter with a deep understanding of the other, who rely on each other even while claiming that they don’t, and who respect each other for their criminal skills (rather than in spite of it).[22]

Stories focussing on this kind of character dynamic do not always feature an actual criminal heist, but some also included this as a plot element.

Examples of this kind of dynamic in fanworks:

Blake, and Other Characters

Cover of Southern Comfort 9.5, by Leah Rosenthal, depicting a V/A/B threesome
Roj Blake features often in A/V stories. Sometimes, he is the partner Avon wishes he were with instead of Vila who he has settled for (making the story more of an Avon/Blake than an Avon/Vila); or Blake appears as the tyrant who either Avon or Vila need to be rescued from; or he expresses concerns about their relationship on one ground or another (often out of concern for one or both characters, rarely out of homophobia); or (far more rarely) he is the third corner of a threesome. At other times, Blake is simply a friend or important figure in the pairing's lives, without direct influence on the relationship. Vila features relatively (but less) often in A/B endgame stories in a similar roles to those he takes in the Blake-concerned A/V stories, i.e. as unrequited lover of Avon.

No other character features as often in A/V stories, although some do feature Cally as a potential or actual romantic interest for Avon, and sometimes Tarrant takes the Blake-as-menace role.

  • Lights Out: A Game of Tag, Part III by Caroline D. (A rare real threesome story, BDSM with Blake and Vila teaming up on Avon.)
  • Caveat Emptor by M Fae Glasgow (Avon loves Vila, spurning Blake)
  • Witness by Jane Baron (Avon loves Blake, spurning Vila)
  • Bittersweet by Sebastian (Avon loves Blake, spurning Vila, but before that they have a threesome)
  • "Pick up the Pieces" by Adrian Morgan & Brendan O'Cullane (Southern Comfort 5.5), (Blake was raping Avon, Vila heals Avon with his love)
  • Trust Like the Soul by Jean Lorrah (Avon loves Cally, but being in a female body expresses interest in Vila (who loves him, but sexually only as a woman), and strongly disavowing Blake)
  • Jane Carnall, All Alone (Blake and Tarrant molest Vila, Avon loves Vila but does not push for consummation, thus Vila loves Avon)
  • M. Fae Glasgow, The Dome Cycle (A/V, later A/B/V)
  • tenaya, Double Duel Avon/Vila, Blake/Jenna, Blake/Vila, Avon/Blake
  • julad, The Fool Avon/Vila (with a darkly enigmatic Avon, the nature of whose fixation on Blake is unclear)

Smarm

As with Blake-Avon, there are a number of stories that are actually gen that depict the relationship between Avon and Vila strongly enough that they could be read as slash. Indeed Last Stand at the Edge of the World by Ann Wortham and Leah Rosenthal is featured on Space City's list of best A/V stories without explanation. A fan writes in Communications Console:

This story focuses on the Vila-Avon friendship. It is not a "slash" story although there have been a few short stories extending the relationship along that line. (These are not included in LAST STAND in any way.) ... The zine displays excellent understanding of the Vila-Avon relationship, and an understanding of what other fans want to see in a story.[23]

Other examples:

  • The Haunting of Haderon by Lillian Sheperd
  • The Vila Restal memorial angst and post-alternative Orbit wallow section in Southern Comfort 9, including Kathy Coy, "The Road Not Taken"; Jeannie Webster, "The Road Not Taken II"; Melanie Ogle, "In Vino Veritas"; Donna Wilson, "Safe With You"

In some of these stories, Avon and Vila are actual family (usually brothers) rather than romantic partners, most prominently in the The Bizarro Zine.

Smarm in Expanded Universe and Blake's 7-related Materials

Big Finish's Blake's 7 audio plays have continued the tradition of Avon-Vila double act episodes along the lines of the episodes written by Robert Holmes. Thanks to the involvement of the original cast, these are usually acted by both Darrow and Keating. Audios that heavily feature the Avon-Vila dynamic include The Turing Test, Disorder and Retribution.

Tanith Lee's Kill the Dead also depicts two possible Avon and Vila avatars with a very strong relationship between the two, Parl Dro and Myal Lemyal, although the relationship is again familial rather than romantic.

In Gillian Taylor's Western series, the two Avon and Vila (or Darrow and Keating) avatars, Sheriff Beauchief Darrow and deputy Hugh Keating, are also close friends as well as professional partners.

Fanzines

The only A/V only zine series was Southern Comfort (aka Southern Lights) #.75, however A/V was featured heavily in several other multi-pairing and multi-fandom zines.

Fanart Gallery

Fanvids

Other Resources

References

  1. ^ Hermit's index of 'Slash and Adult Pairings' lists c500 known Blake/Avon fics, c350 known Avon/Vila, <100 Avon/Tarrant, <100 Avon/Cally
  2. ^ Jane Carnall, 'Definitions' in touched #8, July 185, p. 14
  3. ^ A4 Time Squad, written by Terry Nation, transcript hosted on Hermit.org
  4. ^ C6 City at the Edge of the World, written by Chris Boucher, transcript hosted on Hermit.org
  5. ^ Orbit, written by Robert Holmes, transcript hosted on Hermit.org
  6. ^ Starburst Magazine (Marvel Monthly) Vol 2, Number 6 (1979), p.17, interviewed by Ralph Scott
  7. ^ Blake's 7 Monthly, Issue 1 (1981), pp.26-27, interviewer unknown.
  8. ^ Archived Link
  9. ^ Writer Tony Atwood quoted in Who Survived Gauda Prime?​ by Nicola Mody
  10. ^ Julie Kramer in touched #8 (1985), p. 27
  11. ^ Issue 14 (July 1995)
  12. ^ Thread on the labelling of B7 slash on LJ (Accessed 31/08/2020)
  13. ^ In May 2016 there were 515 Blake/Avon stories to only 64 Avon/Vila stories - these stats are also following the import of Hermit Library, which leaned towards A/B. As of August 2020, there are 581 A/B fics to 108 A/V fics.
  14. ^ Answer in notes from Miraivan on Tumblr post 'Avon/Vila - Fanlore', May 28th, 2016
  15. ^ Sarah Thompson. "Romancing the Slash". Archived from the original on 2006-11-05. 
  16. ^ Reply to 'Avon/Vila - Fanlore, comarum, Tumblr, May 29th, 2016
  17. ^ Prompt on B7 Kink Meme, Livejournal, Jan. 21st, 2014
  18. ^ ’Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Cultures’ by Henry Jenkins (1992), p.218-19
  19. ^ The Unique Touch #2,pp.46-51
  20. ^ Julie Kramer in touched #8 (1985), p. 27
  21. ^ Reply to 'Avon/Vila - Fanlore, comarum, Tumblr, May 29th, 2016
  22. ^ Jaelijn on Tumblr, July 2020 (Accessed August 2020).
  23. ^ from Communications Console #1
  24. ^ Text From the Federation, Tumblr, JANUARY 7, 2016 (12:00 PM)
  25. ^ Text From the Federation, Tumblr, MARCH 8, 2016 (12:00 PM)
  26. ^ Drawing Blog of Fun aka i-fought-space, Tumblr, AUGUST 16, 2015
  27. ^ Drawing Blog of Fun aka i-fought-space, Tumblr, SEPTEMBER 20, 2015