Avon/Vila

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Pairing
Pairing: Kerr Avon/Vila Restal
Alternative name(s): A/V
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 lighthearted, work-shy Delta thief Vila Restal. As a result many fics featuring this pairing focus on the two committing crimes of various sorts and/or on the differences between their classes.

Avon and Vila in 'Gambit' by Bob Holmes
Where 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 Bob Holmes who is responsible for much of the canonical basis for A/V. Three of Holmes's four B7 episodes focus on this team-up, including 'Gambit' (where Avon and Vila rob a casino together and Vila drapes himself around Avon) and 'Orbit' (an episode that spawned hundreds of fics attempting to deal with the traumatic events depicted).
VILA: It's a trip I won't forget, Avon.


AVON: Well, as you always say, Vila: you know you are safe with me.[2]
Convention photograph of Paul Darrow and Michael Keating
Paul Darrow reputedly described Avon's relationship with Vila rather derogatorily as "one man and his dog"[3], and was appalled at the idea of slash in his fandom (see, The Blake's 7 Wars). However, his 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) - almost more than Holmes had ever done. It also seems at least possible that his own easy relationship with Michael Keating (demonstrated at conventions) may have prompted some of the slashers to write as they did.

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. Interestingly, its 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, and later on Livejournal and Archive of our Own. Relatively few of the hundreds of A/V fics written have been archived on the web, leading to the impression that Avon/Vila is a more minor pairing than it is,[4] 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...)"[5]

Internet-based Avon/Vila fans do exist (mostly on Tumblr) - they seem to less interested in the Gothic/post-Orbit 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 does help support the pairing (Holmes writes the two of them getting on well until the final choice). 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. As with Avon shooting Blake, Avon's attempt to kill Vila in this episode 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 byany 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.[6]

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).[7]
  • 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."[8] resulted in two fills

Post Gauda Prime

Avon/Vila shippers do 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'.

Class

Textual Poachers correctly describes 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. … 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.[9]

Other examples:

  • 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)

The same fan who commented above on the Gothic version of the pairing commented:

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.[10]

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, either as the partner Avon wishes he were with instead of Vila who he has settled for; or as the tyrant who either Avon or Vila need to be rescued from; or (far more rarely) as the third corner of a threesome. 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. 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.

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.[11]

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"

Tanith Lee's Kill the Dead also depicts a very strong relationship between the two, although the relationship is familial rather than romantic.

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

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. Orbit, written by Robert Holmes, transcript hosted on Hermit.org
  3. Writer Tony Atwood quoted in Who Survived Gauda Prime?​ by Nicola Mody
  4. As of May 2016 there are 515 Blake/Avon stories to only 64 Avon/Vila stories - these stats are also following the import of Hermit Library.
  5. Answer in notes from Miraivan on Tumblr post 'Avon/Vila - Fanlore', May 28th, 2016
  6. Romancing the Slash by Sarah Thompson
  7. Reply to 'Avon/Vila - Fanlore, comarum, Tumblr, May 29th, 2016
  8. Prompt on B7 Kink Meme, Livejournal, Jan. 21st, 2014
  9. ’Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Cultures’ by Henry Jenkins, P218-19
  10. Reply to 'Avon/Vila - Fanlore, comarum, Tumblr, May 29th, 2016
  11. from Communications Console #1
  12. Text From the Federation, Tumblr, JANUARY 7, 2016 (12:00 PM)
  13. Text From the Federation, Tumblr, MARCH 8, 2016 (12:00 PM)
  14. Drawing Blog of Fun aka i-fought-space, Tumblr, AUGUST 16, 2015
  15. Drawing Blog of Fun aka i-fought-space, Tumblr, SEPTEMBER 20, 2015