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Title: Altazine
Editor(s): Neil Faulkner, assisted in other tasks by Judith Proctor
Type: letterzine
Date(s): 1996-1997
Medium: print
Fandom: Blake's 7
External Links:
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
covers of #0, #2-#6

AltaZine was a UK-published Blake's 7 letterzine which ran for seven issues between January 1996 and late 1997.

It was created and edited by Neil Faulkner.

Judith Proctor assisted in some matters: "I don't edit AltaZine, Neil Faulkner does that. I just copy and distribute it for him (and disagree with him on virtually every topic of discussion." [1]

"Altazine is basically a cheap, cheerful and occasionally irreverent letterzine." [2]

The Beginning

The effects of the The Blake's 7 War was still being felt years after the original blow-ups in 1988 and 1989.

It was produced by Neil Faulkner and Judith Proctor in response to editorial restrictions imposed on the Horizon Letterzine, two issues of which Faulkner had edited in 1995. As Faulkner's editorial for AltaZine 0 explained:

The Horizon LZ, and other Horizon output, is quality stuff, but it's all rather staid. It's very flock wallpapery, very tasteful, terrified of treading on toes ... I would like to see something a little wilder, slightly tasteless, willing to take the odd risk and take the piss out of itself whilst doing so. Basically, a zine prepared to loosen up a bit and have a good laugh. If Horizon is a wine bar, welcome to the pub.

In 1999, Faulkner wrote:

I make no secret of the fact that I utterly loathe Diane Gies, but at the same time I have to acknowledge that her services to fandom are considerable.


What I would prefer to see is the Horizon committee accountable to the membership - but it isn't. Policy decisions seem to be formulated and implemented without any consultation at all. When I was Letterzine editor for Horizon, I was instructed to make certain cuts to some LOCs because they mentioned things that Gies didn't want up for discussion. I was also told not to indicate which letters had been cut, or where, or why. My suggestion that the subscribers, if not the club members as a whole, be polled on what they wanted to see was instantly vetoed on the grounds that they would have to be informed of the issues in question in order to make a decision. Not wishing to be an accessory to keeping people in the dark (and quite needlessly, as I still believe), I fled Horizon and started up AltaZine.[3]

In 2000, the editor went into greater detail on Lysator, the Blake's 7 mailing list, about his reasons for deciding to publish Altazine:

.....along with Judith Proctor, I launched AltaZine. This was a direct response to what I perceived as the shortcomings of the Horizon Letterzine (editorship of which I had just resigned from, in utter disgust at the way a covert editorial policy - Diane's, largely made up as she went along - was being imposed on the contributors, people who were being silenced without even being told *why* they were being silenced). AltaZine ran for seven issues, with at most 40-something subscribers, before I decided to fold it. Not because the Horizon competition was too great (in fact the HLZ was in a state of decay around the same time), but because this Lyst had turned into the main forum of B7 discussion and was essentially doing the job I had envisaged for AltaZine, and more efficiently with a wider contributor base....

The issue in question was that hoary old chestnut called slash. I had allowed discussion of slash to enter the pages of the HLZ, and several people - I think it was four in all - cancelled their subscriptions as a result.....Anyway, from now on - said she - no mention of slash was to be made in the HLZ. This directive was coupled with the way Judith Proctor had used her LOC in HLZ #14 to advertise - quite legitimately, IMO - a number of zines she had acquired from the States. Unfortunately, some of these were Ashton Press publications. There is an unwritten rule in Horizon that you do not advertise Ashton zines. You do not even acknowledge their existence. Even though Ashton produce some highly regarded publications - including the marvellous Hellhound series - Horizon is not the place to find about them. That part of Judith's letter had to be replaced by an editorial paragraph of mine, which was naturally not allowed to mention Diane's belief that Judith was deliberately shit-stirring by discussing slash and advertising proscribed zines.

If you have a copy of HLZ #14, you will notice that some pages are barely legible. This is because my printer ribbon was worn out with reprinting the 'offending' passages, not once but twice, since most failed to meet with Diane's approval first time around. ...[4]

The End

Altazine is folding due to lack of sufficient submissions. I think most of us tend to write via e-mail these days. I'm handling overseas refunds for Neil and I've contacted most people individually. However, I don't have an e-mail address for [S D] or [J T]. If either of you read this, could you please get in touch so that we can determine whether you'd rather have a refund in dollars cash or a donation to Oxfam (or I can buy Gareth a pint on your behalf at Neutral Zone this coming weekend). The sums involved aren't very large.[5]


Although envisaged primarily as a letterzine, AltaZine also included articles, convention reports, zine reviews, art, cartoons, vignette fiction, limericks, filks and anything else vaguely B7-related that the editors could cajole out of their subscribers or invent for themselves. Much of the zine's content ultimately came from either Faulkner or Proctor, with Faulkner determining the thematic nature of each issue (from AZ 3, each issue was focussed on a particular theme). Faulkner's editorial style was influenced heavily by rolegaming fanzines, particularly Paul Mason's Imazine and its mock-confrontational approach, such as letters peppered with snarky editorial interjections.

Many of the articles in AltaZine were concerned with Blake's 7 fan fiction, particularly what the editors considered to be the common pitfalls of the B7 fanfic then extant. Points raised in these (often deliberately provocative) articles were discussed at some length in the letters of comment that were the ostensible reason for AltaZine existing in the first place.

The burden of generating sufficient material to pad the zine out to length, coupled with the general dearth of contributions, led to Faulkner folding AltaZine after AZ 6. (AZ 7, though promised, never appeared.) In retrospect, it can be seen that AltaZine appeared just as Blake's 7 fandom was migrating in earnest to the internet, a medium much more suited than any print zine to the kind of open-ended discussion that Faulkner was attempting to facilitate. Print as a medium of fan discourse was dying, and AltaZine can only be regarded as an evolutionary dead end.

Nevertheless, AltaZine can also be seen as part of the 'new wave' of Blake's 7 fan writing that emerged in the late 1990s, when B7 fan fiction became more sophisticated, more experimental, more outward-looking and more 'literary'. Although nowhere near as 'edgy' as it liked to think it was, AltaZine did play some small part in this resurgence, though with a subsciber base of just a few dozen its impact could never be great. Some of its contents are reprinted online here.

From the flyer posted to Lysator in 1995:

"AltaZine - A new letterzine edited by Neil Faulkner.

The intent is to have a letterzine where anything and everything relating to Blake's 7 can be discussed (that includes slash). In addition to letters we'll be happy to print (space permitting) articles, filks, stories (up to 1,000 words), artwork, etc. We hope to particularly cover zines, what people like, why they like it, how people go about writing stories for them, etc etc.

Letters will be printed in full, except that the editors reserve the right to edit for the following - letters that drift far far away from Blake's 7 (unless they are really interesting), anything that might result in legal action and anything that is seriously abusive about another person. (Rubbish their views to your heart's content, but attack the view, not the holder of the view)

Neil says that if you're writing a real epic (and as far as I'm concerned, it has to be at least four pages long before it even begins to count as an epic), then marking sections that can be chopped if he runs out of space would be useful. Please don't hesitate to write lots if you have something interesting to say.

Neil is the kind of editor who feels happy to stick his own comments in the middle of your letter. He describes himself as a belligerent little sod... This makes for an interesting style of letterzine. I enjoy it, but I can't guarantee that everyone will. Those who had the last two issues of the Horizon letterzine will be familiar with the style."[6]

A 1997 comment by Judith Proctor:

AltaZine is a letterzine. Members send in articles or letters commenting on what other members hae said or just write about anything that interests them in connection with the series.

AltaZine tends to be fairly irreverent in editorial tone. Neil has a perverse delight in slaying sacred cows. There are no taboo subjects. Neil says that he will only edit submissions for grammar or for getting too far away from Blake's 7. He also reserves the right to stick editorial interjections into the middle of your carefuly thought out prose. (in a different font so that it's clear the comment is his)

Subscriptions are rather fluid in price as issues vary in page count. People in the UK usually send Neil a cheque for a fiver which covers a couple of issues. He records how much you are actually in credit by and lets you know when your account runs low. The zine comes out 3 or 4 times a year.[7]

Fan Comments


Probably the closest things to a general B7 apa at the moment are two letterzines, Altazine and the Horizon letterzine. The Horizon letterzine, because of the club's association with the actors and the possibility of underage readers, is limited to discussion of gen topics. Altazine includes everything but is much more gen than smut. I like it very much and recommend it strongly.[8]

Other Letterzines/Apas With Much Blake's 7 Content

Also see: List of Letterzines.

General Fan Comments

This is a letterzine where anything and everything relating to Blake's 7 can be discussed (that includes slash). In addition to letters we'll be happy to print (space permitting) articles, filks, stories (up to 1,000 words), artwork, etc. Neil hopes to particularly cover zines, what people like, why they like it, how people go about writing stories for them, etc etc.

Letters will be printed in full, except that the editor reserves the right to edit for the following - letters that drift far far away from Blake's 7 (unless they are really interesting), anything that might result in legal action and anything that is seriously abusive about another person. (Rubbish their views to your heart's content, but attack the view, not the holder of the view)

Neil says that if you're writing a real epic (and as far as I'm concerned, it has to be at least four pages long before it even begins to count as an epic), then marking sections that can be chopped if he runs out of space would be useful. Please don't hesitate to write lots if you have something interesting to say. I wrote loads last issue, and he didn't axe any of it. (more fool Neil <grin>)

Neil is the kind of editor who feels happy to stick his own comments in the middle of your letter. He describes himself as a belligerent little sod... This makes for an interesting style of letterzine. I enjoy it, but I can‘t guarantee that everyone will.[9]

Issue 0

January 1996, 44 A4 pages slide bound, compiled on an Amstrad PCW with dot matrix print (used for the first three issues).

Originally envisaged as a slim-line launch issue with just a few articles to generate discussion, AZ 0 ended up as a full length zine with a wide range of content. Articles included The Enemy Within (the role of the antagonist in fan fiction, by Judith Proctor), the role of e-mail zines (a relatively new phenomenon within fandom), also by Proctor, some thoughts on writing style (by Faulkner and Proctor), Let's hear it for Dayna (analysis of a largely disregarded canon regular, by Faulkner), Who's In Control (on military intelligence within the Terran Federation, by Faulkner), Servalan and Sleer (Proctor), two articles on the Liberator (by Proctor and Faulkner respectively), Blake's Great (by Joyce Bowen), Should Zines Publish Serials? (Proctor), and How Many Ways Back? (a taxonomy of B7 fanfic, by Faulkner).

Additional content includes two pieces of fiction, Cover Story by N O'Treally (i.e. Faulkner), and part one of Voyage of Terror by Ellen A Rufkin (anagram...), three cartoons by Faulkner, a page of zine news and three pages of zine reviews. Four letters of comment fill 13 pages of the zine. There are also two full-page illustrations by Whitby27.

Issue 0: Reactions and Reviews

I've just finished copying issue 0 of Altazine. Thicker than we (Neil Faulkner and I) expected for an opening issue. 48 pages of B7 discussion, ranging from Joan Wakeman's B7 pantomime, why people like Blake, views and comments on zines - both reading and writing, a couple of pictures from [Whitby27], a short story from the infamous N. O'Treally, an article on Dayna, discussion on who actualy runs the Federation, more comments on zines, thoughts about the Liberator, a Gilbert and Sullivan filk about Cally, etc etc. (and the editor's irreverent comments dotted all over the place) Slash and adult discussions are welcome along with any other topic that people want to discuss. Zine reviews, comments, etc are particularly welcome. This is very much a no frills production. I did actually debate leaving in the page I originally printed upside-down... It's been produced by slave labour (Neil typing everything, and me collating by crawling up and down the stairs) which is why it's so cheap. There's actually 26 subscribers now, but in a fit of mad optimism, I've printed 30, so if anyone else wants a copy, just send me some money. I operate running accounts. You just send a cheque in pounds or US dollars in cash for however much you feel like (preferably several issue's worth), and then I let you know on your mailing label how much is left in your account after any individual issue. Issue price will vary with size and the occasional random factor (like having to reprint an upside-down page...) [10]

Issue 1

April 1996, 54 A4 pages comb-bound. The cover attempts, with only partial success, to depict the crew of the Liberator as the characters from Reservoir Dogs. (Whilst 'Ms Jenna' and 'Nice Bloke Vila' look passably like the canon characters, 'Mr Blake' looks like nothing more than Harvey Keitel wearing a woolly hat).

The first 'proper' issue of AltaZine contains a range of articles from diverse contributors, with Proctor confining herself to zine reviews and a letter of comment. Articles include Avon and Anna by Jean Graham, Attack of the Claypit People (common pitfalls of B7 fanfic, by Faulkner), Lemme Tell You What Like A Virgin's About... (a comparison of B7 with Quentin Tarantino movies, by Faulkner), Why Blake is so Frequently Depicted as a Moron in Fan Fiction by Sondra Sweigman, Standard by 7d6 (experiences of role-playing B7, by Faulkner), The Art of Falling Apart (on the Avon/Cally relationship, by Faulkner), and Let The Young Blood Freeze!, examples of (supposedly) awful fan writing selected by Faulkner.

Additional material includes The Test (short fiction by Brad Black), part two of Voyage of Terror, The Passenger (Iggy Pop filk by 'SLR', actually Faulkner), Chuck Berry filk (by Faulkner), a cartoon by Faulkner/Andrew Williams, zine news, zine reviews, and 6 letters of comment over 23 pages.

Issue 1: Reactions and Reviews

[From Judith Proctor]: Issue #1 of AltaZine (which is actually the second issue of course <grin>) is being mailed out at present. I've posted most of the overseas copies and the UK ones will go out on Monday. I've printed a few spare copies as I found a few extra people wanted them last issue. (Issue #0 is now out of print) This issue contains the usual mixture of serious and silly. Articles on Avon and Anna Grant, Blake's depiction in fanfic, lots of discussions on writing fanfic, a couple of short silly stories, a review of the Blake's 7 role playing game from Horizon, lots of zine reviews, a B7 version of 'The House that Jack Built', thoughts on the origins of the Auronar, artificial gravity, more talk on fan writing, and interesting letters from several readers discussing critical issues like how come in four whole series, Avon's the only character who ever had a bath, and then only once? 56 A4 pages produced on a shoe-string. This is not one of my nice flashy zines with pretty covers and laser printed text. AltaZine is a letter zine and is as cheap as I can manage it (in other words if a page gets fed into the comb binder the wrong way up, you just get a page wih holes down both sides instead of me binning the page and printing it again) This issue happens to be comb-bound because I had some free combs thrown in with my second hand comb-binder.[11]

Issue 2

Summer 1996, 50 A4 pages comb-bound. Cover is a photocopied portrait of Servalan with a safety pin through her nose and the legend Never Mind the Federation - Here's the Bollocks in cut-out lettering.

cover of issue #2
  • Destroy the Old Order, article (Faulkner comparing punk with Blake's 7 and fandom: "Why B7 was punk, why fandom isn't") (5)

Issue 2: Excerpts from Letters

You ask whether or not subjects will get done to death on the Net. There's always that possibility, but Net discussions aren't always in as much depth as discussions in, for example, AltaZine. People tend to say something, toss up a couple of quick answers... It's come and gone very fast, and you donr't always get the in-depth exploration because you can't that easily go back and look at everything that's been done on the subject., unless you're prepared to save all your e-mail and sort all your files out. It's quite typical for the same conversation to crop up every six months or so as new people filter in ("Oh, someone's asking if Avon was a psychopath again..."). But no, I don't think it all end up with everything burning itself out - I've been on the Net a couple of years. If I come up with something new and original, I'll probably put it in AltaZine as well, to see what kind of feedback results from it. I may get some comments I didn't get off the Net, precisely because people have had a month to sit down and think about it, rather than trying to post back an instant response the next day.

Did I imply that people shouldn't pay for original props, trips to conventions, the Internet? If I did, it was certainly unintentional. People can, of course, spend their money in whatever way they see fit. It's none of my business what they do with it, and I don't resent their doing so at all. My worries concerned the exchanging of information and opinions by electronic means only. Treating the Net discussions like a fan meeting at the other end of the country is fine, but if a contributor refers to a point they made at the meeting to support a point made in a paper zine, I would prefer to see that information repeated, for the benefit of those of us unable to attend. Not because I wanted to be there, but because it's relevant to the discussion in the zine.

Let me explain what I meant by equality in fandom. Living here in Dublin, I am effectively cut off from fan meetings, but I can still attempt to take an active part in fandom because there is a lot of 'postal' discussion, and this was the equality I was talking about. In this area a person's income is nearly irrelevant. Yes, there are people who can't afford the videos and the Horizon subscription, but I imagine there are also many more who put up with holes in the knees of their jeans for another few weeks to enable them to read a particular zine or buy a video. A lot depends on the level of obsession. I didn't consider original props and the like because, for me, anything like that would take second place to B7 discussion, but you are certainly right about fandom not being equal in this area. There may also be people on the Net who don't read paper zines, so mix the discussion forums by all means, but I would be grateful if people would repeat the relevant information. And before you dip your pen in the inkwell (or turn on your computer) I mean summarised information, not huge chunks of text. <One of Judith's smiles here!>

Thanks for your advice on joining in fan discussions. I will apply the same rule to fandom as I do to other social gatherings - carry on until I'm thrown out!

Of course it's possible to prefer Avon to Blake but prefer Gareth to Paul. The character's aren't the same as the real people. I yawn through the third reincarnation of Doctor Who, but I count the late Jon Pertwee as the most fascinating man I have ever met. And that includes Gareth, Paul and Brian Blessed.

My own feelings about the prospect of a new [Blake's 7] series are mixed. First off, though, a 20-years-on with an all-new cast doesn't fill me with much dismay. Who says the new characters can't be as interesting as the old ones? When TNG was in the offing, I heard people saying it wouldn't be 'proper' Trek because Captain Kirk wasn't going to be in it. Such statements sound like so much crap in retrospect, and ST fans have embraced TNG as a thoroughly acceptable successor to Classic Trek, A next-gen B7 would depend on the same qualities as any SF series (or any series at all, for that matter) - good writing, good characters, good plots, and acceptable standards of production. Continuity with the original series needn't be all that important, except to picky purists like ye and me.

What disturbs me most is the way a new series would stand to shatter the personal visions of the series that hardcore active fans have built up over the past 15 years. New material from other fans can be read and enjoyed for its own sake, with no obligation to take it on board as 'canon'. It needn't interrupt the fan's personal quest to define B7 in his/er own terms. A new series would stand to do precisely that.

What this means is that the hardcore active fans have appropriated (stolen) B7 and made it their own. This is particularly true of the plethora of PGPs -- every continuation from Blake is effectively saying, "B7 is now (which makes it both a unique personal possession and a communal shared resource - interesting paradox). Since a new series would almost certainly invalidate just about every PGP, the hardcore fans are effectively going to be robbed. That's how I would feel, certainly. One of the great assets of the B7 is the way it is closed, finite, open to individuated elaboration.

But hardcore active fans are a minority. The overwhelming majority of fans are passive dormice, and they would welcome a new series in just about any form. To deny them their pleasure of more original 'official' B7 for the sake of a handful of diehards with an emotional over-attachment to 'their' B7 would not only be unrealistic, it would also be bloody selfish.

Ultimately, of course, fans don't have much of a say anyway. If the BBC go ahead with a sequel, then it will be the BBC's decision. Fans are in no position to demand or expect any say in the shape it will take (I'd say there are grounds for claiming that fans are the very last people that should be consulted). If the rumors are true, then sure, let the BBC go ahead. If the putative new series turns out good, then it's good and so much the better. If it's crap, it's crap, and we can deride it. If it's good, but contradicts the way we've come to perceive B7 over the past decade and a half, then we're going to have to do some hard thinking. I think it's that last scenario that worries me and anyone else faced with the prospect of a new series or a blockbuster feature film.

Slash burnout - has anyone else ever experienced this? After reading three issues of Dark Fantasies in three days, I found that I was totally bored with slash. The sex may have been detailed, explicit and frequently sadistic to boot, but the plots were thin, the characterisations poor, and the sex scenes repetitive. (There were a few worthy exceptions, but not many.) Why is slash sometimes seen as an excuse for poor writing? It doesn’t have to be. If I look at the three B7 stories that won Stiffies this year, they all had plots (although Wild, Beautiful and Damned had less plot than the other two, it at least had a detailed background and some character development). Presumably, then, readers like stories with some real meat in them, so why on occasion do we just get landed with 'fill in the name' stories? I'm sure all fans have read them - tales where you could remove the names of Blake and Avon, substitute the names of Starsky and Hutch, change all references to the Liberator to something else, make about three lines change to the text and voila! - a story in a different fandom.

When characterisation is that poor, you might as well go and read porn novels as slash, as the point of slash has been lost.

It's going to be days, maybe a couple of weeks, before I regain any real interest in slash again. I've started working on a story about Zen which is all history and background and about as far removed from sex as you can get. Right now, I can't even work up an interest in M Fae Glasgow.

There are slash (and het) writers out there who can do wonderful stuff, make you see the characters in ways you'd never seen them before; writers whose every line of dialogue tells you who is speaking without any need for attribution; writers who can make even a straightforward sex scene seem fresh and original; so why do editors sometimes print the garbage ones?

You might as well ask why lost genfic is dross. The average Horizon or Gambit (on the basis of two of the latter) have got some right dongers nestled in their pages. Two possible reasons; (1) editors can only print what they're given, and (2) fans have some strange ideas as to what constitute a good story. My own criteria regarding the latter are fairly rigorous, so I can't help but find a dearth of good stories. Yours are slightly looser, I suspect, so you probably find more that you like. Other readers are often less critical. Fan writing is ultimately an act of self-indulgence, whether what qets written is slash or cyberpunk, and the reading of fanfic is likewise - the readers (often writers themselves) respond as much to the shared sense of indulgence as they do to the quality of the writing.

The thing I often miss in fanfic is cultural background. Every new planet has a mediaeval culture, unless it feels like the present day, of course. Very rarely does anything feel futuristic. Lillian Shepherd is about the only writer I can think of who consistently manages to have modern technology. Even Mindfire (EPS), which is an adult story, is notable for new and interesting species of plants and other background details.


I think a lot of the limitations of fanfic can be traced to the limitations of the series itself. Rebels hid in caves in the series because it was cheap on the budget and a lot easier than trying to build a futuristic rebel base. Instead of trying to work out more interesting places for rebels to hang out (I’ve got Blake presently holed up in an abandoned underground pump storage power station), writers just plump for the corollary of what they saw on screen. Likewise, in any given episode, we only see a tiny part of a planet, thus the reason why all planets are devoted to forestry or mining is because we only ever see forests or quarries <grin>. Fans, again, take the easy option and follow suit.

I've never watched Pulp Fiction, but from your description, I suspect I'd hate it. On the other hand, I'll buy your dictum that a good fan story gives readers something they didn't know they wanted. I like surprises when I read stories. On the other hand, I'm not sure that I want the kind of surprises that you want...

[Regarding the comment] that many fans dislike/resent Blake because they feel threatened by the challenge he offers to their moral complacency, and thought, "That’s stupid." Ten minutes later, I thought: you believe that as a motivation for Avon, ergo you have to accept it as possible for real people too.

I'm a lot more interested in Blake as a character than I used to be. First time through the series, my total fascination was with Avon, but to understand Avon, you have to understand his fascination with Blake, and to do that you have to try and understand Blake. I find Blake/Avon fascinating as a slash pairing, but to do it well you have to understand what they see in each other, both positive and negative. If you can gain that understanding (or my own interpretation of it, at any rate) then you can take it back into gen stories as well. Obviously, it isn't necessary to go through slash to gain a feeling for Blake, but it's one possible route of many. Other factors that made me like Blake were (1) seeing Jackie Ophir's best photo of Gareth Thomas and deciding that he looked fascinating, (2) reading a lot of Judith Seaman and deciding that no matter how dull/stupid Blake seemed on occasion, he could never be as bad as that.

I'm with you on Mind of a Man. The third part of the trilogy was disappointing and did create too many loose ends, but the first part was absolutely brilliant, and to be honest, if I could get a cheap copy of the third part, I probably would have one just for completeness' sake.

I have seen one or two stories that make Vila the bad guy, but it's rare. I once saw a really evil little slash story where Vila turned out to be controlling all sorts of things from behind the scenes. I don't think he often is because Vila is too unassumingly cowardly etc to be convincing as the bad guy.

There is a story where you could say Vila is shown as 'downright nasty' though he has plenty of justification for it. Not sure if I've got time before the deadline to look it up, but it was in a Southern Seven and, without wishing to give too much away, it deals with Vila's actions, born of desperation, directly after Orbit. Which zine is Nemesis in - I haven't seen that one. Personally, I found Fragments from a Shattered Life disappointing because it was billed as a 'what if Vila was a puppeteer', whereas he was someone who used to be, and had been brain-imprinted with a Delta's personality - as part of a guilt trip, wasn't it, where he felt he had to punish himself for something - so parts of his original personality occasionally leaked through. I'm still waiting for the story where Vila is actually a puppeteer who is manipulating them all along, though I've seen one where he's a Federation agent and is feeding Avon drugs to make him paranoid!

With regard to fan writers, the relatively higher proportion of British men writing fanfic as opposed to American men writing fanfic simply reflects the numbers involved in fandom. American fandom is much more female based, so the fan writers are more heavily female based. UK fandom is about 50/50, whereas American fandom is very heavily biased towards women.

With regard to Dayna, I don't think her colour works against fan interest in her. Fans, in my experience, tend to be a remarkably unprejudiced group of people. By the time you've got around to empathising with aliens, Vulcans, telepaths and whatever, skin difference is pretty far down the list. People who like science fiction tend to have taken that extra step to be able to empathise with people who are significantly different already. I think it's that Dayna is a female character, and a lot of fans are also female and tend to focus on the male characters, and that she didn't often get the most interesting bits of dialogue, and she was only there for two seasons. As a rule, interest in a character tends to relate to how long they were in the series.

I must disagree with the first bit of that paragraph. I don't think fans are wonderfully unprejudiced, though they might like to think they are. They are just PC. They don't want to think of themselves harbouring such awful thoughts. Their 'empathy' with aliens and the like is really an idealisation - aliens are nice, blacks are nice, 'Real' ethnic minorities can be as alien in the fan Mind as a whole array of Spocks, Datas, Odos etc. fans are really 'empathising' with the Alienated Other, with which I suspect at least some of them strongly identify, Funny how aliens are often so much nicer than us lot on planet Earth, This is not, of course, a universal picture, any More than there is such a thing as a typical fan, but I don't think an SF fan ultimately stands to be any less racist than his/er mundane equivalent.

Regarding the zines you asked for comment on: I've seen one issue of Dark Between the Stars which was middling; one issue of Chronicles, and I’d say that it doesn't really give you much reading material for the money; the only issue I've read of The Seven Live On was absolutely dire, although I'm told later issues are a significant improvement; Hellhound is well worth reading, but try and read it in the right order, because the plot develops over the zines; Rebel is extremely cheap, and even at that price I don't usually find it worth the money - I read several issues, and there's very little that's worth reading in them; Bizarro is hilarious if you have the same sense of humour as the writers, and are familiar with the old movies they're cheerfully ripping off and poking fun at. It would probably pay to borrow a copy first or just buy one issue, and if you roll on the floor laughing at that one, then you'll roll on the floor laughing at all four. They are some very good cartoons in it; Seventh Sector consists of the first volume of Jabberwocky, plus two others I can't recall but were worth reading whilst not being must-haves; Down & Unsafe has the distinction of being the only zine where I haven't sold any of the issues that I've bought.

Re the merchandising and how zines suffer: IDIC (which I believe you know but for the benefit of those who don't, a very long-running Star Trek club whose organisers have been in fandom for a long long time), has just announced it will close after the next two issues, due to falling membership and a lack of interest in zines. I think ST fandom is suffering from the overabundance of new forms of ST, with a lot of factionalism creeping in - "My ST's better than your ST". I don't think B7 has seen anything like this, basically because the program is frozen -- when the only ST available was classic Trek re-runs then there was an enormously creative fan response, with great zines - as well as the inevitable dross, of course - as a means of keeping the show alive. Now, almost everyone has turned into a passive consumer. I haven't joined any X-Files or Babylon 5 clubs, can't comment, but I know the Official ST club didn't have any participation -- basically, they sent you the same magazine that you could buy in the shops, and there were no special videos of behind-the-scenes stuff either, so I didn't renew. The only X-Files fiction I've seen is the occasional short story in The Fiction File which is a bi-monthly photocopied zine - its pages are stapled together and it's more like a newsletter in format, ie, no artwork or covers etc. It has also published ST and B7 stories. The quality of fiction is pretty variable.

I have now read both of Sondra's novels and enjoyed them. I agree with a lot of [Susan B's] review in AltaZine #1, and I also found A Delicate Balance just a bit better than the first novel. I prefer to see the other characters in a story doing more, and I was about halfway through the first one before I started to enjoy it, but after that I never looked back. This is the best Blake I have read so far, and I couldn't put it down once I got into it. The second novel I enjoyed from the beginning, and I hope there's going to be another one.

Neil asked me to elaborate on some of my statements on fan fiction. I agree with his view of plot and partly agree with his view of character, but I'm more interested in fanfic characters speaking, thinking and acting like the people we saw in the series than I am in them speaking, thinking and acting like some sort of generic 'real, everyday people'. Admittedly this runs the risk of their becoming 'exaggerated caricatures of their on-screen personae', but it's not a risk that has to materialize. And it's not that I don't consider physical description of people and places important in principle - it's that I'm not personally interested in it. Why should I describe in a story what I scarcely notice in real life - indeed, how could I even if I wanted to? But I certainly don't begrudge other people their appetite for such description; I consider that purely a matter of taste.

When I say relationship dynamics are handled dreadfully in most fan fiction and that most adult fan fiction is juvenile, I'm largely saying the same thing: that whether or not sex is an element in the story, what most fan writers give us is a picture of characters whose emotional development was arrested somewhere in late adolescence, who 'need' and cling to one another in a way that mature people have outgrown. To be sure, many real world adults do live like that, but the B7 characters did not, and to depict them as doing so under the guise of 'exploring their deeper feelings' is a travesty.

As for what I said about hurt/comfort: I don't know if writing is 'supposed' to be self-revelatory, only that much of it is and fan writing more than most. This is fine if the writer realizes it and feels okay about the self-disclosure, but I have a hunch that in the case of h/c, at least some writers haven't intended to be that open about the core of their private lives and would be extremely uncomfortable to discover the extent of what they've exposed. (Which :,s why I'm going to sidestep the question of precisely what I think that is, other than to say 'a lack and a longing'.) Who besides myself notices? How should I know? My guess is anyone with a modicum of psychological discernment who isn't herself unconsciously living out the h/c dynamic.

So you're tactfully hinting without blurting it out that an awful lot of fan writers are dysfunctional misfits who never grew up, and these saddoes conjure up idealised surrogate relationships with fictional characters rather than get a life of their own? That's how I read it, anyway, though maybe only on the superficial assumption that the way the writers treat the characters reflects their own personal outlook, That's not necessarily the case, But let's take a closer look at that.
It's true that a lot of adults are emotionally challenged, for whatever reason (personally I blame mass consumer capitalism, but that's my particular hole in which to dump everything that's wrong with the world), They're not all fan writers, by any means. Should we snicker and sneer at these poor little weenies? Well, I don't think so, if only because I count myself among their ranks. You might as well laugh at paraplegics.
Just how grown up are the B7 characters anyway? They're ail misfits in their society, half of them are crooks, and none of them seem able to hold down a steady job or manage an ongoing relationship. Pat Nussman in HLZ 16 cited Avon as the Surly Adolescent From Hell, so some fans at least do regard the characters as having had their emotional development arrested (I disagree with this particular assessment of Avon - he's not surly, he's not adolescent, and wherever he comes from, I doubt if it's Hell, Rotherham, possibly, but not Hell), Tarrant is often dropped in the same hole (perhaps with more reason, but he was never that bad), and Judith Seaman is just one of many who do it to Blake. The best candidates for the Peter Pan brigade are probably Dayna (isolated upbringing), Soolin (depending on how you interpret her), and possibly Vila. Vila is often depicted in fanfic as being childlike or childish, He is often presented as innocent, simple and naive, when he's actually none of these. In fact he's a cunning bastard who's seen the 'adult' world and decided he wants no truck with it, The h/c breed of writers seem to overlook this.
To suffer from 'a lack and a lonqing' is a common predicament, which one might say deserves to be acknowledged. The h/c fantasy, in all its twee and sugarsweet glory, is a kind of acknowledgement, unconscious or otherwise, Of course, it could be said that it might be better if the stories were used as a means of confronting the predicament rather than escaping from it, but if the h/c writers are emotional cripples, then the h/c story might act as an emotional crutch. I think it was Thomas Disch, speaking of the infantile power fantasies rife in SF, pointed out that a crutch that does its job should be admired.
A couple of other points that need to be made: Firstly, the series itself can hardly be praised for its emotional maturity, since it was chock-a-block with juvenile plots and character development. It seems to be an inherent fault of Media SF, and probably of adventure fantasy of any kind (arguably reflecting the nature of adventurism itself). Little wonder that this gets reflected in fan writing,
Secondly, amateur writers have a touching knack of misprojecting themselves in what they write, intelligent, lucid and clearly aware adults can come across as babbling imbeciles in their prose. I've encountered it many times in creative writing classes.
Overall, I'd say this is a difficult issue, and a pretty sensitive one to boot. I'm not sure if we should look for the courage to discuss it in depth, or hold on to the common sense not to.

I only liked three [stories in Gambit 10] myself (apart from my own, of course, and of those three, I'd only call one truly outstanding. It would be nice to know if our preferences overlapped.

My two favourites were A Healing Touch by Judith Seaman, and Aftermath: Blake's Story by some deranged Blake-junkie in New England. I would now add SR Mowatt's Day of the Bounty Hunter to the list, Others, by Helen Parkinson, Ruth Beman and Lorna Breshears, weren't bad either. Others still were excruciating, often inviting the kind of hack psychoanalysis I've just ploughed through. No verdict, obviously, on the stories I haven't read yet, I haven't yet read.

I'm surprised to hear you say that you wouldn't write fan fiction if nobody else ever read it. How does that square with your best stories being the ones you just have to write? For myself, I started writing (both original fiction in childhood and fanfic circa 1990) without ever intending to share what I'd written with anyone. (In the case of the kiddie stuff, I still haven't shared most of it. I certainly never had plans to publish my B7 stories. That came about because at a certain point I decided to share Beloved Adversary with two or three fandom friends, and they urged me to get it published. The argument which won me over came from the fan who said that other fans deserved to be exposed to my point of view on certain specific issues involving Blake and Avon, that I even had a responsibility to provide that exposure. (So while I don't have an 'agenda' when I write a story, it would probably be fair to say I do have one when I submit a story for publication.)

Let me see if I have this straight: you wrote a Blake-Avon story containing a non-sexual kiss. You were afraid that if you submitted it to a genzine, it might be misunderstood - so you submitted it to a slash zine where you all but knew it would be! I'm speechless. I realize we can't control how others interpret our work (most readers of Beloved Adversary seem to think it's an h/c story), but for someone to be able to predict a misinterpretation with near certainty and go for it anyway boggles my mind. If I'd been you, I'd have submitted the story to a genzine and appended an explanatory note about my concern.

Explanatory notes are only as good as the people who believe what they read. A gen editor might see it as a way of sneaking slash into a genzine, Readers might still kick up seven shades of shit. Some stories are destined to have a hard time finding a home.

All the Julia Ecklar filks I listed are on the audiotape Divine Intervention. Prekarious Enterprises... If you were asking specifically about the music videos made from Julia's filks, my copies are scattered about on various home-made compilation tapes. This is the way most fans acquire most music videos. (The few tapes I've seen that are done more professionally are nowhere near as good in terms of content though they tend to be technically better or at least more uniformly so.) At any rate, music videos made in the USA are not in PAL format, which is presumably what you're looking for. I'd say your best bet is to ask around amongst fans on your side of the pond, but it's probably going to be more a matter of what someone is willing to copy for you in their living room than of what's available to be formally ordered. (In other words, that Mary Van Duesen tape converted to PAL, which I've seen advertised, is the exception not the rule.)

Issue 2: Reactions and Reviews

[from Judith Proctor]:

AltaZine is a letterzine with a focus on zine reviews, discussions on writing and whatever else the contributors feel like talking about and articles on whatver the editor feels like. Dipping into this issue, it seems to cover: the relationship between punk rock and B7 fandom; the relationship between Blake and Avon; whether 'Power' conforms to SF steroetypes of female cultures; whether slash is a distortion of the series or a valid form of writing; a tongue in cheek diary of a would be writer; zine reviews (some of which which are duplicated on my web page) and general debate on other topics.

It's a cheap, no frills production - Neil actually bought a new printer ribbon this issue! The advantage of a letterzine over a mailing list is that it can allow slightly deeper exploration of a topic. Paper is more finite - you have longer to think about what you want to write. There are no banned topics - slash is a legitimate topic of discussion, although to date, the discussions have about why it is written rather than quoting explicit content.

I don't edit AltaZine, Neil Faulkner does that. I just copy and distribute it for him (and disagree with him on virtually every topic of discussion <grin>).[12]

Issue 3

Undated, but likely very, very late 1996.[13][14] 42 A4 pages comb-bound.

This and future issues were compiled on a Sharp FontWriter with consequent improvement in quality and readability of print. Cover features photocopied image of Avon confronting Blake in the final moments of the series, with speech bubbles reiterating a very old joke about hamsters and sellotape. AZ 3 proclaimed itself to be a 'Kinky Sex Special!'

Articles include three perspectives on slash (Why Slash?, Random Thoughts on Some B7 Slash Pairings and Romancing the Slash) by Sarah Thompson, Loving Them to Death (discussing hurt/comfort fanfic, by Faulkner), All In The Mind (on conditioning and brainwashing in B7, by Proctor), and a report on the 1996 Who's 7 Convention, by Faulkner.

Additional material includes a short piece of untitled fiction by Brad Black, Aunty Anna's Agony Column (by Faulkner), zine news, zine reviews, 6 letters of comment over 18 pages, and a country and western-style filk by Faulkner.

Issue 4

Spring 1997, 50 A4 pages, stapled. Cover (supposedly) depicts an ageing craggy-faced Avon standing over Blake's tombstone, but Faulkner's limitations as an artist are more than usually apparent here.

AZ 4 touts itself as a 'hardtech special', with 'hardtech' being a style of fanfic writing that was never satisfactorily defined, and not least by Faulkner who coined the term in the first place. Articles include an attempt to define it by Faulkner, The Politics of B7 by Pat Fenech, A Hard-Wired Seven? (writing B7 as cyberpunk, by Faulkner), [Note: only half of this essay is at before it cuts off. The entire essay can be seen at Lysator as well as Archive of Our Own Erotica in Fanfic by Sondra Sweigman, Oh No, Not Tarrant!... (personal experiences of writing for particular characters, by Faulkner), My Top Ten Episodes (by Faulkner), Ve Haf Vay Of Making You Talk (on Federation interrogation techniques, by Proctor), and Beating The Odds (survival rates in fan fiction, by Faulkner).

Additional material includes Zine Fever (filk by Proctor and Kathryn Andersen), Freeze On, Young Blood (more fanfic howlers), a tongue-in-cheek comparison of B7 and Star Trek by Brad Black, Aunty Anna's Agony Column (by Faulkner and Chris Blenkarn), six letters of comment over 24 pages and back page art by Joyce Bowen.

Issue 5

Summer (around August) 1997, 46 A4 pages corner-stapled. Cover depicts a group of decimas (from the 1st-season episode The Web) at a bowling alley to tie in with AZ 5 being an 'Unearthly Alien Special'.

Articles include Not Of This Earth (a discussion of aliens in SF in general and B7 in particular, by Faulkner), More Human Than I Am (discussing 'humanoid' aliens in particular, by Faulkner), Fraggle Waggle, or I'm Looting The Body (moon discs as player characters in the Horizon B7 Role-Playing Game, by Faulkner), Media*West convention report (by Proctor), On Zine Reviews by Chris Blenkarn, What's Wrong With Action Scenes? by Russ Massey, I Drink Therefore I Am (considering 'the merits of the various members of the crew as martini mixers', by Chris Blenkarn), What Might Have Been (factual article on casting considerations for the series, by Russ Massey), and Once A Jolly Rebel (on political reality in B7 fan fiction, by Faulkner).

Additional material includes After Hours (short fiction, by Faulkner), Del Tarrant's Deep Space Cookbook (satire, by Faulkner), a limerick by Susan Bennett, a couple of B7 elephant jokes, zine news and reviews, and five letters of comment over 17 pages.

Issue 6

Autumn (end of November) 1997, 40 A4 pages margin-stapled. Cover for this 'Spicey Girlpower Special' depicts the five leading female characters of the series as the Spice Girls and was drawn by Whitby27.

Articles include Deadlier Than The Male (by Faulkner) and The Women of Blake's 7 (by Pam Baddeley) discussing the role of female characters in the series, Get Away From Her, You Bitch (an analysis of the action woman in SF, by Faulkner), Good Women Wasted (underdevelopment of the female leads in B7, by Faulkner), The Definitive Guide to Women in Media Science Fiction by Russ Massey, Starfleet Experience 1997 convention report by Chris Blenkarn, and On Being A Fan Artist by Whitby27.

Additional material includes an Otis Redding filk by Faulkner, fillers by Brad Black, the one entry for the (prizeless) B7 Blues competition (from Brad Black), a spoof flier for the upcoming Deliverance 98 convention, and four letters of comment over 10 pages.


  1. ^ from a comment by Judith Proctor on mailing list Lysator (July 20, 1996)
  2. ^ from a comment by Judith Proctor on Lysator (December 3, 1996)
  3. ^ From: [email protected] Subject: blakes7-d Digest V99 #289, publicly archived
  4. ^ Subject: Re: [B7L] Horizon 2.0/*Wild* accusations! post by Neil F. dated March 29, 2000.
  5. ^ Lysator, Judith P, August 1998
  6. ^ Subject: New letterzine by Judith P. dated Oct 9, 1995.
  7. ^ Judith Proctor at Lysator (October 7, 1997)
  8. ^ comment by Sarah Thompson on Lysator (May 9, 1997)
  9. ^ from Judith Proctor
  10. ^ Lysator, December 1995.
  11. ^ Lysator, 1996
  12. ^ Lysator, 1996
  13. ^ Judith Proctor wrote on December 3, 1996: "Altazine issue 3 will be a month or two late as Neil Faulkner has just changed computers and has got to type a lot of the LOCs a second time as the old and new discs aren't compatible." comment by Judith Proctor on Lysator
  14. ^ Judith Proctor wrote on December 9, 1996: "I've just got the masters for issue #3 from Neil, so I'll be copying it as soon as I feel half-way fit, but the Xmas post may slow it getting out to people."