Avon: A Terrible Aspect

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Title: Avon: A Terrible Aspect
Author(s): Paul Darrow
Date(s): 1989
Length: 190 pages (paperback)
Genre: scifi
Fandom: Blake's 7
External Links: Wikipedia article
Avonterribleaspect.jpg

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Avon: A Terrible Aspect is a Blake's 7 novel by Paul Darrow (who played Kerr Avon in the original show).

It was published in hardcover in 1989, with copyright shared between Darrow and Terry Nation, the creator of the Blake's 7 universe. The novel is not usually regarded as canonical, but Nation apparently liked the way it explained "why Avon was the way he was."[1] Fans are generally not positive about this story, which is widely known as 'Avon: A Terrible Novel'. It is rarely incorporated as backstory for Avon in fanfiction by other writers, with the possible exception of Fatal Collision.

The novel recounts the life story of Kerr Avon from shortly before his conception to moments before his first meeting with Roj Blake. It includes the characters of Anna Grant, Del Grant, and Tynus, who appeared in the show. Notably it also invents the characters of Rogue Avon (Avon's father) and Axel Reiss (Avon's uncle), both of whom share numerous character traits with Kerr (or in this novel, Ker) Avon. Darrow explains that Avon's first name is a short form of the name "Kerguelen", said to mean "desolation".

Summary

From the dust jacket:

A straight-forward, fast-moving story of the origins of Kerr Avon. It begins before Avon's birth and shows the family structure he was born into, in the strange repressive culture projected for the future in the Blake's 7 universe. In here are some of the characters a Blake's 7 fan will recall - Anna Grant, Avon's only love; Del Grant, her brother and Tynus, Avon's good friend - or so Avon believes! In a weird duel in the frozen North of their mother planet, two brothers fight a duel to the death, and Rogue Avon is slain. This, the Federation feels, spells the end to rebellion in the universe, and the status quo of peace without freedom can continue. But they are wrong. The son of Rogue Avon obviously an Earthling and entitled to return to the mother planet, has sworn to his mother to avenge his father. He manages to return to Earth, and there work out the inevitable conclusion to this ingenious and fascinating tale. Terry Nation, on reading this book, remarked, 'Now I know why Avon was the way he was'."

Covers

The cover of both the hardback (1989) and the paperback (1991) edition feature art by Karen River, a well-known fanartist. The artwork of Avon was first used for the fanzine Shadowplay in 1988.

Reactions and Reviews

First page of the Terrible Aspect quiz in Ten-Credit Touch
As well as the reviews preserved online, Avon: a Terrible Aspect was reviewed in numerous fanzines, including The Avon Club (issues 36 and 37) and the Horizon newsletter (issue 22). It is also "adroitly speared several times, and even has a quiz devoted to it" [2] in the comedy fanzine Ten-Credit Touch.

As with all reviews and fan comments, the place and time is important to note. The six reviews in Horizon Newsletter #22 are one example of some critical reading for at least two reasons; they appeared just as the Blake's 7 War was whipping up, and they were printed in a publication that Paul Darrow was very likely going to read. One review in "Horizon Newsletter" #22 accentuates this conflict of interest by ending with "Love ya, Paul!"

A fan in 2015 posted:
I've been rummaging around in my collection of old Horizon newsletters and I've got a contemporary copy with a number of reviews. Most of the reviews are pretty short and there is quibbling about certain aspects of the book but the criticism is pretty muted considering. I think that is to be expected because Horizon, with it's ties to the actors, was never going to publish anything too critical. Indeed, the longest of the reviews is gushingly positive! The novel was "incredibly moving", apparently! :D Interestingly, the same newsletter has a pull out section dealing with the "controversy in B7 fandom" and this does make me wonder about the impact of fannish politics on the book's contemporary reception. One thing I can say is that Horizon claims, in a paragraph summing up the novel's reception, that 75% of the reviews that it received were positive! [3]

Unknown Date

Although this book does have its enthusiasts, it is probably true to say that the majority of fans dislike it. It is a novel, primarily about Avon's father, and attempts to show us Avon's background and how he came to be the man he was. However, it does not mesh terribly well with the series, and some people feel this is not the Avon they know (he seems terribly macho). It should also be mentioned that this book should really be adult rated - if you have read the sex on a blood-stained floor scene, you will know what I am talking about.

Those who are fond of the laws of physics and have more than a passing knowledge of astronomy, should be prepared to suspend disbelief or else give this book a ten kilometer berth.

I can't really recommend this book, but because of the author, most people feel compelled to try it anyway. (Judith Proctor)[4]
While there are undoubtedly shortcomings to the novel, I really can't understand what all the outrage is about. No it isn't a stand-out classic, but I challenge anyone to name me a Blake's 7 book that ever was. ...

One of the things I was curious to see was what Paul Darrow's portrayal of Avon himself would be. Now a lot of people take issue with Darrow's supposedly unsympathetic view of Avon, and I had my suspicions that this might be what was at the core of many of the criticisms aimed at the book. The general gist is that Darrow doesn't understand him at all, and that his view of Avon as a self-serving bastard therefore fails to do justice to the complexity of the character.

Personally, I'm not entirely sure what they mean, as I find that his view is largely in accord with the general one - he describes the negative aspects of Avon's personality in much cruder terms than, say, Chris Boucher does, but I find that when you break it down, the meaning is usually the same. And in the end, self-interest is Avon's god. In the crudest terms, he is a self-serving bastard, it's just that it's not the be-all and end-all of his character, not by a long way. I was sure before reading the book that Darrow is well aware of that.

I'm glad to say after reading it that my impression was correct. While it was a pity that Avon didn't get more of those deadpan one-liners of his that we all relish, for the most part I found that this was very much the man we know, and that Darrow does understand the character very well indeed - he should do, seeing how he helped to create him, to say nothing of how long he played the part. Kerr Avon is cold and untrusting, and he has his ruthless tendancies, but, as with the calm, rational Avon we know from the series, they are ones that he only practices when he has no realistic alternative. And before anyone says otherwise, the killings of Sabbath, Reiss and Maco were entirely in keeping with this - in all of these cases he couldn't possibly let them live or they would have killed him.

We also glimpse Avon's better, more vulnerable, side. As a boy, he was in tears at the death of his grandmother, not as much as other children of his age would be perhaps, but still it truly affected him. More importantly, it is made very clear that he does genuinely love Anna, and the shock he feels on hearing of her "death" I found convincing and even quite moving. (Martin Odoni - part of a much longer review)[5]
Paul Darrow isn't, of course, a great novelist, but then neither is he a truly terrible one either, the book's subtitle giving birth to many snide jokes at its expense. His writing is full of clichés, three times likening people to cats, or giving us eyes like "twin lasers" on not one but two occasions. Funniest line for me though had to be the machine that explodes "with a roar that would have outdone a pride of lions". I was expecting to mercilessly poke fun at this novel, but in the end I found myself loving it as a well-meaning underdog. And although his writing will never win any literary awards, I personally found it to be eminently readable throughout, with a reasonable pace. (AnorakZone)[6]

1989

This disappointing story is populated by characters denied full human expression. The male characters, with few exceptions, are stock macho types; the women, even the 'good' ones, are scheming Jezebels. Characterization has been sacrificed in favor of a fast-moving plot full of violence, scientific anomalies (such as going from the moons of Jupiter to Earth via the Clouds of Magellan, which happen to be outside the Solar System), and grammatical constructions that are almost, but not quite, sentances. ... Avon: A Terrible Aspect reads rather like an unfinished fan story. A better job of editing would certainly have rendered it more readable. The simplistic focus of the novel, however, would still send the die-hard fan hungry for more substance back to the many fine fanzines. (Bex - 1989)[7]
Now I am no expert on Sci-Fi novels, but I certainly liked Paul's offering. A fascinating story and plenty of violence and sex (exactly what I expected of Avon's family!). The only comment I have is, when is the next book due, Paul? Would you consider writing a 5th season blockbuster? Or, of the lives of the other characters, perhaps even Blake? It's only a suggestion, but I liked what I read and I wanted more! Love ya, Paul!!! (Paula G)[8]
An incredibly moving novel, confirming my opinion that Avon was always the victim and that his life followed a charted course to tragedy. Paul Darrow's novel is cleverly constructed to show us Avon's life prior to Liberator, by showing us the lives of the people around him until the final part, Desolation, where the true tragedy becomes unavoidable, this is the story of Kerguelen Avon (that the name, later shortened to Kerr, means 'desolation' serves to make this final section more poignant).

Paul Darrow has, in this novel, succeeded in explaining Kerr Avon's psyche most satisfyingly. The emotionally abused child growing to the emotionally almost socially crippled adult. Now we understand why Avon finds trust so hard, why he expects betrayal to result form every confidence and why he is so completely behind that shield of sarcasm and bitterness....

The book is arranged in a very satisfying manner. Each part being the story of one of the main protagonists, beginning after the prologue which marks the beginning of Kerr, with his father Rogue Avon and ending with his own story up to the London. My only complaint is that each section, especially the last could have been longer....

The construction of the story is fascinating, reminiscent of Rome under the Caesars....

I adored Rogue Avon. So like Kerr in appearance and many of his mannerisms. Is it any wonder Rowena fell for him the way she did?...

The novel also goes some way to explain Avon's morals. They may not be the same as ours, but he was not amoral, just a product of his society and upbringing....

I enjoyed Avon: A Terrible Aspect very much. However I found it terribly sad and I wish it could have been longer. The story of Rogue Avon and Rowena is almost a myth of ancient Greece. The young innocent virgin 'visited' by the God in the form of a beautiful man. The liaison producing a child possessed of both godlike and human characteristics, whose life is destined to be tragic, maybe in death to obtain the immortality that should have been his from the start. (Helen P) [9]
To briefly list the books good points:the character names are in keeping with Blake's 7, the dialogue is natural and not forced, and it has an attractive cover. Now for the bad points. There are many typographical errors. There's a lot of gratuitous violence and - despite the Federation's arsenal of death-dealing weapons - most of it committed messily with knives. The sex scenes often incorporate a female viewpoint and thus, inevitably, sound daft. (Not even Ian Fleming could get that right.) And while on the subject of sex, when we first meet Gerasa the whore she has "the narrow eyes of a thief and a mouth like a razor blade". However, by page 36, she's turned into a beauty. Odd, that.

But back to my main complaint. It might have been all right in the original Buck Rodgers movie-serial (1936) to have people running about on Saturn. It certainly isn't now. Plus, we get other Thirties throwbacks like whooshing rockets, heliplanes, video telegraphs, and the Magellanic Clouds (only 2 million light years away, folks) in place of the asteroid belt. Well, almost. Jupiter's kind of gone missing. This makes nonsense of the entire plot, so much so that I couldn't be bothered to check if the rest made sense. Sorry, but it really is that bad. Anyone want a half-priced second-hand copy?

...Diane - make sure everybody's twin-bladed serrated knives are blunt when they come after me, won't you? (Marise R. M-C)[10]
"The long-awaited 'baby Avon' book by Paul Darrow has finally emerged and it certainly contains quite a bit of what the described as 'sex and violence'. Somewhat surprisingly, the book is written in a style fairly unique to SF writing -- that of the hard, tough. detective novel -- blunt, without much description or, indeed, much internalizing on the part of the characters. The action moves very rapidly -- making the novel, at 189 pages, a very fast read indeed. Darrow has a keen, incisive, and highly accurate ear for dialogue, and no character in this book can be said to have a 'bad' part -- however briefly a character survives, his or her lines are good. If the universe of the Blake's 7 world was a dark one, then this pre-universe paints an even darker picture. Fan writers have speculated that Avon had an unhappy childhood -- often picturing a beloved mother who died -- no fan story I have ever read comes close to the emotional abuse the (Kerr) Avon in Paul's book is subjected to. Sheelagh Wells was quite right -- (Kerr) Avon never did have a teddy bear. Indeed, by the end of the book, one has to have enormous pity for Blake --- he thinks he's just getting a 'normal' misanthropic genius -- Ha! One might wish that the editor had pushed Mr. Darrow for additional scenes -- (Kerr) with his 'brother' at school, for example -- but, in retrospect, such additions might have destroyed the rapid movement of the book -- so perhaps such scenes will have to be written as addenda. One thing the book does with admirable skill -- one could even call it brilliance -- is to clearly illuminate the Avon we see in "Blake." The (Kerr) Avon is this book clearly points to the (Kerr) Avon who will even kill his best friend -- with anguish, since for a time he might have allowed himself to hope that he lessons learned in youth were not completely true -- but when faced with betrayal, he will kill,[11]
"By now, most American fans who are so inclined have perused Avon: A terrible Aspect. The author's name sold the novel, but it presents Avon in the same way that we've seen in fanzines a hundred times before. Let's examine AATA using the 'Mortimer Snerd' principle (as if the book had been written by a total unknown). I've read B7 fan stories I've enjoyed more. It's only fair to say that I've read B7 stories I enjoyed less. Some of the more florid scenes are rather incredible -- sword fights at the North Pole, the scheming of a decadent albino, and a drug-sodden upper class reminiscent of I:Claudius. However, AATA functions tolerably well as a melodramatic adventure yarn. For those who flip to the 'naughty bits' -- yes, the book includes sex scenes. Unlike most fanfic, AATA's sex is male-oriented, casual, and macho. That is to say, less than two paragraphs of foreplay. I can't object to this style -- after all, many people are male, and it's a change from the romantic slush one encounters so often. (I do wonder though, what the actress who played Anna Grant would think about this book.) For an 'origins' story, this novel sure does read like fourth or fifth season. You know what I mean -- everybody is hardened and cynical, and Avon is so-o-o wonderful. According to Mortimer, both sides of Avon's family are experienced killers. I don't find this explanation of Avon's character are enlightening as he seems to believe......

What really grits my teeth in AATA is its naivete regarding outer space. The show was not very credible either, but by judicious use of colorful although unexplained special effects it usually skimmed by....

For what it is worth I don't regret buying the book, but it is pricey. Consider reading a friend's copy first.[12]

1993

Um.... Well, it's a "pre-quel" of sorts, about the early life of Kerr Avon. (Early=conception onwards). Yes, it's by Paul Darrow and he should know what he's talking about. Unfortunately, he included a number of things that are highly questionable when compared to the episodes. It's out in paperback, I believe, so I wouldn't advise anyone to pay full price for a hardcover. [13] [14]
I think one of the major problems was the way Anna was depicted. Not only are her other identities and her husband left out, but, as a friend of mine so wisely put it, Anna in the book couldn't organize a tupperware party, let alone a rebellion. It seems strange to me that Darrow would go through so much trouble to account for the brother whose image Avon saw in "Space Fall," and then wantonly violate the character of Anna. What happened to Chesku (Anna was married when she was running Avon and he knew that), and how could the dimwit in the book possibly be "Central Security's top agent"? [15]
It always worries me a little when actors write books for the characters they play. They should be the leading expert but they rarely are. What would be better would be books by the ex-script writers. [16]
To say the least, it is a poorly written book. I would have run out of fingers AND toes trying to count just the major errors in this book, let alone the minor ones. As has been commented on here, the picture he paints of Anna is all wrong. He makes Avon out to be some kind of Rambo/super-brain from the very beginning. I always had the impression that Avon was merely a genius who got caught embezzling. The Rambo stuff comes later. I'm not complaining about everything, however. I really enjoyed reading this book, despite all the flaws. The story was fast paced and interesting (even though it contradicts known B7 facts.) It's also interesting to see how Paul Darrow sees Avon. Probably the most annoying part of the book had nothing to do with Darrow. The book appeared to have had absolutely no editing. Typo's and spelling errors were abundant, very distracting. [17]

1994

... Saturday [we] queued up to get [Paul Darrow's] autograph. I took my hardcover copy Avon: A Terrible Waste of Time. For the entire time I was in line I was afraid he's ask me what I thought and I'd tell him. But he didn't ask. He gave me a hard time over how to spell my name and then told me to take my clothes off. He says that all the time, so I didn't take it personally. Besides, it was cold in the room. I did, however, take it as a cue to unburden myself about the wretched sex scenes in the book. He still signed it with "love" from him to me, though... [18]
I intensely dislike the 'professional' novels, including "Darrow: A Terrible Writer" (oh, sorry, wasn't that "Avon: A Terrible Aspect"?). [19]
About the only credible thing I find about AVON: A TERRIBLE ASPECT is the possiblity that Rogue (yech, what a corny name) was a likely daddy for Kerr Avon, since Leather Lad spends a lot of time bashing broads in the series (Servalan, Pella, Sara...). Of course this kind of stuff makes ammunition for the fannish school of thought that has Avon pegged as gay, which is totally ridiculous whether he is or not...bashing women about is not a natural characteristic of gays. It's a natural characteristic of a mysogynistic putz. [20]
Oh, don't get me started! If I take the Fourth Season and add it to AVON: A TERRIBLE WRITER, my personal opinion is that the character of Avon came about accidentally, that Paul Darrow had NO IDEA what made the character work. That book....grrrrr....I am forced to grind my teeth. [21]
I would buy Afterlife and Avon: a terrible aspect if I could find them. Sad, isn't it? Fight it, Susan, fight it! You can do much better with your B7 reading budget buying zines! Don't waste your money on such trash when you could be reading brilliant fan fiction instead! [22]
Well, there is one good thing about the hardcover version of A TERRIBLE ASPECT. Karen River did an absolutely lovely cover ... the working title of which was "To Die For." I love that piece of art. We've got to get Karen back into B7 and chained to the art table. [23]
Okay, I haven't commented on Paul's book since my review nearly two years ago. Many of you, and you know who you are, have warned people away from this book. I, however, enjoyed it quite a bit. It is VERY bad in some ways, but is a fun read. Here, I'll even set up a little rating system to grade it: Scale: -10 (The Worst) to 10 (Excellent)
BLAKE 7 CONTINUITY -8
SCIENCE (NOT COUNTING SPACE GEOGRAPHY) -6
SPACE GEOGRAPHY -10
CHARACTERIZATION OF AVON -5
CHARACTERIZATION OF ANNA -7
CHARACTERIZATION OF EVERYONE ELSE 0
PLOT 3
PULP-FICTION FEEL 9
FUN 8

In other words, it has almost no redeeming features, but is a quick, campy, rollick through something vaguely resembling the B7 universe. I wouldn't bother paying money for it, but look for it at a library or send for

it through an interlibrary loan. [24]
Sadder, but wiser, owner of a "I survived reading _Avon: A Terrible Novel_ and all I got was this lousy T-shirt and a really bad taste in my mouth" T shirt. [25]
While I'm not willing to actually reread A TERRIBLE ASPECT to reinforce my impressions, my two main objections to the novel are named Avon and Anna, both of which characters were horribly mutiliated. Avon is the most obvious --poor man, I think (were he real) he'd go after the author with a serrated blade for character assassination. This is the "civilized man" (as Blake puts it) of the series? I don't think so. Besides the ludicrous macho crap in general, I was rather irritated that Avon's main talent in the program (being a computer expert/genius/whatever) was made trivial in the novel. It read rather like he took a correspondence course called "how to be the foremost computer expert in the galaxy in one week or less." Please. And Anna. What a wimp! And if there's anything Chris Boucher's Anna wasn't, it's a wimp. Come to think of it, the "real" Anna would probably be picking up that serrated blade as well, to do a historically-accurate instant reply of the Bobbitt manuever. [26]
Is anyone out there keeping track of the AVON: A TERRIBLE ASPECT title mutations? I get a kick out of how this group so inventively twists the title. Just today there is A TERRIBLE TRAVESTY and in another post, AVON: A TERRIBLE WASTE OF PAPER. [27]
If you admire Paul Darrow, don't read this book - then you will still retain all your illusions... (I love him as an actor, but if he ever writes another book, I won't bother reading it). On the other hand, if you know zero about astronomy and don't mind bad plotting combined with sex scenes on blood covered floors, then you'll get along with it just fine. [28]

2000

... at least it isn't boring and Darrow, as an actor, has a keen sense of drama and pace. However, the astronomical knowledge on display is, as he freely admits, not of Chris Boucher standard, i.e. it's all wrong! [29]
Unfortunately, I no longer have all my old copies of Xenon Signals, the newsletter published by Liberator Atlanta back in the late 80s/early 90s. I still remember the review one of our members sent in: "_Avon: A Terrible Aspect_ is a terrible book." It really has almost nothing to recommend it. [30]

2003

Having just finished reading A: ATA for the first time, I couldn't help smirking at the thought of Avon's dad caught up in the 'wars for Uranus' while trying to be so macho with all those serrated blades and fainting 'wenches' to hand.

It's as if the solar system were the limit of the Federation's power, but it's an elastic solar system. Plus, it all seems to have been terraformed, which is nice.

Curiously, I think there's a. Good novel in there. Trying to get out. The typos don't help, though. Names mis-spelled. Clouds of Magellan misplaced. Women mislaid.

On a positive note, there was the intriguing notion of the Federation having been formed by nine families, rather like the mafia. Have I missed something or did we ever, in the series, get a specific glimpse of the origins of the Federation? [31]

2007

Frankly, I've only got to page 2, and I find myself having difficulty... the problem is, I don't have anyone to phone and read aloud the more irresistible bits of unintentional whimsy. So I'm posting a *few* of them here.

Page 2 (note to self: save this for an A/B)

“I’ve run from the Edge of Uranus,” he said. “I’ve lost my sense of direction.”

Also on Page 2 (from Avon's book of Pickup lines.)

“By the light of one moon,” he said, “You appear very beautiful. Imagine the effect created by seven.” (Marian Mendez)[32]

2011

I love Paul Darrow, I love the character Kerr Avon. Blake's 7 is one of my favorite shows of all time, I enjoy the writing and dialogue in the show. I was dying to read this book when I finally got it.

Now, I would still recommend it to die hard Blake's 7 fans who want the backstory on Avon, but to no one else.

The writing (despite it being Terry Nation & Paul Darrow's creation) is not that great. The portrayal of women is horrifying. They are all one dimensional sexual objects. The book contains the worst (and some of the more sexist) descriptions of sex I've ever read. [Think Robert Heinlein's misogynistic portral of women]. I'm not saying they had to make Rogue Avon seem like a sensitive guy or anything, but his going around 'banging whores' and then killing them is not really what I was looking for in the book. A terrible disappointment. I finished it just so I could get the full story of Kerr Avon's past.

And now I must geek out and say I was also a little puzzled at the fact that the end didn't quite match what Kerr Avon told Del Grant had happened in the episode "Countdown". Terry Nation wrote that episode and Paul Darrow uttered the dialogue - so why couldn't they keep the stories consistent? Granted I haven't seen a few episodes of season 3, so maybe this is explained later... [33]

2013

If you are a fan to the Blakes 7 universe and know a bit about it then you might find this book interesting. However it's for fans only. Darrow creates an interesting back story for Avon and emulates the bantering style of dialogue Blakes 7 was known for fairly well. He also inserts some of the grit and the sex he probably would have liked to see in the actual televised series. But, again, there is nothing here for the non-Blakes 7 fan. [34]

2014

A Terrible Aspect is actually a decent Jacobean revenge tragedy, disguised as a very good pulp Western, disguised as Terry Nation story… exactly what you’d expect given Darrow and Nations predilections! (Frankymole)[35]
Of all the books written by Paul Darrow, this disaster has to be the worst. We are treated to the back story of Avon, his parents Rogue and Rowena and the taciturn little boy called Kergulen.

The book has numerous typographical errors throughout the volume; no doubt the editor even found it hard to get through... The portrayal of the Grant family does not match with what we learn from the television series, and the portrayal of Anna Grant in particular is horrible and completely unbelievable. The sex scenes are alarming as to how either Rogue or Avon himself comports himself with the opposite sex.

The science again is laughable with solar winds which can guide a craft through space and other gems of the author's imagination. No wonder both fans and fellow actors alike have come to call the title Avon: A Terrible Novel. With bad 'fan fiction' like this who would want to read more from Paul Darrow? As I've always maintained, Paul Darrow is a good actor, but I would not go as far as to say he's a good author. I've always called him a well-known fan fiction writer of dubious repute and I stand by that. [36]

2015

Having gone to the trouble of tracking down a copy of this novel, I thought I'd better read it! The best way I can describe it is as if Ian Fleming had written a pulp Western set in space.

This is not a novel without flaws: the plotting is spotty (particularly in the first half), the characterisation is shallow, the portrayal of women is problematic and the choice of style tends to drive, rather than reflect the story. But what is interesting about this novel is not any of these things, it is the insight it gives into how Paul sees the background and motivations of a character he played and in part helped to create.

It's written with an actor's sensibility - all good lines and grand, cinematic entrances. And Paul's voice comes through extremely strongly in the text. It's impossible not to read it in his voice and you can almost imagine he wrote it with narrating the audio book version in mind. The narrative sections are precise and punchy, with language carefully chosen for its staccato rhythm. The version of the Federation and Avon's back story that Paul presents is an interesting one. It lacks the poise and polish we came to expect from the series, but I suspect that was deliberately chosen to reflect the style of story. The grit and violence in the novel (and the frequent sex scenes) is something that was always missing from the rather polite series, but it is more in keeping with the later Avon than the one we meet in Space Fall.

The portrayal of Anna Grant is an interesting and canny one. Making her ultimately a figure of pity fits neatly with her problematic place in fandom, though this Anna still fails to convince as a woman who could capture Avon's heart. A more nuanced portrayal would have offered more, but I'm still not sure the fandom is entirely ready for that.

The novel's other weakness is its narrow focus on one thread of the backstory alone. Despite Paul's efforts to explain and tie in points of detail (the 'brother' who refers to Avon by his surname, the relationships with Del and Anna Grant and Tynus, the mysterious piece of paper in Avon's pocket on the London) it still feels odd that the first references to the nascent uprising of The Way Back and the Federation fears about Blake's return are only mentioned right at the end.

All in all this is a fast-paced read that provides one version of Avon's back story and some interesting insights into the mind of the author. [37]
I have a guilty secret. One so shaming that I'm glad of a pseudonym to hide behind as I admit it.

My secret is that I love Avon a Terrible Aspect.

I love it despite what my reason tells me about it. I know it's not particularly well written, that it plays fast and loose with scientific facts and that it significantly diverges from canon. I have no idea what the title means or why, even in the hellish world the novel depicts, any mother would name her child Desolation. So why the love?

[snipped]

I tried a sequel by Tony Atwood, bought a couple of annuals, but they did not even begin to answer my questions. In fact, they made me wonder if the BBC who sanctioned them had ever watched its own creation. Eventually, I decided that for the sake of my sanity, I had to leave the series behind.

In fact, I put Blakes 7 behind me so completely that it became like a childhood memory of something I had outgrown. I was vaguely aware in the following years that that there were radio dramas and a novel that revisited the series, but I ignored them, convinced that going back to it would disappoint - perhaps even reveal it as something which I now could only despise.

[snipped]

While I couldn't really imagine Blake, Vila or even Jenna growing up on the Earth described, it was the sort of place where Servalan and Travis 2 would have felt right at home. As would Vargas, Colonel Quute, Dorian, Bayban, Egrorian - any of the grotesques that the crew had had to deal with on their travels. Even the fact that I struggled to place Blake there didn't trouble me. I Claudius doesn't depict the world of the ordinary citizen or take us into the schools of philosophy and science that flourished alongside the mad orgies and assassinations of the Roman palace. Blake just wasn't a part of the power-mad hierarchy, I reasoned, and had started his revolution in the slums which the novel doesn't show us.

Maybe the young Kerr Avon who leapt from the pages wasn't the young Kerr Avon who I met and loved on the London, but it wasn't such a stretch to imagine the battered, barmy, veteran of Season Four, striding about in studs and leather, dodging the assassin's knife and killing his Uncle in hand to hand combat. This was a back history for a character I loved, which while I didn't completely buy it, didn't make me throw the book at a wall (which I had done with Afterlife). And more than that, it turned me back into a fan.

I've read many criticisms of this novel, but I love it because reading it forced me to think about the adventures I wanted for my Magnificent Seven. I love it because it led me to seek out and read the stories that others had created for them. I love it because it was written without any pretensions to be great literature, but with such obvious enjoyment, that it gave me the confidence to say what the hell and have a go at answering for myself those nagging questions about why, and who, and what happened next.

Yep, you heard me right. I love Avon a Terrible Aspect. And I am no longer ashamed to admit it! [38]
[snipped]

Actually, I think if I had to pick one aspect of the novel that I think is the most unpardonable it would be the depiction of Anna Grant. As I stated above: she's mentally unstable, forced to work for Axel due to her dependance on the drugs that keep her sane(ish), and I have no idea what Avon sees in her as they never talk. After being trained by Vasht she becomes poised and (frequently) naked, rather than insane and giggling - but the transformation doesn't make much sense, either. All that said - it feels wrong to be picking up on Darrow's view of characterisation being different to mine when there are other issues at stake. I can't even be bothered to talk about his characterisation of Avon himself (beyond what I've already said about his computer skills) - which, incidentally, is just flat. He's basically a sociopath, who is bored by almost everything....

[snipped]

Everything else is just mediocre, bad or good-ish. Regarding the bad: the first section is full of people going 'ah ha, but you see I knew that you would know that I knew that you knew that I would betray you, so I set you up!' - it's almost unreadable. The other thing that's bad (and which doesn't fit in weird) is that I don't actually know why a lot of things happened. Erin asked me later why Rogue cut off Axel's penis - I didn't know. I thought I'd just forgotten, even though I only read this book three days ago. But I've skimmed back through it since, and asked other people who have read the book - and nobody seems to know. It can't have been accidental, as he did the deed with the dual-bladed knife with serrated edge, not with the pump-action shotgun. This castration is the major act that drives the whole plot, and I don't know why it happens. I also don't know why lots of other things happen, although I concede that I could have misread or simply forgotten. Why does the banking family bother to adopt Avon? What does Axel hope to gain by planting Anna with Avon? Why doesn't Axel just kill Avon while he's at school, rather than waiting for a complicated trial-by-combat scenario that he didn't even engineer himself? Oh whatever, don't bother me with trifles! It's all TRIVIAL in comparison to Avon weeping over his uncle-clone's severed manhood....

[snipped]

What else is there to say? As we know by now, there are so many strange things about this book that it seems pointless to respond normally to it. However, I suppose I do wonder why Paul Darrow choose to write a book about Avon's backstory that focused mostly on other characters when there is so much to say about Kerr Avon, who is a very complicated character with a lot of implied history and internal doubt. IDK, I'm not that fussed about backstory in general because it mostly doesn't deal with the characters I know interacting with each other (as they met in episode one or, in Avon's case, two), but it feels like a missed opportunity.

On the other hand, if none of these weird things had happened - Avon: a Terrible Aspect would simply be another piece of fanfiction, but one that we might have to take seriously because of who wrote it. This way it's remarkable in its terrifying and bemusing strangeness. I am glad to have read it.

Also - I don't understand why anyone let the paperback cover go out looking like that. It's unreal. [39]
Perhaps the cover is anamorphic (or Annamorphic) and reveals hidden meanings when viewed from just the right angle? (possibly from Uranus?) I have never got past Page 44, but nevertheless this book has been a potent influence on me as a fanfic writer. Because people are going to wonder what your writing says about you. I, for one, would rather be known as someone with an excessive interest in puns, home cooking in spaace! and lingerie than as someone with an excessive interest in double-bladed serrated knives and random castration. [40]

Other Blake's 7 Novels by Paul Darrow

In the 2010s, Big Finish, who were also publishing B7 audio plays starring the original cast, published a series of Post Gauda Prime novels by Darrow.

These were also available as audiobooks, read by the author.

Fan reaction to the novels has, in general, been more positive than the reaction to Avon: a Terrible Aspect, although it is worth noting that the fanbase is now much less active. Like Avon: a Terrible Aspect, these novels do not seem to have influenced fanfiction by other writers.

Other Pro Books Written by the Actors About the Characters They Portrayed

References

  1. Cover blurb
  2. Zine Review by Lorna B. on Lysator dated Oct 25, 1993.
  3. comment by burntcandlemas at Aralia's journal, March 1, 2015
  4. 'Books about and relating to Blake's 7' merchant page on Hermit.org
  5. "Avon: A Terrible Novel?" I Don't Think So Actually; Archive
  6. Review on AnorakZone
  7. Reviewed by Bex in 1989
  8. Horizon newsletter # 22, June 1989 p67
  9. Horizon newsletter # 22, June 1989 pp 66-67
  10. Horizon newsletter # 22, June 1989 p67
  11. Pressure Point no.9&10
  12. Pressure Point no.9&10
  13. by Wendy H. on Lysator dated January 23, 1993.
  14. "LOL! Just discovered I'm quoted in the Fanlore Wiki on the B7 novel 'Avon: A Terrible Aspect'. My opinion hasn't changed since 1993." -- Kaji, May 2015
  15. by Sue C. on Lysator dated Jan 29, 1993.
  16. by Sue A. on Lysator dated February 1, 1993.
  17. by Dave S. on Lysator dated February 2, 1993.
  18. from a con report for Visions by Sue Clerc, with comments by Joan Crenshaw, Beth Friedman, and Amanda Rothman, printed in Tarriel Cell v. 8 n.3 at Tarriel Cell, Archived version
  19. Lysator, M. Fae Glasgow, dated Jan 16, 1994.
  20. Lysator, unnamed fan, dated June 10, 1994.
  21. Lysator, Joan C., dated June 12, 1994.
  22. Lysator, Agnes T., dated July 27, 1994.
  23. Lysator, Pat, dated July 27, 1994.
  24. Lysator, Dave, dated July 24, 1994.
  25. Lysator, unknown fan, dated August 1, 1994.
  26. Lysator, Pat Nussman, dated August 1, 1994.
  27. Lysator, Nancy P., dated August 31, 1994.
  28. Lysator, Judith P., dated Nov 10, 1994.
  29. alt.fan.blakes-7, Cardinal Zorak, November 2000
  30. alt.fan.blakes-7, Rob, November 2000
  31. alt.fan.blakes-7, Patrick, June 2003
  32. Archived from the 'adult B7 list' on Marian Mendez's journal
  33. Kyra, 2011 at Goodreads
  34. Dave Lefevre, 2013 at Goodreads
  35. comment on the Wife and Blake series 2 overview
  36. P. Susan, 2014 at Goodreads
  37. Caroline Mersey, 2015 at Goodreads
  38. essay by Anniew at Horizon: The Official Blake's 7 Fan Club; Archive, February 2015
  39. Procrastination Central - Marge, get the guys down in Ominous Warnings to tweak up the reverb on the word "terrible", Archived version, from a much, much longer review by Aralias, see original entire post, May 20, 2015
  40. Procrastination Central - Marge, get the guys down in Ominous Warnings to tweak up the reverb on the word "terrible", Archived version, comment by executrix from a much, much longer post by Aralias, see original entire post, May 21, 2015