Avon On-Line

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Zine
Title: Avon On-Line
Publisher: Map Press
Editor(s): P.N. Elrod
Date(s): 1988-1990
Series?:
Medium: print
Size:
Genre: gen
Fandom: Blake’s 7
Language: English
External Links:
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Avon On-Line is a gen Blake's 7 anthology with three issues.

a 1992 flyer printed in Good Guys Wear Fangs #1

The Vampire Connection

Fun fact: the author in question is Pat Elrod. She is better known as P. N. Elrod, author of The Vampire Files series, and the early books of that series were written around the same time she was doing these. I’ve seen some comments to the effect that a number of characters therein resemble her versions of the B7 characters. (It’s been years since I read that series, so until I dig out the copies i have, I can’t personally comment.) As that series takes place in the 1930s, if that commentary is true, it adds more fuel to @drawing-blog-of-fun‘s Blake’s 1927 AU series. (It miiiiight also explain all of the “Avon is a vampire” stories I saw popping up in the old ‘zines.) [1]

Reactions and Reviews: Issue 1 and 2

These - or rather the first one - caught my eye for the obvious reasons (as far as screenshots go, this art is based one one that is easily my favourite for Avon, and Vila is there too!), and I picked up issue 2 with it. There is also a third issue, but I haven’t got that yet.

These are particularly remarkable for two reasons, probably: 1) It is near enough a single author zine without being also single story and 2) the author likes to write in first person, for both Avon and Vila.

Now first person can go either very well or very badly, and I think it goes well in this case. I especially like issue 2, tbh, but that’s probably only because it has two parts of the PGP Avon POV series that starts in issue 1, and has excellent Avon (with the small caveat that I tend to think he is slightly more fond of Vila ;)). It doesn’t really feel concluded in issue 2, but it is at a point where it works to end it - issue 3 doesn’t continue it. If you want PGP fanfiction that reads like it could be read by PD for the Liberator Chronicles, this is a very good pick. (The author also writes a very good Del Grant, to the point where I knew who it was before the name was revealed.)

I’m slightly less thrilled by Avon’s POV in the first story of issue 1 - even though it is H/C, which I like - simply because it reads more like S4 Avon (with it’s more… unsavoury aspects re:women which I tend to… pretend aren’t there) despite being set in the Blake years, but again it rings wonderfully true in many places.

Two stories have Vila’s POV, one in the second volume is lovely because it contains humour that is only visible for the reader rather than because the characters are actually in a particularly funny position (though there is that, too), which is not easy to pull off successfully without more than toeing the line to crack. It’s also an Avon-and-Vila-on-a-mission-together story, which is a plus and fascinating because it is set before the first encounter Travis! The other I haven’t read yet.

At any rate, I found the (good!) first person narration a pleasant change. :D [2]

Issue 1

Avon On-Line 1 First edition: April 1988 (reprints: November 1988, July 1989, October 1989). It contains 68 pages.

cover of issue #1, Stefanie Hawks

The art is by Stefanie K. Hawks (cover), Map, Guy Brownlee, Edith DeGolyer, and Earlene Benson Martin.

  • P.N. Elrod, "Recovery" (fiction) ("Critically injured by an explosion, Avon plans an escape from Servalan's interrogators -- despite Vila's reluctant help.") (2)
  • Veggie Table, "Gangrene Lipids" (poem) (15)
  • Veggie Table, "Heartburn Like and Abcessed Lesion" (poem) (16)
  • P.N. Elrod, "Stealer's Choice" (fiction) ("Vila's on his own and swept up in a grandiose -- not to mention dangerous -- get-rich-quick scheme hatch by the lucious Cleo and her diabolic nephew.") (17)
  • Map, "An Ode to Pylene 50 and Others" (poem) (45)
  • P.N. Elrod, "Fugitives" (fiction) ("#1 in our PGP series, though each tale stands on its own. A year after Gauda Prime, Avon goes on the run with soma-drugged Vila, and a murderous pilot who wants their escape ship.") (48)


Reactions and Reviews: Issue 1

An excellent zine, especially recommended for Avon and A-V fans. Not many people can do first-person Avon POV convincingly, but Pat Elrod is one of them, as her angsty PGP series proves. (First- person must be a congenial style for her; she uses it in her pro novels too.) She also does Vila well.

There was supposed to be at least one more issue of the zine, but I greatly fear that the editor and primary author has gotten sidetracked :) by her pro writing career.

I also very much like Jay Marchand's version of the bank fraud, in which Avon uses a Federation-wide currency conversion to disguise his machinations. It accounts neatly for the discrepancy in the two canonical mentions made of just how much he planned to steal- depends whether you're talking about the old currency or the new currency, you see. [3]


"This is a small but very readable zine in the pre-telephone directory of mediafandom. They are three stories, all of them by P.N. Elrod, a number of very lively illustrations by Guy Brownlee and Edith DeGoyler in the style of Japanimation, some less lively but accurate portraits by someone known as Map, and some nauseating Vogon poetry by two someones known ( they understandably do not wish to divulge their real names) as Veggie and Map. And an evocative cover by Stephanie Hawks that suits the zine's fiction, and particularly the last story, very well. .... The zine has clear, unreduced type with few if any typos, but it is only printed on one side of the paper. This oddity may add somewhat to the first-class postage, but is otherwise harmless in a 70-page zine. It is, in fact, the only drawback I could find in this unpretentious but well-written example of a fannish product.[4]

Issue 2

cover of issue #2, Stefanie Hawks -- ""Psycho for Sale"

Avon On-Line 2 First edition: January 1989 (Reprints: April 1989, May 1989, December 1991). It contains 116 pages.

The first print run was 100.

The art is by Stefanie K. Hawks (cover), Linda Holt, Map, Guy Brownlee, Lia Frederick, and Joy Marie Ledet. There is an art portfolio of "Avon's Pin-Up Gallery." It does not include Blake...

  • Mark & P.N. Elrod, "Vortex" (Doctor Who crossover, fiction) ("A collision between the TARDIS and another time traveler engulfs the Liberator and Travis's command ship in a deadly temporal trap. Blake must decide if he can trust the elegant, silver-haired Timelord and his exotic, secretive companion, Therese.") (1)
  • Vogon Poetry and Filks by various demented Vogons (47)
    • Map, "The Rebel in the Liberator Hat" (filk, The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat")
    •  ?, "Dueling Duet" (poem)
    • Gil Bert & Sully Van, "Avon's Aria" (filk, Poisoning Pigeons in the Park, by Tom Lehrer)
    • Einstein Rosenbridge, "Orac" (poem)
    • Einstein Rosenbridge, "Beau and Darrow" (poem)
    • Map, "Put the Blame on Avon" (filk, Put the Blame on Mame)
  • P.N. Elrod, "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Star One" (fiction) ("Vila reveals all the grim details when he and Avon have an unexpected -- and quite embarrassing -- encounter with Travis and the lecherous Commander Prevel.") (53)
  • "The Missing Are Furry" (75)
    • Veggie Table, "Abstract Assonant Aliteration" (poem)
    • Veggie Table, "Job Security" (poem)
    • Veggie Table, "Excedrin Headache #721" (poem)
    • Veggie Table, "The Flying Finger of Fiendish Fate Frights Again" (poem)
    • Veggie Table, "A Vogon by Any Other Name" (poem)
  • P.N. Elrod, "Breakout" (fiction) ("#2 in the "Fugitives" PGP series. In a desperate attempt to escape Riganth Prison, Avon and Vila hijack a ship with a deadly cargo.") (76)
  • P.N. Elrod, "Haven" (fiction) ("#3 in the "Fugitives" PGP series. Avon finds that a remnant of resisters may prove to be even more dangerous to him than the Federation.") (88)

Reactions and Reviews: Issue 2

... shows Avon the calculator through his own eyes, dealing grimly with his situation... The subtle portrait built by his actions is as much an attraction of the story as the plotline, thought he plot, as in all these three, is impeccably handled. [5]
An almost one-person zine, with most of the fiction written by Pat Elrod. (You can tell I've been spending too much time with Lord of the Rings recently, I keep typing that as Elrond.) An interesting zine, giving the chance to look at fanfiction by a writer who was turning pro at the time the zine was published, circa 1989. She mentions that she's writing the fourth in a series of novels, the first of which, Bloodlist, is about to be published. I presume that the work in progress was _Art in the Blood_, which features avatars of the late second series cast as main characters. She's also used avatars in other pro novels, so obviously she was having too much fun playing with the characters to stop just because she'd turned pro. :-)

Four stories, plus Vogon poetry, and a pin-up gallery. The Vogon poetry and filks aren't my sense of humour, but they don't take up much of the zine. The fiction is excellent, and has some rather nice accompanying art. I'd recommend this zine.

Vortex - Mark & PN Elrod Crossover between Dr Who and Blake's 7, with an unusual original character. A time stream traffic accident between the TARDIS and a humanoid alien with an innate time-travel ability results in both being trapped in the Vortex. Unfortunately they've dragged two ships with them - the Liberator, and the pursuit ship Travis was using in the chase from XK-72. Now the Doctor and TD have to find a way to free themselves and the humans from the Vortex, preferably without immediately exposing the Liberator to Travis. But Travis is more interested in the fact that his weapons still work in the Vortex than in worrying about getting out of the Vortex.

It's fun to see the interplay between the Doctor and the Liberator crew, and Avon's drooling over TimeLord tech is very believable:-) Good characterisation, and some nice lines. I liked this one a lot.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Star One - PN Elrod - It would be more accurate to say "on the way to Centero" - this story is actually set shortly before Seek-Locate-Destroy, so the title is rather misleading, to the point where I was rather confused at first. Avon and Vila have been sent to get plans of the Centero base, from yet another, but less well-guarded, Federation base. Which leads to Avon impersonating the one-eyed, one-armed Federation officer they run into on the way, as a way of getting into the base without arousing suspicion. Which in turn leads to Vila in drag, forced to fend off the advances of the sex-starved base commander, but to do it *slowly* so as to give Avon time to break into the computer...

Very nice first person Vila narration, and a lot of fun. Good story for Vila fans and A-V fans.

Breakout - PN Elrod- Not indicated as such in the zine, but apparently part of a sequence that started in issue 1. After Gauda Prime, Avon and Vila have been imprisoned by the Federation, and Avon has been conditioned so that he can't use technology. They have escaped/been retrieved by someone during a Resister attack on the prison. This story opens with Avon and Vila recovering in the medical bay of the Federation cruiser Altmont, with Avon in a bit of a mess both physically and mentally. The only survivor of the cruiser crew, Kella, was a Resister plant, and she's busy cleaning up the mess she made when she took over the ship. The story follows their joint attempts to convince the Federation that the ship has been destroyed.

It's well-written, but I found it didn't really work as a stand-alone - it's more of a set-up for the next story in the sequence. Fortunately that story is in the same zine.

Haven - PN Elrod - Follows on from Haven. Vila trusts Kella the mercenary, but Avon doesn't. With good reason, as it turns out - she sells them to a Resister group, and Avon is put on trial. Things are a little more complicated than the Resister leadership had anticipated, and the end result is a faked trial record and a faked execution. Vila and Del Grant claim Avon's "corpse", and the three set off on the next stage of the journey - with Kella along for the ride.

Plausible look at what might happen after Gauda Prime, and a realistic look at the internal political problems Blake's apparent betrayal might cause the rebels. [6]

The second issue of this zine by MAP Press contains four stories, various types of Vogon... literature, and the usual lavish artwork. I feel impelled to make particular mention of Stephanie K. Hawks' powerful cover illustration. Psycho for Sale, which was eerie and disturbing to even an artistic illiterate like myself.

The first story in the zine. Vortex, is a collaborate work by Mark and Pat Elrod, though I understand it is primarily his. Vortex crosses the universes of first season Blake's 7 with that of the third Doctor Who and introduces an original character, T.D., a mysterious changeling who has the ability, among others, of traversing time and space without benefit of a TARDIS. As the story opens, the Doctor is whirling around in the Vortex while performing repairs on the TARDIS, T.D. is leaving a party at the court of Louis XVI by the simple method of slipping away in a thread of space-time, and the Seven are running from Federation pursuit ships led by Travis. The Doctor and T.D. collide while in the Vortex, causing both to spin uncontrolled through space-time, collecting the Liberator and Travis' ship along the way, and finally becoming trapped in a space-time bubble. Our heroes work to escape the predicament while Travis, sure the situation is Blake's doing, plans to solve the problem by blowing up the Liberator. I will admit I cringed when I realized Vortex was a crossover story, but I continued reading and am very glad I did. Vortex manages something 1 would have sworn was impossible: crossing Blake's 7 and Doctor Who without violating the integrity of either. The structure and rather complex plot and themes have also been handled adequately, and other than a slight stiffness in the narrative and hastiness in pacing toward the end, the writing is well done. Vortex b a promising beginning, and I look forward to solo work by Mark Elrod.

The second story, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Star One by Pat Elrod, is a humorous tale narrated by Vila. Extremely early in the first season Vila and Avon are put down on a planet to extract information from the computers at the Federation outpost there. They materialize in a downpour; things go downhill from that. They are captured by a mutoid who takes them to her header; our boys manage to turn the tables on their captors and Avon has the brilliant idea of impersonating the officer and bluff their way into the base. Vila, doing the cracksman's equivalent of twiddling his thumbs, breaks into the cargo of the officer's ship, which turns out to be slinky ladies' attire. He borrows a couple of robes from the cargo while his muddy clothes are cleaned, becomes entangled, and before he can disentangle himself finds himself face to face with the base commander, Prevel who mistakes Vila for an exotic veiled lady. Prevel insists that his "fellow officer" and the "lady" — especially the 'lady' have dinner with him; Prevel hasn't seen a woman in a lo-o-ong time. Funny Thing... is a competent job of writing which catches the flavor of the humorous episodes of the series and mixes delicious ironies with the more overt humor. Gan, a much underutilized character, makes a rare appearance, and there are some truly chilling scenes in the story, woven in without creating any sense of incongruity, which provide hints of the traits in the characters that contributed to the way events in the series developed.

The third and fourth stories, Breakout and Haven, are fifth season stories by Pat Elrod, part of her Fugitives cycle, narrated by Avon. Breakout begins with Avon and Vila aboard the Altmont, a Federation cruiser Avon and the woman mercenary Kella commandeered from its crew. While Kella repairs the ship, Avon explores it and tests the perimeter of his conditioning by Federation psychomanipulators. Haven begins after our boys and Kella escape the prison planet Riganth and are on their way for refitting and registration to Pelenbar—according to Kella. Avon is suspicious of her motives in rescuing Vila and himself; Vila apparently takes it for granted. There follow many moves in the game of Realpolitik, and an ending which raises as many questions as it answers and leaves many still unanswered. The awkward shifting from one viewpoint to another that flawed Fugitives has been dropped in Breakout and Haven, and the exclusive first-person viewpoint very effectively establishes and maintains a high degree of tension. Elrod continues to exhibit a sure sense for the small details and mixture of the familiar and exotic that make a believable future society. The characters and situations are frighteningly realistic, and the delightfully complex plot raises scores of questions: Why is Avon's psyche split three ways? Is it his own mind's way of overcoming the Federation conditioning, or is there another answer? There are hints of plots within plots. Orac continues to be nowhere in sight though there are hints the little nuisance may return to action sometime in the future. The question also arises as to why Vila has resumed his association with Avon with such apparent ease.

Avon: On-Line 2 surpasses its predecessor in quality, which was high; MAP Press is setting high standards for its zines, a policy I enthusiastically support and encourage to continue. [7]

Issue 3

Avon On-Line 3 has the subtitle "Fraud." First edition: December 1990 (Reprint: August 1992). It contains 95 pages. The art is by Linda K. Holt (cover, interior) and Denise Loague.

front cover of issue #3
back cover of issue #3 -- "Don't betray yourself out of the pleasure of reading our next issue of AVON ON-Line! Postage rates are going up and we many not be able to contact all of our readers when #4 comes out. Play it safe and send a .30 SASE (long envelope) or a .15 stamp for a postcard and put your self on our advance notification list."

""Welcome to our special third issue! Each of our stories is concerned with the Great Bank Fraud , with two prequels and a GP entry, the latter a continuation of our "Fugitives" series. Each story is complete, you need not be familiar with the previous titles to figure out what's going on."

  • Jay Marchand, "Fraud, Part I: Anna" ("Jay Marchand has written a unique look at Avon as seen through his lover and ultimate betrayer, Anna Grant.") (1)
  • P.N. Elrod, "Fraud, Part II: Avon" ("P.N. Elrod picks up the story from Avon's point of view as he meets with unlooked-for-help when his attempt to buy exit visas ends with disaster.") (47)
  • P.N. Elrod, "Fraud, Part III: Grant" ("#4 in our "Fugitives" series, Avon's life goes on the one when Anna's brother learns the truth of how she really died.") (72)
  • Letters of Comment


Reactions and Reviews: Issue 3

Issue 3 of the Avon: On-line series takes a different approach than previous issues of this zine. There are no Vogon poems or other humorous material in Avon: On-Line: Fraud, though humor is certainly not lacking; instead, the entire zine is devoted to three short stories linked, as the title indicated, by the common theme of the Great Bank Fraud.

The first story, actually a novella, Anna, marks the debut in Blake's's 7 lit of Jay Marchand, whom some readers will know from The Zine from U.N.C.L.E. Anna is a prequel concerning the events leading up to, during, and immediately following the Great Bank Fraud and those who were affected by it characterization of both series and original characters is generally well done, and provides the story with much of its pathos and understated humor. Avon's professional bickering and griping with coworkers are particularly entertaining, while Damess, Avon's one-time mentor, is a haunting, even tragic, figure. Anna Grant, who as the title suggests dominates the story, is the first portrayal of the character I have encountered that is believable as being a major player in the bloody arena of Federation politics; she may not be likable or admirable, but one can understand and respect her reasons for her actions.

Stylistically, Anna is somewhat stiff and has a tendency to rely a bit too heavily, and quite unnecessarily, upon narrative to reveal the characters' personalities and motives. Too many series characters made a guest appearance to be completely believable, and my impression was — though it may be my error — that Shivan was a leader in the Freedom Party before Blake's time. I also found the author's explanation of the discrepancy in the amount Avon attempted to embezzle rather strained. However, these weaknesses are more than balanced by more critical elements of the story. Anna features a completely realized future society that is internally consistent convincing and compatible with the series, and provides the reader with a view of the everyday economic social, technological and political realities of the Federation as well as illuminating many things that were puzzling in the series while it created still more puzzles. The actual detail of the planning and implementation of the Great Bank Fraud is also portrayed and is not only ingenious, but also gives the reader a rare view of our pet paranoiac's intellectual and technical prowess. All elements taken into consideration, Anna is a very satisfactory political thriller set in the future. Fanwriters who can create believable future societies are rare; those who can create believable tales of intrigue set in future societies are even more rare. I understand Marchand has gone on to other literary projects, but it is to be hoped that sometime soon she will succumb to temptation and write more Blake's 7 lit.

In the second story, Avon, by P.N. Elrod, Avon narrates his desperate, abortive attempt to escape the Federation authorities immediately following the failure of the Great Bank Fraud, basically a fleshing-out of the details given in the series. Plot and style are handled with P.N. Elrod's usual competence; the pacing is fast and tension high, no mean accomplishment in a story whose readers already know what is to come. A more in-depth look at day-to-day life of Federation citizens is given, and a very compassionate portrait of ordinary people struggling to survive with dignity in a corrupt, oppressive society.

The last story in the zine, Grant, also by P.N. Elrod, is tenuously connected to the first two stories in the zine as it is part of the author's post-Gauda Prime Fugitives cycle, but it does illustrate the continued effects of the Great Bank Fraud upon the lives of the people involved. Grant is set on the planet Pelenbar, where Avon, Vila, the woman mercenary Kella, and the equally mercenary Del Grant have taken the stolen Federation ship Almont for refitting and registration and Orac vs. taking a paying job. The argument is further complicated by the current situation in interstellar politics and personal issues among the group; there are major, and sometimes near-lethal confrontations between the characters before me story's

registration. Some disagreement arises among the uneasy allies regarding their Grant moves away from the narrow focus upon Avon's immediate problems of survival and ever more compartmentalized psyche of the previous stories in the cycle and gives greater attention to other characters and problems. The political, technological, historical, economic, and some psychological background, of the Federation universe are also given in greater detail, though as always in Elrod's work, without beating the reader over the head with it or slowing the pace. Some hints as to Servalan's activities and other changes in the political scene while our boys are in stir are given, as well as some hints to their possible future adventures. Vila plays a larger part than in previous stories, and the reader is given a view of Vila on his own turf, and a glimpse of some of the toughness and even a touch of ruthlessness lurking under his clownish persona. In Grant, the reader is also shown our boys at play — and I must say that Elrod writes some of the most erotic sequences in Blake's 7 fandom with neither explicitness nor the sugary sentimentality that afflicts so much fan erotica. The confrontation sequences, which are central to the plot, have tremendous impact indeed, one of them all but scared me out of my skin. Overall, a highly effective story and fine successor to previous stories in the cycle. I have observed that previous issues of Avon: On-line have set high literary standards and demonstrated the quality of which fanlit is capable but unfortunately seldom attains. Avon: On-line 3: Fraud maintains those standards while also reaching a higher level of quality for science fiction and political thriller, particularity Jay Marchand's Anna. I can recommend Fraud without hesitation to hardcore fans of science fiction and political thrillers as well as Blake's 7 fans. [8]

References

  1. bruinhilda.tumblr, February 26, 2017
  2. spacechick2015.tumblr, February 26, 2017
  3. review by Sarah Thompson
  4. Pressure Point no. 8
  5. Barbara T in an issue of Pressure Point
  6. review by Julia Jones
  7. review by Eumendidis from Tarriel Cell v.4 n.3
  8. from Eumenidis in Tarriel Cell v.4 n.4