Checkers

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Zine
Title: Checkers
Publisher: Kathy Resch
Editor:
Author(s): Pat Patera
Cover Artist(s): Lucia Casarella Moore
Illustrator(s):
Date(s): 1992
Medium: print
Size:
Genre: gen
Fandom: Blake's 7
Language: English
External Links:
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Checkers is a gen 5th season Blake's 7 Post Gauda Prime 120-page novel by Pat Patera. It has the subtitle: "A Tale of Treachery."

Artwork has been uploaded to Fanlore with the publisher's permission.

Summary from Judith Proctor: "A deadly rivalry between Jenna and Avon may destroy Blake and the Rebellion forever."

Chapter Titles

  • "Red or Black"
  • "The Valley of Shadows"
  • "The Queen and the Fool"
  • "The Laser's Edge"
  • "The Simple Pleasures"
  • "The Supreme Strategist"
  • "The Price of Survival"
  • "Tempest out of Time"

Author Comments

I will admit to penning the "reunion" of Avon and Grant in a PGP zine, "Checkers" just because I wanted to milk the confrontation for all it was worth. It wouldn't be any fun bringing those two together unless Grant "did" know - that's the conflict. Grant is a fun character for any story, because he's such a good commando / warmonger type. He is easily used to kick off any kind of battle action.[1]

Jenna Bashing? A Fan Exchange

JENNA: Could you kill someone? Face to face I mean.
AVON: I don't know. Could you?
JENNA: There's one sure way of finding out.

This has to be my fave exchange from the whole series. I loved the moment so, it inspired me to write a 110,000 word zine, the whole storyline starting from that one exchange (Checkers - the perfect adversarial pair: Jenna in red, Avon in black).

Any other story writers who launched a ship from a single set of lines? [2]
This has to be my fave exchange from the whole series. I loved the moment so, it inspired me to write a 110,000 word zine, the whole storyline starting from that one exchange (Checkers - the perfect adversarial pair: Jenna in red, Avon in black). Oh. Uh. I was really surprised to read this, Pat, because when I read Checkers my impression was "here's someone who really despises Jenna." The reason it hit me that way is that Jenna's suffering is more extreme than Avon's, much more public humiliation for instance, and it really bothered me. Then there was the problem of what was going on with Blake. But the way Jenna was treated really left a bad taste in my mouth and I figured you must just hate the character. [3]
Not at all. I gave her gobs of ink - nearly half the book! (Tarrant, by contrast, got only a few lines.) I spent a great many hours with Jenna while penning that tale. (I can take Tarrant's company for only so long.) She's quite a stout companion. Surely positioning her as a competent adversary for Avon is the highest honor a Disgustingly Slavering Avon Fan could bestow on any fanzine adversary? Besides, I let her live.

The reason it hit me that way is that Jenna's suffering is more extreme than Avon's, Perhaps you empathize more naturally with the female. I tried to give each, equally, what they would most hate. For how else could they triumph over it most courageously?

Surely others who do stories get totally opposite opinions and reactions from readers? Some said the portrayal of Avon is too soft; others said he's too hard. He's too mean to Vila. Or to Jenna. Or he's too put upon by Jenna. (naw-- no fan *ever* says the story was too mean to Avon) well, maybe the one with the spoon .-{ *sigh* he suffers so beautifully. Disgustingly Slavering Pat P [4]
Not at all. I gave her gobs of ink - nearly half the book! (Tarrant, by contrast, got only a few lines.)

Well, Pat, if you spent half the zine bashing Blake that wouldn't mean you liked him. Space doesn't automatically equal respect or affection or sympathy.

I spent a great many hours with Jenna while penning that tale. (I can take Tarrant's company for only so long.) She's quite a stout companion.

Ahem. Yes, I'm sure she is. Not to beat a dead horse, and I'll stop after this, but let me try to explain what it was that made me dislike the zine and think you had only contempt for Jenna. As Julia said in her post, her reasons for behaving the way she did were cast as unreasonable spite against Avon when she really would have god cause to distrust him and want him away from Blake. More than that, though, her punishments were more damaging and humiliating than what you put Avon through. Jenna was sexually humiliated in front of people she had to live and work with on a daily basis. Avon's suffering happened in front of strangers. When sex was involved it was at least with someone he'd been attracted to (Servalan) not some disgusting prison guard. While Avon was ingenious in getting out of his circumstances, I didn't feel the same could be said of Jenna. It's been a couple of ears since I read the zine so my grasp of details isn't as strong as it might be; I can only say that I strongly felt that Jenna was badly done by.

Surely positioning her as a competent adversary for Avon is the highest honor a Disgustingly Slavering Avon Fan could bestow on any fanzine adversary? Besides, I let her live.

How generous of you. 8-) What I'm saying is that she didn't come across as a competent adversary; she came across as a jealous bitch. I felt like there should've been a Moral to the Story tacked onto the end: That's what the stupid bitch gets for daring to compete with the Great and Power Avon. As for Disgustingly Slavering Avon Fans...hey, I figure Avon's Simpering Sycophants has a better ring to it and a better acronym. 8-) [5]

Reactions and Reviews

Unknown Date

This is a series 5 PGP novel that focuses on a growing rivalry between Avon and Jenna. Blake survived GP and has forgiven Avon. Jenna has not and views Avon's presence as a threat. She instigates action to remove the threat and he retaliates. The contest between them progresses to diabolical levels.

Avon is depicted well, particularly his emotional state post-GP and his relations with Blake's people. Jenna is portrayed as very hard, extremely protective of Blake, and more than a little obsessed with separating Avon from Blake. This drives the story but is rather a one-dimensional portrayal of her character. Blake is the magnet for these two and his warmth and charisma are powerfully portrayed. The author does a lovely job of demonstrating the affection and deep friendship between Blake and Avon. All of the Scorpio crew make an appearance with more attention given to Soolin and Vila than to Tarrant or Dayna. Vila demonstrates keen insight about both Blake and Avon.

While Jenna seemed a bit hard, Blake is so wonderfully forgiving that he seems saint-like, stretching credulity. I also found it difficult to believe that a man of Blake's intelligence remains unaware of the struggle between Jenna and Avon. He seems all too willing to ascribe events to other causes, and neither of the two protagonists provides any explanation when these events affect Blake personally. I disliked the ending and felt it was both implausible and that it was outside the context and tone of the story. Other than that, I enjoyed the story and recommend it as escapist fiction. [6]

1993

So, I'm reading this thing called Checkers finally, this hilariously awful B7 PGP novel... hilarious because of the utterly unbelievable fighting between Avon and Jenna with a densely unaware Blake as the "prize" caught in the middle. (For instance: Jenna gets Avon sold into slavery somewhere until Dayna and Co. can rescue him; he doesn't tell anyone what happened, lets Blake think he just wandered off to get wealthy somewhere, but once he is back he drives Jenna insane with expensive love drugs applied to Tarrant and Vila at choice moments, resulting in her running around naked panting for them. She then plots HER revenge, and gets Avon caught by Servalan... etc. I am pretty sure it is not meant to be funny.)

I'm plugging on with it for the scraps of A/B that are tossed into the mess, but my bitch is this: how come it *isn't* slash? What ever happened to the wonderful sex scene at the waterfall that she wrote for Fire and Ice, where did it go in the novel? That scene just faded to black. And then

Avon ended up in bed with Soolin a lot, although thankfully that isn't dwelt on especially. It's clearly an A/B novel in spirit, but why isn't it in fact? Weird things like this make me wonder if the author or editor (Kathy Resch, which makes me doubt this) think that the market is larger for slashy non-slash, than for outright slash. Can this really be true? The one non-slash person who told me about this novel hated it because of the slashy elements; and the slash person who panned it to me just thought the Avon & Jenna stuff was shit, which it is. [7]

Nice, glossy cover art by C.L. Moore: Avon (4th season), Jenna, Blake (GP). By coincidence, the same picture appears on the back cover of the latest Horizon newsletter.

Plot: PGP, Jenna and Avon try to get rid of each other in order to have Blake to her/himself.

"Checkers" is well-written; Pantera knows how to tell a story and turn a phrase. Some of the scenes between Avon and Servalan are quite...ahem...evocative...and Dayna, Soolin, and Tarrant are depicted well.

However, I was distressed by the way Jenna was treated. In the series, IMO, Jenna never hated Avon; she distrusted and disliked him at first, but later grew accustomed to him and trusted him to look out for Blake in "Star One."

In "Checkers," Jenna is obsessed with dispatching Avon and we never really know why. We are prevented from feeling any sympathy with her because Pantera doesn't explain her p.o.v and thoughts to the same extent she does Avon's. This is also true of Blake -- we never know what he's thinking -- and it weakens his character.

Another problem with the way Jenna is (mis)treated, IMO, is that she is made to suffer more from her losses than Avon does -- Jenna is publicly humiliated several times in what I think is a far worse manner than is Avon. Avon's two "enslavements" result in rather comfy berths for him.

Pantera also seems to be trying to have it both ways: this is not a slash story, but the scenes between Avon and Blake are what I would call "slash-tease" -- a lot of touching and romantic speech, but never really sexual. Just in case, there is plenty of (mostly off-stage) sex between Avon and Soolin and Avon and Servalan -- but never Blake and Jenna.

Once again, the zine creation, Avon the Omnipotent makes an appearance, although this incarnation is not as bad as some I've read. The question always occurs to me -- if Avon could bring down the entire Federation with just one computer, why didn't he do it in season 3 or 4?

But I digress...I enjoyed reading "Checkers" even though there were features that troubled me. [8]
I just finished "Checkers" by Pat Pantera. It isn't slash, more of a slash-tease, but it reminded me of a problem I've had with a few B7 slash stories: the apparent need to beat up on the women characters. I'm not saying this happens frequently, but I've seen it often enough that it bugs me. Jenna seems to get the worst of it and I can only assume it's because the authors can't believe Jenna and Blake could have an affectionate relationship (sexual or not) if Blake and Avon are having sex. Cally, on the other hand, is often supportive of whatever slash union is taking place (B/A or A/V). Cally's relationship with Avon, although popular in B7 fan fiction, is not as openly depicted on the series as Jenna's interest in Blake. Personally, I'd rather read stories that completely ignore the women than ones that trash them just for existing. [9]

I thought that Jenna was really badly treated in Checkers, much more so than the treatment she gave Avon. Maybe it is because she was attacked in her sexuality and embarrassed, while Avon was attacked in his sanity, and that seemed to be treated more sympathetically. Poor Avon, and Silly Jenna. In that same story, Blake has to be really stupid not to notice what is going on, but he never does. Bad characterization in a technically well-written story.

I've also felt that A/V often replicated a stereotyped M/F relationship. Vila in the really bad stories is so whiney and fearful, and in the better stories he's often helping and supporting the emotionally stunted Avon.

I'm interested in what people with a wider slash reading experience think on the question of women in slash.[10]

1994

Sigh.. I reskimmed the novel Checkers. What a gorgeous cover it has. It starts out with one of my favorite conceits: Avon, PGP, thinks he's going mad. I really like it when authors pick up on this idea inherent in B7, how can you know what is real? And Pat Patera has a way with words that pleases me, sheer poetry in places. But the characterizations and plot fail miserably. Blake a drunken, maudlin, stupid bear, Jenna a sniping, jealous bitch (jealous of Avon, no less), Avon a petty, mischievous bitch, taking a nasty vengeance on Jenna with drugs and trickery? Blake and Avon quoting Shakespeare at each other on an idyll on a river? Avon becoming Servalan's consort and personal executioner? Not in *my* universe. This was the first B7 novel I read, one of the first pieces of fanfic I bought, and I was appalled. I could not truly read it, just skimmed for events. [11]

1995

I have to admit that the *wordsmithing* in Checkers is often exactly what I like,but the plot and characterizations were so far off from the people I experience on screen that I literally threw the zine across the room. [12]
But how would you advertise a zine filled with vile character mangling... CHECKERS, rated PR (for Preposterous Rubbish)? [13]

Matthews' style is also an example of a certain type of h/c that aggravates me. Where scenarios are set up to bring the fellas close, lots of touching and holding and emotional declarations, but taking pains to make sure no one thinks they're implying that nasty slash stuff. I've said it before: if someone sees a B/A relationship in my gen stuff, I'm not gonna have a hissy fit about it.

I do exempt Sondra's novels, before anyone asks, but admit it could only be due to to knowing her intent from the outset. CHECKERS is also exempted, since it clearly wants to be slash, and isn't vaguely subtle about it. That's not why I don't like it: it's that we're meant to believe Blake would put up with that Jenna and Avon for five minutes. [14]

1996

My point is that the Blake in "Checkers" is hard to believe because he puts up with all these insane antics on the part of Avon and Jenna — just as the Blake in Sondra's stories should have a little more fire, so should the one "Checkers." In the case of Sondra, however, at least we know her intention were good: to present a positive, ennobling vision of Blake. When so many expend their energies doing precisely the opposite, I can't complain too much about her fanfic. I never had the chance to ask her, but I suspect her stories were/are a means of exploring her personal philosophy, presenting it for public consumption. Which we're surely all entitled to do. [15]

1998

I have to admit I read this novel a couple of years ago and enjoyed it very much--except for the portrayal of Jenna as a crazed, jealous, vindictive maniac who deserved everything, cruel or humiliating, that happened to her. This was my lasting impression. [16]

Well, Pat, *I* really liked CHECKERS. It's one of my fave PGP stories. The Avon & Blake relationship was excellent. I especially liked their conversation at the lake. That was beautifully written. ALL the dialogue between them was well done.

The Avon/Servalan thing was wonderful. I love the way you wrote that "experience" --

I liked the way you wrote Avon's relationship with the Scorpio crew once they'd joined up with Blake...especially Soolin.  ;)

It's been about a year since I've read it. I think I'll go read it again. I don't remember thinking Jenna got worse than she gave. It seemed to me that she got Avon pretty good a couple of times. I'll have to read it again keeping Sue's remarks in mind. [17]

2000

A PGP where Jenna and Avon play out the mutual hostility that was an underlying part of their canonical relationship, to the point where they're trying to kill each other and nearly do kill Blake. It's full-blooded and very enjoyable melodrama with lush writing that's very slashy in feel, especially in the Avon-Blake scenes, and strong roles for all of the crew, even if one doesn't always agree with the portrayals. (For example, we had to have a four-email debate about the question of Jenna-bashing.)[18]

2016

Long have I waited for Checkers to enter my life. It's on Sally and Jenny's list, it's been recced to me several times by one of those two authors, and although I knew the Jealous Jenna stuff would be bad, I expected the smarm would be amazing.

The Jealous Jenna stuff is bad; the smarm is amazing; and in general it's worse than I could have imagined. It's also better - the prose is really good. The ending is also surprisingly (because I had no idea how it could possibly end, except with Jenna's death) good. It follows the Checkers structure well, and uses the game itself throughout the narrative to help shape the fic.

The problem is that Checkers game, and the way that it plays out. To recap the plot for you - Avon and Jenna (black and red) are playing a game of Checkers against each other, questing to win the prize that is Blake's love. Jenna's first move is to drug Avon so he thinks he is going insane, and then put him on trial for Blake's murder (she's the prosecution; Blake is - amusingly - the defence) where she assumes he will convince everyone he's mad and needs to be killed or deported. Avon finds out she's done this, and doses her with aphrodisiac in revenge - Jenna accosts Tarrant while they're trying to fly a ship, and has public sex with Vila under the influence, Avon also doses himself several times and gets Jenna to strip naked and then propels her through the new base on a rocket to embarrass her. Jenna responds by getting Avon captured by slavers. The Scorpio crew rescue Avon, who gets Jenna arrested and sent to a prison where she has to shack up with a 'protector'. She's discovered by Servalan who trades her life for Avon's. Jenna lures Avon to the Imipac planet (Avon thinks he will be able to overpower her, and goes willingly) where Servalan's guards are waiting. Blake's clone sacrifices himself, Jenna escapes, but Avon and Soolin (who has become his lover) are captured by Servalan. Servalan rigs Avon and Soolin with a device that will kill them if she dies, so Avon becomes 'Sleer's Avenger' - part assassin, part sex slave.

Incidentally throughout this WHOLE STORY Blake, Roj Blake, has no idea ANY of this is going on - he thinks Avon and Jenna are good mates, and is constantly throwing blokey arms around the two of them. I really hate that both A and J spend the story getting the other one raped, but... I hate Blake's ridiculous naive characterisation more perhaps! Never mind. On with the plot.

When Blake discovers Avon has been captured, he rescues Avon and remove the implant. Then they go back to attack Earth - during this confrontation, Avon and Jenna meet on the flight deck, and simultaneously try and teleport the other one into space. They both rip off their teleport bracelets though, so neither is affected, but Blake was trying to teleport up at the same time, and so is trapped on Earth! They realise they need to work together to save their beloved Blake, various schemes all come together and the Earth is freed! Avalon becomes president, but nominates Blake and Klyn to be a triumvirate with her - they all choose a second, but Avon declines to be Blake's because he wants to go back to the first slave planet he was on because they have good tech. Blake nominates Vila instead of himself to be part of the triumvirate, and he and Jenna join Avon and most of the rest of the Scorpio crew to go adventuring again!

As I said - I like the ending. It works well, letting Avon and Jenna unite over the thing that has divided them, they both use their skills and knowledge (Jenna brings the Amagons and knows how to bribe them; Avon steals ships electronically from the slave planet), and Blake gives control of Earth to Vila, who has spent the entire story being slagged off by everyone for being a Delta. I did not expect that plot point to be turned around, and was very pleasantly surprised.

Jenna isn't actually Jealous, per say - she hates Avon because he tried to kill Blake at GP, but her obsessive hatred for him means this fits squarely in the Jealous Jenna category. (I assume it doesn't need saying, but any Jealous Jenna is basically poorly characterised, and this is no exception.) Blake seems to actually be sleeping with Jenna, so theoretically she has won, but ... she hasn't. The author claims in a series of bizarre emails that she really likes Jenna, and maybe the ending does bear that out... but she clearly likes Avon more, and ultimately believes that Blake loves Avon more. Not only does Blake choose Avon to be his advisor in the final scene, not only does Blake give up everything for Avon in the final scene - he also has a number of scenes with Avon where the two of them say frankly inappropriate things to each other either in bed or (in the best scene) naked at a waterfall. Why have they visited a waterfall? Well, Avon thought it was a good place to get Jenna captured by sex slavers, but she wasn't falling for that shit so instead he went on a date with Blake.

He's established quite quickly as being heterosexual because Carnell (who is in the story entirely to work out whether Avon is insane or not, something he does NOT do, even though Avon is legit insane in this story) says that he thinks setting Avon up with Soolin is a good idea. Turns out he's right, even if he at no point takes Blake aside and says 'Listen Blake: your two friends are obsessed with you, and also cray cray. You need to get rid of them both, or - because they're both super hot as well as super crazy - have a threesome A Sap. But seriously - do something.' Later on Blake also sends Jenna to him - Carnell pronounces her sane too. He's really lost his touch.

Avon also has a lot of sex (not entirely non-consentually) with Servalan. The story wants us to know that he's straight - but also tells us that Blake is 'The Master of His Heart', while Blake jokes that Avon is his 'Love Slave'. They exchange Shakespeare quotes with each other repeatedly through the fic. Over and over again, his relationship with Blake is directly compared to his relationship with Soolin. It is completely bizarre - and thus un-put-down-able.

[see the rest of this review, as well as some screen shots of the text at the source] [19]

References

  1. Lysator, Pat P, January 1998
  2. Lysator, Pat P, January 1998
  3. Lysator, Sue C, 1998
  4. Lysator, Pat P, 1998
  5. Lysator, Pat P, 1998
  6. from Morrigan at Judith Proctor's Blake's 7 site
  7. Lynn C, July 26, 1993, comment at Virgule-L, quoted with permission
  8. Subject: Zine review: "Checkers" on Lysator dated Feb 17, 1993.
  9. quoted anonymously with permission, Virgule-L, February 2016
  10. Sue H., quoted with permission, Virgule-L, February 7, 1993
  11. Lysator, Nicole, dated July 4, 1994.
  12. from a fan in Rallying Call #14
  13. from a fan in Rallying Call #14
  14. from a fan in Rallying Call #14
  15. from Rallying Call #16
  16. Lysator, Leah, 1998
  17. Lysator, Pat P, 1998
  18. SALLY AND JENNY'S 50 FAVOURITE A-B GEN STORIES
  19. Resistance 4 and 5, and Checkers; WebCite, review by aralias, November 13, 2016