Desperado

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Also see Song Re-use.

Zine
Title: Desperado
Publisher: It is unclear whether Bill Hupe or Peg Kennedy agented/distributed this zine for other publishers or whether they edited and published the zines themselves. Check the copyright on the printed fanzine for confirmation.
Editor:
Author(s): Leigh Arnold
Cover Artist(s): Kathy Hanson
Illustrator(s):
Date(s): June 1989
Medium: print zine, fanfic
Size:
Genre:
Fandom: Blake’s 7
Language: English
External Links: Full text at AO3 (signed in users only)
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
cover by Kathy Hanson

Desperado is a gen 243-page Blake's 7 novel by Leigh Arnold/G. Eccles. It has a front cover by Kathy Hanson.

It is a fourth/fifth season alternate universe novel.

From an ad in The Zine Connection: "If the Scorpio crew were a pack of wild dogs, what kind of dogs would they be? And what happens when Blake tries to tame them?"

Songfic

The title of the zine is a reference to "Desperado" by The Eagles.

Each section starts with a song. Music utilized: U2, The Eagles, The Bee Gees, Genesis, and The Moody Blues.

Author's Acknowledgements

From the zine:
I owe many people thanks for their help In this project: Sue Glasgow, who helped develop the main idea; Beverly Spadotto and Bonnie Vitti, for their encouragement and criticism, my Mother, for her patience in listening to tales of politics in this fandom; Justin Arnold, who helped with the canine bits; Jenny Lacey for the Picacca Art and most of the California fans and Jill Grundfest, Sophia Mulvey, K. Rae Travers, Kathy Hanson, Jean Airey, Anita Henry, Ann Bown, and everyone else in the US, UK, Oz and Kiwi, who regained cool during strife and who knew the difference between right and wrong. And finally, Don Henley and Glen Frey, Justin Hayward and John Lodge, Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb, Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen, Jr., Anthony Phillips, Anthony Banks, Michael Rutherford and Peter Gabriel, who can always put it into verse.

Sample Interior Gallery

Reactions and Reviews

Leigh Arnold's "Desperado" is another 5th-series I quite enjoyed. Watching poor Blake attempting to figure out just *what* is going on in Avon's head is always a spectator sport I like. (Grin.) [1]
The copy I have been reading is a reprints and the print quality isn't everything that it could be. However, the cover is a very nice colour drawing by Kathy Hanson of Avon and a dog. If you like dogs and horses, then you're going to be on the way to liking this zine, as dogs in particular feature fairly heavily. The zine is a novel in sections - I imagine they might have been printed separately at some time, as there are a fair number of reminders of earlier sections in case anyone has forgotten. It's a PGP in which Vila is just in time to prevent Avon shooting Blake. Events thereafter are a number of slightly contrived plots whose main aim is to allow Blake and Avon to fall in and out of frinedship with each other as often as possible. Although it's well written (and the writing style gets better as the zine progresses), I did find myself wondering if Avon ever would make his mind up for more than ten pages at a time. If you want to analyse the zine in terms of cultures etc., then you can have American Indian, and elements of the romantic frontier. One of the sub-plots has Avon enslaved by a group of 'Indians' who need him to help repopulate their tribe as all the men are sterile due to a Federation virus. Although it sounds incredibly corny, this is actually one of the better handled sub-plots and works a lot better than you might expect. The bits involving Servalan are clumsier - she seems to be captured/escape whenever it is necessary for Blake and Avon to shift their relationship again and if the plot is looked at closely around these points there are some rather large loopholes. There's a really neat original plot twist involving Orac (which I won't reveal). I loved it, and then got irritated because the writer hadn't followed it through properly. Still, overall, I found the zine an enjoyable read. If you like the 'Avon loves Blake but is unable to admit it to himself' school of zine writing, then you'll probably like this. We're talking platonic love, not sexual - this is definitely a genzine. [2]

Desperado, by Leigh Arnold, is an Alternative Universe Fifth Season story. What do I mean by that? It is Fifth Season because it is set after Blake, and it is Alternative Universe because the events of Blake were altered to suit the purposes of the author. Here, Vila speaks up at just the right moment to prevent Avon from killing Blake in those last few minutes of the episode. Avon shoots Arlen instead, and things go on from there.

This is a good story, well worth keeping. Though the great disaster of Blake has been averted by authorial fiat, things are by no means rosy. The plot turns plausibly, concentrating most on the changing relationship between Blake and Avon, and its on-again, off-again nature, in the midst of more dramatic events like attempted murder, vindication, kidnapping, rescue, betrayal and death — just the hazards of the trade, really. Though there are quiet moments in all this; it is not all death and drama! Naturally, the characters of Blake and Avon are the strongest and though the others don't get as much prominence, that isn't to say they are total cyphers. Vila, Dayna, Tarrant, Soolin, Klyn and Retha (not to mention Servalan!) all have their parts to play. Retha is an original character I am not so sure is there for her own sake rather than for the sake of the plot, to be someone that Avon can trust, someone who can bring the Samora Sheperd Desperado on the scene, someone who can play 20th century songs from Lindor... But I don't begrudge that too much, because all those bits help the story work — the theme of taming a wild beast, and all those songs that do fit so well, particularly the title one, Desperado.

Points were made about the relationship between Avon and Blake that I hadn't seen before and yet could see they were valid, and that's always something that I enjoy in a Blake's 7 story, getting more insight to the characters. Even when the author is making things happen just because the author wants them to happen, they are handled so in character that it doesn't matter. For example, when the others tell Vila he has to apologize to Avon when Vila doesn't want to, Vila does it so gracelessly that they are on worse terms than before. Other authors might have forced them to be reconciled and then she will do anything to get her own way, she is very, very crafty, but not omnipotent; though perhaps she is made out to be too obsessed with Avon in her thoughts. What happens to her in the end is nicely ironical.

Kathy Hanson's illustrations again show her talent at illustration rather than just stock portraits. The color cover is good though I must admit I find the Samora Sheperd there much more lovely than the Avon.

The Let's Have Fun Department at the end is more fun from just seeing that the author and friends can poke fun at themselves than from the amusement that these pieces might have had on their own.

Altogether this is a decent read, a satisfying story — no Shakespeare, but who is? [3]

Hey, do you like B-A? Do you like smarm? Well - Hm, I don't know whether you should read this zine. I guess it depends what you want from your smarm. It is literally the straightest B-A fic I've ever read. I thoroughly believe throughout that they do not want to bang each other - which is very strange. I've read plenty where one or other had a romantic interest, so it's not that (although Blake's casual interest in women so minor they don't even get names does help) - it's not even that Blake claims to want to be closer than a friend to Avon - like a brother because I'm sure Beloved Adversary says brother or something at some point. That's not an instant Not Gays button - sometimes it's just ironically humorous. In Desperado there just isn't any sexual tension between them - Avon sleeps in Blake's bedroom, and he shouts a lot at Blake, and cries in his arms and stuff. I think maybe it's because Blake is so calm and steady about the whole thing. He doesn't get shot in this PGP universe, so he's not at the end of his tether, and he's never passionate about Avon, although he knows he really really wants to be his friend. He makes some bad decisions (some tied to his extreme heterosexuality - of this more later) and Avon gets upset at him, and he wants to be close to Avon, but... very calmly. Avon meanwhile doesn't seem to get much out of his relationship with Blake ... except that Blake really likes him for some reason (it is implied and then denied that Blake only needs him for his skills), and Avon appreciates that level of persistent love. Vila is also identified as Avon's brother, along with Blake, although he isn't nearly as important a part of the narrative as Blake. I believe in the A-V friendship, so I think this is sort of fair, but it also sort of ruins it.

What I'm saying here is - I enjoyed this fic initially, and then... I noticed I was getting bored, and I started to skim. Around the time Avon was crying at the end of part 1 I was thinking - oh yes, this is the good stuff, but ... it's too much about Avon's pain, and never about Blake's equal pain or passion, or Blake meeting him anywhere equal. I think that could be it. Which is a shame, because there definitely is some good stuff here.

You have to really like Avon's inner pain, of course, but I like the comparison to the wild dog, and the troubling of the uncomfortable 'taming' metaphor into the motherly OFC character counselling Blake to give Avon time, not to push things, to make him feel safe, as she does with the dogs she keeps on the base. I also like that Blake wants the dogs off the base because they eat food that people need. There are some really nice practical details about Blake's plans, and there are a few occasions where Avon does a typical 'OMG Blake your plans are so stupid' outburst, and Blake explains that they aren't, actually, and Avon shuts up. This is rare - and highly appreciated. The plan is also interesting - in that Blake has decided that rather than blow people up, he will use communications stations to broadcast his politics to all, including a bit where Servalan is shown to be alive and behind everything. I think Rebecca Ann Brothers did something similar with Servalan in a fic I liked more (Delayed Reaction) - but this fic shows us the work of putting together the plan and uses it to hang the B-A drama on.

Servalan though - let's talk about Servalan. She first appears because Avon is sold as a slave (of this - more later) and Blake thinks Servalan has him - she doesn't, she just has another similar Avon-type man. Blake gives Servalan to Avalon to look after, and then she shows up at his base under guard from a man Blake does not see for plot purposes. Then the stupidest thing happens/something that could have been very interesting. For some reason, Blake sleeps with Servalan. Avon finds out about it and has a go at him, Tarrant is the only one who is still nice to him because he knows how it feels to slip in such a way, and Blake's like - listen Avon, I have power over HER, OK? But... he really doesn't, or not sexually anyway (she is in a prison that he owns). Is he a dumbass? And he shares a room with Avon - did he think Avon would not find out?

As frequent readers of this blog may note, I think B/Se is a sadly unrepresented ship - but because I'd actually like to see it done, I find it done badly all the more annoying. The fact that Blake slept with her is not actually used later at all, and it makes it seedy when Blake asks Avon not to kill her for him, and she's his prisoner, so that's seedy, and... it just makes him look stupid, having failed a test that Avon passed. So straight! Straight Blakes are stupid Blakes, what can I say? He also does repeatedly show he doesn't trust Avon, even as he says he does, and he seems to have earned the loyalty of no one else on the base - he and Deva aren't really friends, and the Scorpio crew (and Retha, who was Blake's first) all decide to leave with Avon after the Servalan incident. It's Avon who holds them back.

The Avon sold into slavery thing is a big part of the narrative, btw. Avon, Blake and Vila go on holiday together and Avon gets captured - because, of course he does! And he gets sold into SEX slavery, because although it's not slash this zine can't wander too far from the well-known shores of Avonstania. He has to help re-populate a tribe ... as earlier reviews state, this section doesn't entirely suck (and not only because Blake looks for him, which is awesome), even though it is culturally dodgy as the people are very obviously Native Americans. Avon learns to be a good tracker and annoys people/earns their respect, and then escapes before Blake can come and rescue him - then he almost dies of malnutrition, and Blake rescues him from that, and they hug and stuff. I know - I am weak, even when it's so het, and I'm not truly enjoying it.

What else is notable?

Avon is compared to a dog called Desperado, which is named after an ancient Earth song (i.e. 1980s) that Sarkoff has in his collection and leant to the OFC, Retha. Each section starts with a song. Later he gets a puppy, and in general all the dogs are well described. He also rides a horse - well. Blake rides a horse too, as does Vila.

Towards the end Avon and Vila try and secretly remove all the gold from a gold mine, fall down a hole and have to be rescued. Which is a pretty funny development.

This fic does what no others (that I have seen) do and pairs Avon off with... HIS OWN WIFE: Klyn. Do you like things to be legitimately heterosexual? Well, these two are ACTUALLY MARRIED in real life - that means it HAS to be real!

The Klyn stuff is... I will grudgingly admit ... OK. We really fall into it very quickly as she hates him for shooting her, and then they're just really attracted to each other. Then there are some complications - she married to someone who turns out to be Dev Tarrant (!!!), who is also the person who brings Servalan to GP. Klyn worries whether Avon is like Dev, or not... which is semi interesting. She's an expert in communications... It's not bad, or as unlikeable as the A/C that is strongly referred to as a past never-could-be. I really hate A/C.

So, here's what I'm saying overall. It's fine. You have to largely be interested in Avon for any of it to work for you at all, because although it's got a better than average Blake, an OK Vila (he works in the kitchen, he's happy etc - he gets more and more plot towards the end, but it's mostly A-B), and a not bad everyone else (very much in the background, but not bad), they are very much just there to be people Avon interacts with on his journey into happiness and acceptance - a tame dog, living amongst the humans.

It's also very long, and strangely repeats elements of the story at the beginning of each chapter (as if to remind you of something you read last time, previously on 'Desperado') though none of the chapters seem to have been published separately.

I don't say don't read, but... maybe read Game of Humanity first, or something. Or Checkers. I could get excited about Checkers. [4]

References

  1. Lysator, Mary Alice W, dated September 9, 1994.
  2. review by Judith Proctor
  3. by Kathryn Andersen in Tarriel Cell v.4 n.6
  4. a review by Aralias: some blake stuff - zine reviews etc, April 19, 2017