Forbidden Star

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Zine
Title: Forbidden Star
Publisher: Waveney
Editor(s): Judith Proctor
Date(s): 1995-2001
Series?:
Medium: print, zine
Size:
Genre:
Fandom: Blake’s 7
Language: English
External Links:
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Forbidden Star is a slash and adult het Blake's 7 anthology. The art is by Whitby27.

From a flyer by Judith Proctor: "For all those stories that I wouldn't dream of publishing in Star Three. Any combination of characters welcome. Sex may range from non-existent to full graphic detail No explicit artwork, please."

Issue 1

cover of issue #1, Whitby27
flyer for issue #1

Forbidden Star 1 was published in 1995 and contains 88 pages.

The stories "Identity Crisis" and "Jorge" are essentially two chapters in the same story. From the author:
If anyone wants to vote for anything out of Forbidden Star (well, I live in hope), please vote for Identity Crisis and Jorge as a PAIR in the best novella class. They belong together and I'd rather they were counted as one novella rather than as two separate stories. The reason why they are printed as two separate stories is largely historical - think of them as two chapters of the same tale. [1]
  • If - by Judith Proctor (poem)
  • Mutiny - by xBryn Lantry ("Avon, Blake and Vila are playing Dementia. It's a card game with a complex set of forfeits, but if Avon wins, he knows exactly what forfeit he wants from Blake. Can Blake decide whether he wants Avon to win or lose?")
  • Fatal Distraction - by N. O'Treally
  • Thoughts on a Comradely Address - by R. Olivia Brown
  • Red Queen, Black Queen - by Twisted Sister ("The medical computer says everyone is under extreme stress. Cally and Jenna have to decide whether they are willing to follow its recommendation that everyone indulges in a little sex. But who gets to sleep with whom?")
  • Confessions - by N. O'Treally
  • Red Queen, Black Queen - the alternative version - by Twisted Sister
  • Parts is Parts - by Liz Sharpe
  • Jenna Snaps – a cautionary tale - by Anon
  • Identity Crisis - by Gemini ("Blake wants his memories back, but he could not know that the quest for his missing past would have such disastrous consequences for himself. Nor could he have imagined what Avon would suffer at the hands of Blake's twin brother.") (won a 1995 STIFfie Award)
  • Jorge - by Gemini (sequel to Identity Crisis. (This, and Identity Crisis, won the Stiffie award for best Novella at Media West 1996.) ("Emptiness. That was all Blake could see in his eyes. Emptiness, and death. If ever there had been laughter in Avon, it was gone. If there had ever been love, it was dead. If there had ever been Roj Blake, he was evicted. The cold wind of nothingness blew, and Blake shivered.")
  • Harvest of Passion - by Ben Stud
  • Divergence - by Sea Wolf ("Blake dug his knees into the sand, leant forward on his haunches and before Avon had a chance to react, gently touched his lips against Avon's, lingering only long enough for the sensation to register. He sat back again and looked away to the rocks.")
  • Limericks - by Kelsey Adams
  • The Birds and the Bees - by Twisted Sister
  • Chameleon - by Thomas ("It always feels like a dream to Vila when Soolin visits him in the night. A fleeting relationship,until one night he follows her back to her own room.")
  • Stamp Collecting - by Penny Black
  • The Ballad of Reading Gaol - by Vanessa Mullen ("A bleak story set around Oscar Wilde's poem. The Federation are going to hang Avon for the crime of murdering Blake. As Vila watches Avon's death approaching, the story tries to examine the nature of love.")

Reactions and Reviews

[Identity Crisis/Jorge]: It's difficult to recommend 'Identity Crisis' or its sequel without spoiling the story, which contains an absolutely shocking twist. Suffice it to say that the conceit allows Gemini to explore exactly what it is Blake and Avon want from each other and what they each can give. [2]
[The Ballad of Reading Gaol]: If you really don't like bleak stories, then skip the last story in Forbidden Star. That one has a hankie rating. You're right, I can relish a really bleak story. Don't know exactly why I love them, but I do. I find them more emotionally gripping and I like to be moved by a story.[3]
[zine]: I read all the B/A in 'Forbidden Star' 1-3. I didn't read anything else in these zines, so whether the Vila/Soolin was good or bad will go unrecorded in these (web)pages. Sorry. Let's continue!

Forbidden Star. Most of the B/A in this one is actually online already, so very quickly.

Mutiny - by xBryn Lantry (In concept this is a very me-friendly fic (they play cards and Avon 'wins' Blake), but in execution I found it too difficult to get through. If you've read Lantry before, you'll know what I mean.)

Identity Crisis and Jorge - by Gemini (Both really good and clever fics about family, memory and (you might get this from the title) identity. It has awkward romance, sarky dialogue, intense feelings and plot. There's some nasty rape, but also some strangely tender parts - I really like how uncertain Blake is at the end, it's lovely.)

Red Queen, Black Queen - by Twisted Sister [and] Chameleon - by Thomas (Not my pairing; didn't read.)

Divergence - by Seawolf (A rather strange afterlife fic (not online, as far as I know). Wouldn't really recommend.)

The Ballad of Reading Gaol - by Vanessa Mullen (I feel this fic (which is mostly poem) lacks subtlety. She's done better. Much better.)

And that's the end of that! This zine is spiral-bound, btw. Two-columns, nicely presented as always from this publisher. [4]


[zine]: I dunno, this wanting only stories with Blake — or Tarrant, or Avon — also leaves me scratching my head. I like Blake best, not exclusively; it's the whole wonderful, varied tapestry that draws me. In gen stories especially I don't like any one character hogging the stage, and even in adult stories variety is appreciated. I just got FORBIDDEN STAR, and while there are a couple of good stories — "Ballad of Reading Gaol" in particular — I mostly wound up wishing for some variety, some Tarrant/Avon, more hetero material, anything to liven it up a bit. Something I'm very curious to see is some Blake-Tarrant stuff, gen or adult, with them achieving a resolution without benefit of Avon. There aren't a lot of Blakeless stories in my someday-to-be-finished pile, but there also aren't many where he's the only character who matters, because that's bloody boring. [5]

Issue 2

cover of issue #2, Karen River

Forbidden Star 2 was published in 1997 and contains 170 pages. All stories are new to the zine except for a few stories under a page long which originally appeared on Space City, and 'White Mutiny' which was serialized there. The cover is by Karen River and interior art is by Mary O'Connor and Whitby27.

Links to some extracts and content is here.

Reactions and Reviews: Issue 2

See reactions and reviews for All in the Mind.
[zine]: The bias is inevitably towards Avon/Blake because that's what I like best and what I write most of, but there's something for virtually everyone. Blake/Gan (reprint of two short stories from Space City), Avon/Gan, Avon/Cally (2), Avon/Vila, Avon/Tarrant (2 or 3 depending on how you count it), Avon/Servalan (2), Avon/Soolin, Dayna/?, an impossible to categorise but very well written story involving Vila and Servalan, and around 8 or 9 Avon/Blake stories depending on how you count them.

All stories are new to the zine except for a few stories under a page long which originally appeared on Space City, and 'White Mutiny' which was serialised there.

Writers include Gemini, Vanessa Mullen, xBryn Lantry, Predatrix, Julia Stamford, Susan Cutter, Ebony (poetry), Christabel, Twisted Sister, Arachne, N. Barnard, Alicia Ann Fox, Loulou Harris, Neil Faulkner, Susan Riaz, and Andrea. The cover is by Karen River and interior art is by Mary O'Connor and Whitby27.

All art falls into the category of 'can be read without worrying about your boss looking over your shoulder.' In other words, no nudes.

Writing styles range all the way from Shakespearean pastiche to an Avon/Vila slash story written in computer code.

There's stories with all the sex off-stage and there are stories like White Mutiny where the sex is definitely on-stage. There's a couple of rape stories and some that don't go beyond holding hands. I have wide ranging tases in smut, and this zine tends to reflect what I like. [6]
[zine]: This is an excellent zine, very strongly recommended. Everything in it is good, but the stories I particularly liked were "White Mutiny," "Mardi Gras," and "Passing Through Fire." The latter is kind of in a class by itself, as it's not supposed to be a turn-on, but it definitely deals with adult themes. It's an expansion of Vila's experiences with Servalan in Moloch, very believable, very dark.

There is a nice mix of assorted pairings and of serious stories and humorous pieces. I especially liked the two slash pastiches by "Christabel:" A/B in the style of Shakespeare, and A/V in the style of computers. Both of them had me ROFL.

I rather liked Neil's story. He has a very different take on the chrarcters from most fans, including me, but I found that I was able to maintain my belief in his verison of the characters for the duration of the story. Interesting, since he's a big Cally fan, that Cally doesn't come off terribly well! But as Alison just demonstrated, the B7 characters tend to go their own way even when the author tries not to let them do it.

The art is excellent too. IMO the zine is worth the price for the cover alone, and the interior illos are also very nice and well- suited to the stories they illustrate. [7]
[zine]:I really like the cover of this zine, which is also spiral bound. It looks very similar on the inside to FS1, although it has lots of nice art.

I'm afraid we're going to have to skip more this time.

Christabel, "Just As You Like It-- Or Probably Not" (script; Shakespeare pastiche; A/B; humor) (I skipped this one because it wasn't on my trusted list and I was clearly too scatty to check elsewhere. Never mind.)

Arachne, "Girl's Night Out" (C-J, implied B/J; humor) [Dorinda], "Dreams and Dreamers" (S1; B/G) NMP;DR

Vanessa Mullen, "White Mutiny" (S2, post-Redemption; B/J, A/B) (I have a weird relationship with this fic, which I read quite early on in fandom. At that point I was sick of the 'Blake as rapist' trope and couldn't see past that. I still do hate it, but I must admit that this is very best example of the genre there is or could be. It bothers to give Avon a lot of cleverly acquired power, it takes the time to say more things about Blake and about this relationship than just 'Blake's the kind of guy who is a rapist', and I do find it interesting. Nice dialogue too. This is what happens when you give a great writer a prompt you hate - they make it interesting. Grr.)

Predatrix, "One Thing As Certain As Death" (This is, we are told, inspired by the story 'Debts' (in Fire & Ice 4). I really like and admire Predatrix's work, but I actually like this fic significantly less than the original. 'Debts' is about something; this is just about whipping. It's about the kink rather than the characters, although it has something of a similar turn to the original character piece (which I liked because it showed Avon handling guilt/a problem in the worst possible way, and thinking his response was only right and fair).)

Twisted Sister, "In the Writer's Zone" (real world crossover; A/G; humor) (Didn't read, but I like how much Gan is in this zine. I sort of wish I had read it now. Never mind.)

Susan Cutter, "Mardi Gras" (S1; A/B) (Hey, remember when (deep down) Blake was basically a rapist? Yes, so do I. Blake and Avon both go to a masked party thing (so does Vila, but he stays out of the plot) and get drugged, and - well, you know. Admittedly Blake learns from this experience that he doesn't want to rape Avon to his cause, but it's a bit late for that. I quite like the silly set-up, and the writing's fine.)

Julia Stamford, "Frozen in Hell" (uc A/B, uc B/J, past A/J) (This is very good (I like the dialogue and the realistic interpretation of the huddle-for-warmth!trope) and really horrible. I don't like how Blake treats Jenna at the end, but I understand that he's in a bad place. )

Christabel, "Getting Connected" (script; A/V in computer style; humor) (Twisted Sister, "The Characters' Revenge" (sequel to "In the Writer's Zone;" real world crossover; A/G; humor) Arachne, "Dressing for Dinner" (Tr; humor) [and] Arachne, "A Brief Revival of Saffron" (S1, A/Se) (Didn't read any of these, sorry!)

Julia Stamford, "Three Times Daily" (Hey - remember when Blake was a rapist??! Again. (He claims to be confused and I believe he is, but that just means he's really dim)(Plus we have to sit through his disgust at Jenna's behaviour, when it's the same as his! Stop being such a hypocrite!). Three times daily in one zine! You can see why I'm so sick of it. This is technically an aphrodysiac!story (which I like), but I think it's a subtle variant i.e. date rape!story (which I don't).)

Twisted Sister, "Portrait" (S3; A/C) Nicky Barnard, "Passing Through Fire" (S3, Moloch; V-Se, Se/ocms) Alicia Ann Fox, "In the Cold with You" (alt-S4, alt- Rescue; A/C) Neil Faulkner, "Things that Never Get Said" (S4; D-Ta, A-Ta, past C/D, past A/C) Meredith Dixon, "Sleeping Around" (O/ac; humor) Loulou Harris, "Cold Revolution" (S4; A/So) Twisted Sister, "Vila's Bait" (S4; Ta/V/D/So/A; humor) xBryn Lantry, "The Kiss" (S5, post-alt-S4; uc A/B) Susan Riaz, "To Live Despite Regrets" (sequel to a gen story, "All That Remains Is Regrets" in STAR THREE; S5; A/Ta) Didn't read :/ (I swear FS3 will have a much higher rate of read-to-didn't read)

Gemini, "All in the Mind" (S5; A/Se, A/B) (This one's really great, except for the ending, which I hate so much I want to write a sequel to this fic where almost everything Blake thinks in the final scene is proved to be wrong, Avon goes away for a long time and Blake eventually apologises. But the emotional conflict leading up to it is brilliant - I love Avon's awful choices and I respect the decisions he makes. I like the dialogue, I really like the sex writing. I also think this is a nice use of this device. Seriously - this is one of my favourite fics. I just hate the ending.)

Andrea, "Inside" (S5, with real world frame story; A/Ta, and narrator) [Dorinda], "Comparisons" (uc B/G) (Didn't read - but look, another Gan! How can a zine filled with so much Gan also include so much rape?)

Susan Riaz, "Future Ambitions" (S5; uc A/Ta, A/B) (I'm afraid I barely remember this one and I only read it a few weeks ago. Tarrant survives GP and is brought to Blake's new base along with Avon (and Blake obviously). He observes them in their relationship and is jealous. I guess I must have found it forgettable...) [8]
[zine]: I've just deleted all the B/As from this list, rather than repeat what I said before.

Christabel, "Just As You Like It-- Or Probably Not" (script; Shakespeare pastiche; A/B; humor): This is brief and quite funny precisely because Shakespeare himself was keen on a cock joke (of which there are many here, but then it's a sex scene, so.) Towards the end it starts quoting so famously that even I can pick out what's being referenced.

Arachne, "Girl's Night Out" (C-J, implied B/J; humor): Half a page. It's about Cally and Jenna buying sex toys for their friends - it's fine.

Dorinda Hartmann, "Dreams and Dreamers" (S1; B/G): One page (alas!), and takes the premise quite seriously. It should also say 'A/B implied'. I like this one.

Twisted Sister, "In the Writer's Zone" (real world crossover; A/G; humor): An escapee from Tales, which would not be published until the following year. Avon is once again convinced to have h/c sex with Gan.

Christabel, "Getting Connected" (script; A/V in computer style; humor): Nice idea, well executed, which is not to say I had any idea what was going on. But it's the idea that counts. I wonder why Vila merited computers and Blake Shakespeare.

Twisted Sister, "The Characters' Revenge" (sequel to "In the Writer's Zone;" real world crossover; A/G; humor): Sequel to the above - again, quite funny. Half a page.

Arachne, "Dressing for Dinner" (Tr; humor): Even tinier fic - derives humour from a misapprehension on the reader's part. Not bad.

Arachne, "A Brief Revival of Saffron" (S1, A/Se): A longer story with some interesting stuff in it about Avon undercover as a sexy assassin. It's early Avon, so how they feel about each other is a bit confused - overall, I quite liked it, but I'd have liked more about why he was conflicted and more about the assassin culture that I assume was the reason he didn't shoot on sight.

Twisted Sister, "Portrait" (S3; A/C): Nice A/C PWP where she draws him like one of her French girls her remembered homeland. Cally is mischievous and not out of character, and both the emotional stuff and the sexy stuff works.

Nicky Barnard, "Passing Through Fire" (S3, Moloch; V-Se, Se/ocms): Lots of really nasty stuff about Vila's rapey friend Doran, and how Vila has been forced to play along with similar men in the past - an interesting spin on the typical prison!rape scenario, a very strong Servalan, and I liked the ending. The subject matter is incredibly unappealing though, and makes you feel dirty like Moloch should.

Alicia Ann Fox, "In the Cold with You" (alt-S4, alt- Rescue; A/C): Interesting spin on a Terminal!AU, and the classic 'trapped in the rubble' trope that I don't think is in much A/C fic (though Avon must be used to it). They talk - it's bittersweet.

Neil Faulkner, "Things that Never Get Said" (S4; D-Ta, A-Ta, past C/D, past A/C): Not sure how I feel about this - it's definitely interesting, with Dayna getting drunk and angry at the universe forming the catalyst for revelations and Avon and Tarrant talking to each other. Not sure I buy the interpretation of Cally entirely, but lots of it is interesting. Nice portrayal of Avon. Ultimately I wish it did more.

Meredith Dixon, "Sleeping Around" (O/ac; humor): Short, fine.

Loulou Harris, "Cold Revolution" (S4; A/So): Highly readable, very interesting, plotty series 4 story narrated by Soolin. The sex is excellent - they strike a deal where Avon has sex as he wants first (this invoices a lot of ice - very appropriate for the story [set in a ski lodge, basically], and for the people involved - also, very hot), then Soolin insists they have intimate sex where they answer 3 questions about themselves. Brilliant portrayal of Soolin as powerful, and a very sexual and powerful Avon in a way that I can thoroughly believe (and if you know me, you'll know this isn't a given)(also, the author throws me a bone here, by having Soolin say - He was almost pathetic in his single-mindedness. His ineptitude at seduction was actually quite appealing. It was refreshing to see Avon out of his depth. but Soolin is lying to herself here, as Avon very effectively gets what he wants, and by changing what he does, even as she is ultimately in control of the encounter. It's A+ stuff).

While the sex doesn't have no relationship to the overall story (they pretend to be lovers to discuss what's going on/Soolin ends the story wishing Avon could open up more, as he did during the sex), it does feel as though it could be excised quite easily and put into another story - and this is what I would probably have done as neither story wouldn't work and work well with just a nod to the bit that was gone 'A/So on a mission somewhere become close' + 'A+So do plotty stuff with So observing A closely'). When I talk about this for the second time in the Big Finish section, I'll talk about how the more low-key A/C stuff in the BF version works a lot better with the plot than the well-described A/So sex. That said, I obviously like this pairing a lot more and am grateful for this awesome-cool sex scene. I also think the plotty story works brilliantly with these two characters - the mercenary, and the revolutionary leader who never wanted to do this with his life.

In summary - highly depressing, but highly recommended as well.

Twisted Sister, "Vila's Bait" (S4; Ta/V/D/So/A; humor): Short. Chocolately.

xBryn Lantry, "The Kiss" (S5, post-alt-S4; uc A/B): Don't know why I didn't review this last time, as it's clearly B/A. Maybe because it was also on the internet. Nice PGP idea (although it takes a while to work out what it is, as we get next to no clues except that A has chained B up, PGP) - the reverse of a popular Avon trope, though Avon usually gets out of it OK. The description of the kiss itself is really over the top, but I actually really like it. Overall - this could stand to be more readable.

Susan Riaz, "To Live Despite Regrets" (sequel to a gen story, "All That Remains Is Regrets" in STAR THREE; S5; A/Ta): This story is undoubtedly hampered by the zine publishing method - even with a 'last time' section, I still have no real investment in the characters's current plight without having read what it was. Towards the end Tarrant tells us he isn't interested in men, Avon tells us he was in love with Blake, Tarrant reconsiders his position and sleeps with Avon (though it's very fade to black - so clearly wishes it was in a gen zine with its fellow). As I said in the beginning, I find this difficult to care about without so much of the backstory.

Andrea, "Inside" (S5, with real world frame story; A/Ta, and narrator): This is really odd - the summary here makes it a lot more obvious than the fic does what is going on (I was wondering if it was Dayna) - I didn't much like the device even now I do know what it's supposed to be. In addition, this fic feels like a sequel to something, though I don't think it is - and it's quite mean to Blake for no apparent reason (she said sadly). This is the second A/Ta in this zine that is very about A/B, btw, with the actual A/B story 'Future Ambitions' (that I talked about last time) bringing the total to 3/3.

Dorinda Hartmann, "Comparisons" (uc B/G): Alas - another short Blake/Gan! (as opposed to - long Blake/Gan)(ooh eer) This is another should-have-been-Tales story. I find it very funny - Blake tries to explain why Avon is so popular to Gan, who thinks that he and Blake could be good together. This part is particularly good: "Look," [Blake] said finally, his voice taking on that particularly soulful cast it sometimes got when he was arguing in favour of a suicide mission. "Avon's .... Avon. Tormented and complex. Remember the doomed love affair? Lovely chance for angst there." "I have an unhappy love affair in my past too." Gan tipped his head to one side, tapped it. "Remember my girlfriend? And the limiter? What about the limiter, isn't there enough angst there? Maybe just a bit of hurt and comfort even?" ... "Gan ... Avon eventually kills me." The words were rich with lust and longing. "What can top that?" Gan bowed his head. "He kills you. But I die for you."

Good point! To make Gan feel better, I'm going to take this opportunity to rec Nova's 'Walls', which is an A/B story but also has some good B/G stuff in it too. [9]

Issue 3

cover of issue #3, Whitby27

Forbidden Star 3 was published in January 2001 and contains 130 pages. A couple of the stories appeared in draft form on the Freedom City mailing list, but most are brand new.

Fiction:

  • Predatrix, "The Birds and the Bees (Predatrix Meets Aristophanes and Cole Porter)" (2 pp.; script with filks; AU; A/B; humor)
  • Morrigan, "Waking the Dragon" (5 pp.)
  • Belatrix Carter, "JAB" (3 pp.)
  • Julia Stamford, "Tea Ceremony" (3 pp.)
  • Belatrix Carter, "Binding" (8 pp.)
  • Julia Stamford, "Polyiterophilia" (15 pp.)
  • Helen Patrick, "One Year Warranty" (2 pp.)
  • Russ Massey, "Ruminations on the Road to Damnation" (1 pp.)
  • Morrigan, "A Matter of Trust" (5 pp.)
  • Predatrix and Julia Stamford, "Washing Your Dirty Linen in Public" (7 pp.)
  • Jodie Louise, "Red" (7 pp.)
  • Julia Stamford, "Pulling Strings" (15 pp.)
  • Jodie Louise, "Recollections" (5 pp.)
  • Penny Dreadful, "Uniform" (8 pp.)
  • Executrix, "Accustomed to His Face" (3 pp.)
  • Penny Dreadful, "Human Bondage Ceremony" (1pp.)
  • Executrix, "Field of Dreams (or 'Nothing Very Original About Domination')" (7 pp.)
  • Nova, "Fire and Rain" (11 pp.)
  • Belatrix Carter, "Spoils" (1 p.)
  • Rhiannon O'Cardan, "Rivers Always Reach the Sea" (2 pp)
  • Penny Dreadful, "The Seven Deadly Virtuals" (7 pp)

Nonfiction:

  • Judith Proctor, "Editorial"

Art:

  • Whitby27 (front cover)

Reactions and Reviews: Issue 3

[zine]: At 128 pages with very little wasted space, there's likely to be something in Forbidden Star 3 for every slash/adult reader, whether you're into light and fluffy (for example, Helen Patrick's hilarious 'One Year Warranty', which considers the lifespan of the wardrobe room's offerings) or -- like me -- dark and plotty.

I've highlighted five of my personal favourites below, but there's a lot more to enjoy in a very varied zine.

'Polyiterophilia' (Julia Stamford) explores the darker side of Avon's nature. Some readers might disagree with the central premise of the story -- that Avon gets his kicks from anonymous sex -- but the author explores the consequences of the idea, and in particular, its effect on the relationship between Blake and Avon, with considerable sensitivity. (And, well, let's just say that this is one of the stories I had to read twice when I was proofing the zine for Judith [grin].)

In 'A Matter of Trust', Morrigan takes a completely different approach to an essentially similar premise. Avon is on trial for murdering the son of a High Councillor on a non-Federated planet after a sexual encounter that went wrong; Blake is trying to conduct negotiations with the government. Again, the complexities of the relationship between the two men are central to the story, and I particularly loved Morrigan's subtle and believable Blake characterisation.

Penny Dreadful continues her series of Travis moments unpacked in 'Uniform', which takes Thania's point of view just before the episode 'Trial'. More subtle characterisation, coupled with an insider's view into the machinations of the Federation military justice system.

Readers of Freedom City, at least, will be in no doubt as to this reviewer's admiration for Nova's B/A writing. In my opinion, 'Fire and Rain' is her best yet. Inventive, visually stunning, poignant and with the bonus of a great Avalon cameo, my only complaint was that 21 pages weren't nearly enough! Best of all for me was the way that Nova firmly anchored the piece in the response of two rank-and-file Federation troopers to a love story with all the trappings of fairytale.

And then there's 'The Seven Deadly Virtuals', another contribution from Penny Dreadful. Penny posted a draft of the story for the Labor Day theme on Freedom City; I solicited it for ttba and considered assassination of a certain UK zine editor when I found out that I'd been pipped to the post. (Cordial relations were later restored when Penny sent me a story that I liked just as much!) This must count as one of the most original B7 stories ever: funny, quirky and unforgettable. [10]
[zine]: I should start off by saying that I am clearly not part of the demographic for which this Zine was intended--to wit, the demographic that thinks Avon is ten pounds of sexy sugar in a five-pound leather sack. To further wit, this probably means you.

So mostly I am writing this review as an exercise in review-writing, and do not expect anyone here to be swayed either toward or away from purchasing this Zine by my eloquent critique.

With regards to my own 16 pages of Avon-free PVC-fetishisation and whatnot, I can only say I have a guilty suspicion that they may not thrill much of FS3's intended audience...but fortunately there's still 112 totally Penny-free pages, and hey, my contributions got me a free copy, which I have read most of and enjoyed thoroughly, so the least I can do is attempt a review.

The layout is neat and utilitarian, easy to read, snazzy black and white cover, snappy black back and spine, only one interior illustration. Ends of stories indicated by that cute little zippy Liberator silhouette.

All of the stories are very well-written.

I greatly enjoyed the short humorous pieces "One Year Warranty" by Helen Patrick, "Ruminations on the Road to Damnation" by Russ Massey, and "Spoils" by Belatrix Carter (and I agree with Belatrix that her couple out-odds mine).

I also enjoyed the slightly longer and (unless I am missing some obvious thing) totally unsmutty "A Matter of Trust" by Morrigan, and the amusing and bemusing "Field of Dreams" by Executrix.

Finally, I think "Fire and Rain" by Nova, which is fairly long, upbeat (aside from the depressing notion that people may still be subjected to the tyranny of James Taylor a thousand years from now) and uncanonical, is brilliant. In style, or something, this story reminds me of an X-Files novel online which I consider to be the best piece of fan-fiction ever. It's got very vivid visuals, and...I don't know. It just rocks, is all.

Now you see why I need all the review-writing practice I can get... [11]
[zine]: This is definitely one of the better short story zines available, partly due to its variety, and partly to the highly developed skills of every author. There are 21 stories and vignettes, mostly A/B, that range in tone from wildly funny to hurt/comfort, and from the highlights of the First Annual Scorpio Squash Tournament to what amounts to a discourse on fisting. All are good reads.

Nova's A/B "Fire & Rain", at 21 pages, is the longest story, and my favorite. Her writing style is rich: full of telling detail and metaphor. The sword and sorcery setting is a perfect backdrop for Avon, and the sex scene takes place in a most imaginative bed. It‘s not quite a PGP. GP never happened because Avon never went; he feared his pattern of directly or indirectly causing the death of those he loves. Blake is burned out and is sent by Avalon to provide engineering services (a good, seldom used, touch) to a mysterious benefactor to the cause. Avon spends most of the story prowling around Blake, like the cat with which he is often compared, alternately drawn in and then darting back in fear, anger, and distrust.

Julia Stamford has 4 A/B stories (1 with Predatrix). Two are sexy and humourous, and the other 2 feature extreme sex. Her writing suits the latter well, because she achieves a difficult triangulation: warmth for Avon and Blake that serves as counterpoint to her non-judgmental perception of their severe emotional limitations and her graphic descriptions of sex.

The zine opens with Predatrix in a witty combo with Aristophanes and Cole Porter, has the other "trixes" in between along with a number of other excellent authors, and closes with "The Seven Deadly Virtuals," by Penny Dreadful, a side-splitting send-up of fans and cons. It takes place in a future with life size, full-function, dolls available in the character of your choice. [12]
This one is perfect-bound! And as you may know from my other reviews, that makes me covet it a great deal. The cover also feels sort of fabric-y and it has a nice picture of Avon on it. Then each of the stories inside ends with a little Liberator icon. All in all, this is a very nice object. It's also a pretty late zine, hailing from 2001, so it makes sense that the physicality is quite important. Although not all 21stC zines are this well done, so it is worth mentioning.

Predatrix, "The Birds and the Bees (Predatrix Meets Aristophanes and Cole Porter)" (2 pp.; script with filks; AU; A/B; humor) Light, fun, silly. Blake and Avon are depicted as sex-maniacs, which is something that is a bit tiring in a long fic, but this is only two pages long.

Morrigan, "Waking the Dragon" (5 pp.) (Avon doesn't like it that Blake says he loves him/behaves irrationally because he loves him. This isn't a blow-you-away fic, but it's pretty good. And is canny enough to let Blake notice the way Avon behaves towards him.)

Belatrix Carter, "JAB" (3 pp.) (This fic is weird because I expect Belatrix Carter to write me an Avon who loves Blake, and if this Avon does then he's really overruled by his penis (I suppose he must care or the ending wouldn't work, but anyway). I quite like this portrayal of Jenna, and I must admit I do quite like A/J.)

Julia Stamford, "Tea Ceremony" (3 pp.) (Blake and Avon flirt and then have sex while eating tea and cake. It's pleasant, but could probably do with some more personality.)

Belatrix Carter, "Binding" (8 pp.) (FORCED-MARRIAGE-REVEALS-FEELINGS PLOT. You'll no doubt be surprised to learn I really like this trope. And I really love how it plays out here, which involves some brilliant scenes with Blake not realising how Avon feels and then being told in a pitch-perfect, perfectly timed moment (twice!). A lot of people tell Blake he's an idiot, and then there's some lovely stuff where they get married. It's not just fluff, though - it's bittersweet fluff, and true to Blake's flaws. I'd rec this one anywhere.)

Julia Stamford, "Polyiterophilia" (15 pp.) (Avon likes anonymous group sex and lots of it. Blake discovers this, takes advantage of him a few times (why, Blake, why?), and then confronts him about it. I actually quite like this one, even though Blake is really dodgy for most of it. The comfortableness of their relationship and the weird-possessiveness (that allows for the group sex) definitely appeals to me.)

Helen Patrick, "One Year Warranty" (2 pp.) (Short, silly thing where everyone's clothes disintegrate after a year. It's fun.)

Russ Massey, "Ruminations on the Road to Damnation" (1 pp.) (Didn't read. Was it a poem? I don't know. Sorry.)

Morrigan, "A Matter of Trust" (5 pp.) (I like bits of this... or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, I like the premise, with Avon in jail and the others all trying to free him without upsetting the planet. Actually, I wrote this premise, so I'm not unbiased. I don't much like the way it plays out though. It takes a long time to get going, and Blake's a git.)

Predatrix and Julia Stamford, "Washing Your Dirty Linen in Public" (7 pp.) (This one is too light/too uninvolved. Everything's about sex, and they have a long conversation about finding a flannel at the end that goes on for ages. Actually... I've suddenly thought that it's very probable these are RPs as well. That would explain a lot.)

Jodie Louise, "Red" (7 pp.) (More rapists in Avon's past. This has an anti-Federation plot/betrayals, etc, but I don't remember much of that side of things. Skip - probably.)

Julia Stamford, "Pulling Strings" (15 pp.) (I first read this as part of a clearly B/A-inspired novel that bizarrely enough goes by the same name as the fic (I guess since it's zine-only there's less chance of the two being readily connected except by those in the know). I really like the novel, actually, which is a gentle scifi political AU thing where they meet because Blake's been set up and he needs a hacker to prove he's innocent, and then they have lots of nice, loving sex. This fic, which I also like (there's not very much fisting in B/A. There should be more), really doesn't work as an end to that novel. She's left far too much of Blake and Avon in it - suddenly two characters who have only ever got only really well (i.e. their AU counterparts) are slagging each other off and talking about Blake's terrible leadership decisions, etc. Then AU!Servalan (who wasn't in the first half of the novel, btw) shows up and notes that AU!Avon is in love with AU!Blake - some information she'll presumably use when she gets to the episode 'Terminal'... something she will never do, because this is a novel, rather than a Blake's 7 series 2-of-4 fic. I've been wanting to say that for a while and never got round to it, apologises. The fic itself is pretty good, if... ahem, narrow in scope. It's basically just about fisting and them insulting each other. But nothing's wrong with that. At least, as long as it's in tune with the material that's come before it (and as long as it's consensual!). The fact is that if you've written good fanfic, you can't just scrape the serial numbers off it. Even if the plot is just 'they had sex'. There should be enough of the characters there to make everything weird.)

Jodie Louise, "Recollections" (5 pp.) (Post-'Hostage' fic, with a large chunk about Avon's brainwashed ex-lover. It's fine.)

Penny Dreadful, "Uniform" (8 pp.) Executrix, "Accustomed to His Face" (3 pp.) Penny Dreadful, "Human Bondage Ceremony" (1pp.) (I'm guessing these are not B/A (sorry, executrix! But conversely - reviews of Sopron 2 and 3 to come ;) Plus, I thought you would probably send me anything I wanted. But I couldn't resist the next one...))

Executrix, "Field of Dreams (or 'Nothing Very Original About Domination')" (7 pp.) (It's about a squash tournament! And if you lose, then you have sex with the winner. Vila takes bets. It plays out pretty much how you'd expect, which is say amusingly. Good final line. Plus (spoilers) Avon keeps losing, and I never get tired of that.)

Nova, "Fire and Rain" (11 pp.) (Apparently this is everyone's favourite Nova (by which you can tell it is not mine. My favourite is 'To Tell the Truth'). It's fine, but where are the jaguars? Seriously, though - this is not one of my favourites. They don't talk to each other enough, there are no jaguars, I found the Anna-plot fairly predictable given that I knew I was in a B/A fic. It's not bad (after all, c'est Nova!) and it has some nice imagery and moments (chiefly the declaration of love scene), but I strongly feel she's written better.)

Belatrix Carter, "Spoils" (1 p.) (This was one page, so I guess I did read it! Even though it wasn't Blake/Avon. In fact, it was Servalan/Orac. Kudos for embracing such a weird (and yet plausible) pairing!)

Rhiannon O'Cardan, "Rivers Always Reach the Sea" (2 pp) (Short PGP fic with a flashback and a slightly implausible ending. Fine, but don't recommend.)

Penny Dreadful, "The Seven Deadly Virtuals" (7 pp) (And I didn't read this one either.) [13]

References

  1. from Late for Breakfast #28
  2. from Katy and Molly's 77+ Favourite A/B and A-B Stories, August 5, 2013
  3. from Late for Breakfast #28
  4. review by Aralias; Webcite, June 9, 2014
  5. from Rallying Call #16
  6. from Judith Proctor's Blake's 7 site
  7. by Sarah Thompson at Judith Proctor's Blake's 7 site
  8. review by Aralias; Webcite, June 9, 2014
  9. comments by Aralias at http://aralias.livejournal.com/, January 5, 2016
  10. by Tavia at Judith Proctor's Blake's 7 site
  11. by Penny Dreadful at Judith Proctor's Blake's 7 site
  12. by Liz at Judith Proctor's Blake's 7 site
  13. review by Aralias; Webcite, June 9, 2014