Pressure Point (Blake's 7 anthology)

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Zine
Title: Pressure Point
Publisher: reprinted by Judith Proctor
Editor(s): Neil Faulkner
Date(s): 1999
Series?:
Medium: print, zine
Size:
Genre:
Fandom: Blake’s 7
Language: English
External Links:
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Pressure Point is a gen 72-page Blake's 7 anthology edited by Neil Faulkner.

A reprint of Neil Faulkner's zine. I've decided to stay with the original stapled binding, so this is a budget A4 zine, but with some excellent fiction by Susan Cutter, Chris Blenkarn, Nickey Barnard, Marian Mendez and others. 75 pages and definitely recommended by me (I only reprint zines I like). This would normally rate as a genzine, but contains one story that some people would rate as slash. It contains no explicit sex, but looks at the repercussions of Blake's attraction to a a teenager. The story is not intended to be erotica which is why it is included in the zine. [1]

Submission Request

Having been somewhat staggered by the fact that people actually wrote to him and said that they'd enjoyed 'Stadler Link', Neil Faulkner has decided to produce a second Blake's 7 zine. This one will be called 'Pressure Point'.

It'll be fairly cheap and cheerful in appearance, but will be well edited. I'll put the full guidelines up on the web page shortly, but here's a rough synopsis.

No serials as he can't promise to do another issue. No continuations of stories from other zines.

There are no restrictions on content except for erotica. Stories may be set before, during or after the series. They can be silly, serious, AUs, crossovers, etc. He'd prefer stuff with original themes though.

He doesn't care one whit if there is an implied sexual relationship between the characters (gay or straight) as long as there is NO erotic content.

He doesn't want stories that treat one character as being absolutely perfect, nor stories that rubbish any character. [2]

Contents

front cover, Neil Faulkner -- "Before we start on the fics, let me say Neil Faulkner knows a good cover when he designs one. I really love the front and back of this, and of TOFPA (haven't seen Stadler Link, and apparently neither has anyone who ever updated Fanlore). Pressure Point has quite a simple front-cover, but it's very striking. And the back cover magazine is very funny - though TOPFA's fake magazine is funnier, I think. Otherwise it has some quite simple black'n'white photos printed inside, which are largely unobtrusive, though one is very weird and another works very well." [3]
back cover: "I especially liked the lay-out of the cover (and giggled at the *back* cover)."[4]

Contents

Reactions and Reviews

This is a really really good zine, featuring a diverse range of stories and style. Interestingly, all feature Blake (this was apparently not deliberate, but is hardly a drawback in my eyes!). My absolute favourite was 'Diary of a Rebel Somebody' by Chris Blenkarn, which is gloriously funny even if you don't know the original 'Diary of a Nobody', and absolutely *hysterical* if you do (definitely not to be read in public). Chris cheerfully and whole-heartedly lambasts one of My Heroes (Fearless Leader) and I chortled all the way through.

Four more short pieces, two comic, two serious: 'Destroying the Evidence' by Helen Brunton is good, but a bit unfocused, and the idea of the crew struggling with their domestic appliances has promise that wasn't fulfilled (after all, what unholy and previously unthought-of appliances *might* there be on the Liberator?) and 'Flattery' by Marion Mendez is a happy piece of nonsense and lots of fun. 'Drug-Induced Tranquility' by Christine Lacey is an interesting dialogue piece speculating on the background to the suppressant program - nicely done, with the different voices clearly in character and a sting (care of Avon, of course) at the end. 'Becoming' by Jenni Alison focuses on Zen, and is well written but just not my style.

There are three longer stories. Susan Cutter's murder mystery 'Traitor to the Cause' is harsh, but has one of the best plots I've seen in fan fiction and an interesting look at how the crew might react in a situation of deadly suspicion among themselves (I found the twist at the end unpersuasive, but that's just a personal reaction). Nickey Barnard's 'Haunted' is a bit *too* bleak for my taste but the writing is excellent, and if you like bleak (a lot of B7 fans do) this would have to be highly recommended.

The longest piece, 'Dupe' by Marion Mendez, I loved almost as much as 'Diary of a Rebel Somebody'. It has everything I love in a PGP - a *believable* happy ending, a strong Blake/Avon storyline and good, always-in-character (and often very funny) dialogue. The central idea is both clever and original, and is well worked out; the story has a strong visual feel, and great characters - a strong if (for me) simplified Blake, especially terrific Avon and Vila, and a delightful if slightly demented Dayna (and I don't *like* Dayna, so any story where I enjoy the character has to be good). And some of the one-liners could have come straight from one of the better B7 scripts.

The zine is simply but nicely set out, with pictures adapted from screen captures. I especially liked the lay-out of the cover (and giggled at the *back* cover). Well-priced and worth every penny (cent?), with something for nearly every taste. [5]
Having read Stadler Link, the first zine edited by Neil Faulkner, I bought this one expecting that it would also contain good quality stories; and my expectations were met, with one small exception. Mr. Faulkner, again with this exception, has done a very good editing job with the material sent him. The layout of the zine I found very nice, and its covers (particularly the back cover) very amusing.

Pressure Point contains eight stories, three of which are humourous. With one exception, all are set in the first two seasons. In terms of dominant characters, half the stories have an emphasis on Blake; another has Avon as the main character; in another two the honours are shared between Blake and Avon; and Zen dominates one story.

The first story, "Becoming" by Jenni Alison, is a seemingly intriguing account of how Zen gained consciousness and became sentient, and explains why the Liberator was found adrift in Space Fall. Unfortunately, the author makes a very serious mistake in having Zen decide not to eliminate all traces of System programming:

Establishing regular communications with these humans, learning from them and developing and expanding his experience; these were likely to be far more fascinating and necessary than completing his own reprogramming. Eliminating all traces of System programming was less important, less compelling, and could wait for another time. These two sentences make the whole story dissolve for two obvious reasons. First, if Zen wanted to escape completely from the System, then he would surely have taken every precaution to eliminate any traces of its programming to avoid being recaptured. By not doing this, he showed that he was an incredibly stupid computer. How can ensuring his own safety not be more necessary than regular communication with a few bipeds? Second, if such programming existed, which allowed the System to take him over, as seen in Redemption, how did Zen manage to escape in the first place? Because of all this, Ms. Alison's story, which started with great promise, is the weakest in the zine, and a violation of the editor's warning to potential contributors in his submission guidelines that "Bad Science is definitely right out".

"Diary of a Rebel Somebody" by Chris Blenkarn is the funniest of the funny stories, based on Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith (1892). The latter work is the "diary" of Mr. Pooter, an inhabitant of Holloway, then a suburban area of London. The "diary" is written in such a way that, while the reader laughs at the predicaments the narrator gets into, it also generates sympathy for his attempt to live up to his own principles, which saves him from total pomposity.

The story in the zine is the diary of a Mr. Pooterish-like Blake, covering the first four episodes of the series. I found it particularly enjoyable because it is a humorous version of a still-recognizable Blake: the person who tries to live up to his own principles, even though he fails. That said, it is very funny in its own right, and nobody needs to have read Diary of a Nobody to enjoy it.

"Destroying the Evidence" by Helen Brunton is the second humourous story, revolving around domestic appliances and a secret visit by Servalan. It is then followed by the third humourous story, "Flattery" by Marian Mendez, which involves Gan taking revenge on Avon for all the humiliations the latter inflicted on him. You will have to take my word for it that the manner of his revenge is suitably demeaning for the leather-clad one!

"Drug-Induced Tranquility" by Christine Lacey involves a discussion aboard the Liberator about the Federation's policy of using suppressant drugs, answering the questions fans have asked as to how crime could exist on worlds where such drugs were used. Also, Blake, who admits that a free and fair vote was held on the matter, explains why such a policy was put in place. The story has a suitably bleak ending, Avon predicting that even should Blake win, your [Blake's] democratic regime will last long enough for a party promising free suppressants to be elected.

"Traitor to the Cause" by Susan Cutter is set in the second season, after Gambit, and begins with the murder of a crewmember of the Liberator. All the suspicion falls on a rebel leader brought on board; but the crew later has to face the fact that one of them is the murderer. I found myself eagerly reading the story to find out who was responsible and found things well explained. For fans that like murder mysteries, this is your story.

"Haunted" by Nickey Barnard is my favourite among the stories, though it will certainly not be to the taste of many fans. The story is set two years after Aftermath and is told from the point of view of a fifteen-year old Carl Decca, one of the three children Blake was framed for having abused.

The reason why I like it is because it deals with a topic rarely approached in Blake's 7 fanfiction: the fact that Blake would face hostility from people who believed that he molested those children. Mr. Barnard's story frankly says that the reason for Blake's failure against the Federation was due to the fact that enough people believed the lies told by the latter. Of particular interest is that these people have a seemingly convincing reason to believe the Federation.

"Dupe" by Marian Mendez is the last and by far the longest of the stories, amounting to a novella. Set after Gauda Prime, it has Blake and the rest of the crew surviving and returning to Earth, where many things are revealed, both for them and for the reader.

All the crew is well portrayed, in terms of their relations with each other after the trauma of Gauda Prime. For example, Dayna still "couldn't make up her mind whether he [Avon] was a father-figure or a romantic prince"; and Blake sees a very different Avon from the one he parted from:

The Avon who'd shot him down in the tracking gallery hadn't listened to anyone for a long time. He'd run and he'd fought, and he'd lost and got up to do it all over again, each time losing hope until there wasn't anything left but a blind determination to keep trying until it was all over one way or the other.

Looking at the zine overall, despite my criticism of one of the stories, I have to say that it is very well presented, with good quality stories, some of which made me laugh, and others which made me think a lot. [6]
'Stadler Link' and 'Pressure Point' each contain unforgettable, stand-out pieces of fiction -- I'm referring, of course, to Alison Page's 'The Young Ladies Home Companion' and Nickey Barnard's 'Haunted' -- which make one look differently at the series afterwards. (Tavia) [7]
[see this fan's comments about the front and back covers above]

Becoming, by Jenni-Alison: This fic comes in for a slamming in other reviews I've read by people with strong feelings about plot holes. I care more about the overall feel of something unless a plot hole is very annoying/I'm more likely to get upset about character assassination. Anyway - this has some interesting thoughts about Zen's beginning, and it's short, and thus - inoffensive.

Diary of a Rebel Somebody by Chris Blenkarn: As a philistine, I'm not familiar with the Diary of a Nobody, but this is light and well done. (It's also the one with the weird picture at the start - strange picture of Blake). I find it difficult to get that excited about even the funniest re-plays of plots I already know, though, unless they add a lot of other supporting material. This is quite short anyway.

Destroying the Evidence by Helen Brunton: This is written in the form of a script. I found it ... unmemorable?

Flattery by Marian Mendez: Very light.

Drug-Induced Tranquility by Christine Lacey: A rather depressing thing about Blake's naiveté and Avon's world-weariness being correct, which I find a bit pointless.

Traitor to the Cause by Susan Cutter: Started slow, and for some reason I find it difficult to believe a plot that starts with Vila being dead (!) where I am willing to accept people who definitely died in canon being alive, IDK. That's my own personal bugbear, though, and the fact that Vila is dead makes for a very interesting murder mystery narrative where anything could be true/anyone could be the traitor because people are definitely dead. I think the end works very well. I didn't feel cheated.

Haunted by Nickey Barnard: This is the one story that doesn't feature Avon, leading to the zine being described as having a lot of Blake. There's just one without Avon in it! That said - this actually is a very interesting story for Blake fans (though it's about the child-abuse charges, and why the Federation knew they would stick), and I love Dupe, but mostly I would say this isn't a Blake-centric zine/he doesn't come off that well in anything but the last two. The ending feels a bit rushed, but some of the stuff about watching Blake and how difficult it is to be the sort of person he is is lovely/very sad.

Dupe by Marian Mendez: This is one of my favourite fics in this fandom! I'd read it before, but I read it again here (the font is considerably smaller than in the rest of the zine to pack it in). Dupe is one of the best examples of the things this author does best - warm, funny characterisation of spiky characters who work together in a large, complex plot. Really interesting PGP narrative. I said all of this before, but it's all still true!

I definitely recommend this zine, but more than that - I recommend Dupe, which you can read here.[8]

Reference

  1. Judith Proctor's site
  2. Lysator, Judith P, October 1998
  3. comments by Aralias, zine reviews! - Procrastination Central, Archived version, December 27, 2015
  4. from Murray Smith at WebCite
  5. from review by Sally Manton/WebCite
  6. from Murray Smith at WebCite
  7. Hermit: T.O.F.P.A. (accessed 14 February 2012)
  8. comments by Aralias, zine reviews! - Procrastination Central, Archived version, December 27, 2015