The Price of Justice

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Title: The Price of Justice
Publisher: Judith Proctor
Author(s): Ermentrude Postlethwaite-Smythe
Cover Artist(s): Casey
Illustrator(s): Jean Sheward and Mary O'Connor
Date(s): written 1979, 1980, new edition published by Judith Proctor in 1998
Medium: print
Size: A4
Genre: gen
Fandom: Blake's 7
Language: English
External Links:
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The Price of Justice is a gen novel by Ermentrude Postlethwaite-Smythe, aka Lillian Sheperd. The story first appeared in Liberator 10 (1980). It was a prequel to the story Helltide, originally published in Liberator 7 (1979).

In 1998 Judith Proctor published a new edition of the zine, called simply 'The Price of Justice', which featured both stories.[1]

Judith's new edition featured the original cover artwork by Casey from Liberator 10, as well as the original artwork for Helltide (by Jean Sheward) and new artwork for 'The Price of Justice' by Mary O'Connor.

It is worth noting that this story, while published in zine form in 1998, was written before Blake's 7 finished airing! The original author's note (1980) refers to a debate about the merits of using the term 'infra-sonic healer' (used throughout the zine at the author's request, originating from the pro-fic books by Trevor Hoyle) instead of a term already widely used by fans at the time for the same device: 'tissue regenerator'. Today, fans exclusively use the latter term.

"Escaped into the Wild"

In 2015, the author said:

"... stories were photocopied (normally at work) and passed around a circle of friends – though these escaped into the wild all too quickly as I know to my cost – I gave nine copies of what I like to call my Avon/Blake/Cally story to friends with pleas not to copy it or show it to anyone without my permission. It ended up being copied right across the United States and eventually published there without my permission."[2]

1998 Announcement Regarding the Second Edition

Finally back from the printers, hopefully in time for Xmas, is 'The Price of Justice' by Ermentrude Postlethwaite Smythe (aka Lillian Sheperd) This zine also includes the short story 'Helltide' by the same writer.

Both these stories were originally printed long, long ago in 'Liberator'.

This is a new edition. The text has been checked by the author and there is new art by Mary O'Conner and Jean Sheward. The original cover art by Casey has been retained, but now appears on cloud, blue cardstock.

Like most of this writer's work, the story features a well thought out plot, an original alien race (beautifully drawn on the zine cover), and an intelligent look at the relationship between Blake and Avon. Cally (as is typical for this writer) is a very positive character.

This is a genzine. There is no sex. None the less, this is a zine that will probably appeal to slash fans simply because it deals with an intense relationship.

There's lots of angst - the story is set in the second season and Avon is on trial for Blake's murder...

Word count 33,700 words. [3]

Reactions and Reviews

[This is a review of the Liberator 10 edition, and just focuses on the story 'The Price of Justice' (not Helltide).]:

I found this zine in a collection of used ones. Color cover, hand-typed stencil text, and paper all seem to match the pub date of October, 1980.

It is apparently part of a series called Liberator, of which it is Number 10. I love finding zines that were published before the series ended. If anyone has more EPS, or information about the Liberator series, I'd like to know.

This is the second EPS I've found, the other was Mindfire. Justice is far closer to an episode plot than the other. The main similarity is that EPS must have hated Jenna; she's portrayed badly here. EPS gets the other characters spot-on, dialog and actions echoing the aired eps without being sterilely imitative. This is an action-oriented plot, with good interchanges between Blake and Avon.

Sometime after Voice, but before Gambit, the Liberator crew arrive on Lindor to help with some anti-fed negotiations. They are welcomed warmely by Sarkoff, Tyce and Avalon, less so by many others. The negotiating sessions are tedious and less than fruitful, and eventually:

  • Avon looses his temper. Blake allows himself to be provoked as well.
  • They have a rousing row in front of the assembly, and Avon stalks out.
  • Blake leaves to apologize. While enjoying a rare moment of honesty, they are attacked by an alien. Blake is severely injured, but Avon manages to use a Liberator gadget to heal him. However, when they are discovered, Avon has a knife in his hand, and Blake has not recovered consciousness.
  • Avon is hauled away to jail and execution for murder, for it is announced that Blake died. (We know better. ;-))
I liked the characters, and the interaction. The mystery is a little lame, the explanations a bit wordy, the alien a little one-dimensional. But all in all, enjoyable. [4]
[This review focuses on both stories 'The Price of Justice' and 'Helltide.']:

Some of the oldest fanfiction I've read, apart from the terrible Alternative Seven, although I obviously read the version published in 1998. I don't think the text of this one was updated, though, so fair to say it's legitimately old - written before series 3 had even aired. Unlike many later stories, the characterisation (which I assume is fresh in the author's mind from having just seen the episodes air for the first time, without the weight of Known Facts about what these characters are like) is really really good. The voices are strong, and people act in a way that I find highly consistent with their portrayal on screen. The exception is Jenna, with this fic presumably one of the oldest examples of that most irritating of tropes - Jealous Jenna (and Blake and Avon aren't even sleeping together in this!). The same characterisation is found in 'Mindfire', though it's even worse there. Fortunately Jenna has a small part in 'The Price of Justice' and is entirely absent from 'Hellfire'.

More smarm, but this time - I really like both of these stories!

The Price of Justice:

The plot is right up my alley - Avon is on trial for Blake's supposed murder (although actually he saved Blake's life in a really brilliant bit of quick-thinking that also required him to be clever, resourceful and brave - I loved it), while meanwhile Blake is trapped pretending to be an alien to other aliens, trying to think his way out of there so he can rescue Avon from execution. They are both so clever!

I agree with the previous reviewer that the actual plot, the reason that Blake and Avon were attacked by the aliens, etc, is a bit contrived, but I don't care - to me, it's a bit of business to give Blake and Avon a reason to go above and beyond for each other, to feel sad and anxious etc, and also for Vila and Cally to have a few good scenes of detective work. I'm very much from the Pressure Point school of writing, rather than the Star One school - give them a runaround to structure the scenes of intense feelings and competence. I respect EPS's interest in alien races, but it's not a particular area of interest for me, so I like this better than something like 'Machiavelli Factor' where the alien plot is massively important to the story - here, they're essentially an (interesting) mcguffin. B and A spend a lot of it shouting at each other and then the rest of the novel worrying about each other. Perfection.

Also - the ending involves they getting smashed together on some kind of alcohol that wipes your memory the next morning, and (sorry - spoilers) then Vila walking past and seeing them sleeping on each other and thinking it would be hilarious to teleport them both to Blake's bed. Avon wakes up (confused, alarmed) the next morning on Blake's floor and leaves quickly before Blake wakes up. For me, it's perfect smarm, in that although the gay is sort of a joke, it genuinely is funny that these two characters who aren't overly emotional and who are both quite into their own personal dignity ... end up in a silly scenario. Plus, their drunken declarations to each other are quite restrained, which I also like. Yes! Even drunk:

"So why didn't you take Liberator when you had the chance?"

There was a long silence, then Avon said, "You said it yourself once: 'Too many of my friends are already dead; I can't afford to lose another one.'" He turned his head to meet Blake's eyes. "I do want Liberator - but not at that price."

Something inside Blake was signing, and it wasn't an affect of the drink.

"And I don't even like you," Avon whispered. "You're a crazy, irrational bastard, you're going to get me killed, and I can't see why the Hell you mean so much to me." "And you, my friend, are cold, ruthless, amoral, and cynical, and I don't know why you mean so much to me."

Also - although Cally and Avon is sort of hinted at as Avon is being led to the execution chamber... it's blink and you miss it. And I really hate Avon/Cally, particularly when Blake is depicted as being more important to Avon.


If you thought the plot of 'The Price of Justice' was my jam, just wait until you get to 'Helltide'! This one is also about how Blake and Avon take turns to heroically sacrifice themselves for each other. It's much shorter, but I liked this one particularly. [5]
[The Price of Justice]:

If there's a common theme that we see again and again in B7 fanfic, it's the exploration of what kind of hell that Avon—despite his claims not to care—is willing to go through to save Roj Blake's skin. It's no surprise that one of the earliest—and best—of the British B7 writers, Lillian Shepherd, has taken this storyline and twice given it her own unique twist in these two pieces printed in Liberator, a long out-of-print British zine.

The Price of Justice, the longer and more plotted of the two stories, combines a political storyline with Shephard's always-interesting original aliens. While the Liberator crew is attending a conference on Lindor, Avon and Blake are attacked by dangerous alien assassins called halfanes. Due to Avon's quick thinking and willingness to sacrifice himself for the other man, Blake survives the attack, but then disappears. The evidence seems to indicate that Blake has been murdered. By Avon.

The plot then follows two tracks: One showing the reader Blake's actual location and his struggle to reach Avon before he can be condemned for Blake's murder. The other plotline focuses on Avon and the crew, as Avon is convicted and sentenced to death, and the others react in their own unique ways.

As usual in Shepherd's well-choreographed tales, character and plot play off one another beautifully to build tension and increasing conflict. My only problem is the really unfair and rather obnoxious characterization of Jenna, who thoroughly believes in Avon's guilt and displays grim joy in his approaching demise. I hadn't noticed Jenna being this unlikable or manifesting quite this level of dislike for Avon in the show, but it's a characterization I've seen often enough in fanfic written early on. So I assume it was one of those fannish '"truisms" (like Avon being a nutcase or Blake a terrorist fanatic) that are not necessarily part of canon, but are often believed nonetheless.

The other characterizations are much more satisfying. As usual. Shepherd does a magnificent job with Cally, actually improving on the incoherent characterization that plagued the series. Cally's thoughts as Avon's execution appears inevitable are genuinely moving. But perhaps the most delightful bit of characterization is Vila's, whose bit of quick thinking in the execution chamber is a nice, unexpected twist, but a completely believable one in terms of what we know about him from the series. [6]

"Helltide" is less plotted and less balanced in terms of the characters, but it is also much shorter (about 15 pages) and is presented as a straightforward wallow." Here the alien threats—a biological tide of deadly "goop" and birds who paralyze and then lay eggs in their human prey—are viscerally horrific. But the point is not so much to explore the alien environment (though it's rather fascinating in a dark way) as to inflict pain, grief and terror on the two men involved, most particularly Avon. Shepherd does a stellar job of evoking these emotions, both from the protagonists and the reader. Avon's inevitable sacrifice for Blake, when it comes, is indeed horrible enough to impress this reader with his loyalty.

The most interesting idea in "Helltide," however, comes at the end and is suggested rather than explored. "Helltide" (as is disclosed in detail in the story) is actually an object lesson for Avon: He learns that he'll put Blake's survival over his own (which is something most fans guessed coming in). But another implied lesson is hinted at near the end: If Blake has a choice between his two most important values, friendship and cause, which would he choose?

It's a question that unfortunately, neither Blake nor the author is willing to explore in an otherwise fascinating and chilling piece of writing. [7]


  1. [The Price of Justice listing on
  2. Fandom Past - A Talk Given at Nine Worlds 2015
  3. Lysator, Judith P, 1998. Also at Judith Proctor's Blake's 7 site
  4. Subject: Zine Review: Price of justice (gen) by Nicole V. on Lysator dated Oct 5, 1993.
  5. Zines - smarm mainly, and Stadler Link - Procrastination Central, Archived version, post by Aralias, 2016
  6. review by Pat Nussman in IMHO* #2
  7. review by Pat Nussman in IMHO* #2