Probability Square

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Zine
Title: Probability Square
Publisher: reprinted by Ashton Press
Editor(s): Laura Virgil
Date(s): 1989
Series?:
Medium: print
Size:
Genre:
Fandom: Blake's 7
Language: English
External Links:
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
front cover by Laura Virgil
back cover, Sandy Williams

Probability Square is a 173-page gen anthology originally published by Laura Virgil.

One reviewer calls it "gen that's as good as slash." [1]

flyer, click to read

From the Editorial

"So. Here it is. Finally. PROBABILITY SQUARED in all its glory.

Welcome to the first and last issue. It is the first issue because I was stupid enough to do it once. It is the last because I am not stupid enough to do it again. To those of you who are disappointed, I apologize. To those not disappointed, breathe a heady sigh of relief.

Nevertheless...serious apologies are hereby tendered to those who believed that this zine would appear at Scorpio in '88. That was my original intention, however, the best laid plans and all that. In my case, astronomical emergency dental bills (to the tune of $1750) got in the way. Then, my plan was to debut PS at Gambit. Problems too numerous to mention interfered. As you all know (both contributors and consumers) PS was a long, long time in the making. I appreciate everyone's patience and understanding and I hope you will feel the final product worth the wait. ..............along with many popular and established fan writers, and some new and very exciting writers, you'll find a story by a local (Dallas) professional fantasy and science fiction writer Lillian Stewart Carl. "Beauty" is a bit of a twist on the old tale which I think you'll enjoy immensely. Ms. Carl's professionally published works include Sabazel, The Winter King and Shadow Dancers. Other projects she is working on (or which may be published by the time of this printing..check your bookstore) are Silver Song, Stones of Destiny (a contemporary horror novel set in Scotland) and Triskelton. Also, you'll notice another familiar name, both from fanzines and your bookshelves, Jean Lorrah. Jean's "Ask Questions Later" is an interesting new look at both the event sat Star One and Gauda Prime. Jean's involvement in fandom goes as far back as I can remember, and her interest in fannish subjects has carried over into her professional writing. Jean has had several Star Trek books published (both original series and Next Generation) Some of her other works include First Channel, The Keeper's Price, Savage Empire, Channel of Destiny, Dragon Lord of the Savage Empire. I recommend both of these ladies' work very highly and hope you'll ask your bookseller to order their novels for you if they don't already have them in stock! ........"

Contents

The art is by Laura Virgil (front cover), Leah Rosenthal, Annita K. Smith, Sandy Williams (back cover), Suzan Lovett, Maryann Jorgenson, Celeste Hotaling, Dani Lane, and Theresa Buffaloe.

Fiction:

  • Holly Hutchinson and Alicia Ann Fox, "Test Run" (A piloting lesson aboard the newly-acquired DSV for Avon brings about interesting and, er, intimate consequences for he and Jenna and strengthens her resolve with her very personal plans for Blake.) (1)
  • Jeff Morris and Mary Morris, "Special Report" (Vila a cold-blooded killer? Avon a simpering coward? Blake a tin-plated over-bearing dictator with delusions of god-hood? Servalan's intelligence agent infiltrates the crew of Liberator, and the report turned in on the rebel crew gives Servalan reason to pause.) (5)
  • Jane Jackson, "Wheel" (Vila helps Avon make one of his lifetime dreams come true -- as a contestant on a ... game show?) (20)
  • Susan Glasgow, "Mutiny with Bounty" (The Amagon pirates who have taken Liberator have a relative surprise in store for Avon, Blake and the rest of the crew.) (24)
  • Teresa Ward, "Deathwish" (Obsessed with overwhelming hatred for Roj Blake. Travis remembers his one love and, the man who he believed caused him to lose her.) (27)
  • Sheila Paulson, "Game of Humanity" (Unknowing, unwilling pawns in a power struggle. Blake and Avon are marooned together on a planet where the only civilization is uncivilized at best where they are forced by circumstance to rely on and trust one another, and, more importantly, confront the realities of their tentative friendship.) (35)
  • Ann Wortham, Julie Kramer, and Michelle Rosenberg, "Silent Running" (Gauda Prime is a memory for most people, a nightmare for others. What happens when Avon, the only survivor, gives up all hope when the Federation so desperately wants Orac? The Federation still holds one ace in the hole, an ace who is still very much alive ...) (114)
  • Jeff Morris and Mary Morris, "My Life and Welcome to It" (Blake's 7: The New Generation) (Another look at the events after Gauda Prime, only in a humorous vein. Years later, Avon finds himself as chancellor of a college, reluctant husband to Vila' s widow and step-father to Vila Junior . . . what else could go wrong for the ex-rebel?) (135)
  • Annita K. Smith, "Candle in the Wind" (Decades after Gauda Prime, a young school girl befriends a quirkish, solitary old man in her school yard, with surprises in store for both of them.) (141)
  • Jean Graham, "Coup de Grace" (Servalan finds very willing help from a very disturbing -- and disturbed -- source. A post-Gauda Prime story.) (144)
  • Jean Lorrah, "Ask Questions Later" (It was Blake who Avon shot down on Gauda Prime. Or was it? An interesting alternative story.) (150)
  • Liz S., "The Biter Bit" (Is turn about fair play? A master of mind games, Servalan has the ultimate mind game played on hers by Avon, Blake and the rest of the crew.) (159)
  • Pat Jacquerie and Liz S., "Quis Custodiet" (Madness can be a communicable disease as Cally, Blake and Avon discover when Servalan takes matters into her own hands -- or does she?) (162)
  • Pat Jacquerie, "The Mermaid's Tale" (Cally loses something very special by taking the only option open to save her sanity.) (165)

Sample Gallery: Lovett Art for "Game of Humanity"

A fan in 1995 commented:
Who is your favorite artist for doing Blake? For me there's no question: Suzan Lovett. I particularly like the illustrations for Sheila Paulson's "Game of Humanity," in Probability Square. It's amazing how she made an innocent little adventure story look so slashy! [2]

Sample Interior Gallery: General

Reactions and Reviews

See reactions and reviews for Game of Humanity.

Unknown Date

[zine]: I love this zine. Sheila Paulson's "Game of Humanity" is a must-read for A-B fans. IMO it rates with Suzan Lovett's stories as "gen that's as good as slash." Blake and Avon are stranded, seemingly forever, on a distant planet with an initially hostile, primitive alien race. Gradually they become closer to their hosts and to each other. There's a PGP sequel, "The Dreamers," in Blake's Doubles #4. The Lovett illos for the story are to die for-- incredibly slashy. There's the one in which Blake reaches out to the injured Avon, the one of the two of them bathing in the mountain pool (yes, honestly!), the one of Avon comforting Blake, the one of both of them, shirtless, in a cave together-- yum, yum, yum. "Beauty," by pro writer Lillian Stewart Carl, is lovely Avon-drool, for those of us who like that sort of thing. (furtively wiping mouth). "Silent Running" is an excellent angsty PGP, with Avon tending an injured Vila. "Test Run" would have been a tasty adult story if the authors had not resorted to smut-eating asterisks! It's very enjoyable as is, though. Jenna gives Avon piloting lessons, and one thing leads to another. Also on the smut front: Jenna has Blake's baby in "Errors, Deletions and Avon;" the past relationship of Travis and Kiera is revealed in "Deathwish;" and Vila and Servalan interact with each other amusingly in "All Things Considered." The set of three short but intense stories by [Liz S.] and Pat Jacquerie, focussing first on Servalan and then on Cally, are very memorable. The last story offers a hint as to why Avon and Cally never got it together in the canon. Everything in the zine is readable, and there's a nice variety, from grim death-and-betrayal stories to funny ones. In addition to the Lovett illos, there's a lot of other good art too-- as you'd logically expect in a zine edited by an artist. Laura Virgil's portraits of Vila are especially nice. Highly recommended! [3]
[zine]: 'Test Run' Avon and Jenna start with a piloting lesson and take it from there. An enjoyable short. 'Special Report' First of this zine's humour intake. An under cover agent poses as a rebel journalist to infiltrate Liberator. Amusing takes on cliches from the series and from zine writing. 'Errors, Deletions, and Avon' Jenna and Blake confront pregnancy and parenthood. Vila comes to their rescue. I got the impression the writer hadn't decided whether to go for comedy or drama. Incidentally, why does fan fiction so frequently cast Vila as good with kids, not that there's much competition on Liberator? 'W.H.E.E.L.' This one is fun. Avon gets to play Wheel of Fortune, with Vila tagging along, while Blake and co. go off to blow something up. Avon nearly gets more than he'd expected, and Vila gets a prezzie. 'Mutiny with Bounty'. A different twist on the episode Bounty. It contains what may be the most excruciating pun ever inflicted by Vila. 'Deathwish' An intelligent short about Travis's relationship with Kiera. 'All Things Considered' Features Vila and Servalan. Is Vila what he seems? Well, fancy that. 'Game of Humanity' Several words suggest themselves in describing this fifty page story, including magnificent, riveting, terrific, and stunning, but I'll settle for sublime. Blake and Avon are abducted by alien game players and inserted into a primitive society to prove/disprove a point. They gradually transform the society, and in doing so transform their own relationship, acknowledging the differences between them, the conflict between pragmatism and idealism. The story is relatively straightforward, its the telling that counts, and Ms Paulson has excelled herself. 'Life Viewed from a Different Angle' A homage to Velcro. Vila, Avon and Servalan; Vila has a problem on the ceiling. Humour with a touch of gravity? 'Beauty' An encounter with the third season crew, told from the point of view of a female smuggler who has been grossly disfigured by the Federation interrogators. Excellent characterization, especially of Avon. A maturely written account. 'Sharp Trading' Avon is having trouble trusting Tarrant to do a proper job. A familiar theme, but decently written. (It really is time Avon hung up his probe and went on a personnel management course; the man just cannot delegate, can he?) 'Silent Running' Brilliant Avon-Vila story, in the same league as the Paulson tale; how many zines can boast two stories of this calibre? Months after GP, Avon is a totally isolated prisoner of the Federation. He has no will to live and has therefore proved immune to the actions of his jailors, who are increasingly desperate for information. In an attempt to get to him, they give him an injured and traumatised Vila to care for. What will happen to them if or when Vila remembers Malodaar? What will happen to them, period? Hurt/Comfort par excellence, an unmissable treat for Avon/Vila fans. 'My Life and Welcome to it' Part of the Blakes7; the New Generation series. Kerr Avon, college chancellor, has married Kerril after Vila blackmails him from beyond the grave. The story involves the offspring and /or clones of various series characters. Part 1 is in Southern Seven 3. 'Candle in the Wind 'Children playing remember the Blakes7 legend as an old man watches. Familiar territory. 'Coup de Grace' Good, original PGP involving Servalan and Avon with a cunningly disguised - literally - twist. 'Ask Questions Later' Vila, Avon and Soolin find an unusual explanation for what lies behind GP. 'The Biter Bit / Quis Custodiet / The Mermaids Tale' Three intelligently written related stories in which Servalan is a prisoner on Liberator after Terminal. They all focus on Cally. 'Tale from a Bolthole Bar' An itinerant story teller grips his bar-room audience with the tale of what happened on Gauda Prime. The response from his audience is more than he expected. Alas, poor Vila. Macabre. There are also some poems and some exceptional pieces of artwork, including some Lovetts for the Paulson story and a particularly fetching Avon and Vila by Laura Virgil on page 134. [4]

1994

[art by Suzan Lovett]: Paul admired the Suzan Lovett picture I asked him to sign. The last one from the story 'Game of Humanity' in Possibility Square, in case you were wondering. I was *soooooo* tempted to have him sign the *ahem* first or second, but I behaved. Oh, well. Another thing to remember when congoing. Don't behave. ;) Sheelagh admired the bordering of the photos. So, I just had to show *her* the other picture I thought of Paul signing. (the second which is a pic of Blake laughing at Avon after having just dunked him in a lake where they were both cleaning up. So cute... ;) [5]

2017

User: Mrs Potato Head was kind enough to track down the Suzan Lovett art for me (pretty gay, as I'm sure you're unsurprised to learn) - and this inspired me to hunt down the zine itself. Existing reviews are generally positive, and the fic I'd read before (Sheila Paulson's Game of Humanity) was really good!

It was shipped to me from America just after Christmas.

A few things before we go into individual story reviews. Firstly - did you know a probability square is a real thing? Maybe you did - I did not, and only found out by trying to google the zine. It's the thing we used to use in biology about dominant and recessive genes. I really don't see how it would help Avon figure out that Sand was forcing Tarrant and Servalan to have sex... but I guess he's a clever man.

Secondly - if I were to use a probability square to work out what kind of fic I was likely to read in this fic I would use the following characteristics - dominant gene is 'comedy' and recessive is 'long-form intense smarm'. There are both within, but comedy dominates, and very few other traits get a look in at all. I love long-form intense smarm... but only really for B-A and I'd read that GoH already. There were some pictures that MPH didn't send me though, so that was nice! I looked at them.

Another thing that's interesting about this zine is that the fic is mostly of the sort of length (i.e. 2,000-5,000) you'd expect to find in the internet-age, though this is 1989 so pretty much prime zine time. Most zines are primarily longer fics.

There's a very entertaining Monty Python inspired contents page. You probably can't see even in the blown-up version, but it says 'a moose once bit my sister' in the small print - anyway, I was amused.

The font is generally quite small, but the zine is already thick - so fair enough. It's full of generally nice art, but mostly just headshots (with the notable exception of Lovett, and some cartoons). The editor actually apologises for how little art there is in the editorial - but there is LOADS, and generally good. It's just generic.

Holly Hutchinson and Alicia Ann Fox, "Test Run" -- Avon/Jenna, casual sex fic (it's a test run of piloting - she teaches him, and a test run before Jenna goes after Blake properly). I really like this, very well characterised, good dialogue, good thoughts about each other. The sex is obviously missing, given where it is, but I enjoyed the build up enough that I can skip the sex. One of the better A/J's I've read, and it's a pairing I like.

Jeff Morris and Mary Morris, "Special Report" -- A report to Servalan from a spy on board the Liberator. This is a one-joke piece that outstays its welcome. I skipped to the end.

Kathy Hintze, "Errors, Deletions and Avon" -- Jenna is pregnant with Blake's baby (remember - gen didn't mean actual gen, back in the day), but this fic is mostly (I think, I skipped most of this because I hate B/J) about how Vila feels really happy that Blake said he can look after the baby. It ends with Blake choosing to give up the revolution, which usually I'd care about.

Jane Jackson, "Wheel" -- Comedy, comedy-characterisation Avon goes on 'Wheel of Fortune'. Not really my kind of thing, though clearly influenced by Bizarro. Again - skipped!

Susan Glasgow, "Mutiny with Bounty" -- This is kind of a fun idea, which I will spoil for you - the crew are brought upstairs in Bounty and Avon says to Tarvin, How did you know your grandmother was going to sell you? Was it because... she'd already sold your younger brother?" Obviously Avon looks nothing like an Amagon, but apart from that this is a neat AU. It's over in 3 pages and an excuse for some puns - perhaps that's all we thought was worth doing with this one, but they win the war! Within these 3 pages! Would have read. Teresa Ward, "Deathwish" -- Really short Travis fic about his previous romance with Kierya (later, the mutoid). Really short, mostly not about Kierya, doesn't really work.

Laura Virgil, "All Things Considered" -- Another short fic - between Vila and Servalan. Makes some quite good points about Vila (if he's an alcoholic, how come his hands don't shake? etc. Well - he's not what he seems...) and is overall a fun idea. Could have been a lot longer.

Sheila Paulson, "Game of Humanity" -- Takes a long time to get going, and I actually put it down the first time I read it (foolishly! many years ago), but now I tell you that this has been rightly heralded as one of our best B-As. They're trapped on a primative planet for many months, and have to fight monsters, tell stories, have feelings, and rescue each other a lot. To no one's surprise, I enjoyed it immensely. I also liked the sequel, which is also in the Wayback. I agree it's less satisfying in and of itself (although I increasingly think PGP where they forgive each other are my favourite B/As), but given the ending of GoH I am vv grateful that it exists, and the Dreamers has SUCH a lovely ending. They both make me very happy.

Celeste Hotaling, "Life Viewed from a Different Angle, or, The Heavy Date" -- fun comedy fic about velcro. Yes, that's right - velcro. Avon and Vila steal some stuff. It's entertaining.

Lillian Stewart Carl, "Beauty" -- This is the one prominently billed as being by a professional author. It does feel quite different from the others, with a different sort of emphasis in the prose, and of course by choosing to focus on an original character. It feels more like something from Big Finish than anything else - which isn't to say professional authors are better at writing than fanfic authors; it's just they often care about different things. I quite like this fic, which follows its original character heroine (ex actress, disfigured by the Federation after they discovered her lover was a resistor) as she meets the s3 crew, tangles with Avon, and then she, Vila and Avon go and rescue some children - for a mixture of money/freedom/because it's the right thing to do.

I found it slow-going at the beginning (before Avon arrived) but entertaining - and I like examinations of Avon's character that paint him as pretending not to be interested in doing the right thing/conflicted about it, although it's a much cooler Avon than certainly I would ever write (and there are some almost funny descriptions of how good he smells/how strong he is that if I was a nice person I would take seriously. Actually - it's both good writing, I think, and good characterisation - and also funny because I write such a charmingly rubbish sadpants Avon, who the rest of the Scorpio Crew call 'Uncle Avon' behind his back. I need to write a cooler one. The ineffably masculine pheromones, yes, only this time the threat inherent in his embrace was a different one. To him the only safety was in dominance--sex was just another arena for a power struggle, and she'd proved herself strong--she would almost have pitied him, choked by his own virility, except that he was the least pitiable person she'd ever met.)

it's good some good heroic but in-character Vila. Overall - I liked this.

Jill Grundfest, "Sharp Trading" -- I think I primarily skipped this fic because it's a character piece and the dialogue wasn't good enough.

Ann Wortham, Julie Kramer, and Michelle Rosenberg, "Silent Running" -- This is long intense smarm fic #2 - this time it's an Avon-Vila, PGP, H/C. While I like PGP, and I like Vila as a friend, I don't really like H/C and I don't like A/V post-Orbit fics. This is probably pretty good, if my outlook on life is not your outlook on life. I skipped to the end, and it has the sort of ending that I'd like if it were about Blake. Take that as you will...

N.T. Casillas, "A View from the Outside" -- Poem. Nuff said.

Jeff Morris and Mary Morris, "My Life and Welcome to It" (Blake's 7: The New Generation) -- OK, so this is daft humour (Avon's been blackmailed in marrying Kerril by Vila, and into looking after everyone else's teenage children), but I like it. Maybe it's because I just like PGP Avon as a university chancellor so much. Would read more, and I'd have liked it even more... if it hadn't been humorous, and if there were only a few kids. If it were just a fic about Avon running a university, in other words.

Annita K. Smith, "Candle in the Wind" -- Songfic title! Not a bad story, although it has some problems working out what people do and do not know about Blake's death. It's about forgiveness, though, which is a theme I'm a sucker for, even as I hate post-Orbit fics, IDK.

Jean Graham, "Coup de Grace" -- We're well into the weird-PGP section of the zine now. Servalan flees justice but gets caught by crazy Avon, who thinks she's Anna... It's very short, which is probably a good length in this case. Not bad.

Jean Lorrah, "Ask Questions Later" -- Interesting variation on 'it wasn't Blake at GP' (a trope I dislike, but - let's move on). This time - it was The Andromedans! I think this is not a bad idea, and it's different, which I like - but the fic's over almost before it's begun which makes it a bit pointless.

Liz S., "The Biter Bit", Pat Jacquerie and Liz S., "Quis Custodiet", Pat Jacquerie, "The Mermaid's Tale" -- Three linked stories - based around the idea that Blake was at Terminal (hooray! One of my top guilty pleasures) and therefore that Avon uses the hypnotism machine on Servalan to make her think s4 happens though actually it doesn't - which is not a great idea really or one that makes much sense, as various characters in the story repeatedly point out ... It's not really that much about Blake; he's just there, but I like Terminal stories so much... that I give it a lot of licence. Part 2 is basically a set up for part 3 - Part 3 is genuinely creepy, though I don't think it's supposed to be, as the Vila section that caps it is typical Vila drinks as a celebration. Part 2 doesn't work for me, as it's about how Cally wants to murder Servalan - repeatedly, for an entire (short) fic - and how Servalan is legit mad. Overall - some cool ideas though, and the final creepiness justifies the whole, even if it's an A/C creepiness.

Sandy Williams, "Tale from a Bolthole Bar" -- So - you like your PGP fics weird, eh? Of course you do - we start off in a regular Vila talks about GP in a bar sort of fic (I've written one of these myself, everyone has) and then - he gets murdered by Avon, who may or may not be controlled by Servalan. A twist I didn't need. [6]

References

  1. Judith Proctor's Site
  2. from Rallying Call #13
  3. a review by Sarah Thompson at Judith Proctor's Site
  4. a review by Chris Blenkarn at Judith Proctor's Site
  5. Lysator, Amanda R, from a con report for Visions, dated December 15, 1994.
  6. zines: Probability Square, and B7 Complex 1, aralias, March 26, 2017