The Aquitar Files (Blake's 7 e-zine)

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For articles with a similar title, see Aquitar.

Zine
Title: Aquitar Files
Publisher:
Editor(s): Reba Bandyopadhyay and Loulou Harris
Date(s): 1996-1997
Series?:
Medium: e-zine
Size:
Genre: gen and slash
Fandom: Blake's 7
Language: English
External Links: The Aquitar Files: a Blake's 7 Zine, Archived version
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
B7 aquitar.jpg

Aquitar Files is a gen and slash Blake's 7 ezine edited by Reba Bandyopadhyay and Loulou Harris. It was one of the earliest webzines or online e-zines.

Note: this site is also the first Blake's 7 online fiction page; its creators define it as both an e-zine and a website.

According to Loulou it was created because she and her co-editor were "Tired of the endless debate about whether or not B7 Web fiction would be a good idea..."

Some of its material was printed in The Aquitar Files.

Description of the Website

From Reba:
In light of the recent mentions of The Aquitar Files, I thought I'd de-lurk for a sec to shamelessly plug our webzine! There are several B7 fanfic sites out there now but ours was the first! =)

Anyone who hasn't already been there can find the zine at: http://www-astro.physics.ox.ac.uk/~rmb/Blakes7/

You need to request a username and password to access the stories; email your request to aquitar@okco.prestel.co.uk, with the subject header 'AF:Password'. We have an auto-response bot set up so you should be able to access the site within a day.

We currently have 21 short stories, a novella, and a novel length story online, as well as a few other things -- including a page of my photos from Deliverance! Some of these have previously appeared in very old zines or on one of the B7 mailing lists, but the majority are getting their first publication on TAF.

We are always looking for more submissions, so if you have a story you'd like to submit, please do! Or if you have an old one that's long out-of-print that you'd like to resurrect, or one that has appeared elsewhere, we'd love to see that too (as long as it's OK with the editor of whatever it appeared in first!!) Some people have commented that e-fic for other fandoms have been of generally lower quality because there's no editor. Not in this case! Loulou and I do the usual editorial stuff that you get in a paper zine, and try to keep the quality of the stories high...

We hope to have some more stories soon, and also we will eventually be putting up a frames version of TAF. (Don't worry, we'll still have the original non-frames version too!)

Hope to get some submissions soon, and hope everyone enjoys the site! [1]

Submission Request: Zine

That's right, boys and girls, we (Pita Enriquez Harris and Reba Bandyopadhyay) have decided to put our money where our mouths are and start up the first electronically available Blake's 7 zine! We figured, if so many other fandoms have fiction available on the Internet, why shouldn't we? So, here are the gory details...

Firstly, we are hereby soliciting SUBMISSIONS! Veteran fanfic authors and first-time contributors alike, we want to hear from YOU! We especially encourage those of you who have not published fanfic before to give it a try with us! We are setting the submission deadline as 1 March 1996, with the first edition of the ezine coming on line on 1 April 1996. One of the advantages of an electronic zine is the short turnaround time

(1) Length: Any length is acceptable, from short vignettes to novels. Though if it's the latter, we may want to serialize it!

(2) Adult material: We do not mind having 'adult' material (whether het or homo). HOWEVER, we will NOT be accepting sexually explicit work of any kind. (No PWPs!) Of course, there is always debate over what constitutes 'sexually explicit', but basically, kissing is good, descriptive 'tab A slot B' scenes are bad, and before-and-after scenes are OK. In any case, the editors reserve the right to decide what stories are unacceptable on the basis of sexual content.

(3) Other sub-genres: Alternate Universes, Crossovers, Parodies/Humour and most other things are just peachy keen with us.  ;)

(4) Poetry: We the editors are *extremely* picky about poetry quality, so be warned. By all means, submit poetry if you believe it to be quite good. If we like it, we'll print it.

(5) Art: Yes, it *will* be possible to include digitized art on the web page. Therefore, please submit some! If you already have your fan art digitized, that's excellent, submit it in digital form. If you have some art on paper which you wish to submit, we have scanning capability (both colour and b/w). Keep in mind that more detailed work (i.e. very fine pencilwork) doesn't always scan terrifically. Some things that do scan well are oil/acrylic paintings, charcoal drawings, and line art (such as cartoons). We'd really like to have some art, so please do send us some!

(6) How to submit: As this is an electronic zine, we would prefer submissions to be in electronic form. Plain ASCII text email is best, although we can accept disk submissions for PCs or Macs either as MS Word or plain text. We will accept paper submissions, but it would seem a bit odd to get paper-only submissions for an ezine!  ;) Contact one of us if you have questions about electronic submissions.

(7) Copyright: The authors/artists retain all rights to the material, but we reserve the right to reprint the story or art in future publications (though we will make every effort to inform you if we do reprint it). We do not mind if you have submitted the same work to a conventional zine previously; however, please make sure that the editors of the zine in which your work was first printed give permission for it to be electronically available!...

As this is a Web-based zine, the cost will of course be FREE, except for whatever computer charges you normally incur in accessing the Internet. Because the zine is free and has a fast turnaround, the issues will have fewer stories than regular print zines (we're aiming for a maximum of 10 stories per issue), but should be published more frequently!

The Website will be PASSWORD-PROTECTED, i.e. you will have to register your email address and a password before gaining access to the site. This process is immediate, and so will not incur delay in reading the zine. Having password protection just allows the editors to keep track of how many people are 'buying' copies of the zine, and allows us some measure of control in the distribution of your work.

Finally, the editors' policy is to edit for grammar, spelling, quality of writing, plot holes, and minor story details. We do not edit for style or plot content. That said, of course the editors reserve the right to ask for story rewrites and/or reject stories outright.

We are looking forward to making the first Blake's 7 ezine a successful, high quality fan publication. [2]

Contents

  • Written in Stone by Caroline York (Servalan learns about the four faces of Fate.)
  • Decline and Fall by Una McCormack (Vila offers sympathy as Dayna mourns for Justin.)
  • Trial by Fire by Pat Fenech (Cally steels herself for the worst.)
  • Looking Back by Lucy Miles (An atmospheric Mary Sue, studying our Avon.)
  • The Real Life of Roj Blake by Loulou Harris (A historian tries to assess the truth about Our Heroes.)
  • A Life Closed Twice by Una McCormack (At last, Anna tells her story.)
  • Radioheads by Alison Page (A cyberpunk look at the interactive reality that is Blake's 7.)
  • Confession by Miriam Kerr (A letter contains an unexpected revelation.)
  • Destiny Decrees by Pat Fenech (As Cally prepares her revenge on Saurian Major, fate intervenes.)
  • No Good Thing Ever Dies by Pat Fenech (Ravella remembers as she entices Blake to that fateful meeting...)
  • The Dust of Midnight by Ana-Lia Washington (Cold reflections during the darkest hours of night.)
  • In Which Servalan Borrows the Liberator... by Crispin Bateman (You guessed it...Blake's 7 meets Winnie-the-Pooh!)
  • As the Sky Turns to Fire by Crispin Bateman (A quiet sunset rendezvous...)
  • In the Labyrinth by Loulou Harris (Avon can finally have everything he ever wanted...or can he?)
  • A Silly, Willy, Widdle Story by Maslider (A caffeine-induced slash parody!)
  • Five Days by Una McCormack (Waiting for Shrinker, the crew contemplates the nature of revenge.)
  • Birthday Fantasies by Madeleine Wood (Avon gets a bit of a surprise for his big 4-0.)
  • A Berth on the London by Judith Proctor (Gan comes to Jenna's aid on the way to Cygnus Alpha.)
  • Oh Captain! My Captain! by Melissa Leigh (A Gauda Prime reflection in the style of Walt Whitman.)
  • Stairway to Heaven by Christine Lacey (A post-"Rescue" alternative universe tale.)
  • The Cost of Living by Anthony Murray (Vila should be more careful what he wishes for... (Reprinted from Frontier Worlds.))
  • Pathways by Sarah Berry (Fourth series Avon follows his path through the pattern of infinity.)
  • Choosing Survival by Nickey Barnard (Sula navigates a dangerous path.)
  • A Little Knowledge by Una McCormack (Avon's final secret.)
  • Between Life and Death by Loulou Harris (A unique B7 story written in the style of Italo Calvino.)
  • The Querelle (A column devoted to summarizing the best Blake's 7 discussions from the Lysator mailing list.)
  • All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned from Blake's 7 (Pithy wisdom from B7 collected by Reba Bandyopadhyay.)
  • About the Authors (Short biographies of the authors who have contributed to this issue.)

Reactions and Reviews

[Five Days]: This is a fandom domain which had very much an ensemble cast, a fact that is sometimes forgotten in fan fiction. This fic uses the ensemble beautifully. It's a "missing scene" from the episode Rumours of Death, in which Avon allows himself to be captured and tortured for five days to lay hands on a Federation operative and get his revenge for the supposed death of his girlfriend. We get to see the thoughts of his crewmates on the matter, and learn more about them in the process. The best missing scenes add to the canon, and this one comes up with a brilliant explanation of why Cally is so antagonistic to Avon's plans. [3]
[The Real Life of Roj Blake]: The Way Back, the first B7 episode, gives the impression that there'll be a lot more politics in the show than actually panned out. Nor has this been a preoccupation of fanfic writers, so this would be worth reading in any event for its dual glimpse into both the "opulent" post-Federation world and the pre-TWB revolutionary movement, where the Freedom Party and the Alpha Revolutionaries didn't exactly play nicely and share their toys:

He was FP, I was AR. They hated us; well maybe that's a little harsh; they DESPISED us. [...]They believed us to have elitist credentials, argued that even the phrase 'Alpha Revolutionary' was an oxymoron! We were just a great deal more honest than they, about what we hoped to achieve.

In addition to being an excellent entry in the annals of Political B7, this story is formally very sophisticated and handles its shifts of time and voice beautifully. It's also a kind of B7 noir, because its narrator, although formally a historian, really serves the function of an LA private eye: wandering around being told things (many of them lies) in order to wind up learning something she really would prefer not to have known.

The secret at the heart of the labyrinth? Well, it's a properly disheartening idea of what the throughline of the series really is. [4]
[Radioheads]: Like "Between Life and Death," this is a fascinating and, I think, profound piece of meta-, not only about B7 fandom but about what fandom is.

The set-up for this story is that a one-time underground Feelie creator is able to go mainstream when the Feelies are legalized. The first project that the narrator works on, using the sophisticated DreamArts Random Retrieval/Output Web (DARROW) is a follow-on project for the forty-three and a half hours of source material Terry provided. And, like the DeathWatch sensornet, the narrator experiences various scenes of differing levels of sophistication and impact:

Terry was the first to speak. "The...contributor...will not mind if I begin by pointing out what this snippet lacks. It is after all only a sample not a finished work. There is virtually no characterization nor plot.[...] However, I would also like to point out what our friend has brought. Great devotion and also great fear. Emotions which we cannot do without. Love and fear.

The AI which created this feelie. It had created a work which was much greater than the sum of its parts. Much more powerful than the contributions of the limited individuals who shared their feelings about some ancient and nearly-forgotten TV show. What had it become? What type of life had it developed, the intelligence that ruled this complex and frightening world?

It is by no means irrelevant that before this story was archived, it appeared on the Space City mailing list.

So, what is at the center of the web? And when the voice of the machine is heard, what does it say? [5]
[Between Life and Death]: You are a lover, admirer, or simply a person bemused by meta-fiction, the post-modern, and the phenomenon of fandom, so you click on the first part of this novel-length medi(meta?) tation. You find that it is written in the second person, present tense, by a fan inspired to apply the method of Italo Calvino’s “If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller” to Blakes7 fandom. (It’s also rather Ulysses-ish in terms of reprising the major fanfic genres in a series of interpolated stories, whose titles create a kind of acrostic.)

OK, out of pastiche mode and into review. This is simply one of the damnedest things you’ll ever read about the experience of being a fan--from First Contact with fandom, first club membership, first zine, first play seen because your favorite actor from the show appears in it…(There’s a wonderful cameo appearance by an unnamed B7 actor…no names, no pack drill.)…first con, first visit to a zine library, first kerfuffle about possible movie…

The over-arching narrative is a Story Quest--you, the reader, are constantly frustrated in your attempts to find out what happens in several incomplete fanfics embedded within the text. The first one, also called “Between Life and Death”, is an AU account of the Andromedan War in which Blake and Avon end up in a labyrinth on an alien spaceship…where they encounter infinite regresses in The House of Infinite Chambers and things are, of course, not what they seem…You lose your printout before you can finish reading the story…and it has disappeared from the Website, although somehow it morphs into “Blake Beset by Adversaries”, by someone else entirely--this time Dev Tarrant’s pre-TWB account of the Freedom Party and factional rifts within the Cause.

Within the quest, You meet two more fans, the siblings Jonathan and Jemima (your first face-to-face encounter with other B7 fans) before a performance of a new play which “includes among its cast your favourite star from Blake’s Seven” [sic]. Jemima is a devout but single-minded fan who will only read certain kinds of fics--the ones that seem to her to be close enough to canon to be assimilated into canon--and only after they’ve been “refereed” by her friend Garda, whose loyalties and agenda are very much in doubt.

But Jemima’s own stories, according to Jonathan, are constructions upon the precisely laid foundations of what we can refer to as the “Jem universe”, [and] are hailed by some as architecture of the most satisfying kind, decried by others as unlawful and heterodoxical irrelevancies. […] He makes the whole business appear as complex and surreal as some creation of Kafka’s, wherein a simple error might lead to righteous anger, wounded pride, ostracization. You feel yourself becoming drawn, bemused yet almost grudgingly into this world.

You go to Bath to visit Jemima, but the journey is more complex than you expected. You meet the enigmatic (of course) Garda, who is employed as Jemima’s private Blakes7 librarian, who has recently been forced to expel “Between Life and Death” from the house because it’s a slash story. Garda also works in a university’s Cultural Studies or, as she calls it, Cultural Vacuum department and is working on an article that gains Obscurity Points by referring to B7, which nobody remembers, instead of Star Trek, which everybody does. (Her article--including a minutely detailed and deadpan accurate conrep--appears in Part 11.)

You find this incredible; you have always perceived both characters as extremely heterosexual and the idea that an entire subgenre exists to explore the idea of any homoeroticism between them seems to you to be highly inappropriate. Garda continues. […]The tension between Avon and Blake is an erotic tension; it arises from the deeply ambiguous nature of their relationship. It is a classic homoerotic relationship, like Julius Caesar and Brutus, David and Jonathan, Kirk and Spock![…]Put like this it does indeed seem as though there are aspects of these characters’ relationships which you have not fully considered..

The Approved Zine List can include some het, but only Avon/Cally, Avon/Soolin, Avon/Anna, or Avon/Servalan--AU only. Tarrant can have Servalan, Dayna and of course, Zeeona but never Cally or Soolin. Vila can have no one but Kerrill unless the crew are under some sort of intoxicating influence in which case he can anyone who is available. Blake can be paired with either Cally or Jenna but only for confused one night stands. I don’t know why she likes Blake to be so confused about sex; perhaps she really does secretly believe in slash.

But then the world of B7 fandom is stirred by the news of an impending film version…and Jemima is so disturbed by the possible impact on her personal canon that she heads off to California to confront the scriptwriter, and You and Jonathan go after her.

From the screenwriter’s diary (which also contains his dire PGP plotlines for the proposed film) as he debates casting suggestions such as David Duchovny and Alan Rickman, and Ralph Fiennes: If we want him played like first or second season Avon then we have to get someone who can bring out that heroic element whilst still retaining the cynical wit. Or maybe we want the angst-ridden Avon of the third series? He could never vocalize those feelings so we’d have to get someone who can say it all with The Look.

The scene shifts to a con, where various fen (including the very real BNF Pat Fenech, name-checked and quoted) debate the Nature and Purpose of Fanfic, and exactly what Avon was up to anyway…as explored by the next interpolation, “On a Lonely World Isolated by Indifference,” Avon’s PGP Death Row memoirs.

In any case, is it not the case that in the world of Blake’s Seven the very notion of an ending is itself uncanonical? For the majority of the series, all endings are temporary or else, entirely deceptive; there are only minor truces, transient resolutions, each leading onto a new beginning in the very next episode. Perhaps that is why the finale jars so and why so many fan writers have been unable to accept it as a genuine ending.


NOTE: If you want to explore the Aquitar Files archive there are only a few live links on the home page; to link to the rest of the stories, you have to scroll down and click where it says “access to Contents Page.” Aquitar is a mineral (an isotope of Plotdeviceum). A few throw-away lines in canon say that both Blake and Avon worked at the Aquitar Project, which failed to develop teleport technology for the Federation. Fanonically, this is often used as a peg for the premise that they knew each other then, often Biblically. [6]
Just in the past few days there has been a renewal of discussion on the Space City list about the merits or otherwise of fan fiction which is available only via the Internet. It is a topic which is often debated and if memory serves it was discussed formally at a recent convention. The debate usually seems to centre around access and quality, it being thought that while the ready availability is a plus the lack of editorial input into the contents is a decided minus. However, it is also usually said when the matter is particularly related to 'Blakes 7' that it has little relevance as the B7 fan fiction is almost exclusively of a print kind.

While this is largely true there is one 'Blakes 7' fanzine available only in an electronic format and that is 'The Aquitar Files' produced by Loulou Harris and Reba Bandyopadhyay. Having just read through all the stories carefully so as to review them I think I can say with reasonable certainty that at least in the case of this electronic zine the fears about quality and lack of editorial supervision seem to be quite groundless. 'The Aquitar Files' is a more than acceptable collection of B7 fiction of a standard quite comparable to other zines I have read. And the plus of the electronic zine, the ready access, seems to me to be of considerable importance. For me, an Australian, stuck so far away from all the major sources of fan fiction production, forever having to pay so much more for anything I want I tend to take what is no doubt a selfish view and embrace, with a glad heart, a source for fan fiction which is basically free and momentarily accessible such as 'The Aquitar Files' and can only applaud Loulou and Reba's efforts and wish them nothing but success and growth. If electronic zines were all as this one is then the debate over their merits might not be taking place.

'The Aquitar Files' have a goodly mix of stories, set in various periods throughout the series from the earliest days on the 'London' to Post Gauda Prime, told in a mix of styles from the plainly told, but highly entertaining, 'Stairway to Heaven' by Christine Lacey, through the lyrical 'Moonwind' by Sarah Berry to the richly layered concoction of Loulou's own epic 'Between life and death.' There are stories of Avon's struggle with himself above Horizon, of Christmas aboard the 'Liberator', of life on the 'London', of Avon searching for Blake, all told well, some beautifully.

Between life and death by Loulou Harris: One of the stories within this story of Loulou's is called 'In the lattice of realities which intertwine' and that is essentially what this story is, the lattice of realities we all have found ourselves being twined around as we have ventured further and further into the world of 'Blakes 7' fandom. The whole experience is explored; the wonderful oddity of the show itself, described so perceptively by Loulou thus: '... between the drivel and the fantasy pure magic was created...'; the strength of the hold it exerts over us and all the elements which make up the experience for us all, 'the fans, the writers, the fiction...'. There are the fan wars; the annoyance with serialised stories; the 'discussions' about what is, and is NOT canon; slash; the confusion that we all suffer when half remembered stories become confused with others and the endless variations among fans as to just what it is that draws them to the series. It is simply *the* story of the entire Blakes 7 phenomenon we all love and share. It is such an engaging and original concept for a 'Blakes 7' story that I was entirely captivated by it.

Very broadly it examines the 'pilgrim's progress'; the journey of one fan from her first tentative contacts with fandom and fan fiction through the entire 'Blakes 7' experience until that, almost inevitable, moment when she has become so immersed that she takes up her pen to give fandom her version of Avon. The journey is one any fan reading it will be quite familiar with; the initial excitement and comfort of the discovery of like minds whose enthusiasm for the show matches your own; the discovery of the enjoyment and interest to be got from the fan fiction; the eventual friendships struck up with other fans and the warmth of that experience; the thrill of a visit to a convention and the last step for so many in this progress the burgeoning desire to write about the show yourself. I found myself on page after page, and smiled in familiar reminiscence of my own very similar progress.

Along the way the 'pilgrim' encounters just about every facet of the 'Blakes 7' experience. The nervous meeting with one of the stars; the amazing variety and quality of the fiction with is produced by the fans and the oh so familiar dedicated search for a particular zine; the mailing lists; the almost religious fervour of some holders of the 'one true' version of the story; the debate over a movie version - how it should be cast; where it should take the story of the Seven - and the fans, in all their wonderful, endearing, variety.

To say too much about the structure of the novel, about how Loulou has managed to intertwine this lattice of 'Blakes 7' fan realities into one story would be to spoil the lovely originality of it. I know Loulou borrowed the concept from 'If on a winter's night a traveller.' by Italo Calvino but she has adapted it splendidly, made it her own and has wedded two such disparate concepts as a fictional comment upon postmodernist literature and 'Blakes 7' into a charming, thoroughly engaging and completely novel piece of fan fiction. She uses the fragmented, never quite realised incompleteness, of post modernism as a somehow completely appropriate framework within which to examine all the variety of experience that makes being involved with the B7 fan phenomenon such an enriching experience. It is a lovely idea, a fantasy, within a fantasy, within...

And it is so well written, at times quite beautifully so, particularly the fan fiction which the seeker finds along the way:

'Between life and death.' An AU story set during the battle against the Andromedans which has an almost mystical quality about it. It sets Avon and Blake on a journey of discovery on board an Andromedan ship where nothing is quite what it appears. This story has some wonderful Blake/Avon dialogue. And as in all the stories within *the story* the perennially fascinating pivotal 'Blakes 7' questions are posed, in this one Avon is asked to explain, without equivocation, why he stays with Blake.

'Blake beset by adversaries.' Explores Blake the revolutionary of the Freedom Party before his first arrest. It creates in closely observed, and very visual, detail what might have been the milieu of Blake in those days; the meeting places, the followers, their methods; the personalities within the group; the opposing ideologies and the threat, always, of the Federation. It has some lovely observations of Blake gleaned from the man we know back projected onto this younger self. 'Most of them (the cell) believe in him rather than in their own espoused ideas.' so very like the effect he had on the ambivalent crew of the Liberator; his compelling voice; the force of his personality which drew people to him almost in spite of themselves and his tendency to become very enthusiastic, very quickly, about the most dubious, but enticing, ideas. Usually too little is made of Blake's revolutionary ideas. But here they are explored as political polemic, and most interestingly and in a terse, tense, prose which conjures up the smoky cellars and the desperate people who met in them very well. And moreover it is all explored without once losing the sense we have of the Blake we know. He is younger, but very recognisable.

To try and be brief about this novel is just about impossible as there is so much to like, to admire, to enjoy, that I feel like mentioning something on every page, but ... trying to restrain myself ... just one lovely example of the clever way the parts flow on from each other and the interesting, thought-provoking, material to be found everywhere, might suffice. Having half read her first ever 'Blakes 7' fan fiction story 'the pilgrim' loses her zine (it becomes mislaid in the excitement of meeting one of the cast members - the terribly charming one). The action is moved on by her efforts to try and get another copy of the story. Not always easy or straightforward as anyone of us knows. Through this device we encounter zine editors, fans with zines collections of enviable proportions, zines on the web, amongst other things. But it is the way Loulou writes of the fan's thoughts about methods to reacquire the zine that so much sets this novel apart from most, if not all, other B7 fan fiction; not a straight narrative of what she does, oh no ... we are treated to a more peripheral, but equally familiar (well, it was to me), remembered aspect of reading science fiction and fantasy - of the 'eye skimming over certain exotic sounding names, technobabble, or else, bizarre alien names...' with a digression into the more general question of writers who write thus and their expectations of their readers which is then linked back into the B7 story by particularising this in a questioning of the way a certain surname, with a curious spelling, in the lost story might have been pronounced and if her mispronunciation of it might have led to a misunderstanding ... to appreciate the ingenuity of the linkages you will just have to read it.

'In the lattice of memories which interweave.' Perhaps my favourite; a Post Gauda Prime about Avon being used for drug experimentation. It is horrific. It is beautiful, but to say anything more about it would be to spoil its impact. It is written with great skill and power and is haunting.

'In the lattice of realities which intertwine.' How could you not be enticed by a story which begins, 'A moment of weakness has defined me; in one instant destiny crystallised around a tiny seed of indecision and in the path ahead, suddenly, a branch appeared. How to recognise that inexorable circumstance of judgement, upon which one enters the labyrinth of potential realities?' ... I can't! This is an AU story about Avon and Servalan and what might have happened had they met under different circumstances and more... Avon is, oh so, charming and delightfully suave for those of us who appreciate such things.

'Dreams of a legend.' A story of what might have happened to Blake after Star One set into the story of a man, very like Blake, who is fighting, fiercely, the challenging of those who believe he is Blake of his sense of identity. Is he Blake or isn't he? Read on ... but Loulou will not make it easy for you; she assumes you can think and demands that you do, muchly! As is the case in all the stories there is a wealth of detail to enjoy, for example, a lovely description of Cally as this man sees her; this man who sees the physicality but also knows, somehow, her inner qualities, which suggests rather more about the man than about Cally. It is very cleverly done.

'On a lonely world isolated by indifference.' Yet another lovely title ... and at journey's end, or perhaps at its beginning, 'the pilgrim' just cannot resist; she has to write and what else but her version of Avon, using a lovely device, Avon's diary, which he begins writing as he waits for his execution; an execution endlessly delayed due to political infighting in the Federation, one of the myriad deft touches of B7 detail that make this novel such a pleasure to read.

Here Loulou, alias 'the pilgrim', presents us with a very interesting idea -that some of Avon's education was at a military school. Again, as with Blake, the keen and thoughtful observation of character traits is apparent and again back projected most intriguingly. Avon does, quite inexplicably for a computer whiz, know how to handle himself in a fight from the very first. He does have a very upright bearing; a certain way of strutting about, hands clasped behind his back and that clipped way of talking which do suggest military. Read and enjoy thoughtful speculation upon the few clues the enigmatic Avon every so often lets slip about his former self.

'Between life and death' may not be what you are expecting of a 'Blakes 7' novel but that perhaps is why I like it so much. Its very novelty is a large part of its charm and interest. The other part, for me anyway is the recreation of the very pleasant journey from like to love that I have made into B7 fandom. Some may find the unfinished nature of the stories within *the* story somewhat frustrating. I did, because I *want* to read the rest, but thinking about it I realised that this is entirely appropriate in the context of this story. For it suggests, better than anything, the nature of fan fiction being indirectly commented upon. It reflects perfectly our attempts to resolve, each in our own way, the unfinished, unresolved, nature which is one of the great attractions of the series. So when we are not told what Avon's reply to the 'why do you stay' question we can answer it in the way we feel Avon would.

'Stairway to Heaven.' By Christine Lacey This is a story all Vila fans will enjoy. Set at the beginning of the fourth season it suggests a somewhat different conclusion to the one we saw to 'Rescue'. To say anything much about it will spoil the story but the spare style complements the storytelling well and everyone is very much in character.

'The Cost of Living.' by Anthony Murray: This is another story about Vila; a sad little story exploring Vila's loneliness on the 'Liberator' after Gan's death and Blake's disappearance. Simply, but poignantly, told it speculates about the lengths Vila might have gone to ease his loneliness and the consequences of trying to make wishes come true. It's mystic; its scary and eminently readable.

'A Berth on the London '.' By Judith Proctor As the title suggests this is a story set right at the beginning and it is told from Gan's point of view. It is a story which derives from Judith's interest in, and sympathy for, this largely overlooked member of the Seven. In it she has woven the very few things we do know about the gentle giant into a fully fleshed out portrait. She gives us a rounded character with a believable and sympathetic history filled in with lots of very believable detail of what Gan's life might have been like before he fell foul of Federation 'justice'. If you have never thought much about Gan before you will think of him far more kindly after reading this story and let him take his proper place among the others.

But it is more than just Gan's story. It is also Jenna's. It examines what it might have been like for a lone woman finding herself in the circumstances Jenna does and her reactions to it. And then Judith meshes the two stories one into the other in a most moving and likable way and in the process creates a picture of the day to day horror of life for the poor unfortunates on such a prison ship. Its *very* good.

'Moment of Truth.' by Reba Bandyopadhyay: A nice title and very appropriate to a story which takes what we saw of the closest Avon ever came to actually carrying out his threat to leave them and expands upon it ... with Reba's suggestions of what might have been going on behind the enigmatic facade. Interestingly it vocalises what, for me anyway, is one of Avon's most endearing qualities; the endless internal battle that has to be going on against his better self. Reba does this by having Avon's mind suggest the 'truth' of most of his self-serving assertions, his justifications for leaving, and in the process makes very good sense of Avon's inexplicable (if you believe in the dark Avon persona) dithering about, for ages. She creates a lovely game play as his mind lobs the ball back and forth ... pragmatism replies to sentiment; sentiment to expediency and sentiment returns gently to an almost unplayable position and into this internal dialogue Reba cleverly introduces her reasons for Avon's staying. To discover what this is you must read the story and share with Avon the moment when he finally faces the truth about his attachment to Blake.

But it is not all serious, not all stories; for variety there is poetry 'O Captain, My Captain.' by Melissa Leigh. Based upon a poem by Walt Whitman this explores what Avon might have been thinking as he stands above Blake's body in the tracking gallery.

And if like me, you occasionally, just occasionally, yearn for a little relief from all the tension, the angst, the fraught atmosphere which 'Blakes 7' reading does tend to create within your mind, there are a few lighter tales of merriment aboard the 'Liberator': the celebration of Avon's fortieth birthday in 'The Birthday Fantasies.' By Madeleine Wood which explores the profoundly interesting question of what would you give Avon to celebrate this landmark occasion? and there is a quite mad Christmas in 'The Festive Tale' also by Anthony Murray, complete with Servalan, a mysterious visitor, Zen in a festive mood, Avon being Avon and Blake being Blake, with some completely unforeseen consequences. And so spirits lightened you can tackle the gloom and despair again, just a trifle more easily.

'Pathways.' by Sarah Berry: This is a story about trust and its obligations. Set in the fourth season it tells a simple story of a cargo pickup and delivery by the Scorpio crew which goes, inevitably, wrong. But the simplicity of the telling and the spare style (such a contrast to her other story which I will come to in a moment) are deceptive. Through the spare details of the action Sarah has conveyed so much about the whole atmosphere and dynamic of the fourth season. The crew and their so very recognisable interaction is quite wonderfully caught as is Avon's ambivalent leadership.

As is so often the case with fourth season stories Avon has a hidden agenda of his own which he pursues in the second half of the story. He goes to Jevron to check Servalan's story about Blake's death. What he finds is *very* well told, the narrative interwoven with much unobtrusive comment about Avon and his labyrinthine motivations. If for nothing else it should be read just to enjoy Avon dealing with an officious librarian ... a few well-chosen words beautifully suggest Avon at his most charming and devious best.

and finally, 'Moonwind.' by Sarah Berry: This is a Post Gauda Prime and that is all I will say about the actual story, for you *must* read it -for the stunning visual images the lyrical words create; for the stark amoral cruelty of the Federation described in words which tear at your emotions; for the sheer poetic horror it conveys and its achingly sad exploration of hope and despair. It is *wonderfully* written.

Which in a way brings me back full circle, ... back to the fascination of the 'Blakes 7' phenomenon. For here is another aspect of it; one of the most interesting, I think. The quality of the writing in the fan fiction. I am not terribly widely read in other fan fictions but I have read a lot of 'Star Trek' continuations, prequels and etc, both amateur and professional, and I think the best of 'Blake's 7' is far beyond it. When it's good, it's wonderful! It makes you stop and wonder why this low budget, unregarded then and largely forgotten now, BBC series so engages the hearts and minds of these wonderful writers. It is almost as interesting an enigma as Avon...almost!

And so too these reviews bring me back to the initial discussion - the merits, or otherwise, of electronic zines. If this first experiment with a 'Blakes 7' E-zine is anything to go by then the fears about quality and content are baseless. This is a zine I would not have been disappointed with had I bought it, would in fact have thought my money well spent! But I did not have to spend any money, or wait, impatiently, for the parcel to arrive.

If the standard set by 'The Aquitar Files' is adhered to by other such ventures than I see no reason why such collections of fan fiction available electronically cannot become just one more thoroughly enjoyable aspect of B7 fandom. [7]

References

  1. ^ Lysator, Reba, April 1998
  2. ^ Lysator, December 1995.
  3. ^ reviewed by Hafren at Crack Van, January 7, 2004
  4. ^ reviewed by Executrix at Crack Van, March 3, 2004
  5. ^ reviewed by Executrix at Crack Van, February 24, 2004
  6. ^ reviewed by Executrix at Crack Van, February 2, 2004
  7. ^ Reviews A Review of The Aquitar Files by Pat Fenech, March 1997, Archived version