The Long Way Back
|Title:||The Long Way Back|
|Publisher:||Kathy Resch, Judith Proctor|
|Cover Artist(s):||Caren Parnes|
|External Links:||Online at AO3|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
It was "Edited by 'Bossy.' Computer Typesetting and Cover Art by 'Bossy.' Additional line editing by [Kathy] Resch."
It was originally published in 1989 and contained no interior illustrations. It was republished by Judith Proctor in November 1997, this time with inside art is by Whitby27.
It is a sequel to, The Last Best Hope.
Blake's government has fallen afoul of the conservative elements left over from Federation days. When made to choose choose between the welfare of his crew and his government, Blake chose his crew and consequently has had to escape from Earth into exile, all his achievements shattered. During their flight from Earth, Blake and Avon have discovered hints that their association may have been of a far longer duration than they had thought and Avon decides to follow up these hints by exploring his past. This takes them to a forsaken planet called Gondoran where once there was a Federation project called Standard Increase, and where once a small boy called Avon was being groomed, amongst others, to become the human equivalent and model for a computer which would have the capability of working as a human brain does. Now, they must wage a desperate fight against a religious fanatic conducting a holy war. Past and present combine, a battle as old as humanity commences. What could possibly be the outcome, and could love between two hard and dangerous men make any difference? 
Other stories in this universe:
- Remember the Dream by Melody C. in Fire and Ice 1
- A Distant Land by Etticles in Fire and Ice 1
- Memories by Gene S. Delapenia in Fire and Ice 4
Reactions and Reviews
'The Last Best Hope' and 'The Long Way Back' ... are undoubtedly the most complex stories of the 'there was a plot to get Blake and co on the London' type that I have ever read. The Last Best Hope is gen, The Long Way Back is the sequel and is slash. I brought out new editions of both of them recently. I'm not surprised you remember the covers. Caren Parnes art is beautiful. One of my two favourite Blake portraits of all time is on the cover of The Long Way Back (the others Jean Kludge's cover for the Machiavelli Factor). 
There are two fan novels...The Long Way Back...and I can't think of the other title...that do involve a conspiracy of sorts to get Blake and Avon and the others together. They're well-written and go into a lot of depth about Federation society. I don't actually buy into most of the author's vision (I especially dislike her Blake 8-), but the zines are really interesting. What IS the title of the other one? It's the sequel...I can picture the cover... 
Twenty years on... hardly seems likely, or possible, but here we are nonetheless all those years later about to celebrate the Twentieth Anniversary of the original screening of 'Blakes 7' and as we are it does tend to urge the mind to consider just what it is about the series that is so enduringly appealing. Well, I find my mind attempting such - but with very little success. Asked just what it is about this television programme that sets it apart from so many others I have liked, which endears it to me as no other, I find no nice neat summary presents itself in reply. Pressed, my brain shrugs and mutters 'who knows?'
Not prepared to put up with this I insist the brain make a bit more of an effort! Think about it, I urge. So think I have - of the low budget, which shows, of the superficially not terribly remarkable storyline of rebellion against repressive government, conducted by a dysfunctional group of clashing personalities; hardly the stuff from which twenty years of dreaming would follow, and yet... it has. But though I have loved it for those twenty years, even now I cannot explain why in any systematic way. All I can say is that there is just something about it, some serendipitous combination of elements, which created some sort of magic, elements which I cannot define no matter how much I think about it, but which must be there.
What has all this to do with 'The long way back'? Well, it occurs that perhaps it may have been musings along lines such as this which produced the basic concept upon which the whole story - of which 'The long way back' is the second part - is constructed. For it seems to me anyway that in a way the story is based upon a recognition of the fortuitousness of the gathering of just exactly the right elements which when put together would perfectly gel to transform what might have been wholly unremarkable into a phenomenon of enduring worth.
To explain just why such a thought occurs would be to spoil the story, but if you find it intriguing then read the stories - smile - for they are worth the reading and perhaps after you have read both - and if you have denied yourself the pleasure of reading 'The last best hope', forbear denial at once and read it, as you must to fully appreciate its equally exceptional continuation - then perhaps you too may find your mind wondering as mine has about the chances of just the right elements being collected together, at just the right moment, with just the right people, seeming to be altogether too much of a coincidence to be one. As perhaps Melody's did... and wondering she conceived within the realms of her prodigious imagination an explanation which became these two halves of a wholly wonderful story.
I am always somewhat reluctant to write reviews I have to confess. I doubt my tastes in 'Blakes 7' stories are in any way typical. So for the most part I feel somewhat reticent to inflict them upon you all. But I so much admire Melody C.'s writing that for no other reason really than to acknowledge this, and to share my enthusiasm for a story which I have come to love, I have written what is perhaps not so much a review as my appreciation of 'The long way back.'
'The long way back' takes up the story almost immediately after the conclusion of 'The last best hope'. Basically the first story postulates that years after Gauda Prime - which they all managed to survive and put behind them to defeat the Federation - Blake's government, or more specifically Blake's ethos and style of government has fallen foul of the conservative elements left over from Federation days. Blake has had to choose between the welfare of his crew and his government, has chosen his crew and consequently has had to escape from Earth into purposeless exile, all his achievements shattered. During the unfolding of the events which have led to their flight from Earth Blake and Avon have discovered hints that their association may have been of a far longer duration than they had thought and more to provide some sense of purpose than anything else Avon decides to follow up these hints by exploring his past. This takes them to a forsaken planet called Gondoran where once there was a Federation project called Standard Increase, and where once a small boy called Avon was being groomed, amongst others, to become the human equivalent and model for a computer which would have the capability of working as a human brain does. This is the point from which Melody takes up the story and begins to weave a continuation from various seemingly divergent, but ultimately closely linked elements - some taken from the past - the past Blake and Avon had shared but lost - some from the present - the desperate fight they must wage against a religious fanatic conducting a holy war. Eventually the elements begin to converge, past and present combine to create a backdrop against which the climax of the story is played out - a battle, symbolic, magical, but also frighteningly real, which takes place within the characters, between the characters, and ultimately, finally concludes within the eye of infinity; a battle as old as humanity, and as new as squadrons of DSVs pitted against Blake's seven.
It is a wonderful story which I cannot say anything much about without spoiling it. So instead I will enthuse about the elements employed to create it... elements such as writing which is *special*.
Everywhere the writing entrances me with its spell binding imaginativeness and the skill with which the imagination is translated into word, words which are used to challenge the intellect to think... of such things as the concept of self About how the sense of self might deal with the loss of definition through something like mind-wiping. 'What time deprived the intellect of,' Melody suggests memorably, 'the soul kept track of...' 'the details of memory were preserved in a solution of feelings.' While at the same time suggesting a possible solution to one of the talking points about the series - here a plausible, and beautiful, reason why Blake so readily took to rebellion again, despite what had been done to his mind.
They are also used to encourage the imagination to conjure; to conceive of what it might be like to imagine a 'technicolour nightmare by Salvador Dali' and make it a reality; to create a planetscape - Gondoran, a planet burnt beneath a Titan sun. One of the natural elements produced is described thus, "the white foliage of Gondoran ... called Virgin Flora, but it was not the colour of innocence. It was the whiteness of the forsaken of that left by life.' An evocative description, but, it seems to me to be more than that, for with the physical representation Melody is creating an analogy for the events which have occurred on the planet and for those which will occur.
Words which examine and encourage the reader to consider some of the questions of existence common to any time or state; dilemmas such as the worst of results produced by the best of intentions; or idealism untempered by consideration for the individual effect of measures taken for the greater good producing tyranny far more harmful than any it seeks to combat. Also examined are questions such as the nature of love and the dichotomy all human beings are with their variable mixtures of good and bad; and offer many an insightful comment upon society:
Leusip: 'You have chosen to care for others. That doesn't seem so very hard(tough).'
Dayna: 'Soft people do not necessarily care for each other. They are just infinitely polite to each other. They nod in passing ... They ask each other, 'How are you?' when no-one really cares.'
Or, 'Vision can be a sort of blindness... I was young and the young are enamored of panacea.' But for all their broad applicability they are not presented as meaningless generalities but explanations, comments, motivations which are completely relevant to this story and insightful within the context of 'Blakes 7'.
And everywhere words used skillfully to construct a multi-layered story, to suggest meanings within meanings, symbolic and suggestive of one of the main themes of the story - paradox. Everywhere elements reflect other elements - the special capabilities of Avon and Blake mirroring the two computer systems which are a central element of the plot. Another example is Gondoran which is described as having a dark side and a light side. The light side being where Standard Increase was established, where the man that Avon was to become, with all his darkness of spirit, was largely created. The dark side, ruined by humanity made environmental disaster became the realm of an illusion maker and will be where Tarrant is confronted with the dark side of his nature and yet it will also become the place from which the battalions of light will form up to do battle with those of the dark unleashed from the light side. It is intricate, it is clever, it is fascinating and wholly engrossing and enjoyable to read.
And all of this is woven unobtrusively in and about a story which is constructed from a myriad of interesting and diverse elements, so myriad and diverse I can only marvel at the intelligence, the breadth of the imagination and the skill of the pen which combined to set them down in believable detail and slotted them seamlessly into the usually fairly restrictive framework of a story based within the familiar parameters of 'Blakes 7'. Elements as diverse as how evil might recruit its generals and battalions; what the experience might have been like for those who attempted covert dissension within Federation society; what effect certain types of directed education might have upon a developing spirit; the final examination for an apprentice master magician; and the fascinatingly realised examination of the concept of the power of minds in rapport and what might be achieved by such powerful harmony.
And lest you imagine that all of this may detract or distract or neglect 'Blakes 7' be assured it does not. All of it is imagined from within the context we are so familiar with and is essentially an examination of the most complex and interesting of all the aspects of the series, well for me, the relationship between Blake and Avon. It builds upon what we know from the series, to create their pasts, a past they shared then lost. The reason it is lost being the lynchpin of the entire story both past and present.
Not only is the detail of the series used with memorable imaginativeness but Melody also recreates most of the characters in loving detail within scenes which skillfully interplay thought and word and deed to provide fresh insights which add much, well so I thought, and paint wonderfully detailed and true-to-themselves portraits of them all in all their moods and manners.
If you were ambivalent about Tarrant before reading this story, you may find that you have more sympathy for him when you have read the way Melody has constructed some moments in his past and present. If you have ever wondered about Soolin's past, you will find it here imagined in a most thought provoking way as she smiles her 'corrosive smile'; if you ever wondered where Vila learnt his magic tricks and what they might suggest about the sharp mind he likes to hide behind the 'fool that I am' facade then read on ... and if you find the relationship between Blake and Avon fascinating then you will find insights to it, suggested by such moments as:
Blake: 'You will follow me down?' He thought Avon wasn't going to reply, but then just as Blake crossed the threshold a soft sentence followed after him. 'Oh, Blake, don't I always,' it said, as the door slipped closed between them.' Or all that is suggested by a remark of Dayna's about them, 'They are well when they are together.' And find their every gesture and their essence recaptured in descriptions such as,
'He sensed the boy's presence... It was a warm transfusion in the cold, spare room.'
'Feeling the weight of Roj's steady gaze, the moist brown eyes that gave report on every emotion passing through his heart Leusip could not bear to look upon them, but he could feel their conviction given from Blake's heart, just as the other boy... could convey with one stolid glance the indictment of his mind.'
Or Avon's annoyance at the sound of Blake's voice, 'charged as usual with reasonless urgency,' and Blake's inward description of Avon smiling, 'A smile of pain, and Avon smile.'
Everywhere the writing is captivating, powerful, memorable, creating moments of unforgettable vividness which engulf you in their intensity, such as Avon's thoughts as he faces death; or the moment when a gesture of Blake's suggests quite unequivocally to Avon that Blake loves him, not as just another of the amorphous generality of the universe, but specifically and passionately, or a parting so sad I will never forget it.
To suggest just how strikingly interesting and varied and intelligent the writing to be found in 'The long way back' is you have but to begin it. The first few pages contain an exploration of a profound paradox; the description of the beginnings of disillusionment in a disciple for his teacher; a charming portrait of Blake; an examination of the way evil entices malleable servants; the dilemma of good intentions confronted with the unexpected results of a single-minded pursuit of ideals and the beginnings of the exploration of Melody's conception of what made Avon the way he was - in eight pages of beautiful writing which flows through the establishing of themes so effortlessly, it perhaps suggests without intending to do so, just how effortlessly these elements will integrate as the story unfolds and also suggests forcibly just how good a story this is and how well it is written.
The story as it unfolds is an adventure on an epic scale. The battle of good against evil conducted upon a canvas of marvelous invention- from a Mars orbiting satellite, to an ancient control room among almost sentient machinery, in the minds of Blake and Avon and then through their minds as they, representing intuition and logic, attempt to join their minds to achieve an impossibility. It is conducted in caves with purple rivers, in space against squadrons of Liberators and in the hearts of them all. And woven through it all is a love story of great power and poignancy.
As I said originally this is not so much a review as just my appreciation of this story. I know that there will be those who like 'Blakes 7' fanfiction who will not like this story - for many reasons. But, for myself I think 'The last best hope' and 'The long way back' together are the best 'Blakes 7' story I have ever read. Firmly and lovingly based upon the original they tell the same story in a completely new way, tell the story as it might have been, as I would like to imagine it was. And they tell this story that I like so very much in a way which stimulates my mind and completely engages my emotions, in writing I admire for its intelligence, its creativity and its beauty.
But also now in this year of thinking about why I love 'Blakes 7' they also perhaps suggest an insight into that mystery, at least for me. For they suggest most appealingly that for all the seeming randomness of events, the seeming uncaring face the universe generally presents, that perhaps there might be some force keeping a general eye upon things and sometimes intervening to set things that are completely wrong at least back on the right track, or if you like, that there is a place for hope despite everything. And perhaps that is what I like about 'Blakes 7'? Despite the end, despite all, the mere idea of these people fighting the seemingly hopeless fight is ultimately hopeful. Though this is not a view I expect many fans to share -smile - just as I suspect that some, perhaps many, will not feel as I do about 'The long way back'. But for what it's worth I love it, love them both. It is a wonderful story, wonderfully written, one that I am glad to have had the opportunity to read. At one point in the story Vila recalls an admonition from his childhood which said, 'May your courage be as vast as your imagination.' Having now read these two stories I cannot help but think that Melody's courage, and skill, was more than a match for her imagination - smile -
Visually the zine is pleasingly presented, as Judith Proctor's always are. It is nicely laid out and the type-face is clear and large enough for me to read without difficulty, always a decided plus. It has a beautiful cover, a thoroughly charming portrait of Blake and Avon set into a skillful composite of the main elements of the story.
The interior art by Whitby27 everywhere provides visual enhancement to key moments in the story. I particularly liked the one which accompanies one of the scenes which recalls Blake and Avon's shared past, a moment of extreme poignancy which Val has caught very well in the look on Avon's face. The final illustration also charms me very much because I was thoroughly charmed by the conclusion of the story which it represents, but about which I am not going to say one more word in case you feel inclined to read it for yourself.It is available from Judith and is worth every credit. Its a lovely zine. They both are and as a reasonably new to zine buying fan I can only thank Judith for her commendable efforts to reprint some of the classic 'Blakes 7' stories which otherwise might have been lost forever to the realms of myth and to my eyes -smile-. 
verdict: some moments of intense likability, but i'm pretty sure i 90% hate it. [i really like 'the last, best hope'], but the sequel is basically everything i disliked about LBH (magical destinies, previous relationship used as basis for current relationship, soolin swearing, blake crying) but more so, plus more stuff i hate. there are long passages where the plot is explained, which i just glazed over for. in the end i did understand what their magical destinies are, but damned if i know what the business with the rose was about, or why avon should be so afraid of paradoxes. or what was going on with vila's magical powers. in the first book avon saw how those illusions were done, right? and that was how we knew he was special. but now it really was magic. or was it? i don't know. i was glazed over.
in addition to all of this, tarrant gets kidnapped by someone who he used to know at school, who happens to be the son of one of the guys trying to arrange blake and avon's destinies/the guy who took over. the son is also the main antagonist suddenly, and he has decided to attack the government formerly known as blake's government, which is now being run by the evil bloke's dad (i didn't mention this earlier, but blake has to leave being president at the end of the first one to go with avon, who's been banished for being too crazy. for some reason, the refederation all hate blake now... just for saying he didn't think his friend should be committed? that seems a bit extreme, but whatever).
apparently the evil guy loves tarrant, though tarrant does not love him. or does he? he gets sort of a bit raped and seems to like it a bit, but still resists because he thinks homosexuality is wrong. then, and i don't quite know how (sorry - must have glazed over) his kidnapper manages to patch into a recording(?) of young blake and avon having sex. which is supposed to make tarrant hate them? or see that homosexuality is ok. i don't even know. [snip]
we don't really get to see young blake and avon falling in love, they just are in love, and seem to really like sex with each other. and to make matters worse, it is slightly implied that they fall for each other because there is literally nobody else around of a similar age. i find the 'avon should have gone off with servalan, but chooses blake' version of events from the telly show... much more compelling :(
anyway - i went off topic a bit there. we were talking about magical destinies: blake and avon have been highly trained to do some sort of telepathy thing that will unite the computer of the system with the computer of the federation (one's logical, one's full of feeling - i think we see what the author's done here). but... blake being full of feeling... is... it's not what is really great about blake. and it's not the thing blake's best at. blake is best at being the president. or if not the president, basically something where he gets to force other people to do what he wants for the good of everyone. i'm sort of more ok with avon's identical destiny because what avon is best at is making computers work, so - this seems fine. but blake should be leading the battle charge or converting stubborn back benchers or forcing through new legislation for the good of everyone (not so he can marry his one true love).
also - and this is a related point: blake should care about the good of everyone. after he gets booted out of the presidency, he stops caring about what happens to everyone else in the universe. [snip]
anyway, then blake becomes the president again (even though he's proved that he no longer deserves it) and he and avon get married.
which is actually really adorable and has some good dialogue (hurrah) in which blake suggests they tell each other all the people they slept with/loved (apparently blake slept with jenna and avon slept with cally, though, which is just... what? no.) and avon includes orac in his list. i like it very much, thank goodness for that. but alas it cannot redeem everything else i dislike about where we've gone with these characters.[More info and many photographs in the original review as posted] 
There are an awful lot of 'going down to a planet and someone gets injured/captured/tortured and has to wait to be rescued while Liberator gets pursued by Fed ships' scenarios.
As for sex scenes of either variety, most of them are just deeply, deeply bad. Embarrassingly bad. And frankly gratuitous. And out of character too.
I can think of maybe two or three slash stories that are both well written as well as potentially feasible in the way they are put together, character and plot wise.One is 'The Long Way Back', by [Melody C](sequel to The Last Best Hope, which is slash free). I found it by accident, having enjoyed the first story very much. 
Pirated in the Late 1990sIn 1998, the editor alerted fans to the American piracy of this zine:
I've just been sent a American copy of one of my zines. It's an unauthorised copy. Not only is it unauthorised, but the copy quality is poor. The cover looks good, until you see the original - then it is painfully obvious that it's a copy.
This copy looks like one of Linda's at a quick glance as it uses a black plastic spiral binding. However, it is not one of hers. It's easy to tell the difference as the paper size is wrong.
A4 paper is slightly narrower than US paper and a little taller - this makes the margins look odd when copying from one to the other.
The difference in paper sizes has also resulted in the artist's signature being lost from most of the internal art.
If anyone sees a copy of any of my zines printed in the standard US zine size (except Cheeseboard and Coin which I reproduce with permission from American originals and is still available from Jean Airey in the US) then please tell me. If they are reproduced in an American paper size then it is done without my permission or the permission of the writers and artists.
Linda Knights has permission to reproduce some of my zines, but on A4 paper and with first generation A4 covers which I mail her from the UK in order to maintain the quality of the colour reproduction.I don't yet know whether this zine is a one off or part of a larger print run, but I hope to find out before long. I invest a lot of time and effort into producing a good quality zine and quite frankly, there is nothing more likely to put me off producing future zines than somebody else taking that hard work and copying it without permission. 
Get your ruler out:Linda and I now have a fair idea of who is copying my zines, but we won't say who just yet. We'd prefer to have absolute proof.
Nobody at all has permission to print my zines in quarto (I think Americans call it legal or letter size) paper. If a zine isn't printed on A4 paper, then it is a pirate copy. The genuine copies are about half an inch taller than a standard US zine.
Linda has a printer who owns an A4 copying machine. The pirate does not. The pirate is using a black spiral binding which is identical to the style Linda uses. (and we rather suspect the pirate is copying other zines that Linda sells as well as mine - it just happens that it's easier to spot illegal copies of mine because of the difference in paper sizes)
Beware of 'second-hand' copies of my zines at conventions. We rather think this person is running off copies and claiming that they are second-hand when she sells them.
Pirate copies are of lower quality as the pirate does not have access to the original masters. This really pisses me off, quite apart from the piracy angle, as I put a lot of work into making the best quality zines that I can manage. That beautiful cover on The Long Way Back deserves better than the grainy copy that I see before me.
Zines like Forbidden Star Two have up to 20 contributors. That's a lot of free copies compared to the size of the print run and it's a big overhead on the costs. Anyone running off pirate copies does not have to pay for those 'trib copies. (Neither has she had to put in many months hard work communicating with writers and artists in order to put the zine together.) If I don't sell enough zines to cover the cost of those 'trib copies, then I lose money. It's as simple as that.
If you see any of those non-A4 zines at a convention, please complain to the people running the convention and request that the zines be destroyed.If you see any of my zines advertised mail order by anyone except myself, Linda Knights or Jim Rondeau (or Pat Fenech in Australia), then be very very suspicious. Be suspicious even if they are being sold 'second-hand'. (I know people sell second-hand zines via this list on occasion, so I'll say immediately that the person Linda and I suspect is not anyone I've seen posting on this list.) 
The editor adds more to the purchasing challenge:To make that a bit more clear for those on the US side of the pond: "quarto" = letter size = 8.5" x 11" = 216mm x 279 mm, A4 = 8.27" x 11.69" = 210mm x 297 mm, Judith's zines should properly *only* appear in the second size. Judith, legal size is 8.5" x 14", different from letter.) 
Sorry, I missed one obvious point. (The fact that the pirate zines can easily be mistaken for Linda Knight's editions made me briefly forget Jo ann) Jo ann McCoy of Maverick press agents for me directly. She does not print my zines in the US, but forwards orders to me. Any zine bought from her will be an A4 zine. I trust her totally. 
- aralias reviewed this zine in 2013 on Dreamwidth;reference link.
- from Agent With Style
- Lysator, Judith P, January 1998
- Lysator, Sue C., April 198
- from Pat Fenech at Judith Proctor's Blake's 7 site; also posted in October 1998 to Lysator
- aralias reviewed this zine in 2013 on Dreamwidth; reference link.
- a June 2008 comment at Avon: The Paul Darrow Society
- Lysator, Judith P., April 1998
- Lysator, Judith P., April 1998
- Lysator, Lisa, April 1998
- Lysator, Judith P., April 1998