The Machiavelli Factor

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Title: The Machiavelli Factor
Publisher: Green Dragon Press (UK), Waveney and Judith Proctor
Author(s): Lillian Shepherd
Cover Artist(s): Jean Kluge
Illustrator(s): Jean Sheward
Date(s): 1982, 1996
Medium: print
Genre: gen
Fandom: Blake’s 7
Language: English
External Links: The Machiavelli Factor at
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The Machiavelli Factor is a gen Blake's 7 170-page novel written by Lillian Shepherd. It was originally published by Shepherd's own press, Green Dragon Press in 1982, and then re-published and edited by Judith Proctor in 1996.

There was an unauthorized U.S. reprint in the early 1990s.

In 1998 Proctor wrote that "The Machiavelli Factor is one of the most popular zines that I've ever published. That's a real tribute to both Lillian's writing and to Jean's beautiful cover art." [1]

The listing on Proctor's site claims:

This zine is likely to appeal to two main groups of people. It has a far greater SF content than the majority of fan fiction. It makes significant use of well developed aliens and the artefacts left behind by the Builders. The second group is Avon-Blake fans. This is not a slash zine, but it does feature a strong emotional relationship between Avon and Blake. They argue most of the time, but recognise the forces that pull them together.[2]


The Machiavelli Factor is a broad sweeping novel that takes Avon and his third season crew from Terminal to another galaxy. Here, they rapidly get embroiled in local politics as numerous power groups vie for control. Avon's knowledge of Liberator technology makes him a wanted man, and some groups would rather see him dead than controlled by the others. There's Scitech who control most of the technology left behind by an alien master race known as the Builders; the Guild who control transport between stars; the Fraternity, a criminal organisation; the Indies or Independents, and the mysterious ylln.

But that isn't all. There's the wi'h, an alien race genetically engineered by the Builders. Literally incapable of fighting or disobeying an order, they are used as slaves by most human beings in the Cloud. What does such a race do to try and gain its freedom? Using Builder technology, they bring Roj Blake to the Cloud. Can Blake achieve the impossible? Can he achieve it while trying to protect Avon?

This zine is likely to appeal to two main groups of people. It has a far greater SF content than the majority of fan fiction. It makes significant use of well developed aliens and the artefacts left behind by the Builders. The second group is Avon-Blake fans. This is not a slash zine, but it does feature a strong emotional relationship between Avon and Blake. They argue most of the time, but recognise the forces that pull them together.

Cally and Vila both come out well. Cally is portrayed as a strong character who makes good use of her telepathy. Vila reveals hidden talents. The only readers who are likely to be unhappy are Tarrant fans - he comes out as being rather self-centered.

The Machiavelli Factor was originally written in 1982. It was reprinted a few years ago in the US without the author's permission, but this edition has been produced with Lillian's agreement and the text has been revised by her. It's copied from a laser printed original, has a lovely colour cover of Blake and is probably the best looking zine I've produced yet. The first print run is glue bound with a taped spine. Later print runs may or may not have the same binding. Word count 147,500.[3]


  • The first two chapters are here.
  • The entire fic is available on here


The Machiavelli Factor was originally written and published in 1982. The author commented:

a 1996 flyer
This fanzine is over six months late, and it is mainly my fault... my lack of enthusiasm for the production of this fanzine stems mainly from the so-called fourth series of 'Blake's Seven'. Holding the 'real 'Blake's Seven' characters in my head became almost impossible when faced with this travesty of what had been the best space opera to hit our screens in over twenty-five years.... it is very unlikely that I will write any more 'Blake's Seven' fan fiction.'[4]

The zine was xeroxed and re-distributed "in the US" at some point between 1982 and 1996 without the author's permission.[5]

In 1996 Judith Proctor published a new edition with Shepherd's permission and revisions by the author and publisher. This edition was re-printed at least once more in 1998.[6]

Shepherd's author's note to the second edition discusses the revision process:

Coming back to revise this story was a strange experience. The carefully accurate references to the series kept reminding me how well I had once known and loved these characters, this scenario. It made me very reluctant to change anything that impinged on character or series background. Indeed, I doubt that many people will notice much difference between this and the first edition, though a word by word comparison would reveal some extensive stylistic re-working. At only one point has the current availability of videos of the first season (an impossible dream when I wrote Machiavelli Factor) made a textual change necessary.[7]

The editor's note by Proctor highlights some of the challenges in re-printing a zine from the early 1980s in the 1990s:

Being me, whenever I fall in love with a zine, I get the urge to reprint it, so my next thanks are due to Pat Nussman and Pat Elrod who helped me trace Lillian Sheperd to obtain her permission to produce a new edition.

Tim Lomas deserves thanks for his efforts in slaving over a hot scanner getting the text into electronic form. Vega then did an incredible job in removing the numerous OCR errors that are inevitable when scanning a fairly faint original.

Lillian then edited the text and made a few revisions.

I've done the final editing and the layout...

Thanks are due to Jean Sheward who redrew her illustrations as the original drawings were not available.

The cover picture is by Jean Kluge. I originally saw 'Lightbringer' hanging on Ruth Saunders' wall and surprise, surprise, couldn't persuade her to part with it. I wrote to Jean, who sold me a copy and gave me permission to use it as a zine cover.[8]


The cover of the 1996 re-print was not created for the zine. It was originally called 'Lightbringer'. Proctor seems to have been given blanket permission by the artist to use it for any zine, before deciding on this one, saying "I don't think it could have been more appropriate to any zine than to this one."[9]

One reviewer writes: "When I first laid eyes on the 1996 edition of the classic Blake's 7 story The Machiavelli Factor, I said 'Wow. Oh, wow. The cover. Wow.'.. The original looks to have been done in watercolour and pastel, and is just stunning.." [10]

In 1998 Proctor commented: "I've seen zines sell at conventions soley on the strength of the cover, but I've also had people coming back and buying copies for their friends because they enjoyed the story so much." [11]

Sample Interior Gallery: 1996 Edition

Reactions and Reviews

Unknown Date

This full-length novel whisks the 3rd season crew off to a completely different universe, straight into the middle of a completely different though equally dangerous political set-up. It's a great SF novel by any criteria, with an exciting and well-structured plot, an interesting background society and thoroughly convincing aliens - and it also charts some terrific, feisty, angst-and-humour-driven developments in the relationship between Avon and Blake.[12]


"The original viewers of Blake's 7, unaware of the nihilistic delights awaiting them at the end of the series, and the unlimited opportunities for creating their own fifth season universe, weren't always thrilled by the fourth series as it developed. Some gave up on the show, erased their tapes after 'Terminal', and went on to more cheerful pursuits such as as attending funerals and writing irate letters to the BBC. Some, however, made of sterner stuff , didn't wait for the the sublime disaster of 'Blake' or the idiotic mess of 'Afterlife' and began writing their own post-series stories based on 'Terminal'. This is a lot like fifth-season fiction as most of us know it: the crew is reunited alive, they get a new ship, and everyone fights through their immovable and irresistiable personality conflicts; and they jaunter off again to explore the universe. Sounds like fun. Absolutely right......

The crew find, lose, and refind each other in a series of interrelated adventures and finally emerge as a reformed--er, reunited--group, having fought each other as well as outsiders (and they are not the only inhabitants of the Federation galaxy to have kidnapped into new lives) until their community of seven became both obvious and necessary. Larger events conclude with appropriate fireworks as well, for the Wi'h and other factions of the new galaxy find that Blake's and Avon's team have carried out a revolution. And even at the end, that's not all.[13]


Has anyone ever read Machiavelll Factor? I'm reading a borrowed copy now and enjoying it, but mainly because of some great stuff between Blake and Avon, but it's obvious the author didn't have a lot of use for Tarrant and that bias hurts the story in a way. Blake can be excused being angry with Tarrant as he sincerely believes Tarrant knowingly left Avon for dead, but the writer has Tarrant doing some other uncharacteristically dumb stuff and generally coming off as a twit. A more balanced outlook would have made it a true fan classic.[14]


Very high on my list [of favorite stories] is virtually *everything* by Lillian Shepherd. I like her view of the characters (she writes the best Cally I've ever read), her plots are generally interesting, and I really love her ability to create interesting aliens. This lady can *write*; her stories are quality as fiction, not just as fan-fiction. Her alternate-4th series novel, "The Machiavelli Factor", is a splendid example, with complicated politics, *two* interesting sets of aliens, and really nice parts for Avon and Cally. The only problem I have with it is her treatment of Tarrant -- the Del Tarrant portrayed here can barely tie his own shoelaces, much less survive on his own after deserting from the Feds. (This novel led me to found the "Del Tarrant Antidefamation Society", in fact. Our motto: "He's not *that* bad!") But I like the rest of the story so much that I'm quite willing to try to ignore the hatchet job on poor Del.[15]


When I first laid eyes on the 1996 edition of the classic Blake's 7 story The Machiavelli Factor, I said 'Wow. Oh, wow. The cover. Wow.' A colour picture of Blake holding a crystal sphere radiating light. The original looks to have been done in watercolour and pastel, and is just stunning. But you should never buy a zine for just its cover. What of the contents?

It has been a long time since I first read The Machiavelli Factor, more than ten years since I pored over a borrowed copy of it back when I was new to fandom. It was better than I remembered, possibly because the main bits I remembered were the start, and a flaw that I found irritating. But as I read it this time, some bits came back to me, and others I just enjoyed as they came.

To get the criticism over with, the main flaw is still the same as it ever was - that we don't get enough of a hint as to who Valonia is. I don't mean that it shouldn't have been a surprise - I like surprises - but because of the lack of clues, the revelation was not only a surprise, it was also hard to believe. This time around, because I remembered who Valonia was, I picked up the few subtle hints there were, but I don't think they were enough. But otherwise, this was a durn good story, alternative universe set after Terminal.

One could describe this story as a series of leaps from the frying pan into the fire, from the fire to the volcano. Rescues, escapes, captures - I'm reminded of the line in the Princess Bride: 'You've kidnapped what I've rightfully stolen.' - as Our Heros find themselves pawns (and Queens) in a power struggle in a civilization far away from the Federation. Politics, treachery, duplicity - is there anyone that they can trust? But it's not just an action-politics kind of story, there's good character stuff, particularly for Avon and Blake. Tarrantophiles probably won't like what happens with Tarrant, but I can't really say that it's out of character for a third-season Tarrant, which this is. One has to assume that the author is a Blakephile, since all the bits from Blake's point of view are done in first person. Whether this was a good decision I'm not sure, but it doesn't seem to hurt. There are bits here that are just fun - watch out for the Masters of Illusion (!).

A good read. A spirograph on the Sid & Nancy scale.,[16] also published in Tarriel Cell v.9 n.5 (June 1996)

Lillian Sheperd. - she likes Blake! She also writes Science Fiction - real aliens, great characters, good complex relationship between Avon and Blake and a mega plot! [17]

The Machiavelli Factor - this is one the best zines I have read, and comes very high on my list of favourites. Judith says in the flyer that it will appeal to two main groups of fans, Blake-Avon fans and science fiction fans. I think that most zine readers would enjoy this story. The Blake-Avon relationship is not my primary interest in the series and stories which dwell on this relationship to the exclusion of other crew members can irritate me at times (Sondra's stories being the exception to this rule, as they are so good), so I wasn't sure if I would enjoy it, but I need not have worried. The plot was very good indeed, lots of twists, and so was the characterisation. A very good Cally, rather than a crew member with nothing to do, and the Avon-Blake interaction was nicely woven into the plot. Maybe the odd Tarrant fan would dislike this zine, but I expect that most people would enjoy it. There was only one part of the story which didn't work for me, and that was the revelation fairly near the end of the story, which I had already suspected, but I do tend to sigh with exasperation when this person turns up in a zine. I can't say who it is without giving away the plot. I would give this one 9½ out of 10. [18]



It is proper sci-fi, well written, intricately plotted and in character. Avon is great in it. It even has a happy ending, eventually.[19]


'Machiavelli' is well written on a stylistic level, and the voices are good (very good if you consider when this thing was written. The Avon-Vila exchanges are some of the best, and better in general than the Blake voice). The skiffy concepts are also pretty good - I really like the idea of the Scoop, and intelligent aliens you can talk to, which is not something B7 ever really did. I also really like the idea of Blake in another universe still trying desperately to free the oppressed. I like that Cally and Dayna are competent - I do wish for a more sympathetic Tarrant, but I don't think this one is out of character. I like the idea of Blake hanging out with Dayna. I like ice tigers - I guess. They are also a bit cutesy. And I like the idea of Avon having to be in a circus act with Cally and Vila, although I didn't find the execution as entertaining as it should have been, and to be fair this bit is definitely something that I would have stripped out to get us to Blake-Avon faster.


Of more interest - they have several scenes where they yell at each other, which are actually my favourites. The bit at the sea where Blake explains why he left and Avon articulates many of Blake's worst qualities and Blake chooses not to listen is excellent. As is the A-B scene that follows it, which has an echo of 'Terminal' (my favourite), and a nice spin on the previous scene. The scene where they actually discuss their past in order to better understand one another is a bit... generic (neither has a particularly exciting past, which is quite relieving in a way, but boring in another) and goes on for a long time - but pays off later (I think. Based on the bits I read.)

There is also a bit where Blake cries - but it is actually quite good. That part also has some v good Avon internal monologue, which if I had to level yet another criticism at this probably blameless fic I would say is a nice change because Blake's internal monologue (which we get a lot of because the fic deviates between Blake's 1st and... variable close 3rd) is a bit personality-less. Which is odd, given that the fic also makes many good observations about Blake in Avon's dialogue. Avon is, of course, the star and well done.

And I like the ending.[20]


  1. ^ Footnote to the Editorial in the 1996/98 edition. The editorial itself was written in 1996, with this footnote being added in 1998 "as I produce a new set of masters for yet another print run..." etc
  2. ^ from Judith Proctor's Blake's 7 site
  3. ^ from a flyer in Late for Breakfast #29 (1996)
  4. ^ Author's Note [to the First Edition]. The second edition note mentions that she did write another story "a savage post Gauda Prime vignette for Frontier Worlds that was my real goodbye to the fandom".
  5. ^ "Judith Proctor's Blake's 7 site". Archived from the original on 2011-12-22.
  6. ^ Footnote to the Editorial in the 1996/98 edition
  7. ^ Preface to the Second Edition: 1996
  8. ^ Editorial in the 1996/98 edition
  9. ^ Editorial in the 1996/98 edition
  10. ^ Katspace. WebCite
  11. ^ Footnote to the editorial in the 1996/98
  12. ^ SALLY AND JENNY'S 50 FAVOURITE A-B GEN STORIES. The zine is also picked out in the introduction to the 50 favourites, with the compilers noting: "Along the way we realised we were developing our own idiosyncratic definition of A-B. In Sarah's guide, A-B indicates stories where Avon and Blake are the main characters - for example, Sarah lists Anne Collins Smith's 'Shoot Feds and Dodge' as A-B, because it's a parody of Dr Seuss's 'Green Eggs and Ham' in the form of a dialogue between Blake and Avon, but she doesn't list Lillian Shepherd's THE MACHIAVELLI FACTOR as A-B because it follows the separate adventures of the full third season crew, even though Shepherd incorporates a lyrical and powerful account of Avon and Blake sorting out their differences."
  13. ^ Pressure Point no.8
  14. ^ from Rebecca Ann in On the Wing #2
  15. ^ Lysator, Mary Alice W, dated September 9, 1994.
  16. ^ Katspace
  17. ^ Lysator, 1996
  18. ^ from AltaZine #2
  19. ^ 2008 comment by windfola at Avon, the Paul Darrow Society
  20. ^ "Aralias reviewed this zine on Dreamwidth in September 2014".