The Totally Imaginary Cheeseboard
|Title:||The Totally Imaginary Cheeseboard|
|Publisher:||Waveney, Allamagoosa Press/Fanfun Publications|
|Author(s):||Jean Airey and Laurie Haldeman|
|Cover Artist(s):||Gail Bennett|
|Fandom:||Blake's 7 RPF/FPF|
|External Links:||Zine Info|
|Click here for related articles on Fanlore.|
In the early 1990s, Jean offered the series to fans freely via email.
Summary from a Flyer
"A teleport malfunction causes Avon to swap places with Paul Darrow. Avon's experiences at a Blake's 7 convention are both hilarious and touching."
Although similar in style to Jean's former column "The Cheeseboard" which was published in the now-defunct "Fantasy Empire," this piece is totally fictional. All the "real" people have given their OK to appear in the adventure, but their portrayal is completely a product of the author's imagination. Our thanks to Heather Nachman who served as special consultuant. our special thanks to Beth Jarvis, Sue Boylan, and Jennifer Hodge for proofreading. Pleas not that the "Jean" in the story is some strange gestalt of Jean&Laurie and really isn't either of us. It's all her fault, so there!"
Technical Notes: "For Avon's Benefit"
The zine's creators included some very specific technical notes regarding the production of the original print zine, which gives a peak into some 1988 computer hardware and software.
For Avon's benefit: This zine was originally input on an MS/DOS system, transferred to Osbourne CP/M system, back to Kaypro CP/M, back to MS/DOS using WORDSTAR as the word processing system and MFFORMAT to convert the discs. The WORDFORMAT files were stripped and downloaded to a UNIX system. Final text formatting was done through troff and the memorandum macro package and output was to an Imagen laser printer. Text type is 9 points with 11 lead. Deroffed word count is 42,538. Original manuscript pages were 145, double-spaced, twelve pitch.
Novels in this Series
An extract is here.
Interior Art Sample
Avon with cat, Gareth Thomas and wife Sheelagh in background, art by Gail Bennett
art by Gail Bennett
Paul Darrow is welcomed back with a group hug. Avon with teddy bear is in the background; art by Gail Bennett
Reactions and Reviews
This, in my opinion at any rate, is one of the classic zines of Blake's 7 fanfic. The story is built around a teleport malfunction that causes Avon and Paul Darrow to change places so that Avon ends up in the middle of a Blake's 7 convention. We follow second-season Avon through his encounter with fandom, American culture, ice cream, shopping malls, Gareth Thomas, Jackie Pearce, Michael Keating and videos of the third and fourth seasons. The results range from the hilarious to the touching. My favourite scene is where they are measuring him for new clothes, and one highly nervous female fan is trying to figure out how to take Avon's inside leg measurement. The characters of the actors as well as Avon are well developed and feel right.
I suspect one of the reasons that this zine works better than other that have been written on similar themes is that Avon doesn't promptly fall in love with one of the fans. Another reason is Gail's artwork which beautifully illustrates so many of the scenes.This is an A4 reprint zine done from quarto masters suplied by Jean Airey, slidebound with a card cover. As it is a reprint rather than a new edition, I don't have the text on disc, so I can't post any extracts from the text. 
Special appearances by Gareth Thomas, Michael Keating, Jacqueline Pearce, Sheelagh Wells, Paul Darrow, Heather, Crystal, Cherry, assorted con committee members, Chicagoans and, oh yes...Kerr Avon! Picture if you will - A scene so strange that it could only come from the tormented mind of someone who has volunteered for one too many cons, attended one too many Liar's panels, dealt with one too many guests.... A scene that takes you beyond the normal committee nightmare of no-show guests, takes you beyond the limits of our earthly sciences, takes you to... THE TOTALLY IMAGINARY CHEESEBOARD. What would the committee do if Kerr Avon in all his glory, aided, by an errant magnetic storm changed places with Paul Darrow DURING A CON? How would Kerr Avon react to Blake's 3 - Gareth Thomas, Jacqueline Pearce, and Michael Keating, not to mention fans, cats, ducks, malls and 20th century electronics. "CHEESEBOARD" tackles these problems easily. Jean Airey and Laurie Haldeman, both veterans of many conventions, have combibned a "behind-the-scene" look at "SCORPIO 3 3/4"complete with real committee members, with a well put together story resulting in a delightful romp through fandom. Their Avon is perfect, and I'll trust their portrayals of the real B7 cast. The situations that arise all become possible as you dream you are drawn into the fantasy. I may be a bit prejudiced about "CHEESEBOARD". I know one of the "characters", have met a few of the actors, and seen enough at cons to feel, oh, so familiar with the setting. I don't know the authors except by reputation but their view of SCORPIO 3 3/4 rings as true as fiction can. Be warned, however. If you are new to fandom, and have not attended any conventions, especially B7 cons you may have some difficulty with the situations. If that's the case, just take everything on faith. There are a few "in" jokes, but happily they are all in fun - no sniping here, (o.k. - Avon does snipe occassionally. If you're a Blake or Vila fan you will be disapointed. Blake is present only as a voice on Avon's teleport bracelet. Vila not at all. Paul also is barely present and no explanation is given for why Blake couldn't wait to send him back (perhaps Zen synthesized cigarettes for him) . This zine gets a PSG rating - share it with your Mom if she likes Avon. There's no "slash", no adult situations (measuring Avon's inseam doesn't count). The artwork is by Gail Bennet, need I say more? Some readers will find one problem with this zine - small type. I know people who can't or won't deal with reduced type and editors should bear that in mind when planning a zine. 
We have all read one too many stories in which the real Doctor makes an unexpected appearance at a convention. One or two amusing incidents may follow before he finally sweeps up Mary Sue Fan into the TARDIS and disappears. Therefore, when I discovered on the first page that the TOTALLY IMAGINARY CHEESEBOARD was an imaginary convention report (named for Airey's column the Cheeseboard) in which the real Avon is swapped for Paul Darrow, I almost quit reading. But I'm glad I kept going. Whereas most of the cliche'd stories mentioned above involve a typical congoer whose reaction is "Golly Gee Whiz!", the TOTALLY IMAGINARY CHEESE-BOARD is told from the point of view of a gofer/guesthandler whose reaction, quite appropriately, is, "Oh, No! Now what do we do?" Fortunately, the Avon who appears is second-season, so they do not have an incipient psychopath on their hands; still, we have problems, and conflicts, and resolution: in other words, plot.
The story gives us everything we want to see. (Well, almost. There are two exceptions which I will mention later.) Avon has to pretend to be Paul Darrow and attend the convention. So we gets Avon meets Jacqueline Pearce (Servalan). Avon sees Bizarro 7. Avon sees a famous Gail Bennett portrait of him (reproduced in a zine, which she illoed). Avon gets kissed by a con-goer. Avon beats up a couple of thugs, Avon encounters a typical "food court", complete with ice cream stand, at a shopping mall. Avon at the convenience store is a priceless scene in itself. Why does he buy a stack of Bride's magazines and two Hippy Toads? What does he think of the contraceptive displays and the National Enquirer? You'll have to read the novel to find out!
The story also has its serious side. Avon's relationship with Michael Keating is well done and touching. Some moments tug shamelessly at your heartstrings (the central teddy-bear incident, for example). And difficult problems are raised. How would Avon react to knowing a possible version of his own future? What happens when he sees "Orbit" — when he sees "Blake"? And, perhaps inevitably, what if he doesn't want to go back? These questions are handled extremely well.
The point of view is crucial to the success of the story. The authors convey a gritty feel for the inside workings of a convention. I've never wrangled — some of my friends have — but I've gofered, and it brings both exhaustion and exhilaration beyond the normal participation of ordinary attendance. The authors have captured the sensation perfectly.
Criticisms? Well, the teddy-bear scene was a little maudlin for me. The scene at the McDonald's was one too many "and-would-you-believe...?" And the constant in-jokes, ice cream, teddy-bears, ducks — might turn off a reader who is a relatively new fan. As you can tell, these are pretty small points; on the whole, I thought the zine was fantastic.Thinking it over, I can think of only one scene-I'd-like-to-see that was left out. I would have liked to have seen Avon's reaction to David Jackson, who played Gan. I do think it was wise to leave Travis out, since the explanations of the two different actors might have gotten messy. But what I most wanted to see was this: Throughout the novel we have brief conversations with Blake, who is trying to adjust the teleport to bring Avon back. With every message Blake is more and more emphatic that he wants to to get rid of Paul and get Avon back. It's obvious Paul was driving Blake right up the wall! What exactly was happening on the Liberator? Dare we hope that the authors will someday reveal the tantalizing mystery? Dare we hope for—a TOTALLY IMAGINARY CHEESEBOARD REVISITED? 
"The Totally Imaginary Cheeseboard starts with a somewhat mythical Scorpio convention and introduces Avon--the real Avon--in the place of Paul Darrow by means that are best left to the imagination of 29th century engineers, The rest of the plot follows as the night the day, and a very active and harrowing time is had by all, some in ways that aren't obvious at first thought.
There are lots of beautiful, full-page pictures, action pictures, portraits, pictures within pictures, all of them germane to the story, and all of them looking like real people. The art is all Gail Bennett's work. This being a story set within fandom, she also appears as one of the characters, allowing the authors to comment on how and what an artist sees. It's a point not always comprehensible to the word-oriented among us (I include myself), but it's a valuable insight. The zine is about Avon; if you are not interested in that one character, the story will leave you cold--though at last count that criterion excluded about four people in fandom. He's just slightly larger than life and much, much larger than television; darkly sarcastic; has a hair-trigger temper but is capable of charming anyone (especially anyone female) into puddles. This may not be odd at a B7 con, perhaps, though I might take it as overdone otherwise. The guy isn't supposed to have ST Deltan pheromones , after all. He also has, very believably shown, a genius-level intellect honed by a knife-edge existence which accounts for the most notable difference between Avon and a hotel full of con-goers; he's severely paranoid. (If they're really out to get you, you're not paranoid) That is, he's touchy, suspicious, and no-fooling ready to commit mayhem given what he considers provocation. This is not a comfortable character, but he is remarkably real, as well as distinctly and consistently a product of the environment we see in Blake's 7.At base, the story is about fandom and the trust and affection -- or love, not to put too fine a point on it -- that exists there, by contrast not only with B7's Federation but also with much of our 20th century world. (And if the writers choose to depict one of the most presentable faces of fandom to illustrate this point, can we blame them?) Sentiment and teddybears are perhaps overcommon in fandom, but surely love is a valid sentiment; and even it is more easily expressed openly in fannish society, love has not lost its currency entirely in the larger world today. It is clearly much rarer in the universe Avon comes from, and overall perhaps we should be grateful that well-arranged words and pictures, rather than reality are what we have of Blake's 7."
Avon finds himself at Scorpio, a popular Blake's 7 fan convention, due to another teleport malfunction; the character is initially highly suspicious of the fans' activities, confused by his encounters with series stars, and deeply disturbed by his viewing of fourth season episodes representing events sti11 in his own future. He eventually warms to his role as celebrity and embraces his fans. The story ends with the hope that Avon, whose ruthless violence and tragic fate reflected his profound alienation and perpetual betrayal, may deal with these situations differently now that he knows he is so beloved and has seen what the future holds for him if he is unable to change his ways. [The authors] include portrayals of program performers, active fans, the actors' real-world spouses, and the hotel where Scorpio was held. Their story exploits the "double viewing" practices of fandom: Avon is represented as existing simultaneously as a character on a BBC program and as a real-world personality inhabiting Earth's future.
[for both zines]:"They both are fun, and oddly affecting. I liked 'Cheeseboard' better, for this is where we meet Avon, and watch him interact with a group of people
who not only know a lot about him (his world and the aired episodes parallel closely) but love him unconditionally. Avon is ported to a large B7 convention in Chicago, at which other actors from the series are also in attendance. The actors, who portrayed his companions and enemy, and 'lived' certain events, also like and accept him, and encourage him to make different choices than the series indicated he made (the intersection point is shortly after 'Gambit'). The fans, of course, accept him totally, and his minders especially work hard to make him safe.
'Coin' isn't as good, I still liked it a lot. Darrow tries to convince the Liberator crew that he really isn't Avon, really isn't a Federation plant. But he knows too much about Avon, and the Liberator, to make that an easy task. He also is too used to 'being' Avon, and only Cally (good ol' telepath that she is!) can tell the difference.They are worth the $6.00 Jean asks for them!"
Among the few B7 tales I wouldn't recommend (where I can still recall their titles) is TOTALLY IMAGINARY CHEESEBOARD. I feel intensely uncomfortable with "fanity" stories like these, because I know the people portrayed and I seldom agree with the author's characterization of them. Sometimes she is too kind, sometimes she is too harsh, but most of the time, she is too shallow and inaccurate--particularly when she is trying to fit in as many 'names' as she can to avoid offending anyone by omission, and she doesn't know these people at all. I don't agree with how these people I know would react in the given situation. I don't agree that the line between fictional characters and real people should be overly blurred, because many misguided fans already have a problem with that. Many times, such a story is done to avoid the trouble of constructing a simple Mary Sue in order to shoehorn ones self into a favorite universe to meet the idol. I didn't like this kind of thing in early TREK with "Visit to a Weird Planet" and its sequel, I didn't like this kind of thing with "One Way Mirror", and I don't like it in any other story. Just my personal opinion...it makes me squirm. 
I just don't understand why it keeps showing up on favorite zine lists. IMO it was terminally cutesy wutesy. 
Sorry, Jean, but obviously our mileages vary here. I found the Avon characterizaion and the look at how our society contrasts with the Federation fascinating. The end was perhaps a little sentimental for my taste, but overall this is one of my favorites to reread often.
I feel really stupid. I do not understand the Cheeseboard title EVEN THOUGH I know that comes from the name Airey used in her column for a magazine. -- I think FANTASY. Is this an "in" joke or ???. 
Yes, it would be nice to see more use of Blake's engineering skills in fan fie. Ironically, one of the main examples I can think of is The Totally Imaginary Cheeseboard. [Barbara T] called that zine "shameless Avonolatry," and she was quite right; but it' s Blake, back on Liberator where we never actually see him (well, until the sequel, but that isn't nearly as good), who rebuilds the teleport to get Avon back. 
This is the only Blake's 7/20th century crossover that I have read that is actually believable, as well as being funny, interesting and poignant at the same time. Avon gets swapped with Paul Darrow at a Scorpio convention; the whole story is written as a report by one of the attendees. Normally I think such stories are silly, self-indulgent, only to be read once, but this one I keep on coming back to.
The companion story "The Other Side of the Coin", about Paul Darrow's adventures on the Liberator at the same time, does not work as well.A sequel to both these stories has been written: "The Cost of the Cheeseboard" by June Bauer & Beth Friedman, but it doesn't stand up to the other two, though it certainly has its moments. 
i really like all the art in this zine, except the front cover. i admit i am prejudiced against montages in general, but i also just think it's confusing and a bit of gareth thomas's head is missing (and you can see the santa claus he'll eventually become, although he's much younger at this time). but the back cover is lovely. and there are tonnes of other really nice pictures of avon's face o_o if you like that sort of thing.....[snip] ....as for the fic itself - i enjoyed it very much. it wasn't quite as funny as i'd expected - i think possibly because it's actually a real story, rather than just 'wouldn't it be hilarious if THIS happened?? and then THIS??' it is, however, surprisingly sweet. you may have figured that out from the picture of a small child hugging avon, i think. that's the kind of book this is. avon is both slightly dangerous at all times and... deeply out of his depth and adorable at all times. i don't know that i've ever read a more vulnerable avon - it's really cute, without being totally out of character. (Read the rest of this informal review here)."
Why this must be read: Another 1988, and another one that's quite famous - I assume it hasn't been recced before because it's zine only, but it's a zine that I often see on eBay. The premise is that Avon and Paul Darrow are swapped while Darrow is at a B7 con. Thus, Kerr Avon has to endure... everyone being really nice to him!!! When I read the premise of this fic, I assumed it would be a hilarious string of 'Avon fails to deal with modern life' incidents, and it is, but more than that it's a chance for Avon to examine his behaviour and his established relationships from the outside and potentially make different choices. It's genuinely thought-provoking and moving. Out of his own universe, Avon gets to be both more adorable (very excited about steak and clothes and toys he could re-sell in the future), more out of his depth/vulnerable and more terrifying (dangerous killer in amongst normal people) than I've really seen elsewhere. Vv interesting and plausible characterisation. The fic is also interesting as a historical document, giving a detailed and (I assume) accurate account of what a B7 con in the late 80s was like. And the illustrations by Gail Bennett are lovely. I uploaded a few of my scans to the Fanlore article, which is linked below. 
- Subject: Cheeseboard and Coin by Nan E. to Lysator dated Nov 22, 1993:"Some time ago, Jean was making these available free via email. I don't have the address anymore but if anyone does, perhaps they could post it."
- from Judith Proctor's Blake's 7 site
- from Communications Console #1 (January 1987)
- by Anna Collins Smith in The Clipper Trade Ship #65 (October 1989)
- Pressure Point no.5
- Henry Jenkins, Textual Poachers, page 173.
- Subject: Cheeseboard and Coin by Nicole V. to Lysator dated Nov 19, 1993.
- Lysator, Leah R., dated September 6, 1994.
- Lysator, Jean., dated September 2, 1994.
- Lysator, Pat Nussman, August 31, 1994.
- from Rallying Call #16 (January 1996)
- from Rallying Call #18
- from Kathryn A at Katspace, accessed June 4, 2013
- reference link for Aralias' review. (June 10, 2013)
- from Crack Van, posted by Aralias, December 8, 2013