Tales from Space City #7

Reviewed by Steve Rogerson

An A5 zine, 76pp, about 30,000 words with cover art by Willa Shakespeare

This zine is a collection of short stories based loosely round the theme "It seemed like a good idea at the time" and presented during this list's recent Labor Day Party. Some of the stories have been on the web, but it is still nice to have them in a collection. The zine does contain explicit sexual material and as such is for sale to those aged 18 and above only.

Empty by Nickey Barnard
A nice short to open the book, written beautifully, as one would expect, by the experienced hand of Nickey. This is first person Travis reflecting on Blake's capture and trial and giving an insight into why that particular crime was chosen.

Mistaken Identities by Nicola Mody
Swirly thing in space time, and this not only seriously drains the Liberator's energy banks but causes the crew to swap bodies. So Vila finds himself in Jenna's body, and vice versa, Gan and Cally swap, as do Blake and Avon, and, weirdest of all, so do Orac and Zen. Servalan sees a stranded Liberator and prepares to take over, until Blake - or was it Avon - realises that one of their problems could be the answer to the other. Very humorous if at times confusing.

The Inkplot Thickens by Willa Shakespeare
Vila hatches a plot to make some money out of a different kind of contraband and one that is amusing given recent events in fandom. He finds an unlikely ally in Blake, before he gets beaten by a different type of crook.

Limericks by Linda
Six limericks, one each for Vila, Avon, Soolin, Dayna, Blake and Dorian.

Rumour Control by Leia Fee
A drunken Vila tries to interest Orac in the latest gossip.

You're the Top by Jen C
This is a filk but I don't know what the music is meant to be. I read it to myself John Hegley style and it seemed to work. A little tour round some of the variants of fan fic.

Freedom City Follies by Willa Shakespeare
An AU about the events in Gambit. Krantor works out who Vila and Avon really are and sets a trap for them, along with Blake, Jenna and Cally. Though his intention is to hand them over to Servalan for the bounty, first he wants them to perform, with the aid of a drug, for his porno vids, from which he makes a nice little side profit. The pairings are Avon/Blake, Jenna/Cally and Vila with an interesting alien. Add a chocolate bust of Gan to the proceedings, and it all gets very messy.

Avon Needs Muslin by Willa Shakespeare
A drabble on the dangers of silver satin sheets.

Hostage by Matilda Jones
Avon and Blake have a heart to heart after the events in Hostage.

Pressure Point by Matilda Jones
After Gan's death and before the events in Trial, Blake first turns to Avon for a little solace.

Countdown by Matilda Jones
This time it is Blake's turn to offer some comfort and warmth to a traumatised Avon.

Pyrrhus' Song by Matilda Jones
A familiar theme for this series of shorts from Matilda. This time we are left to guess that it is Avon and Blake, but a reasonable guess as they celebrate a victory in the usual fashion.

Thoughts on the Fall of Empires by Dormouse
After the Andromedan War, Jenna sets herself up again as a free trader, and is doing very nicely thank you. But she needs a cargo for a return trip and starts enquiring round the bars, until she meets a familiar face.

Drabble by Sally Manton
Avon interviews an unusual potential new crew member.

Stopping the Spread of Evil by Steve Rogerson
Can't really comment on this as I wrote it. Just to say it is set in season four and the crew have to deal individually with an old evil.

Yes, it is Quiet in Here by Sally Manton
Another drabble from Sally, with a nice twist for a story so short.

Salt by Hafren
A PGP love story between Blake and Avon. Blake, recovered from his bullet wounds, agrees to go on a romantic holiday with Avon, with whom he has just signed wedding vows. Nice but soppy.

Sonnet by Nova
Avon's last good idea put into song to finish off the zine.

Buy Me

Reviewed by Hafren

This was the result of a list party theme: "it seemed like a good idea at the time". So there's a unifying factor, though part of the fascination is seeing how differently people interpreted and handled the one theme.

There's a mix of stories, snippets and fan poems/filks. The cover is a more vivid lime green than I care to have around something I'm trying to read discreetly on the bus; on the other hand, it features Vila, which isn't all that usual and always welcome.

Stories first. Nickey Barnard's "Empty" is a Travis voice, eaten up with resentment and vengefulness and unable to get Blake out of his head. It gives a chilling sidelight on a bit of early canon.

Nicola Mody's "Mistaken Identities" has the crew's minds swapped into each other's bodies as nearly happened in Ultraworld, but this is the S1/2 crew and Nico is a better writer than Hoyle. How she manages to convey who's speaking without getting us totally confused I don't know, but she does. Gan mouthing Auron platitudes is hilarious and the Jenna-Vila swap results in a real rapprochement between them. As usual, Nico uses humour not only for its own sake but to explore the characters and, sometimes, make serious points. In the plot, they use their misleading appearances to get the better of an invading Servalan and Travis, who for a while think they've won. At one point Servalan proposes to take Blake back for mindwiping, and is interested by the reaction:

... "although Blake seemed unmoved by her threats, Avon growled low in his throat and half rose from his seat. So Avon cared about what happened to Blake. Now there was an interesting little fact to store away in case it came in useful."

Of course she's wrong, in this instance; what she sees is Blake's reaction to her plan for him, while Avon, in Blake's body, stays poker-faced. But in the long term she's right, and it is that knowledge that sets up "Terminal". The idea that she could have found that out accidentally, almost by mistake, is such a pricelessly B7 irony that I may have to adopt this story as personal fanon.

Willa Shakespeare's "The Inkplot Thickens" has Vila writing RPF about his crewmates. He and Avon see money to be made; Blake sees it as propaganda for the revolution. The money-making side goes awry, but Vila is not defeated and at the end is branching out into a new fictional field....

Vila is again centre stage in Leia Fee's "Rumour Control", having a teasing conversation with a tetchy Orac about the sexual possibilities among the crew. It's an odd one, this; it feels like a scene from a longer story, maybe one where Vila somehow tries to use Orac's information-gathering capabilities to enhance his chances with his crewmates? Or maybe that's just wishful thinking!

In Willa's "Freedom City Follies" the crew are captured in Freedom City and forced to perform sexually to entertain Krantor and Servalan. But with rather poetic justice, this is also how they manage to get away. Despite Jarriere and the well-endowed alien Tiger Lil, the star of this is Kapok, Krantor's cat.

Next comes a little series of A/Bs from mid-season 2, by Matilda B Jones – Hostage, Pressure Point and Countdown, all linked, and "Pyrrhus' Song", from around Gambit. After Gan's death, Avon and Blake circle each other offering comfort and rejection in equal amounts until finally reaching some understanding. What was really interesting was the decision to tell Hostage and Pressure Point out of chronological order, which together with the point of view didn't half ratchet up the angst factor.

"Thoughts on the Fall of Empires" by Dormouse is a welcome "what Jenna did after Star One" story and one of the best interpretations of the party theme, IMO.

Steve Rogerson's "Stopping the Spread of Evil" is a vampire story, but also in some ways a reprise of "Assassin", with Soolin playing the same saviour role she does there. Thankfully the female villain is a lot less irritating than Piri, and I liked very much seeing a strong role for Soolin. Two things I liked less. Avon is a grammatical man and would not refer to "a bacteria", as in "it could be an extinct bacteria" (Tarrant also uses "bacteria" as singular, but then he would). And I don't like Vila groping a female corpse (or what he has every reason to think is one). He may not be a paragon of virtue but he isn't a creep either.

The other story, "Salt", is mine so I'll say only that it involves going on holiday, which in my experience generally seems like a good idea at the time and turns out quite the opposite.

Among the short pieces, Sally Manton's "Yes, It Is Quiet In Here" made me laugh out loud when I realised what the new crew member had dined on. And I really liked both Nova's sonnet and Jen C's filk, which is rare for me. I think most fan poetry is, shall we say, on the amateurish side, and as for filks, I've only ever liked two: one was Nova's filk on "I've been to a wonderful party" and the other is Jen C's "You're The Top", to the Irving Berlin song of that name. This must have been hell to write, because though that song moves so lightly, its rhythms and internal rhymes are really complex. All the more credit that the filk sparkles so. Nova's sonnet is a beautiful bit of melancholy to end a zine which has a partly rueful and partly humorous tone throughout.

Posted on 21st of December 2007

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