Overall, an excellent zine, strongly recommended. The variety of pairings is especially noteworthy, mostly slash but with one straight story (and half of another) and several group scenes.
The layout is attractive and easy to read, but also compact. There's a lot of reading matter for the money (229 tightly packed pages), mostly by experienced and skillful fan writers. Personally, I would have liked more illos, but that's a matter of taste; what there is is very nice. The cover, by Leah Rosenthal, shows bust portraits of Servalan, Avon, and Tarrant, none of whom appear to be wearing anything; I liked it so much that I bought the original art in the MediaWest art show.
The individual stories (marked with * for explicit sex) are:
*While I Live, by Irish. The first of three (unrelated, but similar in tone) grim but ultimately upbeat PGPs by this author, spread throughout the zine. This one is a PGP A/B, told in first person from Blake's viewpoint-- difficult, but IMO she pulls it off. Avon, however, is not this Blake's Avon, who has been executed, but rather an Avon from a parallel universe in which he was the only survivor. A nifty science-fictional idea that I've seen done only once before, in an old A/V story by Jane Carnell.
*Interlude, by Catherine. Blake/Deva! This author is good at unusual pairings; she also did the Blake/Sinofar in =Straight Blake's= 2. Her style improves with each story, and this one, IMO, is her best so far (though my personal favorite is still "Rescue" in =Dark Fantasies= 3, because brothel stories push my buttons). There was one technical glitch that bothered me: a single paragraph in Blake's POV, when the rest of the story was in Deva's. I wish that had been edited. I also wondered whether the buddy pair who appear briefly at the beginning of the story might be Bodie and Doyle in disguise!
*Beyond Trust, by Linnadel Cameron. The story that breaks the Curl Rule. Yes, it's Blake/Tarrant! A long, satisfying read for fans of unusual pairings and extreme h/c. PGP, Tarrant is severely injured, blind and deaf, and is nursed by fellow convalescent Blake. They gradually become close, but Tarrant believes that he is still a captive of the Federation. When the rest of the Scorpio crew attempt to rescue Tarrant, complications ensue. I especially liked Tarrant's talk with Avon about Blake, and the funny, upbeat (and sexy!) ending. (Also recommended if you like this story: a gen story by the same author, "In the Shadow of the Night" in =Serrated Seven=, which also features Tarrant angst and the Blake-Tarrant relationship.)
*The Travis Affair, by Vanessa Mullen. Already familiar to the lucky members of the Space City mailing list. Another very unusual pairing: Travis I/ Travis II. Their violent encounter is interspersed with a red-hot Avon/Servalan interlude on Sarran. A fascinating story, somewhat difficult to follow but worth the effort.
*Captive Thoughts, by Jane Mailander. A short, hot PWP; an A/V bondage scene that turns out not to be what it seems.
*Corruption, Time, and Appetite, by Willa Shakespeare. As the title suggests, this is an erotic alternate version of "Rescue." Avon is brutally raped by Dorian. His crew kill Dorian, rescue Avon, and use the mysterious properties of the basement to heal Avon's near-fatal injuries. In the process they become sexually bonded to each other, and a cheerful orgy ensues. I enjoyed the inventiveness of the story but felt that the two halves didn't match very well in tone. I think I might have preferred two separate stories, one grim and one light.
*Nightsongs, by Paula. A lovely, long, luscious A/T, the sequel to "Nightmusic" in =Southern Comfort= 6.5, which in turn was inspired by a gen story, "The Night Wind" in =Gambit= 2. The relationship between Avon and Tarrant deepens as they discover their mutual affinity for the work of a famous dissident musician and make plans to save her from the Federation. A near-encounter with Blake himself complicates the plot and suggests that there will be a sequel. I especially like the fact that the sex scenes are not only hot, but also essential to our understanding of the unfolding relationship; and that the relationship does not exist in a vacuum, as is so often the case in sex stories, but is part of their lives and their ongoing struggle. I look forward to more stories in this very appealing series.
Such a Fool, by Irish. An A/V version of the author's set of dark PGPs, in all of which Avon is made to pay heavily for shooting Blake. Here he is raped by Blake, which so horrifies Vila that, with the help of the rest of the Scorpio crew, he rescues Avon. The A-V interaction is well done, but it bothered me a bit that Blake's behaviour was not more clearly explained.
Machinations, by K. Ann Yost. This story is also a short, twisty, no-explicit-sex tale with a rather unflattering portrayal of Blake. Here, Blake's attempt to divert Avon's attentions from Vila backfires.
*For the Moment, by Irish. Here it's Avon who is the manipulator, as he feigns innocence in order to get exactly what he really wants from Blake.
*Duty, by Pat Jacquerie. The centerpiece of the zine, and my own favorite by far. My MediaWest roommates laughed at me because I kept rereading this one even though I'd already done so many times already. This is Pat's slash debut, an A/T novella. Stranded on a distant planet with unusual customs, Avon and Tarrant must perform certain social duties in order to get the help they need. There is lots of hot explicit sex (with some yummy illos by Randym of two of the best bits, the shower scene and the dream), a plot with some surprising twists as well, and a tearjerking bittersweet ending. (But don't worry, there will be a sequel!)
Take My Heart, by Irish. A PGP A/B with an unusual twist: Blake needs a new heart if he is to survive, and Avon, who damaged the old one, suggests himself as a donor. Another solution is found, however, and eventually there's a happy ending. This is a Jealous Jenna story, which I tend not to like as a rule, but it's well done. On the plus side, I like the handling of the other secondary characters, who are often neglected in A/B stories. This author is especially good with group dynamics.
*A Moment of Surrender, by R. Tabitha Roarke. The only completely straight story in the zine, a short, nicely done Avon/Jenna PWP, set just after "Horizon."
*Sweet Savage Delta, by Audrey Weirdsley. Hot and funny. A wacky A/V fantasy with a twist.
*Twilight, by Taliesin. An A/V that begins with an optimistic reinterpretation of Avon's behaviour in "Orbit." Nice sex scenes.
*Taking Notes, by Audrey Weirdsley. Another funny story in the same universe as "Sweet Savage Delta," in which Vila initiates wide-eyed innocent Avon into the delights of the flesh.
Episodes That Should Have Been Made... But Weren't, by Buster Hymen and Oliver Klosov. What it sounds like. Two pages of ludicrous plot summaries. I especially liked "One-hand Job," the Next Gen crossover with Travis/Data.
*Shared Nookie, by T.S. Grimmer. An erotic parody of "Shared Danger," a story in =Serrated Seven=. An aphrodisiac has interesting effects on Tarrant, Cally, and Vila, with echoes of various classic fairy tales. [I suspect that Tanith Lee inspired the author's pseud!]
*The Devil You Do, by Taliesin. Avon and Blake are stranded on a planet, and Avon is injured. You know what happens. Nicely written, but an overdone plot, IMO. There's a twist at the end, however, that makes it a threeway with Vila.
Conclusion: This zine is a MUST for A/T fans, and highly recommended for everyone else. There's something for everyone here, with no really bad stories, and a lot of good ones.
Irish, "While I Live" (A/B)
Catherine, "Interlude" (B/Deva)
Linnadel Cameron, "Beyond Trust" (B/Ta)
Vanessa Mullen, "The Travis Affair" (A/Se; Tr1/Tr2)
Jane Mailander, "Captive Thoughts" (A/V)
Willa Shakespeare, "Time, Corruption, and Appetite" (A/Dorian, orgy)
Paula, "Nightsongs" (A/Ta)
Irish, "Such a Fool" (A/V)
K. Ann Yost, "Machinations" (A/B/V)
Pat Jacquerie, "Duty" (A/Ta)
Irish, "Take My Heart" (A/B)
R. Tabitha Roarke, "A Moment's Surrender" (A/J)
Audrey Weirdsley, "Sweet Savage Delta" (A/V)
Taliesin, "Twilight" (A/V)
Audrey Weirdsley, "Taking Notes" (A/V)
T. S. Gruimmer, "Shared Nookie" (C/Ta/V)
Taliesin, "The Devil You Do" (A/B)
Buster Hymen & Oliver Klosov,
"Episodes That Should Have Been Made... But Weren't" (humor)
Letters of Comment
Leah Rosenthal cover A, Se, T
p. 179 "Sweet Savage Delta"
Val Westall p. 5 A/B
p. 48 nude A, frontal
p. 65 nude A, rear view
p. 101 A, face
p. 104 A, B
p. 129 nude A, rear view
p. 164 battered A; illo for "Take
p. 171 A/B; illo for "Take My
p. 191 nude A, kneeling
p. 195 nude A, rear view
p. 224 A/B
Randym p. 71 A-Ta; illo for "Nightsongs"
p. 86 A-Ta; illo for "Nightsongs"
p. 118 A/Ta; illo for "Duty"
p. 161 A/Ta; illo for "Duty"
Maryann Jorgenson p. 175 A-J
p. 212 Se
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