I now have seven of the eight "Down and Unsafe" zines, and I can say with total confidence that this is an excellent series of zines. the story quality in all of them is very high, and #7 is no exception. Well worth picking up if you can find it!
"The Last Invader" by Mary Moulden: This is one of a series of stories which have appeared in various issues of "Down & Unsafe," starting with "Changeling" in D&U #3. The premise is that Avon was killed on Terminal by an Andromedan which permanently assumed his form, his memories, and probably more of his personality than it could comfortably handle. This struck me initially as yet another tedious gimmick to "explain" why Avon was acting so erratically in Season 4 (something that I don't think really *needs* an explanation beyond what we saw him going through on screen), but Ms. Moulden surprised me greatly by not only making this scenario quite believable, but by doing some very interesting things with it, including an astonishingly sympathetic characterization of the alien. This particular installment takes the Avon/alien amalgam all the way through Gauda Prime, and while I don't find this totally satisfying as a re-interpretation of GP, I strongly suspect that my mild, vague feeling of disappointment has a lot more to do with the fact that this clearly marks the end of a very good series than anything else. For those who like to see strong appearances from canonical guest characters, this one also features a fairly large role for Vena from "Headhunter" -- not a guest character who gets a lot of attention in fanfic.
"Phantoms" by Jean Graham: I know I've read this one before somewhere, so it's probably a bit unfair of me if I describe as "familiar." But it is a basic premise that's been used many times since: Blake encounters one of the children he supposedly molested, and, needless to say, the kid reacts badly. Well written, but, character junkie that I am, I would have preferred more interaction between the crew and the boy, and less action stuff.
"A Simple Duty" by Karen Vernon & Samantha Hayman: An extremely silly, highly self-referential "eighth-season" story that pokes affectionate fun at a number of canonical and fan-fictional "traditions." The authors obviously had a ball writing it, and I found the feeling infectious. It probably won't tickle *everybody's* sense of humor, but, personally, I thought it was hysterically funny. Especially memorable is "Sleer"'s response to being called "Servalan" by Avon in front of an underling...
"Backwards to the Future" by Leigh Arnold: First-season Avon and fourth-season Avon have mysteriously traded places, or at least consciousnesses. Imagine the Avon from circa "Seek-Locate-Destroy" dealing with Gauda Prime, and post-"Warlord" Avon finding himself back on the _Liberator_ with the last three years to live over... It's a *great* premise, with lots and lots of potential, and my one complaint about this story is that it's short, meaning that much of that potential isn't really explored in great detail. Then again, if it actually tried to explore *all* the possibilities, it'd lose its nice, tight focus, which would be a pity, as it works very well. So I suppose that's not really a complaint after all.
"A Rock and a Hard Place" by Jeanne de Vore: Avon and Jenna are trapped in a cave after an explosion, where they spend their time rescuing each other and having a heart-to-heart chat (well, a chat, anyway, I mean, this *is* Avon we're talking about) about their reasons for staying with Blake. The exploration of Avon's motives isn't anything particularly original, but I rather like the characterization of Jenna, who comes across as tough and perceptive, and it's nice to see these two getting a chance for some one-on-one interaction. (No, not *that* kind of one-on-one interaction! This is a genzine!)
"Edge of Betrayal" by Kathy Hanson: On a mission to find some black-market supplies for the _Liberator_, Tarrant runs into some old enemies from his Federation days, one of whom turns out to be an old acquaintance of Avon's (and ours). A truce ensues while they all conduct a supply raid together, but quickly falls apart again when it looks as if Tarrant has betrayed everyone. I had one or two minor plausibility problems with this, but it's an enjoyable story, anyway: full of interesting plot twists and guaranteed to keep you guessing right up until the end. Is Tarrant a traitor or isn't he?
"Bad for the Pitcher" by Sophia R. Mulvey: Avon as seen through Gan's eyes. A nice character piece that gives us a look at one of the least-explored relationships in the series, as well as an answer to one of canon's great unanswered questions.
Interview with Janet Lees Price: Interview conducted by mail with Janet Lees Price: Paul Darrow's wife, and the actress who played Klyn in "Blake." Considerable discussion on her career, and some thoughts on being shot by her husband in front of several million viewers.
"Blake II: The Wrath of Klyn" by Kathy Hanson: Cartoons featuring Klyn, many of them obviously inspired by the abovementioned interview. Mildly amusing, and I very much like Kathy Hanson's cartooning style.
"Smuggler's Blues" by Rebecca Ann Brothers: A poem from Jenna's POV. As a poem it doesn't do a whole lot for me, but the characterization of Jenna is good.
Interview with Paul Darrow: Interview conducted at a con in Florida in 1988. PD talks about his acting career, his relationship with the fans, and his then-forthcoming book (<wince>).
All art is by Kathy Hanson, except for some (rather cute) cartoon figures by Samantha Hayman illustrating "A Simple Duty." This isn't a very art-intensive zine, and I'm absolutely rotten at commenting on artwork, so not a lot of comments here. Every story does have at least one illo, though, and I'd say the quality ranges from "decent" to "quite good." And there's a picture of older Avon and younger Avon from "Backwards to the Future" that I'm personally quite taken with.
The Last Invader - Mary Moulden
Fourth and final part of the Changling series. Wonderful story, although I think you'd need to have read the previous stories to enjoy it. The series premise is that the Andromedan Skann killed Avon on Terminal and took his place, using a permanent change that allowed it to take on Avon's body, memories, and rather more of his personality than it had bargained for. By the start of this story Skann is tormented by loneliness - he's a member of a highly social species, but Avon's persona, and surviving personality, deny him the social contact he needs. Vena has survived the attack by the Muller android, and Skann takes her to a safe planet. Vena discovers his true nature, but offers him comfort and understanding - and a possible solution to his dilemma. But Skann has no idea what, or who, is really waiting for him on Gauda Prime...
Phantoms - Jean Graham
Blake encounters one of the children used to convict him, and discovers that the children were sent to penal colonies to make sure that nobody could check their stories. He resolves to rescue the others, but find complications on the way. A reasonable story in general, but the basic premise - that the children were sent to penal colonies - requires major suspension of disbelief on my part. That's the sort of thing that would only cause people to start asking questions.
A Simple Duty - Karen Vernon and Samantha Hayman
Meta-fic which merrily sends up a lot of staple cliches from fanfiction, and one or two from canon as well. Almost but not quite too long to sustain the joke, and if you like that sort of humour it's very, very funny.
Backwards to the Future - Leigh Arnold
Post-Warlord Avon finds himself back in time, around the time of Seek-Locate-Destroy - and as he discovers, in a subtly different universe where he, not Cally, was captured by Travis on Centero. He fears he's going mad, but as the reader soon discovers, his consciousness has swapped with the Avon of that time - who now has to deal with missing years, a missing Liberator, and a missing Blake. The story explores how one's foreknowledge and the other's lack of three years of pressure and paranoia might change their respective futures, and does it very well.
A Rock and a Hard Place - Jeanne de Vore
Standard "trapped in a cave with only each other for company" with Avon and Jenna having to get themselves out of a nasty situation, but nicely done, and good characterisation for Jenna. Worth reading.
Edge of Betrayal - Kathy Hanson
What should have been a relatively simple parts-finding mission for Tarrant goes horribly wrong when he runs into people who recognise him from his previous career. And gets even worse when they recognise the teleport bracelet. As a result the Liberator crew link up with Del Grant's group, but when the joint mission goes wrong Tarrant is accused of being a Federation agent. Is he or isn't he? The story stretches the boundary of plausibility on occasion, but it's well written and will keep you reading.
Bad for the Pitcher - Sophia R Mulvey
Nice short in which we get a glimpse of what Gan thinks of Avon.
Smuggler's Blues - Rebecca Anne Brothers
Poem from Jenna's POV, which wasn't really to my taste but has some good Jenna characterisation.
Interviews - this issue it's one with Janet Lees Price, and another with Paul Darrow. Lots of interesting stuff and worth reading
Cartoons - this issue's are about Klyn
Mary Moulden, "The Last Invader" (S4; Changeling series #4)
Jean Graham, "Phantoms" (S2)
Karen Vernon and Samantha Hayman, "A Simple Duty" (S5; humor)
Leigh Arnold, "Backwards to the Future" (S1-S4; A)
Jeanne DeVore, "A Rock and a Hard Place" (S1?; A-J, J-hc)
Kathy Hanson, "Edge of Betrayal" (S3; A-Ta)
Sophia R. Mulvey, "Bad for the Pitcher" (S1; Spacefall; A-G)
Kathy Hanson, "Interview: Janet Lees Price"
Kathy Hanson, "Blake II: The Wrath of Klyn" (cartoons)
Mary Christine Mars, "Interview: Paul Darrow"
Ads for zines and clubs
"Meet the Contributors"
Kathy Hanson, "Enditorial"
Rebecca Ann Brothers, "Smuggler's Blues"
Kathy Hanson front c. A-V
p. 1 gun
p. 2 A-B
p. 7 A-Vena; illo for "The Last"
p. 20 Janet Lees Price
pp. 27-32 "Blake II: The Wrath of Klyn" (cartoons)
p. 33 B; illo for "Phantoms"
p. 37 C; illo for "Phantoms"
p. 52 V; illo for "Phantoms"
p. 60 J
p. 72 PD
p. 81 S1 A - S4 A
p. 88 A-B
p. 96 J; illo for "A Rock"
p. 104 A-J; illo for "A Rock"
p. 113 Ta
p. 119 A
back c. C
Samantha Hayman p. 61 A-B; illo for "A Simple"
p. 67 V; illo for "A Simple"
p. 70 illo for "A Simple"
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