Friday, 30 November 2012

Theaker's Quarterly Fiction #42 - out now! (Plus two free books!)

Not a dream, not an alternate reality, this is your real life and this is really happening: Theaker's 42 is here, at last!

Fiction: “The Powers That Be”, Sophia-Karin Psarras; “Drydock”, Mitchell Edgeworth; “Old Men Who Reach into Guitars”, R.M. Fradkin. Plus the Quarterly Review, by Jacob Edwards, Stephen Theaker and Howard Watts.

Books reviewed: Clementine, The Ebb Tide, The God Engines, The Long Earth, Mere Anarchy, The White City, The Yellow Cabochon, Dan Dare. Films reviewed: Dredd 3D, Looper and Snow White and the Huntsman.

There are two big changes this issue. Although Lulu and Feedbooks have been brilliant for us over the last few years, from this issue we’re moving the print version to Amazon POD, for the sake of improved distribution and cheaper postage for readers, and the ebook into the Kindle store, to give us a little more flexibility with the ebook formatting.

Delivery from Amazon is free with Super Saver delivery, or if you're a Prime member, effectively cutting three or four pounds off the cost of buying an issue.

Moving the ebook to the Kindle store does mean there's a minimum price for it, but our plan is to make each new issue free on Kindle for the first five days of its release, and then again whenever a new issue is released. If we end up accidentally selling a few copies in the spaces inbetween, we’ll tuck the money into Christmas cards for contributors.

If you are a fan of the epub and pdf formats of the magazine, our plan is to make them available as a bonus to anyone who gets the Kindle or print editions. Just send an email quoting the relevant code (see the editorial) to and we’ll send a download link.

I hope that our next issue will be out in December, back on schedule, so see you again very soon.


Kindle edition (UK)
Print edition (UK)

Kindle edition (US)
Print edition (US)


Howard Watts is a writer, artist and composer living in Seaford who provides the cover to this issue and a review of the film Dredd 3D.

Jacob Edwards is currently indentured to Australia’s speculative fiction flagship Andromeda Spaceways, editing #45 and (most merrily and in time for Christmas 2012) #55 of their Inflight Magazine. The website of this writer, poet and recovering lexiphanicist:

Mitchell Edgeworth is a young writer living in the western suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. His fiction has been published in The Battered Suitcase and SQ Mag. He tweets as @mitchedgeworth and keeps a blog at

R.M. Fradkin currently lives and works in Italy. The one thing she expects to be constant in her life is writing: not doing so “would be like living with laryngitis for the rest of my life”.

Sophia-Karin Psarras is a sinologist who, through no fault of her own, has recently become inextricably caught in a web of doctors (and all secondarily-related species).

Stephen Theaker is the eponymous co-editor of Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction, and writes many of its reviews. He has also reviewed for Interzone, Black Static, Prism and the BFS Journal.


To celebrate each new issue of TQF we offer a book or two free on Kindle. This time it's Michael Wyndham Thomas's extraordinary The Mercury Annual and my entirely ordinary Quiet, the Tin Can Brains Are Hunting!

The Mercury AnnualKindle UK, Kindle US
Quiet, the Tin Can Brains Are Hunting!Kindle UK, Kindle US

The War of the Worlds (XBLA) – reviewed by Stephen Theaker

I’ve been meaning to review The War of the Worlds (XBLA) for quite a while, but to do that I felt I had to finish the game, and that hasn’t happened; in fact, I don’t think I’ve got anywhere near the end. Written by Christopher Fowler, and narrated by Patrick Stewart, this side-scrolling platformer sets the story in 1950s London, which puts a very interesting twist on the narrative. For example, the player hears BBC radio broadcasts announcing the invasion. Though it was a game I bought less to play than because I thought it would be interesting to review, I was surprised by how good it was, at least at first; a bit slow, maybe, but diverting, beautiful, and often quite frightening.

However, it has two huge problems. The first is that the game is far too difficult, with fiddly controls, tripod-high difficulty bumps, instant death, and widely-spaced checkpoints. The children were frequently in hysterics at my lacklustre attempts to escape the death rays. I doubt I’d have kept plugging away if it hadn’t amused them so much. The second problem is that the difficulty level turns its biggest strengths—the excellent animation, narration and writing—into weaknesses, as you get sick to death of seeing and hearing the same things over and over. If you’re a fan of games with old-school difficulty settings, this might be worth a go, but it’s definitely not recommended to more casual gamers.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Le Voyage dans la Lune, Air – reviewed by Stephen Theaker

Le Voyage dans la Lune (EMI, CD, 32 mins plus DVD, 17 mins) isn’t the first soundtrack work by Air (that would I think be The Virgin Suicides (2000), an album so heartbreaking I could only listen to it once)—but it is nevertheless very special. The music began as pieces to accompany the restored colour version of Georges Méliès’ 1902 film, which is included here, and so, before discussing the music, a few words for the film. Though most right-thinking people have a natural abhorrence of the colourisation of black and white films, this is something rather different; it was made at the same time as the original film under the supervision of Méliès himself, with every frame of the story hand-painted: the debate at the academy and the preparation of the rocket; the journey to the moon; the hallucinatory sleep sequence; the battles with the insectoid lunar inhabitants; the triumphant return home. Every bit of it is visually astonishing, and the colour is amazing, the brush strokes clearly visible. The film has lost none of its interest or entertainment value: the only disappointment for my children was its short length. If someone made the same film today you’d be impressed by their cleverness; that Méliès did it in 1902 is beyond belief. Or rather, it would be, if we didn’t have the evidence on DVD. And what about that Jules Verne, eh? Inspiring hit films for over a century now! (Shame they’re not all as good as this one.)

The album takes a slightly different order to the film. It opens with the drums, spikes and querulous voices of the “Astronomic Club”, but ends with “Lava”, which begins like something from a seventies film and turns into the theme from Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (or “Journey of the Sorcerer”, as Eagles fans might know it), music that comes from the mid-point of the film. The “Retour sur Terre” takes place in track three, a short piano-led piece that could have been drawn from the Moon Safari sessions. It leads into track four, the exuberant, punchy Geoff Lovesque “Parade” which soundtracks the final sequence of the film, and then we’re back on the moon with “Moon Fever”—imagine an extended version of the ambient introduction to Fatboy Slim’s “Right Here, Right Now”—and the aggressive synth-funk march of the “Sonic Armada”. The rocket departs at last in track nine, “Cosmic Trip”, with a breathy glide that probably doesn’t quite replicate the experience of being shot into space in a huge bullet. Which is all to say that this isn’t a science fiction disco opera in the style of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds (for all that it makes you wish Air would write one). But it works wonderfully as an album, the order of the tracks making musical, if not logical, sense, the shifting moods—from pleasant drowsiness to the bold loopiness of your very best dreams—constantly provoking interest. Where vocals appear, they tend to be slow, often spoken, mostly in English, usually with a sense of disorientation. The announcer of the countdown to ignition in “Seven Stars”, for example, sounds rather like a drunk Tom Hardy (and so of course that is one of my favourite tracks).

Easy listening for science fiction fans, perhaps, but I’ve listened to few records more often this year and anything new I buy will have to do very well to catch up. It’s the kind of album of which you simply cannot tire. Unless you get up and march around your office whenever “Parade” comes on. Which I don’t.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Drokk: Music Inspired by Mega-City One – reviewed by Stephen Theaker

As part of Portishead, Geoff Barrow has created four of my favourite albums of all time. Drokk: Music Inspired by Mega-City One (Invada UK, 56 mins), in collaboration with film and television composer Ben Salisbury, may be a side project, but it is very nearly as superb as his other work. This isn’t actually the soundtrack to the forthcoming Dredd, whose composer is Paul Leonard-Morgan. But it did apparently begin there, as exploratory sketches, and it says a lot for the music that although they didn’t end up working on the film, the musicians involved felt those ideas were too good to leave unexplored, and came back to finish them off.

The nineteen tracks begin with “Lawmaster/Pursuit” and end with “Helmet Theme (Reprise)”, the titles between having titles like “Justice One”, “Iso Hymn” and “Titan Bound”. It’s fair to say, though, that while one hopes the actual Dredd film matches the one this album evokes in your head, without a tracklist you might well think this the music for a new outing for Snake Plissken or MacReady, so closely does it stick to the template of a John Carpenter soundtrack. Track seven “Exhale” is an exception, but even that sounds like a lost track from Blade Runner. If that makes the album sound derivative, well, it is—but it’s also exceptionally good.

Musically it doesn’t seem to be very complex, most tracks simply contrasting ambient hums and noise with a repetitive synthesizer line or two, but it is extremely effective. I loved the parts of Third where weird sf sounds would poke through, so to have that element unpacked over a full album was for me an unexpected treat. One criticism I could make is that the short cover of the card case, while very dramatic, leaves part of the actual CD exposed, but that won’t be a problem until the CD leaves my stereo, and it seems to have settled in for a very long stay.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Super F*ckers by James Kochalka – reviewed by Stephen Theaker

Super F*ckers by James Kochalka (Top Shelf, digital collection, 146pp) is one of the most puerile things I’ve ever read, and therein lies its charm. Its characters throw swears around like they’ve just learnt them, dumb teenagers who have realised they can make their peers laugh with mindless abuse despite a lack of wit. The book is a spoof on teams like the Legion of Super-Heroes, the Justice Society of America and the Teen Titans, with their club houses, rule books and membership try-outs.

Team leader, at least as long as Superdan and Percy are lost in Dimension Zero, is Jack Krak, the Motherfucker, a Steven Gilligan* in black tights who is slowly losing his mind, but gets most of the best lines. Almost everything he says is funny, for example (picking out a couple of the less offensive lines): “I’ve got a super thirst ’cause I am a super DUDE” or “I’m CHRISTIAN now, motherfucker! Check it out!” (*I know that barely anyone reading this knew our chum Steven Gilligan, but trust me, he talked exactly like the Motherfucker—and he would have loved this book.)

Jack Krak’s team-mates include sweet but unloved Grotessa, whose symbiotic partner Grotus achieves sudden popularity when the guys realise they can get high smoking his slime; Princess Sunshine, who has to brush her hair exactly one thousand times to charge her radiant beauty powers; and newbie Wilbur, a.k.a. Computer Fist, who survives the tryouts (wannabes fight in a pit and the survivor joins the team!) but makes the mistake of admitting he’s also used his CPU-enhanced gauntlets for beating a different kind of meat. Only Vortex ever seems to save the universe, and he doesn’t even wear a costume.

Definitely not a book for everyone, and certainly not for children (although any scamps who got their hands on it would love it—nothing kids like more than swearing and jokes about wee and fighting), but it’s bright, colourful, obscene and highly childish, and a great deal of fun if you’re in the right mood. Every few pages or so there was a panel I just had to show Mrs Theaker, the look on her face being very nearly as entertaining as the book itself.

Friday, 16 November 2012

The Cosmic Horror Colouring and Activity Book! by Jess Bradley – reviewed by Lorelei Theaker

The Cosmic Horror Colouring and Activity Book! by Jess Bradley (self-published, 28pp) is great for kids any age. They will love this book because it has fun activities and brilliant colourings of Cthulhu and his enemies/friends. At the end of the book there are some snap cards to cut out and play with. Also provided, two photos of Cthulhu, one of him graduating and a normal photo of him. One of the fun activities is doing a maze to move Cthulhu somewhere, but you could get trapped in a picture of Cthulhu or a dead end.

All kids will absolutely adore this activity/colouring book. It will be fun because they can do some of the activities over and over if they don’t write on them and the fun will never stop. And the pictures are great and the illustrator has done great detail. And again, every kid will adore it!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The A to Z of your online life

Type each letter of the alphabet into your browser’s address bar and note the results to draw a self-portrait with your favourite websites…

Here’s my list...

I think the search engine ones are where I haven't been to a site beginning with that letter so it just threw up something random. That hipster quiz is just a random quiz link from Facebook that I never actually did…

Monday, 12 November 2012

The Bookman by Lavie Tidhar – reviewed by Stephen Theaker

The Bookman by Lavie Tidhar (Angry Robot, ebook, 4253ll plus extras), is the first in a series that has so far run to three volumes (the sequels being Camera Obscura and The Great Game). It’s set in a world much changed since Amerigo Vespucci landed on the island of Shakespeare’s play The Tempest. Caliban’s people, Les Lézards, have installed themselves as the rulers of our island nation, whales sing in the Thames, the police are supported by automatons, airships fly overhead, and Moriarty is Prime Minister. Orphan is a young poet given to literary mischief, rebel rather than revolutionary, but when tragedy strikes a mission to Mars his need to set things right throws him into an adventure that will take him from London to the Mysterious Island of Jules Verne, and leave the future of the planet in his hands.

The Bookman didn’t bowl me over to quite the extent that Cloud Permutations and Gorel and the Pot-Bellied God did (reviews of those two should appear in our next issue), and it wasn’t as challenging, but I had a good time with it. Part of the book’s appeal is that Orphan’s choices are not easy; there are few people he can obviously trust, and many factions battling to come out on top. Irene Adler—in this world, a police officer—seems honest and trustworthy, but isn’t her job to protect the status quo? Or the Mechanical Turk, the chess-playing robot: sincere and intelligent, but his ultimate interest is the survival of his own kind. Or the mysterious Bookman? The Turk says he “almost never deals directly”, but he takes a direct hand with Orphan, promising everything he wants if he succeeds in his quest. All this intrigue and mystery gives the novel an interest beyond the spotting of celebrities fictional and historical—though that is, admittedly, fun.

The ebook has a few small issues. Paragraphs are separated by a couple of millimetres, at least on actual Kindles (on Kindle apps it disappears)—hardly noticeable, but annoying once you’ve seen it. In a few places words are split by spaces, and other words are welded together; probably where they were hyphenated in print, and "may" appears for “might” in a few places. Unattractive straight quotes are used, and there are no chapter marks, only section marks. But I mention that stuff mainly because it interests me, not because it should stop you from purchasing this inventive, entertaining novel.

Friday, 9 November 2012

The Darkness Compendium, Vol. 1 – reviewed by Stephen Theaker

Even James Kochalka’s Super F*ckers seems grown-up compared to The Darkness Compendium, Vol. 1 (Top Cow, digital collection), which is 1169 pages of anatomically incorrect pin-ups, misogyny and lumpy dialogue. Possibly the worst comic I’ve read, and certainly the worst comic of which I’ve read almost twelve hundred pages, it did become moreish after a while, in the sense that it never asked anything of my brain, except when it came to grasping the dangling strands of a bunch of daft crossovers. It’s telling that the book’s most significant events (aside from Jackie gaining his powers at the age of 21) occur outside its pages, in a Batman crossover that isn’t included here.

Jackie Estecado is the wielder of the Darkness, a supernatural force, one of three that battle for supremacy over our realm (the others being the Angelus, usually manifesting as a sexy woman in a Borat bathing suit, and the Witchblade, owned by Sara Pezzini). He’s young, dumb and full of you-know-what, and such an idiot that, after finding his new powers come at the cost (pun intended) of killing him the second he impregnates a lady, it takes him five hundred pages or so to realise that doesn’t prohibit non-procreational sexual pleasures. Some parts of the book would have you think he’s a hitman with a heart of gold, but to believe that you’d have to ignore some thoroughly unpleasant behaviour.

The best issues are those written by Garth Ennis, but even then the reader has to peer past the poster art to imagine what the book might have looked like in the hands of an artist who can tell a story—and with Ennis as writer, you can’t help wishing it was Steve Dillon or John McCrea, although to be honest their talents would have been wasted on this rubbish. So why did I read it? Because I’ll buy any comic if it’s cheap enough, and once I’ve started a book I like to finish it. A couple of issues towards the end feature Cervantes as a character, as if to mock the reader who made it that far: you read a twelve hundred page book and it was this one? Even though you haven’t yet finished Don Quixote? Idiot!

Along with this I bought a bunch of later books in the series written by Phil Hester, and they can’t be as bad as this, surely? I’ll let you know.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Jago & Litefoot: The Bloodless Soldier by Justin Richards – reviewed by Stephen Theaker

Henry Gordon Jago is a theatrical impresario who has lost his theatre, Professor Gordon Litefoot a respectable doctor who helps the police when they have a body to examine. They met for the first time on television, in The Talons of Weng-Chiang, one of the fourth Doctor’s best-regarded stories. Jago & Litefoot: The Bloodless Soldier by Justin Richards (Big Finish, 1×CD, 50 mins) is the first in a series of audio adventures, sold in box sets of four stories. Their “investigations of infernal incidents” have been successful enough to reach a fourth series, but I’m starting at the beginning. Or almost the beginning; they were previously to be heard in The Mahogany Murders, one of the Companion Chronicles, but I missed that one. Christopher Benjamin and Trevor Baxter return as Jago and Litefoot, respectively, their full-blooded, plummy tones giving the story an instant gravitas. They play their roles with complete conviction, approaching the material with the same seriousness they might give to a Radio 4 adaptation of a classic literary novel. The relish with which they discuss the food and drink served up by Ellie at their favourite pub made this listener wish he was right there at the table with them. The word I’m looking for is gusto!

And that’s the way their characters approach this story, of an army captain brought back from India with a nasty wolfish infection. While his loyal men try to find a cure, one less loyal subordinate looks to exploit him for money—which gets Jago involved. In parallel, Jago is called to examine a clawed and bloodless body left by the captain’s feeding.

This was one of my favourite Big Finish dramas so far, despite the absence of the Doctor. The story is quite short, but works very well, and the emotional conclusion, where Jago and Litefoot are faced with the same terrible necessity but only one can go through with it, tells us much about their respective strengths, and why two such different characters should find such support in each other’s company. I wasn’t keen on Hari Sunil (an Indian Van Helsing who travels to England to stop the curse spreading) being played by a white actor affecting an accent—nor on his proving so ineffective when it mattered!—but had I not seen the cast list I doubt I’d have griped; the acting throughout is in fact very good, as is the sound: I’ve rarely heard such alarming noises emanating from my stereo’s speakers! Overall, a very good adventure, and I’m very glad of having another three stories in the series one box set to look forward to.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Prometheus – reviewed by Howard Watts (*spoilers*)

It was around 1980/81 when my mother sneaked me into a flea pit with her in Brighton to see Ridley Scott’s A L I E N, and I’d like to make it perfectly clear from the outset: I’ve been waiting for someone to address the origins of the “Derelict” and its occupant, the “Space Jockey”, for umpteen years since walking out of the cinema way back then. In advance of seeing the film I was familiar with the imagery from various books such as the Alien Photostory and The Making of Alien. Even then, Hans Rudi Giger’s “Space Jockey” seemed to me to be such a grand figure fused to his chair, peering into what seemed to be either a telescope, or perhaps a weapon. He appeared lonely, as if his proud appointment somehow involved a great sacrifice on his part. Despite the mystery surrounding his true purpose, I wanted to know more about him…