Saturday, 22 April 2017

THEN: Science Fiction Fandom in the UK: 1930–1980 by Rob Hansen #rednosereviews

I recently had the pleasure and the privilege of attending the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) Awards for the first time, mere hours after having had the publisher of this book hold the door open for me as I left the hotel toilets. The ceremony itself was marvellous, despite the Powerpoint problems that so often beset these events, and despite only four awards being handed out (a mere amuse-bouche compared to the epic fourteen given out by the British Fantasy Awards during the period when it was my good fortune to run them). I had a marvellous time watching them. So full of good-humour, friendliness, and bonhomie.

What a tragedy it was, though, to see this astonishing, informative and amazing book lose out to Geoff Ryman's writing about one hundred African science fiction writers. Yes, Ryman made everyone laugh the instant he came to the stage by kneeling down to the low microphone, and yes, he provided a brilliant example of "paying it forward" by taking his moment in the sun to announce the nominees for best novel in the new Nommo award to celebrate African writers, but what does any of that matter when the victim was THEN: Science Fiction Fandom in the UK: 1930–1980 by Rob Hansen, so cruelly deprived of that glorious transition from nominee to winner that is reserved for a fortunate few.

Perhaps I am to blame? I think I voted in the BSFA awards, being a member of that fine and august institution, but the screen went blank after I submitted the form so who can say? Surely, for all the wondrous writers covered in Geoff Ryman's articles, those articles were not the revised, expanded and corrected edition of a history that originally appeared in four fanzine-format volumes from 1988 to 1993. And surely, however popular the winner of the non-fiction award was, it did not include over three hundred photos of contemporary fans of all eras, nor dozens of scans of fanzine covers from each decade, nor an index of those photographs.

Did Ryman's work feature an introduction by Peter Weston, was it published by David Langford, and did it feature chapters enticingly entitled "Man and Supermancon", "Aardvarks, Wombats, Gannets and Rats" or "The Bastard Offspring of Science Fiction Monthly"? I think not. If it did, I apologise for my mistake. But I suspect that the only place you will find these things is in THEN: Science Fiction Fandom in the UK: 1930–1980 by Rob Hansen, which might not have won the award that night, but wins a place in all our hearts, just like the genre and the fans it chronicles. What else could it get but five red noses? So it does.

Buy the book here and count yourself lucky that you can! It's available in paperback, hardback and ebook.



This is the last of our Red Nose Reviews, written for fun (about a month after the event) without reading the book.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Children of Eden, by Joey Graceffa (and Laura L. Sullivan) (Simon and Schuster Audio) | review

This is the Audible edition of Joey Graceffa’s first novel. I enjoyed his previous memoir and I was just as pleased with this book. Although it is published under his name, he didn’t actually write it. He probably came up with the ideas, but I think that it might be written by Laura L. Sullivan because she is thanked at the start. He is more well-known as a YouTuber and this is why I was interested in the book. He is very funny in his videos and he comes up with very creative and exciting ideas. I’m a big fan of his.

In this dystopian future couples are only allowed to have one child because they don’t have enough resources. Almost everything is artificial: the plants, the food, everything. The world was saved by Aaron al Baz. He made the Eco Panopticon which is what keeps the world (and the humans) alive. Rowan is a girl who has lived her life as a second child. Her parents didn’t want to kill her so they kept her hidden and had the birth at home so that no-one would know they had a second child. Rowan is Ash’s twin and they are very close but Rowan wishes that she could go outside the wall and make friends.

So she does. She goes outside and has an huge adventure. She meets Ash’s crush and they fall in love and Rowan kisses Lark (Ash’s crush). But then she gets found out and reported so she needs to hide somewhere. Lachlan takes her into the underground, which is a home for second children, and tortures her to check whether she was actually a normal second child. Second children can be identified by their colourful eyes. At birth all legal children have their eyes protected from the artificial air but people can survive a long time without getting their eyes damaged. They go on an adventure that will save the second children but end up saving the world, solving a mystery and revealing secrets.

I really enjoyed the story because it was full of suspense; the writer managed to fit in a lot of other dilemmas while the main storyline was going on. The vocabulary kept me engaged and made me want to keep listening. I felt the panic in the parts with the wall because you never know whether she’s going to get caught or fall. It is definitely open to sequels: it has an ending that could lead on to another story.

I am not really bothered that Joey Graceffa didn’t write it because it’s fun to know that it is based on his ideas, and even though it’s not written by a YouTuber, it’s still a great book. I enjoyed this so much and I would love to read more books by Laura L. Sullivan and listen to more books read by Sarah Grayson. I think that it is very well read by her. She really makes it feel like Rowan is speaking to you, and she also changes the tone of her voice to show different characters very well. If you are a teenager you will especially enjoy this book, as I did. ***** LCT



This review originally appeared in Theaker's Quarterly Fiction #59, which also included stories by Rafe McGregor, Michael Wyndham Thomas, Jessy Randall, Charles Wilkinson, David Penn, Elaine Graham-Leigh and Chris Roper.

Monday, 17 April 2017

The X-Files, Season 10, by Chris Carter and chums (Ten Thirteen Productions et al.) | review by Stephen Theaker

It took me a little while to warm up to The X-Files when it first began. Round about the episode “Deep Throat” is where I started to become a fan, rather than someone who watched it because my girlfriend was watching it. Before then I had a big problem with the way Mulder would throw lots of so-called evidence at Scully in support of his irrational crackpot theories, evidence that in our world had been totally discredited, and then be proven right by what came next. That led to a resurgent real-world interest in the paranormal, just before mobile phones and their cameras laid ghosts, nessies and bigfeet to rest forever, but I made my peace with it after realising that on Mulder’s Earth there is good evidence, because in his world monsters and aliens do exist. Of course I then became frustrated with the idea of Scully being the rational, scientific one, when she ignores all the evidence – the implication being that in our world that’s what our scientists do with regard to the paranormal. This new season, following hard on the heels of Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny’s showstopping performances in shows like Hannibal and Californication, severely tested the grudging peace I had made with all that. A two-part story, “My Struggle”, where the worst nightmares of anti-vaxxers and rightwing talk show hosts come true, for example, left me very cold, to the extent that I’d call it irresponsible. If it had been good dramatically and creatively, that would have been one thing, but it was like a Syfy original movie written by the kind of people you block on Twitter. Similarly, “Babylon” explores the aftermath of an apparent terrorist bombing, and you wait for the supernatural twist, for our stereotyped assumptions to be undercut... and it doesn’t come. The paranormal element is that Mulder is apparently now able to enter people’s minds, Dreamscape-style, if he takes the right drugs. And don’t get me started on the “everything you know is a lie” bit they try to pull, yet again. Those were three of the worst episodes of the programme to date. But I’m still glad it’s back. I’d rather have Mulder and Scully back for bad episodes than none at all – and the three other episodes of this short series were good enough to outweigh the bad. “Founder’s Mutation” and “Home Again” both delivered a series of good scares, while “Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster”, featuring the hilarious Rhys Darby as a man who turns into a lizard creature, or so it seems, was a delight from start to finish, one of my favourite ever episodes. So a mixed season, but that’s how it often was with The X-Files, and even the bad episodes had their share of startlingly weird imagery. What worked, worked very well. I hope there are more seasons to come. ***

Friday, 14 April 2017

The Dispatcher, by John Scalzi (Audible) | review by Stephen Theaker

This is a two hour twenty minute story, told in the first person and read with gusto by Zachary Quinto (Spock from Star Trek films eleven to thirteen). He plays Tony Valdez, the dispatcher of the title. We first meet him in a hospital, where his presence in the operating theatre is required by the insurers. He’s quite cagey about the precise nature of his job at first, and we know the surgeon isn’t happy about having him in there. Is he there to kill people if the treatment gets too expensive? Is the patient someone of such significance that the staff will be punished if he dies? Or is this like Nick Mamatas’s The Last Weekend, where someone has to drill the deceased before they turn into zombies? We don’t find out until the operation takes a turn for the worse and Tony has to step in to do his thing. His job is interesting, as is the reason it is needed. The story soon segues into a hardboiled search for a missing dispatcher, while exploring throughout the implications of the difference between Tony’s world and ours. The two-hour length reflects how much this resembles the pilot for a television series, with Tony teaming up with a tough female co-star for an adventure that establishes a strong premise, while leaving plenty more to be investigated. It’s good, and very well read. It was free to Audible members at the time of writing, but if it’s not by the time you read this it is well worth one of your Audible tokens. ***



This review originally appeared in Theaker's Quarterly Fiction #59, which also included stories by Rafe McGregor, Michael Wyndham Thomas, Jessy Randall, Charles Wilkinson, David Penn, Elaine Graham-Leigh and Chris Roper.

Friday, 7 April 2017

The Adventures of Roderick Langham: now out, in print and ebook!

free epub | free mobi | free pdf | print UK | print USA | Kindle UK | Kindle US

Roderick Langham is a retired soldier, disgraced police inspector, and reluctant occult detective. He inhabits the world of Sherlock Holmes, investigates cases with John Watson and Sebastian Moran, and is able to perceive the reality concealed by the illusion of everyday appearances. These nine stories follow Langham from his first encounter with the inexplicable in the Himalayan hills to his investigation of the wreck of the Demeter and his growing realisation that the dales, moors, and wolds which surround his Yorkshire refuge are home to an evil far older than the honeycomb of medieval monasteries and Roman ruins suggests.



Rafe McGregor is the author of The Value of Literature, The Architect of Murder, six collections of short fiction, and one hundred and fifty magazine articles, journal papers, and review essays. He lectures at the University of York and can be found online at @rafemcgregor. The cover is by Dave Elsey.

Praise for Rafe McGregor’s The Architect of Murder:

“Arthur Conan Doyle is alive and well, and writing under the name Rafe McGregor.” – Tess Gerritsen

“Rafe McGregor is the architect of murderously good historical fiction.” – Gyles Brandreth

“…a fascinating marriage of investigative mayhem with keen attention to historical detail…” – Graham Hurley

“There’s some dandy police procedure…and plenty of interesting characters to carry the story along.” – Bill Crider

“…an exciting read, giving a very authentic flavour of the period…” – Bernard Knight



Review copies available in print, pdf, epub and mobi. Please send requests to theakersquarterlyfiction@gmail.com.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal, by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona (Marvel) | review by Stephen Theaker

Kamala Khan is a smart fifteen-year-old girl, living in New Jersey with loving parents who quite understandably don’t want her going out at night and an older brother who’s keener on virtue than finding a job. She works hard at school, has a pair of good friends, clever Bruno and proud Nakiyi, and somehow deals with the microaggressions of popular white girls without losing her temper. Her hero is Captain Marvel; Kamala’s been known to write quite popular fanfiction where the Avengers protect the My Little Ponies. One night she gets fed up with her parents and sneaks out to what turns out to be a rather crummy party. Nothing bad happens till she is on her way home: the terrigen mists descend, and she wakes up in a black shell, transformed into a younger Captain Marvel. It looks like Kamala is an Inhuman, with shape-changing powers that she’ll explore in a bunch of different ways over the rest of the book. Growing a big hand, looking like a shop window dummy, shrinking to the size of a mouse – she’ll get the hang of it all while amusing the reader and trying to extricate Bruno’s idiot brother from a tight spot. Like the young Peter Parker, she’s a teenage superhero trying to do the right thing despite the pressures and obligations of school, family and friends, and this feels from the off like classic Marvel at its best: contemporary, imaginative, funny and relevant, with excellent artwork. Kamala is an utterly charming fangirl hero, tailor-made for modern teenagers. ****

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Winners of the Theaker's Quarterly Awards 2017

As announced in Theaker's Quarterly Fiction #59, these are the winners of the Theaker's Quarterly Awards 2017.

Audio

  • 1st The Brenda and Effie Mysteries: Spicy Tea and Sympathy, by Paul Magrs (Bafflegab Productions)
  • 2nd Doctor Who and the Ark in Space, by Ian Marter (BBC/Audible)
  • 3rd Vince Cosmos: Glam Rock Detective, by Paul Magrs (Bafflegab Productions)


Books

  • 1st Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe, by Thomas Ligotti (Penguin Classics)
  • 2nd The Last Weekend, by Nick Mamatas (PS Publishing)
  • 3rd Slow Bullets, by Alastair Reynolds (Tachyon Publications)

Comics

  • 1st The Glorkian Warrior and the Mustache of Destiny, by James Kochalka (First Second)
  • 2nd Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal, by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona (Marvel)
  • 3rd The Savage Sword of Conan, Vol. 14, by Charles Dixon, Gary Kwapisz, Ernie Chan and chums (Dark Horse Books)


Films

  • 1st Captain America: Civil War, by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (Marvel Entertainment et al.)
  • 2nd Star Wars: The Force Awakens, by Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams and Michael Arndt (Lucasfilm et al.)
  • 3rd X-Men: Apocalypse, by Simon Kinberg (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation et al.)


Games

  • 1st Trials Fusion Awesome Max Edition, by RedLynx (Ubisoft)
  • 2nd Rare Replay, by Rare (Microsoft Studios)
  • 3rd Saints Row IV: Re-Elected, by Volition Software (Deep Silver)


Music

  • 1st It Follows: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, by Disasterpeace (Milan Records)
  • 2nd —
  • 3rd —


Television

  • 1st Doctor Who, Season 9, by Steven Moffat and friends (BBC)
  • 2nd The Flash, Season 1, by Andrew Kreisberg and many others (Warner Bros Television)
  • 3rd Penny Dreadful, Season 2, by John Logan and chums (Sky Atlantic)


Issue of TQF

  • 1st Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #56, edited by Stephen Theaker and John Greenwood
  • 2nd Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #54, edited by Stephen Theaker and John Greenwood
  • 3rd Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #57, edited by Stephen Theaker and John Greenwood

TQF cover art

  • 1st Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #56, art by Howard Watts
  • 2nd Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #55, art by Howard Watts
  • 3rd Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #57, art by Howard Watts

Fiction from TQF

  • 1st The Policeman and the Silence, by Patrick Whittaker
  • 2nd Septs, by Charles Wilkinson
  • 3rd Nold, by Stephen Theaker
Congratulations to all the winners and runners-up!

Items were eligible for our awards if they were reviewed in our magazine during 2016, whatever their original year of publication, or published in 2016, in the case of the TQF-specific awards. Our readers and the public were then able to vote for as many items in each category as they wanted.  To break any ties we referred to our reviewers’ star ratings, where relevant, and if that didn’t do the trick we invited Alexa to roll a dice with a suitable number of sides.

To claim their prestigious Theaker’s Quarterly Awards, pictured below, winners should email us at theakersquarterlyfiction@gmail.com with an address to which we can send them.