Saturday 1 October 2005

Theaker's Quarterly Fiction #8

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This is the eighth issue of my magazine, and just like every issue so far, it is the best yet. But it is slightly unusual, in that it contains no less than four distinct tales, by four entirely different authors, whereas in the past I have been more likely to present my readers with one or two long pieces. It is very interesting, I feel, that I launched this magazine mainly in order to encourage myself to sit down to write at least four times a year, only to be eventually pushed out of it by the submissions of other people. I would vow to ruin them all for stymieing my plans were it not for their stories being so much better than anything I would have been likely to write.

If there is a theme to this issue, it is probably highlighted best by “The Hidden Game”, intended by the author, John Greenwood, the editor of our sister journal, November Spawned, to be the first in a series – Newton Braddell And His Inconclusive Researches Into the Unknown. Planned to be of indefinite length, John has promised, if it is within his writerly power, to send an instalment for several issues to come. Let’s hope that he does not waver in that resolution after seeing that, in my guise as illustrator, I decided to clothe his character in a costume rather similar to that of Elvis in his Vegas years. I have no explanation – I am only a beginner when it comes to art, so I am as yet at the mercy of my muse.

Anyway, back to the theme I mentioned. The key word in John’s story, so far as this issue is concerned, is Inconclusive. None of this issue’s items reaches a conclusion. I hope that nevertheless the issue will stand alone, as a good read in itself, but it is worth alerting the reader to the fact before he or she plunges in.

As already mentioned, Newton Braddell's adventures are intended to be an ongoing series. The story submitted by my sometime friend Howard Phillips is the beginning of an autobiographical epic, in which he will, step-by-step, take us through the assembly of what some claim to be the greatest rock band of all time, Howard Phillips and the Saturation Point. This is the beginning of The Saturation Point Saga – mark this moment well! This first, introductory, story deals with the fate of his former band, The Sound of Howard Phillips (who he discussed at some length in last issue’s editorial), and with this published, he then plans to assault us with a series of novels and stories, each of which will report how he recruited one or another of the band. Now, longtime Silver Age readers will be fully aware of the number of projects Howard has undertaken but not completed, but he seems very enthusiastic, so I will not be the one to discourage him. He has all the makings of a multi-media triple threat, at the very least, so if I am nice now maybe he will tip his hat to the SAB at some opportune time in the future.

Steven Gilligan has blessed us with the first half (or less, depending on how the rest of the story plays out) of "Excelsior", the heartwarming tale of a young man and his giant robot. The eponymous metal star can be seen on the cover of this issue, as interpreted by your hard-working editor. He ended up looking quite a bit like Jet Jaguar, but was that in Steven’s descriptions of the robot, or was that just how I interpreted his words? Resolve this conundrum by reading it now! Steven also created the hilarious cartoon that graces the back cover.

The fourth piece in this issue is the fascinating prologue to Valiant Razalia, the first science fiction novel by Michael Wyndham Thomas, better known as a poet and historical novelist. I have never read anything quite like it. In all honesty, from someone writing their first science fiction novel, I expected a certain amount of reinventing the wheel, being hit over the head with the hoariest of old tropes (that’s the role my fiction plays in this magazine!), and a story that struggled to breathe through the condescension to genre, but that is not what we have here. This is a unique piece of writing – dense and atmospheric, yet wilful, whimsical and playful. Initially perhaps somewhat forbidding in its tumult of adjectives and similes, to the careful reader it reveals a rich bounty of laughter and mystery. It might take you a few paragraphs or pages to settle into its rhythms, but take the time, make the effort, and at the end ask yourself when the rest of the novel will be available to read. The author has said he may submit further instalments to this journal, but I can only hope to be so lucky.

Observant readers may notice that the format of the publication has had a revamp this issue. It was not by choice – all our files were lost in a hard drive failure, and so, starting again, we decided to make a few changes. I hope you like them. – SWT


The Issue With No Resolution

Stephen William Theaker

The Saturation Point Saga: MY RISE AND FALL

Howard Phillips

A Dream ~ The Sound and the Saturation ~ My Career Takes Off ~ Meditation and Self-Medication

Newton Braddell And His Inconclusive Researches Into the Unknown

The Hidden Game

John Greenwood

Valiant Razalia


Michael Wyndham Thomas


Steven Gilligan

Prisoner ~ Visitor