Monday 8 October 2007

Theaker's Quarterly Fiction #19

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Welcome to Halloween!

es a year should be specials of some kind, so that we can still justify calling the magazine a quarterly. This year, we’ve decided to have a Halloween special. Luckily, we had some suitably scary submissions! “Pumpkin Jack” is the most appropriate, for obvious reasons, and so that’s where we begin the issue. It’s a story by Laura Bickle, about the discoveries a pair of bored teenagers make in and around their grandma’s isolated home. I’m not totally familiar with the way that pumpkins grow in real life, but there’s definitely something strange about these ones!

Next, Wayne Summers asks us to climb into “The Walled Garden”, if we dare. I don’t want to spoil his surprises, so I won’t say much more than that, other than to note how good it is to read that Henrick’s is still a going concern after that terrible incident with the shop window dummies a few years ago.

Something we’ve done differently in this issue is to divide the stories up – very roughly (some may even have been bruised in the process) – into sections. In the past it wasn’t really necessary, with most issues just being one long chunk of nonsense from me, but with more and more stories appearing in each issue, it started to seem like we’d be doing readers a favour if we made them a bit easier to navigate. So after the calendar-friendly fright section we segue into our series of fantasy stories!

I’ll note up front that our first fantasy story, “Rural Legend”, by Eric R Lowther, features horses and wolves, just like “Winter’s Warm Blood” in TQF18. It’s an unfortunate coincidence, but both stories were too good to reject on that account alone, and in any case I think we’re on a run of something like nineteen issues in a row featuring robot stories – a mere two sets of wolves and horses seems half-hearted in comparison! This is a great story that takes its time to draw you in, and is as much of a gentle giant as its protagonist. It’s a story that pats you on the back and says, “You ain’t doing so bad. Just keep on trying your best, and keep on trying to make your best better.”

“The Iron Mercenary” is a piece of heroic fantasy in the classic mould by Richard K Lyon and Andrew J Offutt. It is a continuation of their Tiana series, which saw publication as a series of three paperbacks in the late seventies and early eighties. I think this is this story’s first publication, but it dates from that period, a time before fantasy became a sub-set of the airport novel and Tolkein’s influence pushed Howard’s into the toilets and gave it a solid thrashing.

Andrew J Offutt of course has had a long career in writing, but when I hear his name it means one thing to me: My Lord Barbarian, the cover of which earned me much kudos at middle school by virtue of its buxom heroine, her virtues bare save for some tasteful bits of tin over her nipples. (Sadly I can only find the US cover on the internet, which while nice enough in itself lacks that important nostalgia factor!) I can only imagine what I would have made of Andrew’s Spaceways series at that age, and look forward to discovering what I'll make of it at my current age!

“When the Sun and the Moon Did Not Shine” is from Sam Leng. Saying anything more would give it all away, because it is only a slip of a thing! In the interests of driving readers to our competition, I should mention that Sam has a literary undertaking of her own (her webzine can be read at

Rounding out this impressive fantasy section is the second of the Tales of Yxning from Bruce Hesselbach. This one details “The Remarkable Life of Yren Higbe”, a character who made a brief but intriguing appearance in the first story, “The Tragical History of Weebly Pumrod, Witch Hunter”. The stories intersect, but stand alone, so if you have yet to acquire your copy of TQF#18, don’t be put off!

Our inaugural science fiction section contains “The Broadest Divide”, by David McGillveray. It’s an interesting story, in that your view of it – as to whether it is depressing or uplifting – will probably depend on whose side you would take. David doesn’t tell you who is right or who is wrong. The chances are even.

I noticed a David McGillveray among the credits in the film section of the Radio Times. Could it be the same man? His biography makes no mention of the fact, and being somewhat star-struck I dared not ask about it! Also, if I knew one way or the other would I feel honour-bound to berate him each time I felt a reviewer had completely missed the point of the latest Adam Sandler/Happy Madison movie, as is so often the case (though to be fair the Sandler reviews in RT have been moving in the right direction in recent years)?

“Who Picked the Pope’s Nose?” by Dan Kopcow doesn’t strictly fit our remit – there is no fantasy element (so my embarrassed apologies to anyone whose stories I have rejected solely on that account), and it isn’t all that adventuresome. But he was kind enough to let us publish one of his previous stories, “The Bearded Avenger”, and this one too tickled my fancy, so I indulged myself. Not knowing which pigeonhole to shove it into, I remembered hearing about some new-fangled type of writing called Bizarro.

Wow, longest editorial ever! There’s no room left to talk about the way this issue has a green cover, just like the previous one!

As usual, I’m going to end up giving unfairly short shrift to our returning features, “After All”, by “Magnificent” Mike Thomas, and “Newton Braddell And His Inconclusive Researches Into The Unknown”, by John “Jackanory” Greenwood, and that’s unfair, because they’re the rock upon which year four of Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction has been built. They deserve all the gratitude I have to give, and they have it! – SWT


Welcome to Halloween!


Birmingham Town Hall


Pumpkin Jack

Laura Bickle

The Walled Garden

Wayne Summers


Rural Legend

Eric R Lowther

The Iron Mercenary: A Tale of Tiana

Richard K Lyon & Andrew J Offutt

When the Sun and the Moon Did Not Shine

Sam Leng

The Remarkable Life of Yren Higbe

Bruce Hesselbach

Science Fiction

The Broadest Divide

David McGillveray


Who Picked the Pope’s Nose?

Dan Kopcow

After All

An Old Trick… a Brief, Derisive Snort

Michael Wyndham Thomas

Newton Braddell And His Inconclusive Researches Into The Unknown

A Detour

John Greenwood

The Quarterly Review


Helen and Her Magic Cat

Steven Gilligan