Friday 29 July 2011

The Bride That Time Forgot by Paul Magrs – reviewed by Michael W. Thomas

The Bride That Time Forgot belongs in a long, honourable tradition. Doom-laden goings on can be engrossing in themselves, but even more so, often, when placed right in the middle of the mundane. Both worlds can gain immeasurably by the interaction. Elm Street is a perfect harbour for nightmares precisely because of its picket-fenced babysitter schedules. Several of Wells’ scientific romances draw the reader in because the scene of the action isn’t Planet XG499 but Bromley or Lewisham, because key characters are less likely to bark anxieties about a wayward flux capacitor, more likely to gasp “Blimey” and “Strewth”.

Monday 25 July 2011

More books received for review in July!

Another quick round-up of books received to bring us up to date, for the very dull reason that I'm moving our list of books received from one spreadsheet to another…

Abraham's Issue

Abraham's Issue, by Nigel Flanagan. Wink Publishing (, ebook, 9578ll. A novel chosen for publication by a contest, where the judges only get to read the first 50 pages of the book...

Alan Moore: Conversations (Conversations With Comic Artists)

Alan Moore: Conversations, Eric L. Berlatsky (ed.). University Press of Mississippi, hb, 240pp. A collection of ten interviews with Alan Moore, beginning with one in 1981. Part of the Conversations with Comics Artists series.


Bricks, by Leon Jenner. Coronet (, hb, 136pp. A very attractive little book about a bricklayer who remembers a past life as a powerful druid. The superb cover art is by Jorn Kaspuhl.

Crimewave Eleven: Ghosts, Andy Cox (ed.). TTA Press (, pb, 240pp. The latest volume of TTA's crime journal includes stories by Nina Allan, Christopher Fowler, Alison Littlewood, Joel Lane and many others.

The Green Gods by Nathalie Henneberg – reviewed by Stephen Theaker

This peculiar, stately, romantic novel is set towards the end of Earth’s long isolation from the rest of human civilisation. Knowing that the impassible atmospheric barrier is beginning to weaken, and that the spaceships of humanity’s descendants will soon arrive, the floronic overlords of an increasingly moronic Earth decide to grasp the nettle – rather than extend it – and eliminate all remaining opposition to their rule.

Against this background brave Aran, the last bright hope for the humans of A-atlan, is to be mated with his beloved queen Atlena; the tradition is that once mated she kills him, and if she does not, the plants make sure he dies anyway. He is forced to leave the last city: he will gather the mutants at the gates and lead them like Elric against his home and the woman he loves.

Friday 22 July 2011

The Dracula Papers, Book 1: the Scholar’s Tale by Reggie Oliver – reviewed by Michael W. Thomas

Tricky matters, they are: sequels, prequels, pastiches, hommages. Essentially, they depend upon two factors: that the original narrative is engaging and robust enough to withstand such re-visiting; and that the re-visitor is skilled enough to convince the reader that the enterprise was worth it. If anything, the second factor is rather more important. The literary landscape is strewn with, as it were, crushed light aircraft that have attempted to fly in the slipstream of the “master narrative”. There they lie, all the Sherlocks, feckless (and, actually, not that bright); the pantomime Crusoes; the ever more bestial Frankenstein monsters, each betraying more emphatically than the last that the re-writer has not grasped what Shelley’s original was really about.

Monday 18 July 2011

Doctor Who: The Hounds of Artemis, by James Goss, read by Matt Smith and Clare Corbett – reviewed

Eastern Turkey, 1929! And when the lost Tomb of Artemis is unsealed, what treasures are found within? The eleventh Doctor and Amy! Making their excuses and presenting themselves as emissaries from the Scarman Institute, they join an archaeological team on the verge of unleashing an ancient curse that is all too real.

We learn what happens along with Helen Stapleton, granddaughter of Bradley Stapleton, a junior member of the team who went on to great things. The Doctor has sent her a bundle of papers, combining his notes on the affair with the diary entries of Miss Amelia Pond; the former are read to us by Matt Smith, the latter by Clare Corbett, in her role as Helen.

Saturday 16 July 2011

Received for review - June and July!

We've received lots of interesting stuff of late. Here's a little round-up.

The Eighth Black Book of Horror, by Charles Black (ed.) (Mortbury Press, Paperback, 200pp). The latest in the long-running anthology series. This volume features Stephen Bacon, Gary Fry, Reggie Oliver, Paul Finch, Marion Pitman, Thana Niveau, Mark Samuels and many others, all of whom can be seen in decapitated form above: surely one of the best ever ideas for the cover of a horror anthology.

Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #51 (170pp).

Citizen Rex HC

Citizen Rex, by Mario and Gilbert Hernandez (Dark Horse, tpb, 144pp).

Conan the Barbarian: The Mask of Acheron, by Stuart Moore and Gabriel Guzman (Dark Horse, Comic, 64pp). A tie-in to the Jason Momoa powered film, which I'm a lot more excited about since watching him in A Game of Thrones.

Dark Heart, Darren J. Guest (Snowbooks, 288pp).

Dark War: A Matt Richter Novel (Matt Richter Novels)

Dark War, by Tim Waggoner (Angry Robot, ebook, 4171ll).

Do Not Pass Go, by Joel Lane (Nine Arches Press, Chapbook, 44pp). A very handsome little book on very sturdy paper. I loved the previous book I read by Joel Lane, and I'm really looking forward to this one.

Double Cross, by Carolyn Crane (ebook, Untreed Reads, 5815ll).

Dragon's Time: Dragonriders of Pern (The Dragonriders of Pern)

Dragon's Time, by Anne and Todd McCaffrey (Bantam Press, Hardback, 326pp). Reading this at the moment. It's not terribly good so far.

Falling Skies, by Paul Tobin and Juan Ferreyra (Dark Horse, tpb, 104pp). A review of this one is almost ready.

Ghosts Can Bleed, by Tracie McBride (Dark Continents Publishing, Ebook, 200pp).

Hard Spell (Angry Robot)

Hard Spell, by Justin Gustainis (Angry Robot, ebook, 4778ll)

Ill at Ease: Three New Stories of the Macabre, by Mark West, Stephen Bacon and Neil Williams (PenMan Press, Ebook, 36pp). I've enjoyed stories by Stephen Bacon and Mark West in the past - I included Stephen's post-apocalypse story "The Other Side of Silence" in Dark Horizons 57.

Johannes Cabal: The Fear Institute

Johannes Cabal: The Fear Institute, by Jonathan L. Howard (Headline, Hardback, tbc). The previous book in this series was a lot of fun, but I'm finding it hard to get excited about sequels these days. One thing that was mildly exciting: seeing a quote from my review of the previous book on the PR sheet!

Journey Into Space the Red Planet CD (BBC Audio)

Journey into Space: The Red Planet, by Charles Chilton (AudioGo, Audio, 10xCD, 10 hrs 10 mins). Series two of the well-regarded radio drama.

King's Envoy, by Cas Peace (Rhemalda Publishing, Ebook, 360pp).

Maternal Instincts, by Jeffrey Ricker (ebook, Untreed Reads, 274ll).

Mind Games, by Carolyn Crane (ebook, Untreed Reads, 6312ll).

Mistification (Angry Robot)

Mistification, by Kaaron Warren (Angry Robot, ebook, 4885ll).

O My Days, by David Matthew (Triskaideka Books, ebook, 8034ll)

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After, Steve Hockensmith (Quirk, pb, 288pp)

Queen of Kings, by Maria Dahvana Headley (Bantam Press, Trade paperback, 444pp). In the thanks she calls a reviewer out on "bullshit" for criticising the length of the acknowledgment page of a previous book! Neil Gaiman's cover quote describes this as "a powerful work of the imagination".

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline (Century, Paperback, 376pp). This looks very much like the kind of thing I would enjoy; how much I do might come down to whether the book gets gaming right. One cover quote gives it an awful lot to live up to: "this generation's Neuromancer"!

Reality 36, by Guy Haley (Angry Robot, Ebook, 5348ll).

Restoration, by Guy Adams (Angry Robot, Ebook, 5549ll).

Rules for the Care and Feeding of Tiffany, by Darby Krenshaw (ebook, Untreed Reads, 177ll).

Shooting Angels, by Nick Sansone (All Things That Matter Press, Paperback, 182pp). Nick Sansone's story "Founding" appeared in TQF29.

Skaldenland, by Jim Mortimore (Obverse Books, Paperback, 372pp). Jim Mortimore was responsible for getting me back into Doctor Who after a long period away - a pristine copy of a New Adventure he co-wrote, Lucifer Rising, turned up on the discards shelf at Reading Library (either a mistake, or someone thought the title inappropriate for their kids section), and before long I'd read dozens of them. Course, that was when I should have been revising for finals, so I guess Jim Mortimore was responsible for that as well...

Sky City – New Science Fiction Stories by Danish Authors, ed. Carl-Eddy Skovgaard (Science Fiction Cirklen, pb, 244pp).

Special Charter, by Chris Bauer (ebook, Untreed Reads, 150ll).

The Caretakers, by Adrian Chamberlin (Dark Continents Publishing, pb, 360pp).

The Crown of the Conqueror, by Gav Thorpe (Angry Robot, Ebook, 7013ll).

The Great Lover

The Great Lover, Michael Cisco (Chômu, pb, 446pp).

The Left Hand, by Serenity J. Banks (Dark Continents Publishing, pb, c.200pp).

The Sixth Gun, Book 1: Cold Dead Fingers, by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt (Oni Press, tpb, 178pp)

The Straight Razor Cure, by Daniel Polansky (Hodder and Stoughton, Hardback, 360pp). The cover design of this print ARC at first made me think it was a self-published novel. The PR info makes it sound interesting, though - "in the tradition of Dashiell Hammett and Gene Wolfe" - I'm not sure what tradition those writers share! The book's an uncorrected proof, not for sale (which is fair enough) or quotation (which may make it reviewing it tricky).

The Tower, by J.S. Frankel (ebook, Untreed Reads, 5113ll).


The Watchers, by Jon Steele (Bantam Press, Hardback, 556pp). A novel by a former ITN cameraman who worked in war spots all over the world.

The Zagzagel Diaries, by Bryl R. Tyne (6 x ebooks, Untreed Reads).

If you have anything you'd like us to look at, there's some information here. Thanks to everyone who has sent us stuff for review, and apologies once more for the fact that we won't get through everything!

Friday 15 July 2011

Bloody War, by Terry Grimwood, reviewed by John Greenwood

I've always thought that the central technical challenge in writing speculative fiction is how to get all that back story across to the reader in a way that feels seamless and unobtrusive. I don't think the problem has ever been really solved. Of course, you can always just whack in a large passage of straight exposition, but I think most writers would consider it cheating, and the received wisdom is that readers will get bored wondering when the characters are going to show up. Not much subtler is to include excerpts from a future history textbook, or even to have the protagonist sitting a history exam which helpfully fills in the reader on what's been happening over the last hundred years (I seem to remember Thomas M. Disch doing this is in the excellent 334). Most speculative writers nowadays seem to try and sneak in clues here and there in dialogue and passing references to the imagined future past ("Professor, you know as well as I do that before Man interbred with fruit bats we were incapable of flight"). The more confident just charge straight in with a barrage of invented slang and technical jargon and expect readers to keep up.

Why I don't believe in ghosts…

Not a proper review this, just a little note. I've just been reading Now Remember, a Penguin 60 by Vladimir Nabokov. It's a beautifully written little book – an extract from the autobiographical Speak, Memory – albeit one in which I progressively lost interest as its focus narrowed to the study of butterflies and moths.

I was fascinated by Nabokov's description of his regular "praedormitary visions" in the opening pages, since I experience almost precisely the same thing:

"They come and go, without the drowsy observer's participation, but are essentially different from dream pictures for he is still master of his senses. They are often grotesque. I am pestered by roguish profiles, by some coarse-featured and florid dwarf with a swelling nostril or ear."

I tend to see pale figures leaning over the bed and babies floating around the room.

I can understand why people who experience something like that just once can be so convinced that they've seen a ghost. If you see a old lady floating around the room at night, it's easy to believe something supernatural has happened.

However, once if it happens a few times, and the next time it's an ironing board, or a giant apple, or the starship Enterprise, you realise that there's nothing supernatural going on.

And so, paradoxically, the reason I don't believe in ghosts is that I see them so often…

Monday 11 July 2011

New review of John Hall's Five Forgotten Stories!

A nice review by Trevor Price of John Hall's Five Forgotten Stories has just appeared on The eNovella Review:
"I really liked the third story, The Burrower Beneath, which is set in 1920's New York and which posits an intriguing connection between gangsters and a Cthulhu cult. … To his credit, in The Burrower Beneath, Mr Hall also reminds us that Lovecraft lived through the Jazz Age. … Required reading for the Lovecraftian fanatic."
The book's out now on Kindle (for just 86p!) and in paperback!

Doctor Who: The Forbidden Time, by David Lock, read by Anneke Wills and Frazer Hines – reviewed

Many of the Companion Chronicles, being told retrospectively to an audience, provide a novel perspective on these characters and their travels in time. We’re not used to them growing old—or even growing up, given how young some of them were. The Forbidden Time plays this card with a flourish, present-day Polly (she mentions iPods) sounding almost mournful at times as she remembers her old friends, and the incidental music has the elegiac feel you might expect in the final scenes of a particularly moving film.

Tuesday 5 July 2011

The long chase is over – mission accomplished!

People who have been reading our magazine since the early days (I like to pretend there are one or two of you – allow a fool his vanity!) will surely know that our goal for much of that period has been to catch up with McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, issue 10 of which was the direct inspiration for Theaker's Quarterly Fiction.

Despite their head start, we were bi-monthly for a few years, and it looked like we would make it! But then I got tangled in the many tentacles of the British Fantasy Society, and we were forced to go quarterly again, ending up an issue short of our goal.

Catching up with McSweeney's was a silly, arbitrary goal, but sometimes silly goals can be just as helpful as sensible ones.

Checking my bookcase, and checking their website, it looks like both magazines are now on issue 37.

I really am very happy about this. Stupidly so. Wow.

Thanks to McSweeney's for inspiring our efforts at the beginning, and continuing to provide an inspiration ever since – but where the heck is issue 38? Pull your fingers out!

Monday 4 July 2011

Theaker's Quarterly Fiction #37 – now available for free!

We have eight stories in this summer’s issue of Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction, and I’m immensely proud to be publishing all of them:

  • “Apoidroids” by Douglas Thompson
  • “Make It Sacred” by Mike Sweeney
  • “The Last Testament” by Rafe McGregor
  • “Curios” by Ben Kendall-Carpenter
  • “The Model of a Boy” by Alex Smith
  • “Harrowing of the Barrow” by Skadi meic Beorh
  • “Devilry at the Hanging Tree Inn” by David Tallerman
  • “The Watchman” by Chris Roper.

The editorial, “How Could a Person Up and Call a Person Wack?!”, addresses, in my clumsy way, the suggestion put to us in recent months that giving bad reviews to books is something we should avoid. I also discuss the unfortunate lack of female contributors to this issue, and set out one practical step I’m taking to improve the visibility of female writers in our magazine.

In a bit of a departure, we also have an article: “In the Shadow of Slartibartfast: Donald Cotton and Doctor Who’s Other Comedic Trilogy” by Jacob Edwards. You can see why it appealed to me.

Our review section stretches to thirty pages. In books John Greenwood and I look at The Art of McSweeney’s, The Captain Jack Sparrow Handbook by Jason Heller, The Damned Busters by Matthew Hughes, The Gift of Joy by Ian Whates, The Heavenly Fox by Richard Parks, Outpost by Adam Baker, Revenants by Daniel Mills, Spectral Press #2: The Abolisher of Roses by Gary Fry and Vampire Warlords by Andy Remic.

In the audio section I review three Doctor Who adventures: The Forbidden Time, The Sentinels of the New Dawn and The Hounds of Artemis. The film section covers Death Race 2, Insidious, Never Let Me Go, Red Riding Hood, Source Code and X-Men: First Class (three reviews by Jacob Edwards, two by Douglas J. Ogurek, and one by me). I review two comics this time: Baltimore, Vol. 1: The Plague Ships, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season Eight, Vol. 2: No Future for You.

This 128pp issue is available in all the usual formats, all free except the print edition, which we’ve priced as cheaply as possible:

Paperback from Lulu
PDF of the paperback version (ideal for iPad - click on File and then Download Original)
Kindle (free)
Epub (ideal for Sony Reader)
TQF37 on Feedbooks

Which sweet fools lined up for literary exploitation this time?

Alex Smith lives in Bethesda, Maryland and he is a doctoral student of psychology at George Washington University. Alex’s poems and stories have recently appeared in Catch-Up Louisville, Food I Corp, and Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction #31. He is the author of a novella titled THE BERSERK and a book of poems titled LUX. His chapbook, BLOWN, was published by Superchief in 2011.

Ben Kendall-Carpenter lives and was born in Manchester. He enjoys cricket, the work of H.P. Lovecraft and J.G. Ballard, and listening to The Smiths. He is currently working on a collection of horror stories.

Chris Roper lives in Brighton, England, with his girlfriend of three years, Sarah-Jane. When not writing he enjoys travel, normally to tropical climates in Asia, and is a keen reader of horror and science fiction.

David Tallerman’s horror, fantasy and science fiction short stories have appeared in over thirty markets, including Lightspeed, Bull Spec, Flash Fiction Online and John Joseph Adams’s zombie best-of anthology The Living Dead. Amongst other projects, David has also published poetry (in Chiaroscuro), various film reviews and articles, and comic scripts through the award-winning British Futurequake Press. David’s first novel, comic fantasy adventure Giant Thief, will be published in early 2012 by UK publisher Angry Robot, to be closely followed by two sequels. He can be found at and

Douglas J. Ogurek’s work appears in or is forthcoming in the British Fantasy Society Journal, The Literary Review and Dark Things V (Pill Hill Press). Ogurek has also written over 50 articles about architectural planning and design. To this issue he contributes reviews of Insidious and Red Riding Hood. To TQF33 he contributed the astonishing “NON”. He lives in Gurnee, Illinois with his wife and their six pets.

Douglas Thompson’s short stories have appeared in a wide range of magazines, most recently Albedo One, Ambit, and PS Publishing’s Catastrophia anthology. He won the Grolsch/Herald Question of Style Award in 1989 and second prize in the Neil Gunn Writing Competition in 2007. His first book, Ultrameta, was published by Eibonvale Press in August 2009, nominated for the Edge Hill Prize, and shortlisted for the BFS Best Newcomer Award. His second novel Sylvow was published in autumn 2010, also from Eibonvale. A third novel Mechagnosis will be published by Dog Horn in autumn 2011.

Howard Watts is an artist from Brighton. He has previously provided covers for Pantechnicon, Dark Horizons and TQF, including the cover for this issue. His story “Totem” appeared in TQF36.

Jacob Edwards is currently indentured to Australia’s speculative fiction flagship Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, as Jack of all Necessities (Deckchairs and Bendy Straws). To this issue he contributes three film reviews and a paean to Doctor Who’s great lost humorist.

Mike Sweeney lives in Central New Jersey. His short stories can be found here and there. He’s especially fond of the ones over at Jersey Devil Press (

Rafe McGregor is is a crime fiction author who spends far too much of his time rereading the work of H.P. Lovecraft and M.R. James. He lives with his wife in a village near York.

Skadi meic Beorh is a writer of speculative fiction who presently lives with his wife Ember on the Atlantic Coast of Florida. He is the author of the story collection Always After Thieves Watch, the poetry collections Golgotha and New Irish Poems, the dictionary Pirate Lingo, and the novel The Pirates of St. Augustine.

Online vilification

There’s been a lot of online discussion about Ian Whates’ slightly unfortunate article on Putting the Gender in Genre. The narrative being constructed is that Ian has been unjustly vilified and is coming under intense personal attack. That seems odd to me: what he's written has been criticised, but as far as I can see most of the personal attacks are all heading in the other direction, at the poor saps who dared to say anything.

A few comments collated from the web: “a witch-hunt”, “absolute idiots”, “complete idiots”, “deliberately antagonistic”, “hyper-ventilating zealots”, “I wish these guys ... would just STFU”, “I’m half ready to dismiss it as trolling”, “making-shit-up-to-‘prove’-your-point”, “mud-slinging”, “nasty, unnecessary, bitchy”, “nasty”, “how spiteful some people can be”, “people are being vile”, “pseudo-egalitarians”, “purposeful spite”, “ridiculous and nasty”, “silly and embarrassing”, “some people just enjoy spitting bile on the internet”, “someone’s sad little vendetta”, “spitting dummies out of prams”, “strident participants”, “they did make themselves look stupid”, “this is far into the land of internet idiocy”, “this kind of nonsense”, “unpleasant, mildly bullying, and a bit of an ass online”, “(lack of) thought process”.

Saturday 2 July 2011

Five Forgotten Stories - three copies up for grabs on Goodreads!

Book Giveaway

Five Forgotten Stories by John Hall

Five Forgotten Stories

by John Hall

Giveaway ends July 31, 2011.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

If you don't win, the book's currently available for just 86p/$1.42 on Kindle (see Amazon UK and Amazon US respectively). Free Kindle/epub copies available upon request for bloggers and reviewers.